Behind the Study Door
Let me start by asking you a question. What are some of your happiest memories growing up? This was asked of me last year on the final day of emotional wellbeing training. Of about 40 in the room, the overwhelming majority of us agreed that our happiest memories usually involved the outdoors. By contrast, in his book ‘Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children Nature-Deficit Disorder’, Richard Louv explains that the average American child is said to spend four to seven minutes a day in unstructured play, and over seven hours in front of a screen. Much has been written over the past few years about the advantages of outdoor education programmes in schools, and, as a result of this, initiatives such as ‘Forest School’ have emerged across the sector. Scandinavian countries were the pioneers of outdoor learning, where it has been seen as central to the development of children: physical, emotional and intellectual.
A leading researcher in the field of outdoor learning is Dr Simon Beames, of Edinburgh University. Recently he collaborated with Gordonstoun School (North-East Coast of Scotland) to measure the educational impact of ‘out of classroom experiences’. Thought to be pioneering research in the UK because it measured the long term impact it had on the 1,183 participants, his research showed that 94% of the students said that the out-of-classroom learning experiences had an overwhelmingly positive influence on their personal growth. 74% reported that it had a positive influence on their career path.
In stark contrast to this, the ’Times Educational Supplement’ reported recently that 90% of Primary School Teachers felt that the SATS exams (sat by pupils in Years 2 and 6 in maintained schools) were having a detrimental effect on the children’s emotional wellbeing, whilst 87% were concerned that the tests have harmed children’s engagement and motivation.
Having researched the benefits of outdoor learning extensively as part of a Masters qualification in Education, I could see the enormous benefits for pupils. These include:
- Bringing learning to life: Outdoor environments provide a real life context for curriculum and learning themes.
- Developing personal and social skills: Outdoor learning has been shown to help people become independent, improve communication skills, and build self-esteem and confidence.
- Developing resilience and a sense of self: Spending time outside and in contact with nature helps mental wellbeing and resilience and can have a significant impact on values - the guiding principles that help form our life goals, beliefs, viewpoints and actions.
Learning should be about building memorable experiences for children. These memorable experiences help to shape a love of learning, which in turn strengthens confidence and personal growth. Education should be a fashion of heart and brain, and I believe that taking learning outside, where pupils are connected with their natural surroundings, will allow them to explore their learning deeply. Fundamentally, they will also love the experience, and what is wrong with connecting learning with enjoyment?
This is why one of our goals for St George’s this year is to begin the process of embedding 'Outdoor Learning', or more broadly ‘Learning Outside the Classroom’ across the school.
In the book ‘Outside’, the introduction opens with: “There is a huge world waiting for you out there. We hope you have lots of adventures”. Through embedding ‘Learning Outside the Classroom’ at St George’s (with a mixture of Forest School, Outdoor Learning, trips and visits, and residentials), we hope our approach will help capture those remarkable and unforgettable learning adventures.
Lord Hastings, former Head of Corporate Citizenship for KPMG International, once said that school was about ‘developing intellectually curious adventurers’. What is better than starting that journey, aged 4, in the woods collecting sticks for the fire pit, then listening to the class novel around it, followed by a scavenge hunt as a stimulus for a piece of independent work.
Head Master's Commendations
Many congratulations to the following pupils who were awarded a Head Master's Commendation last week:
Billy O’B: for working and focusing very hard in French lessons so far
James J: for making a great start in French this year, as shown by the progress he has made
Zeph K: for working incredibly hard in French this term
Barnaby W and Charlie H: for excellent work in Music Theory
Gabriel R-A, Bikram H and George H: for excellent French homework, describing where they live and their house
Jon Jon M, Harry E, Max C, Buddy P, Harry W and Daniel W: for achieving a good result in Geography Assessment on Weathering and Erosion
Arnav K: for taking responsibility in his LAMDA lesson this week
Nefeli M, Carys C and William P: for excellent effort applied to all aspects of science work this term
Gracie M: for creating an imaginative poster on space, specifically looking at the solar system
Savannah K: for outstanding maths prep on angles.
Daniyal P: for completing a super project on a trip to Burundi and Rwanda.
Spirit of St George's Award
Milton O'B: for showing great maturity and leadership in Drama Club.
MindUP Thought for the Week
Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm. (Winston Churchill)
World Space Week
World Space Week, celebrated from 4 - 10 October each year, is the largest space event on Earth. This year the theme was “The Moon: Gateway to the Stars.” Encouraged by Mr Foran's enthusiasm for all things space-related, St George's staff designed a week of lessons and activities with a space theme. On Monday the Kitchen staff provided rocket biscuits at break and decorated the Dining Room with a space theme for lunch.
Also on Monday the Year 5 children researched and completed a tarsia of facts about space, matching up the correct facts and answers.
In their French lesson, 6X1 French played bingo using cards with pictures of the planets in the solar system. They had to identify the planets from questions called out in French.
The children in the Pre-Prep had a fantastic week and really loved learning about space. Year 2 children thought of adjectives and verbs to describe things that might be seen in space and then used these to create poems. Their ideas included a bright shiny moon, a sparkling shooting star, a super big planet Jupiter and an enormous alien dancing on his head! For homework the children copied out their poems and illustrated them. Super work!
Year 1 watched videos and read books on space, both fiction and non-fiction. They wrote a list of items to take to the moon and imagined they were on the moon, writing a postcard to their friends and family back home. They built models of rockets from Lego and drew pictures of rockets and planets! In their games lesson they played meteor, paper and scissors whilst jumping from space station to space station.
On Wednesday every one in Years 6, 7 and 8 took part in a Virtual Reality Workshop and became astronauts for the morning. With the aid of the VR headsets provided, they simultaneously blasted off into space, piloting their research vessels around planets and moons. Perhaps this will inspire the next generation of space scientists and astronauts who may one day blast off into space for real!
In the Science Lab, Year 6 investigated what determines the shape and depth of craters on the moon in this simulation. Back in the classroom they re-created the Apollo Mission using a picture storyboard.
In their English lesson, Year 4 watched a short film called La Luna and then wrote their own adventure story based on getting a ladder to the moon.
In their Computing lessons Years 3, 4 and 5 pupils coded their own space-themed computer games. The games below were created by Zaki B, Hugo L, Tom V and Nate M. Mr Goldsmith was very impressed.
Pupils in Year 7 built a moon model, designed a lunar lander and were introduced to real astronaut freeze-dried ice-cream in Food Tech. In the Science Lab Year 8 separated moon dust from rock salt.
Pre-Prep Harvest Festival
On Wednesday morning and again on Wednesday afternoon the Gym was packed with parents enjoying the Pre-Prep Harvest Festival celebration. Children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 pupils performed with confidence and enthusiasm and sang a range of harvest songs beautifully, including the favourite 'Big Red Combine Harvester'.
Orchestral Fun Day at Downe House
A group of St George’s young musicians joined 300 boys and girls from other prep schools for an unsurpassed day of musical fun at Downe House. This year the theme was ‘A Day at the Movies’. The children spent the day in rehearsals, from full orchestral to large and small instrumental group rehearsals, all with specialist tuition from the Downe House Music staff. The day culminated in a concert to which parents were invited. Afterwards one of our pupils was heard to say, ‘I was a bit nervous at the start of the day that I wouldn’t be able to play everything but now I can play Star Wars, Circle of Life and Frozen – it’s so cool!’