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A young child puts soil in small plant pots wit their hands, helped an adult, who sits in the background. They both wear checked shirts.

Keep Scotland Beautiful launches Pocket Garden Design Competition for nursery and school pupils

Posted 16.01.24 by Alice Hinds

Children across Scotland are being encouraged to take inspiration from “nature’s engineers” as Keep Scotland Beautiful launches the annual Pocket Garden Design Competition.

Held in partnership with the Garden for Life Forum (click here for more), the charity is inviting nursery and school pupils aged three to 18 to design a miniature pocket-sized garden, which includes food for people, something reusable, and items that are good for protecting wildlife.

With the competition aiming to help children better understand the link between sustainability and natural engineering, from bee hives to bird nests, the environmental charity says the new theme of “nature’s engineers” will shine a light on the incredible homes that animals build, reinforcing their role in creating whole ecosystems, and highlighting how modern green technology can be inspired by the natural world.

Open for submissions until Friday 23 February 2024, designers of the best entries will be invited to build and grow their garden at school, with the finished project then filmed or photographed for use in an online interactive garden, which will be launched in June. Members of the public will then be able to vote for their favourite garden.

White text on a blue background saying Pocket Garden Design Competition above an image of garden items including a shovel, watering can and a pair of wellies

Eve Keepax, Education and Learning Officer at Keep Scotland Beautiful, said: “We’re pleased to announce our ninth Pocket Garden Design Competition with its new theme. Nature’s engineers are amazing and we’re excited to see how this theme inspires pupils’ imaginations.

“Schools tell us that their pupils love taking part in this competition and it’s a great way to bring learning for sustainability alive. It’s also a great way for pupils to learn about how they can be part of making Scotland a nature positive place whether they’re interested in bees, beavers, birds or buildings.”

Last year, Keep Scotland Beautiful (click here for more) received almost 200 entries to the competition, and 42 finalists saw their designs included in the digital showcase.

Educators considering taking part in this year’s competition are invited to come along to a Meet the Mentors twilight session on 17 January to find out more. Click here to register

For more information and inspiration from past competition entries, click here to visit the Keep Scotland Beautiful website:

Photo of a young man dancing. He is mid-leap with one arm in the air. He is on a roof top with buildings in the background, and there are netted sheets surrounding him.

News: Dance film created by 17-year-old choreographer in response to the climate crisis

Posted on 28 February, 2023 by Nina Joynson

Dance film 'elemental' explores our interaction with the natural elements in a narrative on climate change, choreographed by a young person supported by the Access All Arts Fund

As a response to the climate crisis and a way to encourage boys and young men to pursue dance, young neurodivergent choreographer Ross Hoey created the dance film with filmmaker Lewis Landini. 

elemental shows the character of Human, as they meet and bring harm to the Earth’s elements, before finding out that they have not been completed destroyed. This leads to repercussions for Human as the elements resist.

The film is accompanied by an educational resource for teachers and dance instructors. It includes discussion and movement activities that relate to the performance, and provides information for young people to learn more about the climate crisis. 

Ross' dance film was produced by Overdrive Dance Company, a community-based organisation that was established for male-identifying young people. 

Overdrive works to address the stigma of boys’ participation in dance and overcome the financial barriers that people often encounter across the arts. 

Funding creativity

Ross was a successful applicant to the Access All Arts Fund, a fund managed by Children in Scotland. The film was supported by investment from Creative Scotland as part of its youth arts initiative. 

The project was one of 106 funded in 2021-22. Earlier this month it was announced that the second phase had gone on to support a further 162 young people with their creative pursuits.

The fund was established to help children and young people who experience barriers to accessing creative opportunities to support their wellbeing. The first phase was focused on young people with disabilities or additional support needs. 

On the film’s release, David Mackay, Access All Arts Fund project lead and Policy & Projects Manager at Children in Scotland, said:

“The Access All Arts Fund supported Ross to create this wonderful new film and stretch himself as a choreographer, which is great to see. We know that many young people face barriers to taking part in the creative arts – whether it’s simply for their own enjoyment or to realise ambitious creative projects. 

“We must ensure that we open up arts opportunities for children and young people, because everyone has a story to tell.”   

Click here to watch the film

A woman wearing a large rucksack and holding a cardboard sign with a whale painted on it. She is standing up to her waist in the sea and has a concerned expression

News: Climate-conscious theatre performance tours Scottish schools

Posted 22 February, 2023 by Nina Joynson. Photo credit: Andrew Perry

Activism and the climate crisis is the focus of 'Maya and The Whale', a new theatre production touring Scottish schools in February and March.

