BEHIND THE STUDY DOOR
Friday, 1 March 2019
Lego: Serious Play?
I am quite sure the University of Cambridge turned a few heads when they advertised for a ‘Professor of Lego’, to take the chair in a new department within the Faculty of Education in January last year. They were inundated with applications (as one might expect), and have subsequently appointed Professor Paul Ramchandani to take the role, with a remit to examine the importance of play in education.
Very understandably, this appointment has divided opinion. Whilst it is widely agreed that there are considerable benefits of learning through play, some have questioned the relevance of pushing this when learning still has to be hard work and at times rather unglamorous. Tom Bennett, founder of ResearchEd (a highly respected writer and educationalist) has argued that learning must go well beyond enjoyment and play, indeed have an element of unpleasant slog to it.
So, the Lego Group has given a £4m grant to Professor Ramchandani and his team to use Lego to “ensure children are equipped with the 21st century skills like problem solving, team work and self-control”. These are indeed key skills for our children, now more than ever, and the days of factual regurgitation of knowledge are well and truly behind us, or certainly should be. I completely agree with the notion that learning through play engages learners, ignites many of the multiple intelligences, develops core life skills, and adds great interest to the learning process. I unashamedly think – and passionately so – that learning should be fun, and why shouldn’t we connect something so magical, innovative and imagination-firing such as Lego to learning? I have never met a parent who doesn’t encourage their children to play with Lego. Catherine and I look on in amazement as Arthur builds his Duplo and Lego houses with such intense concentration, glee and pride (and sometimes artistic temperament, which alas he has inherited from his father). Of course, there is a connection between the world’s most famous creative invention and education, and I am absolutely delighted that Cambridge have shown the courage, imagination and foresight in researching the effects of Lego within the classroom.
I am not for one second suggesting we allow ourselves to lose the rigour of education within schools and classrooms, and allow children to build castles, Sydney Opera House, Darth Vader and Big Ben all day. Of course, if this was the case, we would quickly discover that this extreme version of active learning breeds a generation of passive learners, who will not take in much at all. The acquisition of knowledge is vital, and study has to stretch our pupil’s minds, even from the age of five. We must continue to develop a mindset in our pupils that learning can be tough, challenging and a slog at times. We mustn’t pretend that learning is always fun either. Rather like learning lines for a play, or practising scales, mastering a perfect off-spin, or learning the weekly Latin grammar, mastery takes time, dedication, grit and a fearless mindset. No, mastering any skill requires everyone, whether five years of age of fifty, to dig deep. Every day in our jobs we will be making choices, undertaking difficult decisions or having to have tricky conversations, which we are able to do because we learned how to dig deep in various stages of our own learning journeys.
However, I applaud Cambridge and all those who put play at the centre of the learning process. We are developing a true love of learning in our pupils at this stage, and this will prepare them for the tough moments ahead. What is the point of creating a disconnect between games and toys that add huge benefit to the development of children and what they learn at school? Absolutely none I would argue, and I hope Professor Ramchandani provides interesting research which dismisses the myth that learning and play must remain apart.
I remember my Prep School as the 'chalk and talk' approach to factual regurgitation of knowledge, and very little else from the classroom. How wonderful that the next generation will have this same knowledge, but acquired in no small part through play and all the spin-off effects from this. After all, this isn’t anything new: the Montessori method has been doing this since 1897.
So, play or hard work at school? The two go hand in hand, let’s not shy away from either or separate the two. We are not ashamed of play, after all, it is probably the most vital cog of growing up and infant, child and adolescent development. Play creates enjoyment; pupils who enjoy learning become life-long learners; life-long learners seek hard work, challenge and the more monstrous side of education.
Alas, the weather might take a turn on Sunday, so may I recommend getting the Lego sets out and seeing where your child's imagination and creativity takes them. I will be making a start on my Lego Hogwarts Set, which I had for Christmas, which will have pride of place in my study next week.
Wishing all St George’s families a happy weekend, wherever your adventures take you.
Next week's edition of 'The Georgian' will contain photographs of the recipients of Monday's Head Master's Celebration Assembly.
Chamber Choir Tour to Cardiff
The convoy of two mini buses and one van all labelled with St George’s School, Windsor Castle, set off from school on Saturday morning in the direction of South Wales. The transport was loaded with excited children, their cases, cassocks and surplices, an electric keyboard and a dozen music stands, and of course some support staff. We were heading for Cardiff Central and Llandaff Cathedral. The Chamber Choir were performing their re-knowned ‘Jazz Mass’ on the Sunday morning and were recording their CD of ‘A year at St George’s School’ which included music from festivals through out the year. Mass went smoothly and beautifully, the children sang their hearts out and the residents of Llandaff were awakened to the lively mass music, which they say they will try and emulate in the future. The recording will be amazing, what a stunning venue to sing in, and what great acoustics with such history in the cathedral. For down time we visited the world re-knowned Welsh Royal College of Music and were so lucky to hear their wonderful student brass band performing Shostakovich on their traditional instruments and then variations of other composers on glass bottles! The following morning we went round the museum of St Fagan and learnt all about buildings from the past of Wales: farmhouses, Tudor Manors and castles. We loved the bakery (and its delicious warm fresh cheesy rolls) and the sweet shop where you could buy grams of old fashioned sweets. Thank you to Mr Wilkinson for such a fun tour.
