Get Involved

As an ever growing and dynamic organisation, the Secret Garden provides regular opportunities for interested parties, including volunteer and we can also welcome students on placement from universities and collages. So if you fancy spending your placement outside in the woods, working at a nursery that is a little different then please do get in touch – we’d love to hear from you. You can read Nick, Catherine, Klara, Lucy, Natasha and Antje’s stories below, they all volunteered with the nursery over the course of several months. 

Nick Thorsen:
Student placement March-July 2022

I am a Postgraduate student returning to university to study Outdoor Environmental and Sustainability Education at the University of Edinburgh. The natural world has always been a strong pull for me, mostly through the many hours I would spend watching birds in my garden as a child in St Andrews. Learning all their names, I became curious about all the other birds outside of my garden, and before long I had made pretty a good dent. Fast-forwarding a few years I finished university where I studied Conservation Biology and began work in a variety of conservation jobs, one monitoring beavers and ospreys at Loch of the Lowes and more recently, working as a Ranger at the enormous and beautiful Mar Lodge Estate. It was in this role that I was supposed to be working with children at the local forest school; however, due to Covid-19 the school was closed. As part of my university course I thought I would use this opportunity to get a taste of what I missed at Mar Lodge, as my course has really reinforced my beliefs in the importance of experiences in nature at a young age. I enjoy a good walk with my binoculars in the hope of spotting something exciting (ideally a white-tailed eagle!), but mostly I enjoy relaxing with a good book.

Catherine Devaney:
Volunteer December 2021- May 2022

I have two children who both loved their time at Secret Garden, so it’s a real privilege to be back in the woods and sharing the experience.  I grew up in Dundee, then studied in Edinburgh and Montreal. My background is in law, where I worked as an Advocate, specialising in civil litigation and medical negligence, before starting my family. Children and life (!) then took me down a very different path and I have been running my own catering business since 2018 and doing some freelance food writing. However I have always had a passion for understanding how little minds learn and develop and, in particular, how the experience of learning outside in nature can be hugely beneficial, having witnessed this first hand with my own children. The experience of home schooling during lockdown with them spurred me on to explore this as a career.  I’m delighted to have the opportunity to volunteer at Secret Garden, which I’m currently combining with other volunteer placements in primary schools, with a view to applying to study primary teaching.

Klara Malovrh:
Student placement January-May 2022

Klara is a student in the MSc Outdoor Education program at the University of Edinburgh. As a child, she wished to spend all days outdoors admiring animals, crawling in the mud, and climbing trees. As a member and leader of the Scout Association for over 15 years, she took her love for the outdoors to her adulthood. Today more than anything, she loves spending days in the shadows of the trees,  the hills, and mountains. She has a Preschool Education graduate degree from the University of Ljubljana and a few years of experience working in kindergartens. Experiencing children’s need for open space and time for free play (and how little of both it is sometimes given to them), encouraged her to do her thesis on the topic of outdoor kindergartens. Her research inspired her to move to Scotland.  She wishes to learn how to provide space and time, that will encourage children, to build a sense of connection with the world. For that reason, she is doing her placement in Secret Garden and wishes to see how spending full days in nature help us to learn and grow. 

Lucy Ritchie:
Student placement December 2021- March 2022

From a very young age I’ve always loved nature and just generally being outdoors. At Primary school we used to visit Tarvit Pond every week and I loved being in the woods there and making all sorts of things with the natural resources that the woods provided. To this day I am still fascinated and inspired by nature. I love just walking through woodlands and hearing the cracking of sticks under my feet and the sounds of all different wildlife going about their day. I am interested in a career working with early years children in the outdoor learning environment. Next year I hope to go to Fife College to study Early Education and Childcare – National Certificate SCQF Level 6 and then go on to do the HNC in Childhood Practice the following year.