peatland information from ‘Wild, Wet and Wonderful’
This activity explores our connection with Scotland’s natural resources (here peatland), our cultural history and environmental past. Pupils will investigate how we can look after these resources in a sustainable way.
Resources are simple: coloured chalk for temporary markings, and hard surface area in the school grounds.
Did you know?
Peat bogs have been called ‘Living history books’. Layers of peat form an acidic and oxygen free environment, which can preserve seeds, plants and animal remains for thousands of years. The pollen trapped in bogs provides evidence for scientists to study the changes in Scotland’s vegetation and climate since the end of the last Ice Age, and provide a measure of people’s impact on our landscape.
The best preserved ‘bog body’ Tollund man was found in Denmark. He was sacrificed and buried in the bog 2,000 years ago.
Before the activity
Look at old maps of Scotland showing the extent of bogland before much of this was drained, cleared and planted. What is the nearest natural peatland site to your school? (use the SNH website). Look at maps of your area or other parts of Scotland. Can you find place names that are associated with bogs?
Research dates and facts about Scotland’s environment and human history and peatlands since the end of the last Ice Age around 10,000 years ago. Examples are given below, but add your own locally significant dates e.g. date school/ town/ castle/ churches built and historic battles, arrival of Romans/ Vikings to Scotland etc.
Draw a 10,000 year timeline on the playground to represent the end of the Ice age to the present day. Assess the site and discuss what scale to use. Pupils measure and mark off each 1,000 year section and then divide these into 10 X 100 year sections. Make this as large a scale possible, so that pupils can run between each section and learn as actively as the space allows.
Call out key dates and facts: switch from recent dates to distant ones for a dynamic lesson! Pupils run to the correct part of the timeline and write down the fact with chalk. This could be done as a competition – teams using different chalk colours race to find the right point on the scale. Whoever gets to the right part of the time line writes down the information. The correct facts in the right place score points for that team colour.
Notable events (BP = before present) could include:
12,000 years BP – last ice age in Britain
10,000 years BP: Scotland’s climate is cool and wet – lowland raised bogs begin to form
8,500 years BP – sea levels rise again nearly cutting northern and southern Scotland in two.
8,000 years BP: Extensive blanket bogs begin to form
7,000 years BP: whale beached by Forth estuary - the bones of a 120 ft stranded blue whale have been found in what is now Stirling alongside human tools (bones and flints), indicating that people lived in this area at that time.
5,750 years BP: Neolithic period begins
5,000 years BP: Callanish built.
3,600 BP – Stonehenge built
3,000 years BP a bronze bucket and cart wheel was found in Flanders Moss in Stirlingshire which indicated that people were living here at that time.
2, 400 years BP – Iron Age peat bog sacrifices (e.g. Tollund Man)
@ 2000 – 1600 years BP. Roman Empire. Romans begin cutting peat for fuel
@ 1884 - 1879 years BP Hadrians Wall built
500 years BP – the beaver became extinct in Scotland due to over-hunting and habitat loss
1,740 – The last wolf is killed in Scotland – now extinct in the UK.
@ 200 years BP: Agricultural improvements began the destruction of the peatlands. Highlanders made homeless during the Clearances (1770) were given areas of bog land to live on. They were told to clear this for crops by Lord Kames of Kincardine estate (one of the ‘Moss Lairds’.)
1790 @ 216 years BP: the sediment deposited in the rivers by the moss clearances polluted the River Forth, and the fisheries, upon which the people of Stirling depended, collapsed. This became known as the first environmental disaster of the world.
The Greenock Telegraph, 2nd January 1895: reports skating accidents on the Glen Moss site near Kilmacolm, Renfrewshire. This bog was deliberated flooded each year to be used by the curling club. Around 300-400 people from Greenock and Glasgow came to skate on the ice on this day!
1914: Russia opened its first peat burning power station
1914 – 1918 – First World War – sphagnum moss from peat bogs used as sterile wound dressings
2000 – Present day Millennium celebrations! (what age were you then?)
Only 5.5% of the original raised peat bogs in Scotland remain in their natural state
Pupils design their own more permanent time line to be incorporated into the school grounds (or on the external wall of a new building) as part of a grounds development project.
If your class has visited a peatland site, find out the depth of peat and how old it is. Add this information (depth in meters) against your timeline dates.
Research the use of peat in the horticultural industry and discuss whether this use is environmentally sustainable (link to your time line). Promote peat free products in the school grounds.
Further activities are available in Wild Wet and Wonderful.
Visit the BBC Scotland site (listed below) to research the Highland Clearances. What environmental impacts in Scotland resulted from these social changes?
Adders are Scotland’s only venomous snake, and thrive in peatland habitats. See Adder jigsaw game in Fun 4 Kids in SNH website publication section
SNH publications : Education and Teachers Resources: Education Advances Poster Series
No.1 Scotland: A Little Piece of North America
For most of its geological history Scotland was just a ‘little piece of North America’. This poster explains how Scotland was formed more than 400 million years ago.
BBC Education Scotland
Interactive site with teachers notes
Travel back in time to the Highlands of Scotland 200 years ago. Examine the causes, events and effects of the Clearances.