BEHIND THE STUDY DOOR
I was very excited when I got home on Thursday evening to discover Arthur had made his first den. On our upstairs landing, he had taken all our rugs and blankets, and made his own cave. He was waiting for me as I came up the drive, took my briefcase from me, and excitedly led me to this den. In he got – beaming from ear to ear – and showed me the toys he had amassed in there, his snacks, and of course how he had managed to wedge himself in to defend himself from having to have his bath. Naturally, I raced straight in to join him, thoughts of my own den in Shropshire at the forefront of mind, as I forgot all about my day and just re-lived my own childhood with my son.
Writing in the Times Educational Supplement this week, Mike Fairclough (Head of West Rise Primary School) argues that 'adopting childlike traits can make us better leaders'. In his article, he compares the natural risk-taking attributes that children have, their free-spirited approach to life, and their imagination and creativity, which contributes to their development, both physical and emotional. He points out that, as adults, we lose this 'free-flowing imagination', and that reigniting this could rejuvenate our approach to our lives and work.
I am, of course, not advocating that we drop our children off at school, then leap back in the car and make dens, get our Lego out and invite the household teddy bears to tea. I am, however, promoting this free-spirit, imagination and sense of adventure for children of all ages. There is nothing more delightful than having discussions with the children, who tell me that their weekend will consist of conducting an experiment, going into the woods, a trip to the beach, activities in their den, building something, or simply ‘pottering at home’. Every time I have this conversation, the child in question lights up, speaks with passion and excitement and I can almost see their imagination running wild as they tell me about it. Compare this to a child who will tell me that they will be playing on their Xbox 2 over the weekend. Whilst I still take a great interest in this, I don’t sense that same energy or excitement from the child. I can’t sense their imagination, their playfulness or sense of adventure. Computer games, television and social media have their place, and indeed they can lead to creativity and imagination, however nothing comes close to the sense of freedom that a child (whether they are 5 or 15) experiences by building dens, playing 40-40, constructing something out of Lego, or simply losing themselves in play.
Next week is Children’s Mental Health Week (please see some helpful literature from Place2Be in our mailing this week). The theme this year is ‘Being Ourselves’, and we will be running activities during class time based on authenticity and the recognition that we are all unique, have different strengths, qualities and interests. In preparation for this, I have looked at Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson’s 24 Character Strengths, which form a set of traits that we all have, some greater than others. When I look at the 24 strengths, categorised in 6 themes, I do feel a substantial number are developed through imaginative play and discovery.
There is an online character strengths test that adults and children can complete, that will order your character strengths following a multiple choice questionnaire:
Arthur joined a fraternity of other toddlers yesterday in learning how to make a den, taking ownership of it and playing there on his own for the morning. These are all activities that will have boosted his self-regulation and adventurous attitude. He then saw me get excited and this will have encouraged him more (it also did me the world of good). I always talk of the preservation of childhood - and this is something I see a lot of at St Leonards. The aim of this isn’t to simply satisfy our own vision of what childhood should be because this is what we remember, it is because free-play and imagination actually develops core developmental emotional learning.
I finally managed to entice Arthur out of his den last night with the promise that he could have breakfast in there this morning, knowing full well that I would be out of the house by then.
Wishing all St Leonards families a happy weekend, wherever your adventures take you.
SKY SONG | Pupils in Years 4-7 were treated to a visit from a very special guest on Wednesday morning, when author and former St Leonards student Abi Elphinstone dropped in to talk about her magical new book, Sky Song! Abi told tales of her adventures in the Arctic and in Mongolia, where she found the inspiration for her Dreamsnatcher Trilogy, as well as her latest release.
Props and a fantastic slideshow created an air of excitement among the boys and girls as they heard about the antics of wildcats, identified Arctic animals in a quiz and wondered about the powers of Abi’s crystal ball. She explained how adventures are the best source of ideas when it comes to storytelling and writing, whether those adventures involve tracking down Mongolia’s only eagle huntress (and meeting Angela the cat wrestler along the way!) or simply stepping outside your front door and spying a frozen spider’s web glistening in the sun.
