The foundation of the Scotland study abroad program is service learning, and one of our projects is helping the students and staff of Troqueer Primary School utilize some new funding to promote sustainability and global citizenship through a school garden. Throughout the semester we have been told that we would be blown away by the environment of Troqueer, and our time there has certainly exceeded our expectations.
Pupil Voice Groups
One of the most surprising aspects of Troqueer is the voice that the students are allowed to have in the day to day operations of the school. This is because each student is part of a Pupil Voice Group, which is a small group of students that address issues and opportunities that the school has. These groups frequently meet during school hours to discuss different items brought to them by teachers, administrators, or other students so that they can decide on a solution. This gives the students a voice in the policies and programs of the school, which encourages good behavior and healthy lifestyles. The students have been involved throughout our time at Troqueer, and even influenced our perceptions of the school during our pre-departure needs assessments. I believe that the students’ involvement will keep them motivated as the school garden project continues, even after the semester ends, which would allow our work to have a lasting, sustainable impact.
An Impeccable Staff
The teachers and administrators at Troqueer have also left a lasting impression on our team. Prior to our departure, we mostly assumed that the teachers would be hesitant to bring their students into an outdoor learning environment or to give them as much control over the daily operations of the school as they had. Instead, the teachers and administrators were enthusiastic about our projects and were always mindful of the influence promised to their students. In fact, the school’s head teacher was adamant that the student’s ideas would be far better than our own. It’s always seemed like the staff really trusts the students, and from where I stand, it seems to truly be paying off.
Before I began this journey in January, I didn’t put much thought into education policy and methods, but my time at Troqueer has truly opened my eyes to the incredible potential many public schools in the U.S. have. Even though I have no plans to become a teacher, I believe that what I’ve learned from the students, staff, and programs of Troqueer will impact the way I interact with others as I begin my career.