RSPB Scotland Loch Lomond approached Gartocharn Primary School to co-design a project on geese, several species of which over-winter at the reserve and local area of Gartocharn.

To get the project underway we delivered a training session to staff, teaching them about the geese and facilitating a brainstorming session. We co-designed an activity programme that was suitable for the entire school, from nursery through to Primary 7. From the outset the teacher’s enthusiasm was amazing. The aim of the programme was to support the pupils on a journey towards becoming Goose Guardians and connect the local children with nature on their doorstep

Toy goose sitting on mailbox, outside in a field

Activity Programme

Day 1  

Nursery through to Primary 3 received parcels all the way from Greenland, inside of which was a Greenland white-fronted goose (a stuffed toy one of course!) with a note saying that it was a young goose, separated from its parents and asked them to look after it until they arrived. Primary 4 through to Primary 7 received a letter introducing them to the reserve that is just down the road from the school and explaining a little about the geese which visit the area in the winter. We asked if they would meet the RSPB team at local landmark ‘The Dumpling’ the next day to help us find the geese.

A special thank-you goes out to Kay Marais, our Residential Volunteer, for her artistic talents in creating the parcels.

Day 2

The next day, as promised, the RSPB team along with our dedicated volunteers met the whole school at ‘The Dumpling’ and we went out for a goose gander. Although the weather was ‘only good for ducks’, no one seemed to mind. So, we set off to climb ‘The Dumpling’, the hill overlooking the village. From this vantage point we were able to show the pupils which fields the geese like to feed and roost in. After lunch we continued searching for the geese, walking 3 different routes around the village. Despite not spotting any geese on the routes that day, the pupils were fully engaged in learning more about the types of geese that visit the area, where they like to feed, what they eat and where they sleep at night. Turkey Red Media filmed our walk and the teachers shared lovely pictures of the day on Twitter so parents could follow the adventure too.

Day 3

The next day was a much drier for all, with a full day spent in the school delivering presentations and activities to all the classes, with a focus on learning more about geese. Nursery, P1, P2 and P3 loved the ‘noisy’ soft toy birds and practiced getting ready to fly all the way from Greenland via Iceland in a ‘V’ formation! P4- through to P7 excelled at the goose identification quiz!

To support the teachers with ongoing learning we put together a document all about the 5 geese species found at Loch Lomond including photo’s, maps, facts and data on numbers found on the reserve.

2 children reading in a classroom

Continuing the project…

The Nursery class and P1 focused on building ‘Gerty’ a nest in the playground where she could shelter while waiting for her ‘parent’ geese to find her. After coming up with fantastic names such as ‘The Superstar Goose Gang’, the P2 and P3’s created pamphlets aimed at farmers. Designed to inform them about good farming practices that help the geese e.g., cutting the grass before the geese arrive so it’s nice and lush for them. Meanwhile, P4-7 learned about data collection methods, how to present scientific data and put together mock news reports, tying in with Cop26. 

The older children went on a second walk, that focussed on exploring fields on the reserve where the Greenland white-fronted geese like to feed. In the classroom they had created QR code posters about geese to put up for the public, to help them learn about geese. On the walk, we pretended to ‘think like geese’ and decide if the field was favourable. As we were doing so, we heard a honk in the distance and the activity swiftly changed to a goose quest! We very quietly crept down to the Shore path to Net Bay. Much to everyone’s amusement, we discovered one lonesome Canada Goose bobbing about the loch! It may have just been one goose, but it was the first goose in our 2-week search, and everyone was delighted. Well, other than a skein that flew over the school, alarming Ms Little Deputy Head, who ran to find out what the racket was!

Children sitting outside on loch shore birdwatching

School report day

On the last day of the project, we went back to the school to hear from the pupils all about their knowledge and enthusiasm for all things goose!

The P4-7 groups, with Ms Irvine, created information posters about the different goose species found locally. Each group talked through their poster; what they had learned and their favourite goose facts! It was inspiring to listen to them speaking confidently about their newfound knowledge. They discussed how they would take the project forward and continue to be Goose Guardians. Their ideas were fantastic, ranging from writing persuasive letters to the council and MP’s and putting up posters in the local Co-op to pupils leading community goose walks and collecting their own goose data.

Colourful drawings of geese by pupils

The nursery and P1’s, with Ms Whitelaw, discovered that Gerty the goose had left school. With the teacher explaining that she had had been found by her parent birds. The children were happy that they had helped look after her and she was now with her family. They also made colourful posters with slogans like ‘keep dogs away from geese’ & ‘do not leave your litter’. They were keen to show off their knowledge too, enthusiastically shouting out ‘gaggle’, ‘gander’ ‘gosling’ correctly when quizzed.

The last visit of the day was to the P2 and P3’s with Ms Neill. We received such a warm welcome and were ushered to sit down to listen to presentations by the pupils. They spoke about geese and farming, and how to engage with farmers to manage land with geese in mind. We then spent time looking at their pamphlets, colourful pictures of geese and their research on climate change and how it relates to geese.

4 pupils giving a presentation in a classroom

Nearly every wall and corridor in the school was dedicated to geese. It was great to see ingenuity when it came to using technology too. The QR posters made by P4 to P7 will help educate locals and visitors to the village about the geese. The P2 and 3’s created interactive displays, placing audio playback tracks next to their corridor poster.  Louise, Community Outreach Officer at RSPB Loch Lomond said, ‘I’m so chuffed with the whole schools’ endeavours. You could say, I’m a super proud mother goose! The teachers were inspiring, and the pupils were so engaged. Come rain or shine, they guided the whole project; Gartocharn Primary School are fully deserving of the title ‘Goose Guardians’.

Posters of goose information in a school corridor

These activities were supported by the Wildlife Trail to Loch Lomond project made possible through funding from National Lottery Heritage Fund, Brown Forbes Memorial Fund and the Horace and Helen Gillman Trusts.