The Power of Play
“Spontaneous, imaginative activities lead to happier and healthier children.”
Dr David Elkind, Child Psychologist and Author
When was the last time that you played? Do you think that playing is a waste of time? Play has often been dismissed as unproductive or superfluous to ‘real’ learning, which happens in the classroom. I, for one, could not disagree more with this stance. Through self-initiated play, children are able to create new learning experiences, and these experiences help them to develop social, emotional, and intellectual skills. Play is therefore not just a creative urge, but also a fundamental mode of learning.
This week, I have been fortunate enough to observe and hear about two episodes of self-directed play at the Junior School, which have reminded me of the power of play. Both the episodes, which I will describe below, were the result of time spent outdoors. Our emphasis upon Outdoor Learning at St Leonards certainly fosters creativity in our pupils, and provides them with many opportunities to learn through play.
First, I watched a group of Year 3 boys making a den at lunchtime. They were so industrious, and so intently focused upon their construction project that they did not notice me watching them (or taking the above photograph!). This may sound like a small, and perhaps inconsequential, part of my week, but it really was so lovely to watch and reminded me of the power of play.
It was also wonderful to hear Miss Brannen speak so enthusiastically about her Year 5 Beach School lesson. There was great excitement and a real buzz in the Staff Room as she recounted how her class had been experimenting with forces, wind, and parachutes… and how this had somehow evolved into pupils pulling each other along the sand as part of their morning break. Miss Brannen even admitted that she had tried the game, and that it was the most fun that she had had in a long time!
This is the power of play. Play is not only how our children are able to have fun, but also how our children are able to learn. It stimulates curiosity and creativity, encourages them to take risks, aids their cognitive development, and is greatly beneficial for their mental wellbeing – benefits that apply to us, as adults, too. I hope that you all get a chance to ‘play’ over the next week. If you need any inspiration, I am sure that Miss Brannen would be able to give you some excellent ideas!
Finally, I hope that you have a great half-term holiday, and I look forward to welcoming you back to School on Monday, 17 February.
CELEBRATION ASSEMBLY | As has now become custom, this week's Celebration Assembly was led by a group of Year 7 pupils: Kai, Jennifer, Freddie, Ting, and Dave. They did a fabulous job at handing out the certificates for the week, reminding the pupils to "look them in the eye, and shake their hand". Many congratulations to them, and to the following pupils who received certificates:
PIZZA PALS | Year 7 pupils were treated to a sleepover social in St Rule last week with Domino's Pizza, team games, a quiz, and a movie with popcorn and other treats. What more could you want from your Friday evening? Many thanks to Mrs Pennycook for hosting the social - it was very much enjoyed by all who attended.
Teamwork, Cooperation, and Respect
TEAMWORK, COOPERATION, AND RESPECT | 4C have become more open-minded in their learning this term, and have covered a variety of different topics ranging from the Solar System to Fairy Tales.
In Maths, they have created their own worded problems relating to calendars, multiplication and division, which have been answered and evaluated by their peers.
In English, the pupils have revisited well-known fairy tales, and then retold them from the point of view of the so-called victim. The class then selected two for adaption.
There are also two groups working with Mrs Stewart to practise and present a shadow puppet theatre to some of the younger class. This project, together with the Unit of Inquiry on Light, has helped develop teamwork, cooperation and respect.
Year 4C would also like to take this opportunity to thank Mrs Arkwright for her willingness to help Mrs McKimmon by escorting 4C on all their outings beyond the school building. A very big THANK YOU, Mrs Arkwright!
MELODIOUS MUSIC | This week, musicians from the Junior School have treated pupils, staff and parents to two informal concerts.
The Year 4-7 Concert featured a wide-ranging repertoire of music, ranging from the Wallace and Gromit theme tune performed by Eliza to the drum fanfare performed by Logan. There was even an original composition entitled 'March' performed by the St Leonards Seagulls, a band formed by Year 6 pupils Verity, Shelagh, and Cecilia. Other highlights included a beautiful rendition of 'No Good Deed' by Arabella, and an excellent performance of 'The Little Brook' by Year 7 pupil Eabha. Many congratulations to all the pupils who put themselves forward, and then performed with such aplomb!
Pupils in the Lower School also put on a fabulous concert in the Music School Auditorium this week. There were some excellent solo performances on the piano, recorder and violin as well as class performances and, finally, two songs performed by all pupils in Years 1-3. Many congratulations to all the pupils in the Lower School!
CREATING CIRCUITS | Year 3 have been creating circuits, and then checking to see if they will light a bulb or run a motor. The children used batteries, wires, and bulbs to create their circuits.
Year 3 have also been experimenting and predicting which items around the classroom will conduct and which will insulate. They had lots of fun testing drawing pins, paper clips, rulers (both wooden and plastic), coins, keys, string, paper, balloons, elastic bands, cardboard, and other classroom items.
Sample the Snare Drum
SAMPLE THE SNARE DRUM | It was a pleasure to welcome back Hamish Wood (Year 9) to the Junior School Assembly on Wednesday morning to discuss and demonstrate the snare drum, as well as to take questions from the audience. Hamish is a member of the St Leonards Pipe Band, and is looking to inspire our younger members to take up the drums to ensure that there will be a new generation of drummers moving through the School. This is part of his MYP Community project and will provide taster sessions to those interested. For more information, please see the letter attached to the weekly email.
Ready, Get Set, Friction!
