As the school year draws to a close OPAL community Scientist Joanne Dempster has time to reflect on what the project has achieved so far. The Open Air Laboratories has just completed its first year in Scotland, the project moved north of the border last May and it’s been a non stop-rollercoaster ride since then with support from Education Scotland, Glasgow City Council, Glasgow Science Centre, Glasgow City of Science and so many schools and communities. We invited Joanne to tell us about what OPAL has been up to over this last year.

OPAL has had a great first year in Scotland with so many opportunities to get the people of Glasgow taking part in Citizen Science across the city. We have worked with a huge range of people from a variety of different backgrounds from primary schools to university students, from volunteer groups to countryside rangers, we really have proved that OPAL and Science is for everyone.

One of the groups that has kept me particularly busy this year is schools. Since starting out, OPAL at the Glasgow Science Centre has engaged over 100 schools with the project. Some have simply wanted to get their hands on the resource packs but many have had more in depth guidance on how to use the survey packs with their pupils. A lucky 221 teachers have received teacher training and over 1300 pupils have attended OPAL lessons at their schools. Part of the success of OPAL has been that we can make the journey to the school and take science to them. Doing this means that we can reach communities in areas that may not have access to resources otherwise. 50% of the pupils that have worked with us are from disadvantaged backgrounds and so OPAL really has helped those who need it most get access to nature. Schools looking to get involved with OPAL can now use the resources to work towards their green flag, use the free lesson plans to map the surveys onto the Curriculum for Excellence or explore the wilds and achieve their John Muir Award. More importantly they can do all of this whilst contributing to a UK wide Science research project working to make a real difference to the health of the environment!

Our school year finished with a whole school Tree Day at Battlefield Primary, a school that I have worked with quite a few times this year. Having delivered teacher training and worked with the head teacher on an outdoor learning plan we coordinated a day where all 335 pupils got outside for an hour to learn about the trees in their playground. This day will kick-start the outdoor learning plan that we have worked on with the school enabling the pupils and staff to get the most out of the outdoor classroom using the OPAL Tree Health Survey.

Just because the schools are going to be off though doesn’t mean OPAL will be. I’ve been working with communities across Glasgow to deliver fun events, training and resources for making use of Glasgow’s multitude of parks. I’ve been lucky to have worked with the Friends of Maryhill Park, providing some Air Survey training for them and running bug hunts at their Summer Fair. I’ll be running some training for the Friends of Elder Park in the coming summer and working with communities around Glasgow on an art/science project unveiling the secrets of Glasgow’s hidden waterways. Then in July I’ll be working with the RSBP for their Summer Garden Festival, with events all over the city from Castlemilk to Springburn, keep an eye out for Glasgow’s First ever Worm Charming Competition! I’ll also be bringing the outside in and joining other experts on the Glasgow Science Centre Biodiversity Weekend from the 24th to 26th of July. On top of that Glasgow Green Year 2015 will certainly keep us busy running training and events to celebrate Glasgow’s environmental credentials.

We are working hard to ensure that the success of OPAL will continue well into next year, if these past 12 months have been anything to go by there are a lot of people keen to be a citizen scientist with the OPAL surveys. If this is your first time hearing about us and want to get involved visit the website to find out how you can contribute to our nationwide environmental monitoring projects. If you have already taken part, then thank you for your support in what has been a fantastic year for OPAL in Scotland, and have a look for our new New Zealand Flatworm survey and our collaboration with Polli:Nation on a new survey due out soon!

For more information on the OPAL project visit

To get involved with your school or group then contact Joanne by emailing or call her on 0141 420 5010 (ext 270)

And on Twitter, you can follow @OPALnature #OPALScotland

Our thanks to Joanne for the update on the fantastic acheivements of the past 12 months.

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