Aimed at upper primary and lower secondary classes, Maya and The Whale follows a young climate activist who comes face-to-face with a dying whale.

Creator Hazel Darwin-Clements plays Maya the teenage activist while the school audience takes on the role of the whale, creating an interactive experience for pupils. 

First shared during COP26, the play is a response to the youth climate strikes and explores activism and the climate crisis as experienced by young people. 

The creators are also providing schools with learning resources and contacts for local projects to encourage them to continue discussions on and engagement with climate resilience after the performance. 

The play is suitable for P6-7 and S1-2 and performances are taking place in Edinburgh, Glasgow and the Lothians until Friday 3 March, before the show tours more widely across Scotland until the end of March.

Produced by Theatre in Schools Scotland – the schools touring project managed by National Theatre of Scotland and Imaginate, the show is created and performed by Hazel Darwin-Clements with live music from Nik Paget-Tomlinson.

Climate-minded touring

The climate crisis is a central theme of Hazel Darwin-Clements' work, prompting her to develop a more sustainable way of touring her theatre performances.

All props and costumes for the show have been borrowed or bought second-hand with consideration of ethical supply chains and product longevity.

The performer and accompanying musician are also travelling to schools exclusively by e-bike and public transport, and the play was written to be performed without a stage set or lighting so that time usually spent in set-up can be given to longer travel times, and equipment doesn't need transportation.

Everything for the performance is small and light enough to fit in bike panniers or a backpack.

The company is also booking dates in Scotland with travel and distance in mind, to reduce the tour's carbon impact.

Early reviews

Having started its tour on Monday, Corstorphine Primary School in Edinburgh has been one of the first to see Maya and the Whale.

"I thought it was amazing how the actor told the story using all the different characters!", one P5 pupil said.

While Tanya McLaughlin, a teacher at the school, said:

"The show deepens the impact of the curriculum and the children's learning about climate change and its impact on the world in an engaging, entertaining way.

"It captured the imagination of all the children and allowed them to access their learning out of the classroom."

Click here to learn more about Maya and the Whale


Photo. Three primary school-aged children stand holding Read, Write, Count bags in front of a school mural.

News: Scottish Book Trust invites youngsters to design new Read, Write, Count bag

Posted 17 Jan, 2023 by Jennifer Drummond

Pupils in Primary 1-Primary 3 are invited to submit a design for the new Read, Write, Count bags as part of an exciting art competition run by the literacy charity.

Each year, Scottish Book Trust distributes more  than 120,000 bags of books and fun learning materials to every P2 and P3 child in Scotland.

The 2023 bags will be fully recyclable, made from 40% recycled materials and produced in a factory that uses 100% renewable energy.

To celebrate these new bags, children from P1-P3 are invited to submit a design that represents looking after and loving the planet. Entries will be judged by an expert panel including bestselling author and illustrator Vivian French.

The winning design will be printed on all new Read, Write, Count bags gifted during Book Week Scotland in November.

The winner will also receive an artist’s goodie bag and their class will receive a book donation for their library. The second and third placed entries will also win a selection of books for their school.

Entries can be submitted by teachers or parents/carers, and must be received by Thursday 23 February.  The winner will be revealed in March.

Click here for more details on where and how to submit your entry, as well as submission guidelines

Photo of the Riverside Museum with a blue sky in the background. The building's visible wall is entirely glass, with a jagged metal framework outline.
Riverside Museum, Glasgow

News: Pupils challenged to design new ways of tackling Clyde sea litter

Posted 27 September, 2022 by Nina Joynson. Image: Ronnie Macdonald, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

West of Scotland school pupils have been tasked with engineering new and innovative ways of reducing sea litter in and around the River Clyde.

The STEM the Flow campaign asks young people to tackle the issue of Source to Sea litter through an engineering-based design challenge. 

Open to pupils from Primary 6 to S3 in the eight local authorities that comprise the West Partnership, teams can choose to look at ways of collecting litter that is already in the Clyde, or ways of preventing it from entering waterways in the first place. 

Marine pollution

It's estimated that over 12.7 million tonnes of plastic is dumped in the sea annually, impacting our own food and air quality and threatening native habitats and killing wildlife. Sea litter also contributes to climate change, with greater production of greenhouse gases due to damaged ecosystems.

Led by Keep Scotland Beautiful, young people are encouraged to investigate the issue in their school grounds or local area and collect evidence to inform their solutions. 

The challenge is open from October 2022 until February 2023, when teams will be invited to showcase their projects at Glasgow’s Riverside Museum for a judging panel and the general public.

