Tag Archives: Scotland

The Children’s Wood West-End Festival Gala programme

Our local Glasgow, Scotland UK campaign continues with some summer fun for young and old. Do come along and support us!

The Children's Wood and North Kelvin Meadow

The Children's Wood West-End Festival Gala programme

We’ve got a fantastic line up of activities and stalls for our Gala this SUnday (2nd June). There will be something for everyone. We hope to see you there. Join the conversation on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/TheChildrensWood

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Help save our Children’s Wood: support the protest any way you can, wherever you are….

“Wild spaces are invaluable to children, especially those growing up in
towns. They stimulate the imagination and nurture the spirit. Places
like the Children’s Wood within North Kelvin Meadow (Glasgow) are hard to come
by in urban settings and so should be preserved at all costs.”

Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo and U.K Children’s Laureate

Children's Wood Protest 1

Children’s Wood Protest 1

(photo: Anne Whitaker)

This is not just a local issue. This issue is one of the major challenges of our time right across the world.

As Dr Carol Craig, CEO of The Centre for Confidence and Well-being, has recently said:

“For decades we have restricted children’s freedom to play outdoors and there’s growing evidence  that this trend is damaging their physical health and emotional well-being. We now have to take positive steps to ensure that children have easy access to wild spaces like the Children’s Wood in the North Kelvin Meadow. It would be a travesty if this special place for children disappeared under concrete.”

Our local North Kelvin Meadow campaign takes an important step forward on Thursday 4th April 2013 from 11.45 am until 12.30 pm with a second protest demonstration outside the City Chambers, George Square, Glasgow, Scotland, UK. Do come along and join us – if you can’t make it, do send this link to ANYONE you think can contribute to saving our meadow in any way: friends, community activists, bloggers, Twitterers, Facebookers, journos……it all helps!


May 2012 saw the start of The Children’ Wood – an offshoot of the sterling efforts of the North Kelvin Meadow Campaign, for the last few years the latest in several local initiatives, whose objective over a long period of time now has been to save a patch of local waste ground for community green space use, as opposed to its hosting yet another set of newbuild flats  – in an already built up area –  if Glasgow City Council’s plan for the space goes ahead.

To give you a wonderful ‘flavour’ of what this land means to our community, DO watch this brilliant short film Dear Green Place made recently by film maker James Urquhart.

AND – to sign our on-line petition, go HERE. Thanks!!

Meadow in the CityThe Children’s Wood

(photo: Anne Whitaker)


NOTE: Blog/Twitter followers, Facebook friends, community activists and enthusiasts, please do what you can to pass this information around your networks. Thanks!


400 words copyright /Anne Whitaker 2013
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page



Guest blogger Emily Cutts: Constructive criticism is a gift

I am happy to publish this thoughtful post by my friend and colleague Emily Cutts,  an independent thinker whose studies and experience in the teaching, research and practice of Positive Psychology creatively and deeply inform her writing. Emily is also very much involved, along with her husband Quintin and many other community activists, with our campaign here in North Kelvin, Glasgow, Scotland, UK, to save our local Children’s Wood for community use. 

Emily says: I was surprised recently when a close friend of mine told me her reason for leaving a secondary school teaching position in a prestigious private school in Scotland.  One of the parents didn’t like the critical feedback she was giving their daughter, saying that it was damaging and un-motivating. In reality it was constructive feedback: factual, and given with the intention of improving performance.

Criticism is a gift: Carol Dweck pictures

Criticism is a gift: Carol Dweck pictures


The parent was blaming my friend for their daughter’s poor performance in this particular science subject. Another parent, a psychiatrist, was complaining for similar reasons, but also demanding to know why their son wasn’t doing well at science – blaming the teacher for their son not ‘getting it’.  My friend was disciplined by the head of department. From then on, she was required to put less‘negative’ feedback comments on work and to be more positive.

I have heard that this type of behaviour from parents has been increasing in schools across Scotland – parents blaming teachers for their child not doing well or not getting what they want.

Why would parents put pressure on schools not to give a child accurate feedback during the learning process, instead wanting them to paper over the cracks in understanding with positive praise? Why would schools take them seriously?

The answer could have something to do with feelings:

(an argument most clearly put forward by Dr Carol Craig at The Centre for Confidence and Well-being(1))

We don’t want to hurt a child’s feelings because we falsely believe that doing so will undermine their confidence and consequently their learning.  This causes teachers/parents to modify their behaviour in various ways to make sure that feelings are not damaged: restricting critical ‘negative’ feedback; reducing standards to make things easier; avoiding certain tasks for fear of hurting a child’s feelings should they fail – and unwarranted praise for tasks which the child can already do and for meaningless activities.

