News & Blogs

Forested schools: rewilding unused playing field land in Fife, Scotland

Mon 20th January 2020 - Blog Posts

Here newly elected LfS Scotland Steering Group member, Duncan Zuill, explores the potential for Scotland’s school grounds to play their part in responding to the global climate and ecological crisis.

I am part of a Bill Clinton Global Initiative team dedicated to the rewilding project described below. We have two aims: to enable parts of the playing fields do their bit to capture carbon dioxide and save the planet and secondly, to create suitable places for school-based outdoor learning experiences. The basic idea is to identify and reclassify unused parts of school playing fields. Simply not mowing unused parts of the playing fields is the first step towards rewilding. At Levenmouth Academy in Fife we’ve already got about a hectare of playing field land which has not been mown for a year, and we like it. In Curriculum for Excellence through Outdoor Learning (2010) we are told that:

The Scottish Government’s School Estate Strategy requires local authorities to ‘consider how to make the best use of school grounds and the outdoor spaces as an integral part of the learning environment ensuring that landscape design is at a par with building design.’ A long-term authority-wide vision for school grounds through School Estate Management Plans will help maximise their potential as a learning environment’.  The Scottish Government’s Learning for Sustainability Action Plan (2019) confirms that All school buildings, grounds and policies should support Learning for Sustainability’.

Yet, so many of our playing fields are designed for easy maintenance rather than meaningful outdoor learning experiences.  

From a scientific point of view, the carbon capture of a rewilded area compared to a playing field is impressive. For example, a lawn is carbon neutral (arguably) whereas a rewilded native Scottish woodland will capture approximately 4 tonnes of carbon dioxide per hectare per year. We are taking baby steps towards capturing 4 tonnes of CO2 per hectare/year. I would say that within 15 years of rewilding & tree planting, the project could claim to be capturing 3 tonnes per hectare/year. There is a lot of playing field land in Scotland which could start on this journey but it’ll take someone local to identify those places and ensure that they grow. All that would be required in the short term would be to identify the right areas and mow around them. 

At Levenmouth Academy, we already have a total of 1 hectare uncut, the grassy islands are popular with the public who live nearby and they like the long grass, which breaks up the monotonous look of the playing fields. The wildflowers help promote biodiversity and pet dogs like to run in them. One day there will be wildlife to explore there. If you would like to connect with this project and make a form of rewilding happen at your school, please get in touch. 

Duncan Zuill, teacher, Levenmouth Academy,

Beveridge Park, Kirkcaldy – could more school playing fields look like this?