Her top tip for our budding authors, musicians, athletes, artists, academics or professionals was ‘don’t be afraid to fail’. Abi told pupils how she received 96 letters from publishers rejecting her books before The Dreamsnatcher was published in 2015 and her perseverance has certainly paid off.
If there was one ‘take-home’ quote from Abi’s wonderfully interactive talk, it was this: ‘Writers are people who remember to look up and out because that’s where ideas come from’.
A book signing rounded off the morning’s events, with a long queue of children snaking all the way across St Katherine’s Hall with their copies of Sky Song, waiting for their turn to meet Abi before diving into Chapter 1. Thank you to Abi and her team for taking the time to stop off at St Leonards for what really was a super session! We hope Years 4-7 left brimming with ideas for their own bestsellers!
INSPIRED IDEAS | Inspired by Abi Elphinstone's talk, Year 4C set off on their very own writing expedition this week, creating maps and turning their ideas into wonderfully creative short stories. Shelagh, James and Alistair were happy to show off the results of their hard work!
'You don't need to use special things for a story, you can use a shampoo bottle for a person's name. Names don't need to be Bob or Ben, you can make them up or even make them complicated.' - Alistair
'She went on big adventures and got her ideas from there. One adventure was a girl wrestling cats!' - Shelagh
'She told me that the first place to start is with your maps.' - James
COOL COSTUMES | The boys and girls in Year 1 have been exploring different materials in Drama this week. Here they are showing off a fantastic array of colourful costumes made out of everything from tartan to tulle, and from felt to faux fur!
LET THERE BE LIGHT
LET THERE BE LIGHT | On Tuesday afternoon, Year 4 took part in a series of hands-on workshops about light, led by Dr Sam Swift, Head of the Electron Microscopy Facility at Dundee University, and Dr Vicky McGuire from the National Photobiology Unit at Ninewells Hospital, with the help of Dr McGuire’s colleague and Ambassador for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) subjects, Dr Paul O’Mahoney.
Dr Swift and Dr McGuire, both St Leonards parents, answered questions posed by the boys and girls in Year 4 as part of their Unit of Inquiry.
After an introduction to the electromagnetic spectrum, the class learned about where microwaves, infrared, ultraviolet and visible light appear on this vast array of light waves. Pupils explored how we see colour and how certain animals’ eyes function differently, with different numbers of cones and rods (types of cells in the eye) according to their need for night vision for hunting prey! By the end of the session, everyone knew what bioluminescent animals are.
Dr McGuire’s talk finished with a homework challenge: to use special glasses to look at the almost full moon, which was conveniently timed to appear on Wednesday night!
We are incredibly lucky to have such dedicated and supportive parents in the St Leonards community, who can spare some time to speak to the children and share their wide-ranging expertise. A big thank you to Dr Swift, Dr McGuire and Dr O’Mahoney!
HOCKEY STARS | The U10 girls' hockey team played a great game against High School of Dundee this week, winning the match 2-1! Both goals were scored by Emily Logan.
The U12s also took on High School of Dundee, showing off some superb skills in a tough game, which saw St Leonards lose narrowly with a score of 1-2 when the whistle went. Well done to Sophie Clarke who scored the goal for St Leonards!
The following pupils received certificates at Celebration Assembly on Monday:
Alastair for producing a neatly presented, highly detailed and informative booklet about bio-luminescent creatures. Alastair has shown real interest in pursuing his inquiry skills.
Jonny for producing a most wonderful poster about his recent trip to Bethlehem. Jonny was also this week's Year 3 Pupil of the Week for continuously showing strength of character by doing the right thing, knowing right from wrong, and making sensible choices.
Ramsay was this week's Year 1 Pupil of the Week for setting an excellent example to others by completing a range of inquiry activities.
Riya received a Headmaster's Commendation for using mini Oreo biscuits - with varying amounts of cream missing - to create a highly imaginative portrayal of the phases of the moon.
Freddie for achieving 55 x and 55 division three times in five minutes in the weekly Times Tables Club. He is now working on 78 questions in five minutes. This is a huge challenge and one that he has taken on with great enthusiasm and enjoyment.
Jennifer, Emily, Zachary and Thea each received a Good Marks certificate and will receive a £5 voucher to spend at Toppings Bookshop.