Learning By Rail
A travelling classroom may be every child's dream, but due to an exciting initiative by Scot Rail, it can be a dream come true.
The ScotRail travelling classroom was the brain child of Inverness driver, Steve Neall. I had been involved in safety exhibitions in the station and had given talks in local schools on safety in trains and stations. It just seemed a good idea to put these talks on a train. About 80% of the children have never been on a train before, nor have they seen a lot of the area in which they are living.
The educational aspects of the travelling classroom are taken very seriously by the ScotRail staff. Once on board the emphasis is on heritage, nature and conservation with staff providing a running commentary on places of historical interest and geographical landmarks - mountains, moors and sea lochs. The train also has interactive displays, such as a touch table of wildlife exhibits. The children participate in quizzes, fill in questionnaires and do some drawing and colouring.
The first travelling classroom ran from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh whilst the runs on the Far North Line stop at Helmsdale to allow a visit to the Timespan Centre.
Although the idea for the classroom was Steve's it is, he says, very much a team effort for all the staff at Inverness. The team get a lot of support from the British Transport Police and Hydro Electric, who put on a practical demonstration of the workings of a power station.
From the information and questionnaires that the children are asked to fill in when they get back to school the children show that they do retain a lot more information this way than just receiving a talk in school.
As Steve points out the travelling classroom is not just about giving kids a day out in the country. Railways and the environment are important aspects of community life up here and we think that putting the class on rails is an effective way to help youngsters learn about both.
For more information about the travelling classroom contact Gillian Challis, ScotRail, Inverness Station, Station Square, Inverness.