We see it, we believe it, we live it
BEHIND THE STUDY DOOR
'At dawn they were startled awake by a huge wave breaking over Rosie, as they had nicknamed the boat. Faster than you could say 'deluge', she was filled nearly to her gunwales with foaming sea water. Both men bailed hard for a quarter of an hour to rid her of standing water. Then another wave blasted them. 'It is difficult to describe the experience of a hurricane in a small boat,' John would write. 'The sea becomes a giant switchback with moving hills and valleys, all covered with foam which likes rather like icing on cake.' The worst of the storm swallowed them for six hours and then spit them out. Afterward, cooking dinner in the gathering darkness, they felt cold, wet, but triumphant, almost euphoric. The first spring hurricane in sixty years and they had survived.' (Extract from oceanrowing.com)
On 4 June 1966, two men, John Ridgway and Chay Blyth set off from Orleans to become the first people to row across the Atlantic. This account, approximately two weeks into their 92-day adventure, captures some of the challenges they experienced along the way.
A group of Year 7s, accompanied by Duncan Barrable, Adele Neave and I, spent Half Term at the Ridgway Outdoor Adventure School on the north-west coast of Scotland. Following his mammoth rowing feat, John Ridgway set up this adventure school, which, 40 years later, is run by his daughter, Rebecca (the first woman to canoe around the Cape Horn) and her partner, Mark. As we all looked in awe at ‘English Rose III’, the rowing boat he used still perfectly preserved in one of their sheds on this beautiful sea loch, we were struck by the guiding principles that John resolved to keep for the rest of his life during the 92 days he spent battling waves, sharks, physical exhaustion and sleep deprivation and the boredom one would imagine enduring. It was here that he decided, were he to survive the challenge, he would live his life by: positive thinking, self-reliance and leaving people and places better than when you found them.
It is by these simple, yet powerful guiding principles that the Ridgway Centre focuses its courses on. This was an extraordinary experience for us all, and one that taught the children a great deal about themselves and, critically, what they are truly capable of.
We very much hope this week-long adventure to this stunning corner of Scotland, just 12 miles from Cape Wrath, will become an annual residential trip for our Year 7s, and one where they will enjoy the beauty of the scenery, the remoteness without any signal, technology or distraction, the stretch and challenge the activities offer and the complete freedom and trust placed on the pupils, especially their night on 'Survival Island', the pinnacle of the trip, and where the guiding principles are so important.
I wish to share several key messages I took from Mark, the instructors and our observations of the children, and feel these can easily be translated into our everyday lives away from the tranquility, ruggedness and natural environment of Loch Laxford.
- Persistence: On day two of the trip, having wild camped at the foot of Arkle, we climbed to the peak at 880m. It was a very hot, still day and this took its toll on everyone, especially after a night outdoors. In the reflections afterwards, the boys and girls quickly came to realise that it was not only positive thinking that got them to the top, it was also showing persistence. In such a connected, interactive world, it is very rare at this age to find yourself engaged in just one activity for eight hours: quite literally, putting one foot in front of another. Not only did this prove the value of persistence, but also allowed the boys and girls, for a precious few hours, time to communicate to one another in meaningful conversation and also to individually reflect on their own strengths, motivation, positivity and self-reliance. As Mark, the lead instructor pointed out, having time to self-reflect is so much more powerful for a young person than having to be ‘reflected at’ by an adult.
- Communication: The success of the week, and in particular the night on survival island where the group literally had to fend for themselves, depended entirely on good communication skills. A great deal of responsibility was given to the children themselves to make decisions, and at every opportunity the instructors would stand back and allow the young people figure things out for themselves (a very powerful and important exercise for a generation used to such adult interventions). This required the children to very quickly learn some important communication skills: it is impossible to hear if two or more people talk at once; poor communication is often the cause of most problems with friendships, teams and relationships; the importance of gauging someone’s emotional reactions are just as important as their verbal communication, hence why group decisions were much more effective if they were sat in a circle; being able to let your ideas go if someone else has a more effective idea (this also ties into the value of showing genuine respect for one another).
- 'Type B fun': Some of the activities provided instant fun for the children: kayaking, raft race, beach day, abseiling. Some, such as the search-to-survive and mountain climb, were labelled to the group as ‘type B fun’, not necessarily providing instant fun for them, most probably hard work and at times tough going, but once complete, you would realise that the activity was in fact rather good fun, and immensely rewarding. Again, this is such an important lesson for us all to learn, and in a way links with perseverance. The temptation for the groups on being dropped off by boat on Survival Island might have been to run around and enjoy the instant freedom, perhaps leaving the fire starting, foraging, cooking and shelter building until later on. However, they realised that in order to have fun later on, they would need to invest two hours' hard work at the start of their night to ensure they were fed and had adequate shelter for the night.
