Joanne Dempster, OPAL Community Scientist for the Open Air Laboratories Project writes on the Glasgow City of Science blog about the great opportunities for schools to get outside and explore Glasgow’s living classrooms.

Across Scotland, OPAL are getting teachers and pupils out of the classroom to learn about the natural environment. Scotland is well known for its beautiful scenery and wild mountains, and we are very luck to live in a place with so many opportunities for outdoor learning. However, what can schools do when they are in the middle of a city like Glasgow? Glasgow doesn’t have mountains or forests and whilst schools are working hard to improve their school grounds many are still faced with a concrete jungle providing little opportunity to get hands on with nature in the school.

OPAL has been exploring the parks of Glasgow on a mission to find wild spots in the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s been an exciting start for us here in Glasgow and it was quickly obvious that hidden amongst the offices, shops and houses was a very green city! Most people living in Glasgow are only a few minutes walk from a park where they can momentarily escape the busy city.

Recently OPAL visited Dams to Darnley. A park bordering East Renfrewshire and Glasgow City with tantalising trails leading walkers off into the distance through woodlands and wildflower meadows, past ponds and over rivers. The Dams to Darnley Country Park Rangers have been organising events for local residents with huge success. Locals have been treated to dawn chorus walks, and will be looking forward to “Batman and Mothin” a night time event looking for some of the more secretive residents of the park as well as a spooky Halloween walk. OPAL will be joining in the fun to run a series of Citizen Science days to supplement the existing events calendar in 2015, Glasgow’s Green Year.

Parks like Dam’s to Darnley offer inner city schools the opportunity to get pupils involved with hands on science. The rangers have developed an exciting education pack designed to help teacher’s structure lessons in the park, it also offers advice on how to get the most effective learning experience for the pupils in what, for many teachers, will be an unfamiliar classroom setting.

This is by no means the only park worth a visit for schools. Springburn Park is host to a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation and Maryhill Park is a haven for clean air with a wealth of pollution sensitive lichen species growing on trees. Teachers have access to free education resources on the OPAL website that give guidance on running an outdoor science lesson and with so many green spaces there is no excuse for schools not to take learning outdoors.

For more information about Dams to Darnley events and to download the education pack visit

To download free OPAL survey packs and activity ideas visit

Follow #OPALScotland activity on Twitter.

Upcoming local OPAL events

Big Biology Day, 12th Oct, 10:00-3:00pm

Mugdock Country Park, Glasgow

OPAL will be attending this exciting science festival alongside an exciting range of hands on activities and crafts to get you involved with science in the natural world. Find out about bacteria, antibiotics and search for bugs. Take part in an OPAL lichen walk and discover how you can be a scientist in your own back garden.

Dams to Darnley Country Park Eco Fair, 15th Nov, 10:00-4:00pm

Barrhead High School, Aurs Road, Barrhead

OPAL will be attending this celebration of all things wild in Dams to Darnley Country Park. The park provides a green corridor from city to countryside with a variety of different habitats to explore. Come along and find out what is going on in the park, with talks and stalls from various conservation groups.