Industry insights

STEM the Flow is supported by Scottish Water, BAE Systems and Jacobs Engineering, who will lead workshops and provide professional advice to the young people as they work on their projects. 

Jaimie Cunningham, STEM Development Officer, Glasgow City Council, said:

“STEM the Flow is a fantastic opportunity for our pupils to apply their engineering and problem solving skills to real life problems. They get to interact and work with STEM professionals and gain an insight into hitherto unknown careers in industry – helping them see that their opportunities and options in STEM really are innumerable.”

The challenge is part of Keep Scotland Beautiful’s Upstream Battle initiative, which focuses on changing littering behaviours to reduce marine pollution. The initiative offers a catalogue of resources to build young people’s awareness of sea litter, with learning programmes for both educators and children. 

STEM the Flow is open to school pupils across East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Glasgow City, Inverclyde, North Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, South Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire.

Click here to learn more about STEM the Flow

Pakistan's flag flying with a grey sky background. The flag has a white strip on the right, with a moon and star on a green background on the right.

News: Campaign for school-based fundraising for Pakistan floods

Posted 6 September, 2022 by Nina Joynson

A Scotland-based initiative has developed new school materials to teach pupils about Pakistan and encourage fundraising to aid relief efforts.

Following mass flooding that has devastated Pakistan in recent weeks, Global Citizenship Education (GCE) has launched new educational materials to help schools to teach pupils about Pakistan and raise money towards relief work in the country.

The new resources help to teach pupils about modern-day Pakistan and the country's history while combatting stereotypes. It also connects with the Sustainable Development Goals, detailing how Pakistan has been affected by global warming.

Schools are also being encouraged to take part in fundraising throughout September and share their campaigns with GCE through email or social media. All monies raised will go towards the official appeal for relief efforts.

Two days after rolling out the latest campaign, GCE's founder Nuzhat Uthmani announced that Glasgow City Council had agreed to launch the materials across its schools, meaning thousands of pupils will start fundraising and learning about Pakistan in the coming weeks.

2022 floods

Pakistan has been devastated by flooding that began in June. It is now estimated  a third of the country, an area equivalent to the size of the UK, is now under water.

A state of emergency was declared on 25 August, with over 30 million people affected by flooding as a result of heavy monsoon rainfall. The severe consequences to homes, food and crops, livestock, infrastructure, and sanitation have overwhelmed rescue and aid agencies and international assistance has been called on to provide relief.

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) formally launched an appeal on 1 September to generate donations towards the rescue and aid mission.

Learning through a global citizenship framework

The resources focused on Pakistan's recent flooding is the latest from the GCE initiative, which compiles resources to help educators to embed the values of global citizenship, sustainability and antiracism in their teaching activities.

Founded in Scotland by Uthmani, the materials are aimed at a primary school audience in a Curriculum for Excellence framework, with guidance towards appropriate materials for older classes.

Click here to learn more about the GCE campaign and start fundraising

Click here to donate directly to the Pakistan Floods Appeal

Two children of school age r

News: New book addresses climate anxiety amongst children

Posted 28 June, 2022 by Jennifer Drummond

A new book aims to help children identify how making small changes at home, such as reducing single use plastic, can help the environment as research reveals three in five are concerned about the impact of plastic pollution.

The Whale Watchers by Dougie Poynter is designed to raise awareness of the vital role of whales as climate allies and how preserving the whale population will help address some of the ongoing environmental issues.

The book has been commissioned by water filtration experts BRITA after its research revealed after more than two thirds of the children surveyed (70%) said they were worried about the future of the planet, with specific mention of the damage done by plastic pollution.

The research also revealed:

  • Three in five (60%) children and young people are concerned about the lasting damage single-use plastic pollution is having on sea animals
  • More than half (54%) of children said dumping waste into our waters was one of the most harmful behaviours for the planet
  • More than half (57%) of the children said they have found plastic bags when visiting the beach. Plastic bottles (57%) and food packaging (48%) were also found
  • Nearly two thirds (63%) of children think the damage will become irreparable between five and 20 years from now
  • More than two in five (48%) believe that better protection of animals and plants in the sea will be key to help save the planet.

The Whale Watchers is the second environmentally-themed book from author and former popstar Dougie Poynter after his 2019 bestseller Plastic Sucks! How YOU Can Reduce Single-Use Plastic and Save Our Planet.

