Cate Dollard was the winner of the 2015 Send a Teacher Traveling Award and she’s recently returned from the ExperiencePlus! Bicycling Scotland’s Highlands Coast to Coast ride so we thought we’d check in and see how her trip went, and how she’s incorporating her experiences in Scotland in her classes.
Welcome home Cate! You recently returned from the ExperiencePlus! Bicycling Scotland’s Highland’s Coast to Coast ride. You are a biology teacher and before you left you imagined this ride would give you a chance to experience the abundance of unique wildlife and diversity of vegetation and habitats in Scotland. Now that you’re back, what are your highlights and why?
Most of the animals I saw were sheep and cows. They were certainly cute and entertaining! I did not see too much wildlife except a couple of herons and a few Osprey at the preservation organization I stopped to visit. But Habitats! Every day was different – moor, bog, deciduous forest, pine forest, open fields, rivers, estuary, oceans – I think we saw it all on this trip. It really is pretty amazing to witness so many habitats in such a short amount of time.
Along these lines, you mentioned you were hoping to document the efforts that have been put forward at the Creag Meagaidh National Nature Reserve, where the ride took you on Day 6. You also wamted to learn more about sustainability measures in the region, e.g. waste management, in order to share these experiences with your students. Where you successful in collecting the information you were hoping for?
Well, I did not learn that much about waste management but I did find out about habitat restoration in the Sunart region and had some fascinating conversations with our guides about ecological issues surrounding private land use versus native animal and plant populations. In the Sunart region there is a group working to remove pines that were introduced and are planting a native oak species that is a remnant of the former rainforest. Looking at the land during most of the trip you could often see where property lines were because of different choices in land management. Some is completely forested, many have strips of clear cut. Those with sheep have almost no trees and in some areas the heather has been cut so new will grow and attract grouse. Grouse hunting is a big event in Scotland. Neighbors do not always agree on how the land should be managed. Sadly I did not get to explore that much of Creag Meagaidh Nature Reserve. As we arrived it was just starting to rain and more rain was coming so we kept moving to finish the ride for the day. I would DEFINITELY like to go back and do some hiking there – it looked gorgeous and then I guess I will learn about their preservation efforts.
You haven’t had a tremendous amount of time since you’ve been back and school has just started but I wonder if you have you been able to share your experiences with your students.
Yes, I am now a few weeks into the school year. I was able to share a bit about the trip with my students and they were very impressed that I rode my bike so far and thought it was VERY cool that you provided the trip free to a teacher. When we study ecology in a few weeks I will be able to show them pictures and share some of my experiences with them some more.
How do you see this experience influencing your teaching in the future?
I will certainly use this trip as a way to convince my students to travel (and to travel by bicycle)! You learn SO much by seeing other places and talking to people who live there. You learn how they are different but also learn that they struggle with many of the same things and that helps us with more of a global community feeling. The more examples I can bring of people working to preserve their native habitats the more my students will appreciate that this is a global problem. I think it has more impact on them if I can tell them first-hand what I have witnessed instead of just some information that I read.
What other highlights would you like to share from the trip?
I appreciated how all people shared the road with other motorists and the cyclists. The roads were extremely narrow but everyone made room for the other people. I also found the Scottish people to be very friendly.
How did you like traveling by bike?
I LOVE traveling by bicycle! It is not too slow so you get to see a lot, but it is not too fast so you can see all of the details of the land as you ride by. It is so easy to stop and explore more if you want to. In addition to that you feel great and you can enjoy A LOT of the local foods because you have been exercising so much!
How did you train for the cycling?
I rode my bike a lot and I rode hills. Basically that is what the land is like where I live. Others on the trip who are from flatter places did spin classes to get some hill climbing in and that seemed to really pay off for them.
Any culinary highlights to share?
Glen Lui Hotel…that was a really good meal. Salmon with cream, crab and capers…SO good. Actually, every meal was excellent. I was amazed at how good the food was as I did not think Scotland was well known for its food. I think I might have gained some weight despite all the cycling!
Has riding a bike across Scotland changed you?
It has made me want to travel more and to travel more, a lot more, by bike.
Any surprises along the way?
One night the guides surprised us with a guest visitor – a bagpiper gave us a personal performance and told us all about his instruments and how they worked. AND…It was a WEE BIT colder than I expected. I did have warm enough clothes, but I wore those same ones repeatedly. On the up side of that…the rain made everything more lush and made the rivers and water falls really moving!
If you know of a deserving K-12 public or private school teacher be sure to have them apply for our Send a Teacher Traveling program. We take applications until the last day in February and select teachers by middle of March every year!