- The power of positive thinking, and in a group setting not allowing your negative thoughts to impact on others: This was perhaps the most challenging lesson to learn, and one that became so very clear to many of the group when they reached the summit of Arkle, came off Survival Island at 7.00am on Thursday morning and managed to reach the peak of some pretty tough climbs. In their reflections at the end of the week, several children cited a shift from a negative mindset to positive thinking as a defining moment of the week for them. Positive thinking is also reflective in how you view others positively, and I was struck by a rather lovely activity on the final evening: each member of the group had to write something positive about the person to their left, then give them the note to keep. This was a heartwarming moment for sure, and I hope these notes are kept for ever. Positive thinking, and seeing the very best in others is such an important feature of living a happy and fulfilled life.
The challenge of building a raft as a team seems such an easy task. I have no doubt that any of you that have done this will wholeheartedly agree that it pretty quickly escalates into squabbles, plenty of critics and loud voices, yet very little leadership or teamwork.
In most cases, whether for adults or children, building a raft out of eight barrels, six wooden poles and eight metres of rope would very quickly fail. This would have been the case for our Year 7 group on the first day of the adventure week, however on day four when this challenge was put to them, I saw the following skills deployed in full: good communication, leadership, teamwork, positive thinking, the ability to listen to others and step back if needed, persistence, self-reliance and mutual respect. As a result, two brilliantly designed rafts were pretty quickly constructed, and raced the following morning (Mr Barrable still isn’t speaking to me).
One overarching thing I learned from the whole experience was that these children, as individuals and as a group, were far more capable than I ever imagined them to be. Give children true responsibility, freedom, trust and the encouragement to be self-reliant and positive, and they will far surpass their own and our expectations.
The Ridgway is a very special place indeed, but I hope that the three guiding principles will be translated into everyday life for these very talented young people. John Ridgway’s principle aim for the outdoor school remains the same as in 1969:
'The main experience is a direct contact between the individual and the real world in which he lives yet seldom sees.' (John Ridgway, 1970).
Wishing all St Leonards families a happy weekend, wherever your adventures take you.
I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to all those who took part in the LAMDA presentation evening on Tuesday evening ahead of their exams on Thursday and Friday. The standard was fantastic, but it was the confidence of all those who took part that blew the audience away. On Wednesday we held our Year 6 and 7 Invitational Athletics meeting, in which four local schools took part. The atmosphere was astonishing, the fellowship between the competitors from all schools a joy to see, and we were thrilled that all schools broke many records during the afternoon. There is no doubt that these two events encapsulate the guiding principles of positive thinking, self-reliance and leaving people in a better place than when you found them, perfectly.
BUSHCRAFT CLUB | This week in Bushcraft Club, the boys and girls were busy identifying trees by their features (leaves, bark, flowers). They took the school iPads outside and used them to help with their research - a wonderful combination of learning through nature and technology together!
YEAR 5 SELF PORTRAITS
YEAR 5 SELF PORTRAITS | On Wednesday afternoon, Year 5 headed to the East Sands to create their own self portraits. As part of their new Unit of Inquiry 'How We Express Ourselves', the classes have been looking at self portraits created by famous artists including Van Gogh, Monet and Cézanne.
Having discussed how these portraits made them feel and how the artists presented themselves, the children made their way to the beach to collect items from the shore, which they then used to map out their own self portraits.
As you can see, no two images were the same! A lot of fun was had and a lot of thought went into creating the portraits. Roy even managed to find 'auburn' coloured stones to match his hair colour, which was brilliant! Zachary, meanwhile, used a huge number of different items found on the beach, which made his portrait very textual.
PRIMARY SCHOOLS SPORTS DAY
JUNIOR GYMNASTS | Our Junior School gymnasts travelled to Bells Sports Centre in Perth on Sunday to take part in Gymfest 2018. The fun-filled non-competitive display event was the perfect way for the boys and girls to unwind towards the end of a busy school year.
WIGGLY WORMS | As part of their ongoing exploration of the interrelationship between plants and minibeasts, Year 2 set about making their own wormeries on Thursday afternoon. The children learned many interesting facts about worms and the important job they do for the soil.