The book, aimed at 7-11 year olds, will raise money for BRITA's charity partner, Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

The Whale Watchers, by Dougie Poynter, will be available from 7 July, 2022. Published by Owlet Press

A time to learn, look beyond – and show common cause

30 March 2022

In the midst of despair about the war in Ukraine, our CEO Jude Turbyne reflects on the contribution we can all make to defending children’s rights there and around the world

Two years of wall-to-wall coverage of the pandemic. Two years of high levels of anxiety. Two years of working out new ways of living, being and working. And just as it felt as if we might be coming through the other side, there was suddenly war in Ukraine, with up close and personal footage 24 hours a day.

It has forced us to lift our heads up and look out, and we have seen lots of positive solidarity with the Ukrainian people suddenly affected by violence and displacement.

Conflict will tend to have a disproportionate impact on children. Frequently, wars creep into the domestic setting, essential infrastructure that is needed to guarantee even basic levels of health is attacked, and the vulnerability of children to the outcomes of conflict is profound.

Children in conflict are likely to start going hungry, become ill with preventable disease, lose their chance at an education and be at greater risk of sexual violence. The mental trauma of conflict and war in children is significant and can lead to long-term damage if support is not available.

In short, it becomes almost impossible for the rights of children to be fulfilled in a war setting. And the impact is exacerbated depending on different personal characteristics; for instance, gender, age, disability status, ethnicity, religion and where the child lives. Save the Children and the Children and War Foundation have some good insights into the impact of conflict on children.

Click here for more information on Save the Children

Click here for more information on the Children and War Foundation

It is estimated that already more than 1.5 million children have fled the violence in Ukraine. If you keep going another 4,000 miles south and slightly east of Ukraine, you reach Yemen, where, due to conflict and environmental challenges, at least 11 million children are estimated as needing humanitarian assistance. And Yemen is not even number one in the very depressing top ten of humanitarian crises published by the International Rescue Committee; it is third behind Afghanistan and Ethiopia.

Click here to read the International Rescue Committee’s top 10 humanitarian crises

What can we do in these difficult situations? While we might empathise and sympathise, there is a feeling of powerlessness that comes from the scale of the problems and the fact that they are happening far from home. But while we can’t solve global problems by ourselves individually, there are things that we can do.

Taking the Ukraine situation as an example, there are real practical needs in terms of supporting those affected by the crisis. The best way to help is to donate money. While it might feel tempting to collect goods, it is much easier to source these closer to the conflict, based on the actual needs at the time.

One good route of donating is through the Disasters Emergency Committee which brings together 15 leading UK charities to raise funds quickly and efficiently. As you will see if you go to the site, there is currently also an appeal running for Afghanistan.

Click here to find out more about the Disasters Emergency Committee and consider donating

There will be many people in Scotland who are more severely affected by the situation in Ukraine because of their direct links. Having a listening ear and making sure people have somewhere to go to can be helpful. The Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland has produced a good blog where you can find sources of help. It also explains how you can show direct solidarity child-to-child, a suggestion from the Children’s Commission in Ukraine.

Click here to read the blog by the Children's Commissioner

As Ukrainian refugees start to arrive in Scotland, there will be ways of offering practical support and resources at a local community level. The website of the Scottish Refugee Council is a good place go to read about what is happening with Ukrainian refugees.

Engagement with Europe is important to us as an organisation, and always has been. We are members of Eurochild, a network of organisations and individuals working with and for children in Europe. They have a wealth of resources on the Ukrainian conflict available on their website.

Click here to find out about Eurochild’s resources on the conflict in Ukraine

All these examples of partnership and advocacy demonstrate why the power of solidarity should never be underestimated.

Here I’ve reflected mostly on the Ukrainian situation. But I am so aware of the many children around the world who are experiencing conflict or environmental disasters which make it so difficult for their rights to be realised.

Our vision is that ‘all children in Scotland have an equal chance to flourish’. How much better would our world be if, globally, all children had that chance?

About the author

Jude Turbyne has worked extensively in the field of international development

Click here for more

Bringing together 15 UK aid charities...

DEC raises funds quickly and efficiently at times of humanitarian crisis overseas

Click to find out more

Eurochild resources

This network organisation offers a range of resources on the crisis in Ukraine

Click to find out more

A rights-based view on children and war

A blog by the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland details where you can find sources of help

Click here to read

Leading responses to humanitarian crises

The IRC helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict

Click here for more

Helping children get a future they deserve

Save the Children is working to ensure children keep safe, healthy and learning worldwide

Click to find out more
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon meets young people from at a special edition of Scotland tonight.
For details see press release
Pic Peter Devlin

News: Young people present key issues to Scottish Cabinet

Posted 1 March 2022, by Jennifer Drummond. Image from Children in Scotland event, September 2018.