READY, GET SET, FRICTION | Our Unit of Inquiry, How the World Works, has a strong science component and we are investigating how forces work and the different kinds of energy. To allow the children to experiment and explore various forces, we headed down to the beach with an odd array of equipment (2 lengths of rope, 2 old car tyres, 2 old tent flysheets, 2 buckets, and some cups) to explore friction, air resistance, and gravity.
Mr Barrable, Year 5 Class Teacher
Acting Out Archimedes
ACTING OUT ARCHIMEDES | This week, Year 2 were treated to another fantastic workshop as part of our inquiries into Simple Machines. They heard the story of Archimedes' Feat, in which Archimedes designed a compound pulley that enabled him to single-handedly pull a stranded ship to the shore. They then reenacted this situation in the classroom, using an upturned table as their ship and a compound pulley, skillfully crafted by Leon. Many thanks to Margi and Leon for a wonderful workshop!
Below, are some of the children's reflections:
"If you try to pull the table on its own, and you didn't have all the wheels and ropes to make a pulley, it was really, really, really hard work!" Dylan
"We put the pulley equipment onto the table and hooked it over the legs, pretending it was a giant boat. Three people were on it, and it was easy to pull it using the pulleys!" Magnus
"There are all kinds engineers. Margi is a structural engineer. She designs buildings. If something goes wrong with a building then she tries to see if she can mend it and make it better than it was the last time." Jonathan
"You can find pulleys at the harbour, on cranes, on blinds, on the back of a tow truck, or on a rollercoaster." Thea
JUNK MODELLING | This week, Year 1 and Year 2 pupils have been junk modelling as part of their Units of Inquiry.
Complex Kite Creations
COMPLEX KITE CREATIONS | Over the past two weeks, Year 5 have embarked on a group project in which they have planned, created, and amended kites. The groups had to source their materials from home, and then decide how to make the various components stay together. Last Friday, both Year 5 classes went down to the beach to trial their kites, though sadly very few of the kites took off. However, Year 5 were open-minded and decided that over the weekend they would try to think of changes that could be made. This week, the groups have had the opportunity to make changes to their kites and then take the new models to the beach to try them out. Yet, due to a lack of wind, the kites did not take off! The pupils will therefore try them out at their next Beach School. The boys and girls have loved this inquiry, and have learned lots about working collaboratively. They have all written a report on their complex kite creations, detailing the development process and numerous trials that their kites have been through. Excellent work, Year 5!
Miss Brannen, Year 5 Class Teacher
HISTORICAL CONSTRUCTION | Year 6 are coming to the end of their Unit of Inquiry for this half term, entitled Where we are in Place and Time. This week, they had a glorious and creative morning down at the beach using Beach Art to represent the time period they had been researching for their very own 'Horrible Histories' booklets. Well done, Year 6!
Beaches, Bees and Mountains
BEACHES, BEES AND MOUNTAINS | On Wednesday, I was invited, along with Year 6 pupils Lottie and Archie, to attend the St Andrews Rotary Club meeting at the Scores Hotel. We had been asked to speak about our Outdoor Learning Programme, and the club was keen to hear the opinions and perspectives of some of our pupils. Our talk was entitled 'Beaches, Bees and Mountains'.
We explained how our Beach School is in the process of being embedded into the curriculum at St Leonards, and the many benefits that this experience brings across the different year groups. Lottie spoke eloquently of her own experiences of learning and inquiry on the beach. Archie, our youngest beekeeper at St Leonards, entertained the room with a mixture of humour and facts about the dangers facing our bees and the progress of the colonies, Amelia and Beatrix. I then spoke about the work we do with our residential trips, and our focus upon wellbeing, fun, nature connection, and resilience.
Mr Duncan Barrable, Acting Senior Teacher
New Generation of Novelists?
NEW GENERATION OF NOVELISTS? | Year 3 were lucky to have Kirsty Souter visit them to deliver a writing workshop this week. Kirsty began to write when she was the same age as the class, and this love of writing has never left her. She has since gained a Masters in Creative Writing from Edinburgh University, and has been fortunate enough to have some of her pieces published as well. What an inspiration for our budding writers!
Kirsty helped inspire the class to write their stories from a simple story plan by discussing who their main character is, where their story is set, what the weather is like, if there is a 'baddy', what the problem is, and how their character felt. From these simple starters, the children became fully engaged and shared their ideas for their stories. When they were finally allowed to put pencil to paper, the energy and enthusiasm to write was amazing - you could have heard a pin drop in the classroom!
Year 3 were so grateful to have Kirsty visit them, and hope that she comes back again soon!
Odds and Evens
ODDS AND EVENS | Year 1 have continued with the sock theme this week, and were sorting a variety of socks into pairs... before they knew it, they were identifying odds and evens. Year 1 think that they may have found some rules!
EXCITING EXPERIMENTS | This week, the Year 1 children conducted their first formal science experiment. We discussed the process and the methodology, and then we just got stuck in! Cotton wool and paper produced some fascinating discussions and, like all good scientists, we have more questions that we would like to answer now. We hope to take these further tests into our independent learning.
Chinese New Year
CHINESE NEW YEAR | Bethany's mother, Mrs Zhao, visited Year 2 last week to celebrate Chinese New Year, which this year was on Saturday, 25 January. She explained how the Chinese calendar was traditionally set on the lunar calendar, but now China uses the same calendar as the West.
Chinese New Year is the biggest festival in the calendar. This year is the Year of the Rat. By looking at our birthdates, we could find what animal we are represented by. Year 2 had lots of dragons and snakes.
Thank you very much Bethany and Mrs Zhao for helping Year 2 celebrate Chinese New Year. Xin nian kuai le!