As soon as the worms were placed in their temporary homes, the boys and girls watched them wiggle down, making tunnels and loosening the soil. The children are going to release the worms into their gardens at home to help plants and vegetables grow!
TENNIS TOURNAMENT | Congratulations to Millie and Fiona who were victorious in the U12 High School of Dundee Tennis Tournament on Thursday! The girls were outright winners, securing a fantastic set of results.
- St Leonards v High School of Dundee: 5-0
- St Leonards v George Watson's College: 5-0
- St Leonards v Dollar: 2-3
- St Leonards v George Heriot's: 4-1
- St Leonards v St George's: 5-0
The following pupils received certificates at Celebration Assembly on Monday:
Anna received a Headmaster's Commendation for researching and creating a poster appealing to people to look after elephants as part of the Unit of Inquiry on 'Endangered Animals'.
Matilda received a Headmaster's Commendation for researching houses made of soft materials as part of the Unit of Inquiry on 'Shelters', and creating a fact sheet.
Molly received a Spirit of St Leonards Award. As part of the 1st St Andrews Guides, Molly took part in the Girl Guiding Scotland Citizen Girl campaign, learning all about why our voices matter and how we can make change. As part of this, Molly did a litter pick in the Lade Braes as part of a campaign to encourage more people to dispose of their litter.
Eleanor and Amber both received a Spirit of St Leonards Award for being very kind friends and making a friendship book for a member of the class who had been ill.
Sophie was presented with a Spirit of St Leonards Award for showing a consistently caring attitude towards others, an example being taking care of a younger child at drop-off time.
Eva received a Spirit of St Leonards Award for donating her hair to the Little Princess Trust, a charitable organisation which makes wigs for children receiving cancer treatment.
Finn was awarded a Spirit of St Leonards Award for helping a member of his class when he fell over, and showing great kindness and thought.
Lana received a Spirit of St Leonards Award for organising a cake sale and bake off before Half Term, raising £367.37 for Stand Up to Cancer.
The three Star Bakers were announced at Celebration Assembly, identified by their delicious cakes! Congratulations to Olivia, Katherine and Esme!
Bronze Stars were awarded to Kyle, Thea, Charlie, Emily, Euan and Eabha.
Jimmy, Euan, Will, Henry, Angus, Corinne, Mark and Nicholas have collected 100 Good Marks.
CAMBO GARDENS | Year 2 spent a glorious, sunny day at Cambo Estate on Wednesday. The boys and girls have been inquiring into the interrelationship between plants and minibeasts, and the day with Cambo's education team let the children explore the topic further, in beautiful surroundings.
They began by thinking about the relationship between the many plants and animals found on the estate through a 'web of life' activity, which highlighted the impact that one small change in the populations of one species has on the food chain and the wildlife around it.
Then, the children were guided on a minibeast walk through the woods, ending up in the walled garden. There, they were met by Faye, the Head Gardener, who talked to the class about the 'helpful' and 'unhelpful' minibeasts, and showed the boys and girls how they attract more of the helpful insects into the garden through their planting schemes.
After lunch, it was time to make ladybird houses in the Nature Play Area, using clay drainpipes willed with sticks, leaves and grasses.
In between all of these activities, the children had plenty of time to do what they like doing best...play! Everyone had a wonderful day, learned a lot, and came back brimming with ideas!
ROTARY FOOTBALL | The annual St Andrews Rotary Club Primary Schools Football Tournament was held last month on a clear, cool evening, with schools travelling from all over Fife to battle it out on the fields of Canongate Primary School.
The popularity of the event has grown and the format this year was for a group-stage set of matches and then for the winner and runner-up of each group going through to the semi-finals.
St Leonards was well represented and had teams competing in each of the groups. As the matches were staggered, whichever St Leonards team was playing always found that they had a vocal set of supporters to cheer them on from the sidelines. Both the teams of St Leonards gave their all and didn't stop competing until the final whistle.
All matches were personified by excellent sportsmanship with our boys and girls being gracious in victory and magnanimous in defeat. By the time the haar rolled in across the green fields and the temperature dropped, only one of the St Leonards teams had made it out of the group stages and into the semi-finals. Alas, that was as far as we were to progress this year.
The tournament was ultimately won by Wormit whom the St Leonards 'A' team had bettered easily in the group stages. All in all, our pupils were excellent ambassadors for the school and represented St Leonards with pride. Onwards and upwards for next year!