The problem with these behaviours is that they undermine the learning process, sending an important message to the child that they cannot cope with failure: failure is to be avoided. Another message is that they can’t handle challenging tasks.  If we thought they could cope, then we would allow them to hear the constructive feedback.

How could anyone learn if they lived by this philosophy?

Think about learning something difficult, and receiving feedback after you didn’t do very well on the task. Would you rather someone told you what you wanted to hear eg  ‘Well done you did really well, you are going to be the next Nobel Laureate’.  In this case you would gain no useful information – only a good temporary feeling…and could you ever trust that person’s opinion again? Or, would you rather find out about where you went wrong and how you could rectify it?  You might not like it at the time, but the feedback would help you to learn and do better in the future.

The first type of praise (currently widely applied) has been criticised by some psychologists because of its capacity to undermine learning (2,3).  It is thought that people praise in this way when they want to boost a child’s self-esteem, and protect young people’s feelings (1).

However, if you praise a child for activities that they can already do well, this sets up behaviours which undermine learning and paradoxically decrease self-esteem. The other aspect of this is to praise young people for being clever or smart (85% of American parents think that it is good to do so).

Praising for talent in this way sends a message to the child that you, the adult, value intelligence – since children are very sensitive to the messages they receive – they then want to demonstrate their intelligence to prove they have the talent.  The highly negative consequence of this is the avoidance of anything challenging which might show up weaknesses, or hiding/avoiding failures and sticking to things they do well.

In addition to this, people become more likely to blame others for failure, rather than taking ownership of their own setbacks and learning. This is salient in the example at the beginning of parents complaining about my friend’s teaching i.e If they believed their child to be smart, but yet they were not understanding science – then it must be the teaching at fault and not the child.

Our culture has an obsession with natural talent. However, there is a problem with this fascination:we cannot predict who will succeed and who won’t. Someone could start out seemingly talented at science, for example.This does not necessarily mean that they will always be successful – research demonstrates that people need to work at growing their talent or else they do not reach their full potential.

Other studies show the converse. Those who start off seemingly talentless can flourish later on– the late bloomers – exceeding all expectations and predictions about how well they will do in life.  Some famous examples are: Einstein, Beethoven, Robin Williams, Magic Johnson,(4) – but I am sure you can think of examples of people who you went to school with (or other walks of life) who exceeded your or other peoples expectations?

Overwhelmingly, the research shows (e.g. 6)  that talent is something which requires practice, perseverance and a lot of effort. For example,  Malcolm Gladwell (5) says that to become an expert at something takes around 10,000 hours of practice.  It takes thousands of failures and setbacks along the way and all of this activity changes the structure of the brain (e.g.6).

The brain is like a muscle: Carol Dweck pictures

The brain is like a muscle: Carol Dweck pictures


Young people can develop all of these abilities, as well as resilience, through accurate, useful feedback, and praise for their hard work and effort. Not only will this increase motivation for learning, but by default, performance too. (6)

Going back to the example of my friend being told to restrict critical feedback and increase praise,this does not seem like a good long term learning strategy.  A better method would be to encourage teachers to give students negative feedback, harnessed with the encouragement to take this feedback as a learning opportunity and not as a personal attack.

Learning takes time, it’s frustrating, hard work and effortful – these messages might be more important for the child to hear than more praise and little critical feedback (7). This may also provide hope for the future, to students such as those mentioned earlier who may not initially do very well at some subjects.

Parents need to stop blaming teachers for their children’s learning – it is not all their fault  – and help their children to take responsibility for their own learning. One way to begin this is by cultivating a love of learning, valuing critical feedback, and treating failures and frustrations about learning as anormal and natural process in education and nothing to take personally.

Constructive criticism is a gift, we just need to view it that way more often.



1. http://www.centreforconfidence.co.uk/projects.php?p=cGlkPTUz
2. http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/AmericanFamily/story?id=2877896&page=1
3. http://nymag.com/news/features/27840/
4. http://www.des.emory.edu/mfp/OnFailingG.html
5. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0316017922?ie=UTF8&tag=stormysblog-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0316017922
6. http://mindsetonline.com/ and http://www.centreforconfidence.co.uk/projects.php?p=cGlkPTU4
7. http://www.centreforconfidence.co.uk/projects.php?p=cGlkPTU3JmlkPTQ3OA==


(First appearing on another of my blogs MoreBitsFallOff.com, this has proved to be its most frequently read post!Check it out to read more of Emily’s well-researched and thoughtful articles)

1200 words copyright Emily Cutts/Anne Whitaker 2010/2013
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page


Help save our local Children’s Wood!

I have written already about the battle to save our local Children’s Wood in North Kelvin, Maryhill, Glasgow, Scotland, UK. I’m happy to say that the campaign is gaining momentum by the day!

