The Charcoal Burner's Story
Source:Second Nature - Environmental Studies Pack (5-14), SNH & RSPB - available from the RSPB.
Inspired by an outdoor programme 'Woodland Ways' developed by English Nature at Lathkill Dale NNR.
- To use storytelling to describe the changes that woodland has undergone in the last few thousand years and to appreciate that woodlands were once essential for survival.
- To develop a sense of stewardship for local woodlands
15 minutes for the story + 15 minutes drawing
You will need
- Blindfolds - (optional), one for each child
- The Charcoal Burner's Story (see downloads)
- A costume or accessories for the Charcoal Burner to wear (optional)
- Charcoal sticks and paper
Did you know?
Charcoal Burning is an ancient practice but had its heyday in
Britain around 200-300 years ago. The charcoal Burner's story explains
that it was cheaper to bring the iron-ore to the charcoal than to
transport the charcoal to the iron-ore. As a result the woodlands
became noisy industrial places. Charcoal burning may also have been
responsible for the disappearance of many native woodlands. However an
alternative theory is that, despite the noise and pollution, the
industry probably helped to protect woodlands because they were valued
and managed for timber products.
Before the ActivityDecide where on your visit you will tell this story. See the activity Introducing the Time Machine. Prepare blind folds and the charcoal burner's costume if required. If possible learn the basic content of the story so that you avoid reading from a script and thus can use gestures and eye contact to make the story come alive.
The activityExplain to the children that you want them to imagine that they are going to travel back in time. Five thousand years ago wildwoods covered most of Scotland however something happened that changed the wildwoods. To find out more about what happened to the woods, they are going to travel back in time 250 years and meet someone who lived here at that time. Use blindfolds or ask the children to cover their eyes, then all count back to 250 years ago, 50 years at a time. On an agreed signal the children uncover their eyes and meet the Charcoal Burner who tells his story. They then recover their eyes and count forwards 250 years to the present day. Once they have returned to the present, use the discussion points below to reinforce what has been said in the story.
- Can the children think of a name beginning with C to remember the character by?
- What job did he do?
- What was the best kind of wood for iron smelting / making gun powder?
- How did he make charcoal? How long did it sometimes take?
- Did he think that charcoal burning was destroying the woodland?
- What did he feel was the threat to the woods?
- Have the children seen or used charcoal?
Hand out charcoal sticks and paper and ask the children to chose a favourite tree or trees to draw or take bark rubbings from. Create an artists gallery with the finished drawings/rubbings by hanging a line between two trees and pegging them up. Then go on a guided tour of the gallery!
Suggested Follow up
This story can be followed or preceded by other Timeline stories, either taking place in the same spot or by moving to other relevant spots in the reserve or local area.
Back in class you could enact a Timeline drama. Create props and costumes and count back in time, visiting stages of the timeline, with the children playing the role of the various characters.Read other stories about historical characters across Scotland in the Time Team activity.
Research present and past uses of our native woods.
DownloadsThe Charcoal Burner's Story
Additional InformationThe Scottish Wood web site and the Trees for Life site provide in depth information on our native trees and their uses.
- Language - main
- Social studies - main
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- Expressive Arts - associated
- 2. Primary
- 3. Lower Secondary