Why teach about land now?

Throughout history people have searched for and fought over land. It is a source of power and the basic economic engine upon which entire civilizations have been built.

For some cultures, land and the resources contained within it are viewed as something which should be shared for the benefit of everyone, whilst for others it is viewed as something that can be owned exclusively for individual gain. For those who secure access to and control over land, it can be a source of great power and prosperity, but for those who lose access the result can be extreme poverty.

The struggle over land is a central issue in Scotland’s history. In many ways, the experience of Scotland is similar to that of developing countries that have experienced colonialism and land dispossession and continue to struggle with land reform today. The Highland Clearances stand out as a notorious episode which changed the physical and social landscape of Scotland forever. Whilst Scotland has moved on from the land rights abuses of the 18th and 19th centuries, many poor communities around the world are facing the same scenario today. The increasing demand for resources has resulted in an unprecedented rush for the world’s finite supply of land, with thousands of poor communities being forced off the land on which they depend for their survival. This new trend of ‘land grabbing’ has profound social, economic, environmental and political consequences.

In this resource, land is explored from the perspective of rural communities who depend on it for their survival, and explores issues of power, rights, fairness and sustainability.

The activities contained within On the Land we Stand aim to engage students with some of the land issues which have faced rural communities in Scotland and continue to face rural communities in the developing world today, and to equip teachers to facilitate their learning and engagement with these issues.

The first unit begins by encouraging students to consider the importance of land from their own perspective and that of others. The second unit explores the issue of human rights and land rights and why people are able to have their land taken away. The third section starts by looking at the forced movement of people and introduces the concept of land grabbing and then goes on to look at an in depth case study of land grabs for biofuel production in Guatemala. The resource concludes in Unit 4 by considering the ways in which people can take action to effect positive change. An additional section is provided to show examples of best practice by teachers and as a space for teachers to share ideas.

The Curriculum

On the Land We Stand can help teachers to fulfil the spirit of the Curriculum for Excellence through the development of global awareness and active citizenship. The resource is designed for use with level three learners, although activities are easily adapted for use at other levels. The topics contained within the resource provide a basis for interdisciplinary learning and enable teachers to meet a number of expectations for learning and development in social studies, religious and moral education, expressive arts, science and literacy. The activities in this resource enable students to develop skills of research, debate, problem solving and critical thinking which can be used in the wider context of learning.

How to use the resource

Each unit contains a background information page for teachers (this contains facts, figures, videos, and links to further activities, reading and videos), and student activities which relate to each theme. A teacher sheet explains the purpose, preparation and procedure for each activity, and these are accompanied by printable student sheets and photo resources.