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Morton Schools Project – Sciences (ages 8–11)

We suggest that these activities would be most suitable for pupils aged 8–11, but please feel free to explore all the articles in this series.

The photographs in this article are part of the Margaret Fay Shaw Collection, and were taken between 1929–38 in the Western Isles of Scotland and the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland. They show people harvesting, collecting and carrying peat, and the peat being stacked and stored on land. In this series of activities, we’ll be using these images of peat to think about changing attitudes and practices regarding energy use and sustainability in Scotland.

The times suggested beside each activity are intended to be a guideline; you’re welcome to spend as much time on each activity as you like.

Black and white photo of a group of men cutting peat.
A group of men cutting peat on Uibhist a Deas (South Uist) (© National Trust for Scotland, Canna House)

Activity 1

(5–15 minutes)

Using online resources, books and your own knowledge, write down definitions of the following phrases:

  • Renewable energy source
  • Non-renewable energy source

Try to find at least two examples of each type of energy source and make a note of these alongside your definitions.

Activity 2

(5–15 minutes)

Using online resources, books and your own knowledge try to answer the following questions:

  • How has peat traditionally been used in Scotland?
  • Is it still used for these purposes today?
  • Is peat a renewable or non-renewable energy source?
Black and white photo of a man leading a horse with wicker baskets on its back and a foal.
A young man leads a horse along a road on Barraigh (Barra). The horse has handmade wicker baskets across her back, and these are filled with cut peat (© National Trust for Scotland, Canna House)

Activity 3

(15–30 minutes)

Make a list of reasons for and against the use of peat as an energy source. Write down as many as you can think of, and try to have at least two reasons ‘for’ and two ‘against’.

Pick one of the following energy sources:

  • Biomass
  • Coal
  • Geothermal energy
  • Oil
  • Natural gas
  • Nuclear power
  • Tidal/Hydroelectric power
  • Solar power
  • Wind power

Make a list of reasons for and against the use of your chosen source. Write down as many as you can think of, and try to have at least two reasons ‘for’ and two ‘against’.

Compare your chosen energy source with peat. Based on the reasons you have listed, which of the two do you think would be a better source of energy for Scotland? Write down a few sentences explaining your answer.

Black and white photo of four different types of peat-cutting tools.
The second tool on the left is a treisgeir, or peat cutter (© National Trust for Scotland, Canna House)

Activity 4

(30–60 minutes)

Using your research, decide whether you’re ‘for’ or ‘against’ the use of peat as an energy source in Scotland. If you’re arguing against the use of peat as an energy source, make sure you present at least one alternative energy source which you think should be used instead. Present your argument in one of the following ways:

  • Make a 10-minute video recording showcasing your argument. Begin by writing a script or a series of notes, and then record yourself arguing your case. If you like, you can use a Powerpoint presentation to support your argument.
  • Design a poster arguing your position.
  • Write a speech outlining your position.

We’d love to see what you come up with! Feel free to send them to us at @NTSCollections on Twitter or @nationaltrustforscotland on Instagram.