To get an up-to-date picture on what we are trying to achieve locally, do read this brilliant article in Glasgow’s ‘Herald’ newspaper a few days ago by Gerry Braiden, Local Government Correspondent.

As can be seen from the article, comedian Frankie Boyle, who hails from Glasgow, is the latest celebrity to have lent his support.

This is not just a local issue. This issue is one of the major challenges of our time right across the world.

Here are some vivid quotes which reveal a great deal about the perspectives, passion and commitment brought to the campaign by people who really care about the importance of contact with nature to children and parents:

Save Our Children's Wood!

Save Our Children’s Wood! 

“It would clearly be counterproductive to build on commonly used land, in the face of a huge public protest. We have to stop at some point and ask how many shoebox flats does Glasgow need? The way the land is currently used is delivering on a lot of the council’s strategies. Why are they putting money before the life of the community?”

Frankie Boyle, Glaswegian comedian

“Wild spaces are invaluable to children, especially those growing up in
towns. They stimulate the imagination and nurture the spirit. Places
like the Children’s Wood within North Kelvin Meadow are hard to come
by in urban settings and so should be preserved at all costs.”

Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo and Children’s Laureate

‘As one of our member groups, SPPA supports The Children’s Wood Playgroup and its provision of outdoor play. SPPA endorses outdoor play and recognises the value it holds for children. The children are very active and engaged in exploring their local surroundings, learning through a variety of activities and benefiting from being in a natural environment.’

 Ian McLaughlan, SPPA’s Chief Executive

“For decades we have restricted children’s freedom to play outdoors and there’s growing evidence  that this trend is damaging their physical health and emotional well-being. We now have to take positive steps to ensure that children have easy access to wild spaces like the Children’s Wood in the North Kelvin Meadow. It would be a travesty if this special place for children disappeared under concrete.

Dr Carol Craig, CEO of The Centre for Confidence and Well-being

“North Kelvin Meadow is a magical oasis and the Children’s Wood offers a unique space loved by the local community and all who venture there.”

Tam Dean Burn, actor

“The Children’s Wood is a wee gem of natural wild space in the heart of the west-end.  In it, children can connect to nature in a way that isn’t possible in most manicured areas; digging, den building and so on. As a parent of two young children I can appreciate how important it is for young children to connect to nature. Glasgow should be proud to have such a wilderness for the community to flourish in and should do all they can to save it!

Colin McCredie, Actor, Wolly and Tig CBeebies

“We’re keen to help people of all ages reconnect with nature. North Kelvin Meadow is a precious area of greenspace within Glasgow, a green and peaceful place in a crowded city. We’re fully supportive of the campaign to protect it and helping local people see the benefits of spending time surrounded by nature plays a big part in gaining support for its protection.”

Iain Moss, The Woodland Trust

“The availability of a woodland setting immediately accessible to our children and staff, on the doorstep of the school, is a real living experience. This naturally beautiful and exciting environment is alien to many city centre children and which is impossible for schools to replicate in their playground such that has taken decades to evolve naturally – a real wood.”

Gillian Kulwicki, Head Teacher at Belhaven Nursery School

Several short films have now been made celebrating our Children’s Wood. Please watch the latest one HERE, and do circulate it round your networks. We need your support!!

AND: last but not least, sign OUR ONLINE PETITION!



700 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2013
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page


Support from Guardian newspaper for Glasgow’s North Kelvin Meadow campaign!

Check out this article from today’s “Guardian” newspaper:

The Guardian supports: Glasgow residents’ final fight to save North Kelvin Meadow from bulldozer http://gu.com/p/3ckyz/tw  via @guardian


Hallowe’en Chiller: Overtaking a phantom

Ghosts seem harder to please than we are; it is as though they haunted for haunting’s sake – much as we relive, brood, and smoulder over our pasts….on the whole, it would seem they adapt themselves well, perhaps better than we do, to changing world conditions – they enlarge their domain, shift their hold on our nerves, and, dispossessed of one habitat, set up house in another. The universal battiness of our century looks like providing them with a propitious climate….”

Elizabeth Bowen

Definition of a ghost : “the soul of a dead person which supposedly manifests itself to the living visibly (as a shadowy apparition), audibly etc.”

(p 356, The Oxford English Reference Dictionary, Oxford University Press 1996)

An imaginative child, I found going upstairs to bed scary most nights, having probably heard too many ghost stories as I grew up in the storm-tossed Outer Hebrides – home to many a Celtic tale of the otherworld of the supernatural.

There was the woman wrapped in plaid who jostled my maternal grandfather in the winter dark as he traversed the remote, eerie Uig Glen. There was my maternal great-grandmother’s hearing the wheels of lorries rumbling through her remote village toward a deserted headland – many years before they actually came, bearing the materials to build an RAF station there.

