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McLaren High School: rural skills and junior ranger projects

McLaren High School is the only secondary school in Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. For a number of years, the National Park Ranger Service has been supporting pupils from the School with their National 4 Rural Skills course.

In 2015, the National Park supported 11 pupils from the School to complete the first ever Junior Ranger programme. The 5 day programme enabled the participants to actively engage in Access and Recreation, Visitor management, Biodiversity and Interpretation, and also work towards achieving the John Muir Award at Discovery level.

Both these projects deliver unique experiences for the young people living in the National Park, at times in very rural areas. The skills they developed through participating relate directly to the landscape and potential jobs market they can join after finishing their studies.

What did they do in the Park?

For the Estate Maintenance part of the Rural Skills course the students are required to complete a range of basic estate maintenance tasks. Working with the National Park Rangers responsible for maintenance of our sites, the pupils helped clear invasive species from the cycle path and repair fences.

Going forward, the aim is to use the Rangers as assessors for these tasks, focussing on manual handling and health and safety and risk assessment.

Junior Ranger programmes:

  • Support the development of the Ranger Service
  • Facilitate social cohesion by improving relations between the Park and the local community
  • Support young people to be positive, confident and healthy
  • Raise awareness for participants of the natural and cultural heritage of their Park
  • Encourage friendship and group working.
  • Create a network of young people who act as advocates for their protected area. 

The National Park Authority provides a wealth of materials and programmes to schools to help connect young people to the outdoors and give them an appreciation and respect for wild places. The Junior Ranger Programme builds on this by providing a level of detail and hands-on experience to get a better understanding of nature in the National Park and what it takes to look after this very special place The young people from McLaren High will get an insight into the line our Rangers walk every day in terms of balancing the needs of conservation with those of our visitors and residents.

The experience of the course and what I could get out of it in later years; finding out how the rangers look after the National Park and it’s wildlife & I enjoyed everything because it was outside” – Junior Ranger feedback

By working towards a John Muir Award during the 5 day Junior Ranger programme, the pupils gain invaluable knowledge, skills and experience of connecting with nature.

A partnership approach

Niall Williamson, Geography Teacher at McLaren High School, would like to develop the role of the National Park Ranger Service in this programme, arranging for the students to interview a ranger, enquiring about their job role and responsibilities. These help support the Developing the Young Workforce aspect of the programmes further.

McLaren High School are delighted to be working in partnership with the Rangers. It is a very exciting and innovative opportunity for our pupils and so far has proven to be an invaluable experience. Our pupils have engaged fully in the project and their knowledge and awareness of the work that the Rangers carry out has been greatly enhanced. – Linda Hall from McLaren High School

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