FARM VISIT | Year 3 had a fantastic visit to Easter Grangemuir Farm on Thursday, learning all about how the strawberries make the journey from field to fork! They saw the production line in action, and even made their own strawberry tarts - delicious!
LAMDA PRESENTATIONS | On Tuesday evening, 35 LAMDA students took part in a performance for family and friends. This was an exciting opportunity for the boys and girls to showcase one of their two exam pieces, and served as a valuable practice session before the real thing!
We saw a wealth of interpretations from serious drama to comedy, classic to modern, and a total of 22 pieces were performed.
Well done to all the pupils, who were absolutely fantastic, and we wish them the best of luck in their exams!
RIDGWAY ADVENTURE | The inaugural Year 7 trip to Ridgway Adventure Centre near Ardmore was a triumph. Arriving at the centre shortly after 2pm on Saturday, 26 May, after stop-offs in Inverness and Ullapool on the way, the adventure started with the boys and girls settling into their dorms before kitting up for some swimming (and not the indoor kind!). Mr Barrable has written a fantastic report of the trip below!
It was half an hour before midnight and still bright enough to read without a headtorch. I lay contentedly in my sleeping bag with the gentle rustle and flap of my canvas shelter above my head. The full moon had risen just above the rugged flanks of Ben Stack in the distance and its reflection glistened along the length of Loch Laxford. It was hard to think of a more idyllic place to camp. I was on 'Survival Island'. I had managed to light a fire, cook dinner and set up camp. I wondered how the children had managed with their tasks, but the laughter and shrieks of joy that carried with the wind from their end of the island to mine told me more than enough - they were having the time of their lives.
Looking back at the week, I realised how far the children had come. They had learnt to work together, build shelters, light fires, forage for food and more about themselves than I think they had even begun to realise. They had remained positive on a gruelling hike up a mountain, they had learnt to depend on and support their friends, and become self-reliant enough to earn themselves a place on 'Survival Island.
Nearly a week prior, we had boarded the coach to the Ridgway Adventure Centre. Located nearly as far north-westerly as one can get in Scotland, it was set up 40 years ago by seasoned adventurer, John Ridgway, a man who rowed across the Atlantic and has circumnavigated the globe three times, all with the aim of giving young people a taste of adventure and life-changing experiences. It is now run by his daughter Rebecca, and Mark Williamson.
Nearly seven hours later we arrived. We had reached as far as the tarmac would go. Mobile reception had already long ceased. Our bags were offloaded, we were greeted by Mark and his team of instructors before we walked the remaining kilometre down to the centre beside the loch. I knew then, without anything being said, that this was going to be a week to remember.
The ethos of the Ridgway Adventure Centre is based on three disarmingly simple principles.
- Leaving people and places better than you found them.
Over the next six days, these principles would be weaved into each and every task and activity we did, whether it was clearing away our plates after dinner or supporting friends. Every day brought new activities and each activity brought new skills. Each skill was reinforced and instilled a steady confidence that they could achieve whatever they set their minds to.
A typical day started with either a swim in the clear sea loch or a light jog along its shores. Back for a shower and a hearty breakfast, the children then headed out for a host of exciting activities. Kayaking, creeling, hill walking, navigational tasks, rock climbing, shelter building and many more. We headed back for another nourishing meal, whereafter the children were free to play volleyball, walk the shoreline or use the time for anything they saw fit before tumbling into bed exhausted. It would be hard to picture a day that was more fulfilling, in better surroundings and with better camaraderie.
As I watched from my hilltop on the far side of 'Survival Island', I saw a sight that was incredibly special: a group of children that revelled in the occasion, who had the skills to make it work, who had succeeded with everything that they had been tasked with and shown themselves to be competent and self-reliant. They say the outdoors builds character, and I agree. But after this trip, I have learned that it also reveals it. The night on the island was about planting a seed that will not only remain rooted in their childhood but will also grow with them. They will now be able to one day say, 'when I was a kid...'
I gazed on the scene only briefly. They had earned their night alone, and besides I needed to get my own rest.
The trip would not have been a success without the tireless efforts of Mr Goldsmith and Miss Neave.'
Mr Barrable, Head of Outdoor Learning
The wonderful staff at the Ridgway Centre kept a diary of our adventures, too, throughout the week. It makes for fantastic reading via the link below!
More than 2000 photographs were taken, and 15 hours of GoPro footage was recorded over the course of the week! We hope you enjoy browsing just some of the highlights below!
MOVING UP DAY & INDUCTION MORNING