Young people across Scotland met today with the First Minister and her Cabinet in the sixth annual Cabinet Meeting with Children and Young People (Cabinet Takeover).

The meeting, which took place online, represents a key opportunity for young people to communicate the views of their generations to some of the most senior politicians in Scotland.

At the Cabinet Takeover, key decision-makers from across areas of the Scottish Government listened to speeches delivered by Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYPs) and Members of the Children’s Parliament (MCP).

With a strong focus on children’s rights the meeting was particularly timely, taking place the day after it was revealed Deputy First Minister John Swinney has written to the Secretary of State for Scotland vowing to reintroduce a Bill to incorporate the UNCRC into Scots Law.

Issues of importance

Issues raised covered a range of topics including rights, education, climate emergency, health and wellbeing and more. Amongst the speeches made today:

  • Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP) Chair, Josh Kennedy, spoke about the need to incorporate the UNCRC into Scots Law
  • MSYP Wiktoria Orlicka called for more protection of LGBT rights
  • SYP Trustee Sophie Reid spoke about female safety, calling for more action and improvements to physical spaces
  • Cameron Garret, Convenor of the SYP Education Committee, spoke about the need for a better education system for young people, including meaningful participation and involvement in decisions about their educational future and adopting a rights-based approach as standard
  • SYP Trustee Mollie McGoran focused on the climate emergency, highlighting the enthusiasm and passion of her generation.

Passionate presentations from representatives of the Children’s Parliament focused on gender equality in education, children’s mental health and wellbeing and adults realising children’s rights. 

Next steps

Both the children and young people present, and those they represent, will be looking for some activity from the First Minister and the Scottish Government in the coming months in direct response to the meeting and the issues raised today.

Cathy McCulloch, Co-Director of the Children’s Parliament said:

“[Our MCPs] are keen to see some real action taken in response to their Calls to Action.

“They feel very strongly about the issues they are raising and we fully support these as represent many issues children have raised through Children’s Parliament programmes across Scotland.”

Josh Kennedy, Scottish Youth Parliament Chair added:

“Today's meeting is an opportunity for Ministers to hear about these topics, and more, directly from children and young people. But it will only matter if we see action to address the issues raised and I'm looking forward to seeing what's done to ensure young people's views are taken into account in the year ahead."

For more information from today search click here to search #CabinetTakeover on Twitter.


Close-up of two footprints in sand, with grass growing from the print
Image: Village Footprint, Shilpi Kumari

News: Carbon footprint is focus of new digital art installation

Posted 3 November, 2021 by Nina Joynson

A digital art installation project asking children and adults in Scotland and India to ‘bare their sole’ has gone live in time for COP26, reflecting on lived experiences of climate change.

The National Theatre of Scotland has collaborated with ThinkArts, a Kolkata-based children’s arts engagement organisation, to explore lived experiences of climate change through art, science and digital technology.  

Bringing together leading Scottish and Indian artists and scientists with participants of all ages in both countries, the collaboration has culminated in an interactive digital art installation: Millipede – the shoe shop that doesn’t cost the earth (click here to explore). The exhibition launched on 1 November to coincide with the beginning of COP26, with virtual exhibits in a variety of media showing participants’ responses to climate change and their own carbon footprints. Disguised as an online shoe shop, ‘customers’ can browse the footwear with the price displayed in earth terms. 

School and community groups in India and Scotland got involved to craft their ideas, with the website showing one hundred shoes along with their context and price. The designs are paired with analysis from scientists and experts on climate change at Edinburgh Science (Scotland) and Science Gallery Bengaluru (India) to examine the materials, lifecycle, and footprint that each shoe will leave.  

The project has brought young participants into discussions of climate change in an artistic context, encouraging conversation around these serious ideas through a playful medium. 

A live event will take place on 6 and 7 November at the Landing Hub in Glasgow with two of the contributing artists, Sarah Rose Graber and Ruxy Cantir, hoping to encourage would-be shoe shoppers to think differently about their carbon footprints.  

Lead artists and award-winning Scottish theatre makers Shona Reppe and Andy Manley said:  

“Our aim is to encourage people to stop and think about their carbon footprints without lecturing or chastising. It has been a joy to curate these personal, thoughtful and fantastically creative contributions. Hopefully this will be the first step for many in addressing what we have to do to protect our planet.” 

Millipede  is supported by the British Council's  Creative Commissions (click here to accessprogramme, a series of creative commissions exploring climate change through art, science and digital technology as part of  The Climate Connection (click here to access global initiative.