Tuesday night’s evening concert was focused on our young pianists and singers, who performed with an ever-impressive sense musicality and style. Ranging from beginners to more accomplished performers, the children introduced themselves, sang and played, and bowed as if they were taking the stage of the Wigmore Hall! A huge thank you to all the children who worked so hard, and to their parents and supporters for creating such a positive atmosphere.
Prep Schools' Choral Day
On Thursday, the Year 4s from T-Voices travelled to Wellington College to take part in a Prep Schools’ Choral Day. This year the event took place in Wellington’s brand new theatre. Led by Rachel Staunton, herself a ‘Berkshire girl’, the children enjoyed learning a host of new songs from the South African folk song Shosholoza to the newly composed Jazz song Hold your head up high. As well as learning over ten songs, the children had the chance to explore the Wellington site and enjoy sausage and chips! The day ended with a performance to the parents of several songs followed by a happy journey back full of excitement about all that had been achieved over the day.
Visitors this week
Indian Dhol Drumming Workshop
All the children in the Lower School had a chance to bang an authentic Indian dhol drum in a fun workshop on Monday. They learnt about the history of the drums and what they were used for, and were taught proper playing techniques using two kinds of wooden sticks, known as the dagga and the tihli to bang each side of the drum with.
Hello there, I am here to tell you about the best house... Revenge, and what we do during our house meetings. Firstly, everybody comes to Miss Squire’s room in the Art Lab and Mr Giani greets us there with a friendly smile.
When we are all there we check the overall house points for the term. The tension is unbearable as we all wait in anticipation to see where we are. Fortunately, the mighty Revenge (as we are called during meetings) was in pole position last time. Next Tuesday, we will have to wait and see…….
Next, we calm down our nerves with an enjoyable game, like Who/What Am I? We have 25 question to see who Mr Giani is. We took it down to the wire last time, but we couldn’t guess who he was but our last guess was the closest. Jonah P said the genie from Aladdin, but the answer was Aladdin from the movie. We were so close!
Then we give our awards for people who got Bronze and Silver, these are handed out and signed by Mr Giani himself. After we clap our hands so hard we’ve lost all feeling, it is time for the last stage of our meeting.
Last term, we practised for our House Song! Not to brag, but we think we had the best song, “Love Train” by the O-Jays, with Leo M as lead singer. Unfortunately, we were beaten by Rodney and their outstanding performance of ‘Fly Away Home’. Still, Jamie P won the senior solo piece with Nocturne No. 5 by John Field, and our very own Mariachi, Gabriel R-A, raised the roof with Cielito Lindo!
Now back to school lessons :(
Dylan M-H, Deputy House Captain
The secret boarder is someone who the Boarding House Team feel has had a great week in all areas of boarding. The boarders are told when it is a ‘secret boarder week’, but crucially not who the secret boarder IS. If all goes well, a winner is announced at the end of the week and there are prizes for everyone…! Happily, this week's secret boarder is Seb H! Well done!
Netball Matches on Wednesday
The Oratory dominated the game throughout. Unfortunately St George's hardly had any shooting opportunities. Final score 8 - 0. The Player of the Match (chosen by the opposing team) was Bea A.
The match against Holme Grange was rather slow. They made the most of their two opportunities to score, whereas St George's shots unfortunately just missed the target. The Player of the Match was Isabelle S.
The U11s took to the court with great confidence against a physically stronger and bigger Holme Grange U12/13 team. The girls played with great composure and dictated from the start. With excellent shooting and good through court play, the girls won with ease. The Players of the Match for Year 6 were Cara V (Attacker) and Annabel P (Defender).
The U12/13 team also played with good intensity and combined well with some Year 6 players. There was some great teamwork and an excellent winning result. Cici B was selected as Player of the Match.
Rugby vs Milbourne Lodge
All the rugby matches this week were against Milbourne Lodge with some very competitive matches across the board. It was a delight to see the boys work so hard for their team and embrace this week’s value of teamwork so effectively. It would be fair to say that a number of the teams are still working on developing their communication skills to ensure that the team, at key stages of the game, are working towards the same goal. Congratulations to all the boys on their efforts in matches this week.
Inter House Indoor Rowing
A very well done to all the pupils in Year 7 and Year 8 who took part in House Rowing on Friday before Half Term. The team event was a combined timed row over 2000 metres, and the individual races consisted of a two-minute row in Year 7 and a three-minute row in Year 8. Both of the events were incredibly well contested and it was enjoyable to see the teamwork ethos of each house shining through.
Year 7 and 8 combined scores over 1000m-
1st Vindictive - 4.03 mins
2nd Rodney- 4.13 mins
3rd Victory - 4.21 mins
4th Revenge- 4.49 mins
Year 7 individual (2 min row)
1st Oli P- Vindictive
2nd Henry K- Victory
3rd Alexios S - Rodney
4th Noah N-C- Revenge
Year 8 individual (3 min row)
1st Bligh H - Vindictive
2nd Lifu Y - Rodney
3rd Rene M - Revenge
4th Ali K- Victory
This week's puzzle
Week 7 Solutions