There were the shades of the dead appearing to those few in possession of the Sight – sure harbingers of imminent family death. There were ghostly lights luring sailors to their deaths in stormy seas. There was at least one ghost car. More has been forgotten than I could ever now recall.

Fortunately for me, vivid imagination has always sat in tandem with a strongly empirical streak. So I was a true sceptic –inclined to disbelieve in the absence of proof – until the day I  saw a ghost for myself….

Perthshire, Scotland, Autumn 1977

My twenties had been turbulent. Restless wandering – from one career to another, one city to another, one set of friendships to another, and one dwelling place to another – characterised the whole decade.

Now, I was in a mood to settle. Time to face my dissatisfactions, rather than running away when novelty wore off and disillusion set in. Resolution thus colouring my mood, I left Dundee in September 1977 to do my social work training at Glasgow University. Having been such a hippie in my twenties, all I owned could be fitted into several boxes and stowed in the back of my old blue Morris Traveller.

Laughing to myself, I recalled the occasion when, in my role as unqualified social worker, I had called by my flat in a poor area of Dundee to collect something I had forgotten. Accompanying me was the hard bitten female client I was accompanying on a visit to Dundee’s Family Planning Centre.“For f—s sake!” she remarked, quickly scanning my accommodation whilst I hunted for the forgotten item. “Your standard of living’s even worse than mine!”

Thus in transition, I set off to spend a night or two, en route to my new abode in Glasgow, with my boyfriend at the time who lived in the scenic market town of Perth, half way between Dundee and Glasgow. The Dundee to Perth road was mostly dual carriageway, and a distance of about twenty five miles. I drove happily through the area known as the Carse of Gowrie, which grew the best raspberries in Britain. “Pity I’m in a hurry”, I thought. “A few raspberries for supper would be nice.”

It was a clear evening, around seven pm, growing dusk. There was very little traffic on the road. A few miles outside Perth, my headlights picked out a male cyclist on a racing bike, a little way ahead of me. I pulled into the overtaking lane to pass him – and he vanished.

I arrived at Peter’s flat somewhat shaken by this experience. “I can’t believe I imagined it. What I saw was definitely a cyclist. He was as substantial on that road as you are, standing right now in your kitchen !” Peter was quiet for a few moments. He looked thoughtful, as if trying to decide whether to say something or not.

At last he told me that a young male cyclist had been killed on that stretch of road a year or so previously.

This was something of which I had no knowledge. Why should his ghost appear to me? “Firstly, because you’re so sensitive anyway. Cast your mind back to some other odd happenings which have occurred  since we’ve been together. Secondly, your life is in transition. I think at those times, normal consciousness is more porous, as it were. Impressions from other layers of ‘reality’ find it easier to seep through….”

I remember feeling quite relieved that I wouldn’t be travelling on that stretch of road for the foreseeable future….


800 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Poetic homage to Autumn: authors known and unknown….

Today is another glorious autumn day in my adopted home city of Glasgow, Scotland, UK. Our default position here is wet, often cold, resolutely cheerful in an ironic, defiant kind of way. Today is different. There is a reflective, drifty mood around. There is hazy warmth in the sun. Park benches in the leaf-strewn park are full of outdoor lunchers – our last chance till the Spring?

And I am feeling melancholic, but in a good way….reflective….poetic. Here are two autumnal poems I hope you will enjoy. The first needs no introduction. The second, whose author I do not know and with whom google was no help, I found pinned to a board inside the David Elder Chapel, an exquisite, still jewel of a hidden place within Glasgow’s Western Infirmary.

Enjoy the poems – and this season!


One fallen leaf....

One fallen leaf….


‘Autumn’   by ~ Rainer Maria Rilke ~

O Lord, it is time

The summer was so vast

Put your shadows on the sundials

And in the fields let the wind loose.

Order the last fruits to become ripe

Give them two more sunny days

Push them to fulfillment

And force the last sweetness into the heavy wine.

He who has no house now will not build one

He who is alone will be so for a long time to come

Will stay awake, read, write long letters

And restlessly walk in the park among the blown leaves.

(Translated by Charlotte Schmid)


Autumn, River Kelvin, Glasgow

Autumn, River Kelvin, Glasgow

photo: Anne Whitaker

I am the Season of Autumn

I am pleased to meet you

I  am the season of Autumn.

I am the Harvest of Spring and Summer’s labour.

I am the fruits, the grains, the berries,

The beautiful colours of a glorious planet.

Winding down after a frenzy of activity.

I am the gentle approach to my sister Winter.

When Autumn leaves begin to fall it is time to

Prepare for colder weather and to remind each

Other of those who are most vulnerable.

During the longer night please give of

Your time to those who really need it.

Know that essentially the whole worth

Of a kind deed lies in the love that inspired it.

Eternal happiness is seldom found by those who seek it,

Never by those who seek it for themselves.


400 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page