“If we want our children to move mountains, we first have to let them get out of their chairs.” Nicolette Sowder
At St Leonards, we recognise that time spent in the great outdoors is immensely beneficial for the wellbeing, development, and progress of our children. Outdoor learning — be that Beach School, bushcraft or gardening — is therefore at the heart of our curriculum. We could not agree more with the author Nicolette Sowder that allowing children to be immersed in nature rather than confined to a classroom for hours on end will enable them to flourish and achieve great things. Whilst the majority of our pupils have not been in a classroom for two months, we are all too aware that remote learning means that they are spending much more time in front of their screens to complete their school work. Therefore, last week, we encouraged our pupils to step away from their screens, to get outside, and build a creative and innovative den. The results were absolutely fantastic — we hope that you enjoy reading about this school-wide challenge, as well as various other outdoor learning projects and initiatives, in the Spotlight on Outdoor Learning section below.
At St Leonards, we also encourage our pupils to take ownership of their learning, to pursue their interests, and to have an active voice in the community. These are various different facets of what, in education, we term ‘student agency’. I am proud to say that this concept of ‘student agency’ is not just airy fairy educational talk from the staff room, but the real and lived experience of the pupils here at St Leonards. This newsletter is filled with examples of pupils, both collectively and individually, display student agency whether that be pursuing lines of inquiry that interest them, or working to tackle local and global issues.
Let’s encourage our children to step away from their screens and spend time in the great outdoors, and to look beyond themselves to the needs of the wider community. By acknowledging their agency and individual interests, we are surely setting them up to achieve great things.
In this week's newsletter, we are delighted to shine the spotlight on Outdoor Learning, which is at the heart of the curriculum here at St Leonards. Whilst our pupils have not been able to enjoy bushcraft with Mr Barrable, Beach School with their class teachers, or a lesson in our outdoor classroom, they have nevertheless been immersing themselves in nature closer to home. We hope that these articles inspire you and your children to engage in some more outdoor projects like whittling a wooden spoon, creating a zen garden, honing your carpentry skills, and tending to some tadpoles?
MARVELLOUS MINIBEASTS | Year 2 are loving their Unit of Inquiry into plants and minibeasts, which is encouraging them to spend time in the great outdoors and pay close attention to nature. This week, they have been busy conducting experiments - from dissecting seeds to investigating what happens as seeds germinate, and exploring how water travels through a stem to creating three-dimensional minibeasts. You can see some of their work below - it really is wonderful!
WONDERFUL WOODWORK | At the moment, bug hotels seem to be a booming business in the East Neuk of Fife! Lots of our pupils have been collecting moss, twigs, bark, pine cones and other natural materials to fashion shelters for creepy crawlies and other small creatures in their back gardens. We have been so impressed by the pupils' creativity and resourcefulness! This week, Monty made his own bug hotel this week and then decided that it would be enhanced by a frame, and so he set to work with a saw on his workbench and made said frame. It looks like we have a future carpenter in our midst!
TADPOLE TRACKING | This week, James found some tadpoles. He is going to watch them develop over time - we are excited to see them develop into fully-grown amphibians!
If you'd like to watch tadpoles dramatically transform into a larger creature, why not have a look in a river, pond, or stream near you. Frogspawn and toadspawn are usually found just below the surface of the water, and amongst the reeds, at this time of year. Once hatched, the frog tadpoles take about 14 weeks to transform into little frogs, whereas toad tadpoles taking a little while longer. For further information on toads and frogs and how to care for your tadpoles visit Froglife.
Teacher Spotlight: Mr Barrable
TEACHER SPOTLIGHT | As part of our focus on Outdoor Learning, this week we were delighted to speak with Mr Barrable about his experiences of St Leonards Connected and lockdown life. We hope that you enjoy reading about his outdoor pursuits, culinary creations, favourite reads, and daily routine below!
How have you found the adjustment to home working, St Leonards Connected, and lockdown life?
We have now finished week four of this term, and the fifth week of online learning via St Leonards Connected. In many ways, my adjusted classroom and home environments now feel quite normal. It has been incredibly busy juggling my teaching responsibilities with looking after my children, as my wife works full-time at the University of Dundee. The abrupt transition to a new way of living and teaching that we have experienced, albeit for a temporary time period, has certainly changed my view of what I used to take unthinkingly for granted, namely the routine and buzz that school life brings.
How do you stay positive and relaxed in lockdown?
I am very thankful to be part of the St Leonards community, and to work with supportive and keen colleagues. The past few weeks have been a real eye-opener for me - I really feel that my own children have thrived being out of the classroom. They are, of course, young and at the stage where play-based learning is critical to their development. For them to have the freedom and flexibility to move, explore, and question in a way that they may not be able to in a class environment is brilliant to see.
My sons have certainly grown closer together as a result of not having the kind of schedule that they had during term time, nor their having their friends to hand. It is wonderful to see them playing together and relying on each other more. I am grateful that I have been able to spend more time with them, and this has kept me feeling very positive about lockdown.
Any particular foods that you have been enjoying?
I can't compete with the food photographs that Miss Boissiere shared in the newsletter a few weeks ago, but coming from the Southern Hemisphere I do love to barbeque. Lighting the grill is a time we can all get together, play, and talk. Afterwards, on the cooling coals, we roast marshmallows. Miss Fisher has encouraged me to make my own wild garlic pesto...so that could be on the cards!
This is very important for my own wellbeing and, with working from home, it is important as ever to make time for it so that there isn't a negative knock-on effect for everyone else in the family. The only time that seems to work is an early start while everyone is still asleep. Most mornings I sneak out for a ride or a run before anyone else is up.
Any book recommendations?
Well, my reading list is quite narrow at the moment if I don't include my course reading work. I am interested in Gaelic and am currently reading Scottish Gaelic Verbs - 500 verbs Fully Conjugated. I am not sure that I would recommend the book per se, but I would recommend that everyone keeps learning more than one language!
Have you taken up any new hobbies?
No, not really. I haven't really had the time! Whatever hobbies or activities I have at the moment need to include the children, and so my boys are involved with planting a veggie patch for example. I was recently challenged by one of our pupils, Aidan, to whittle my own spoon. I accepted the challenge and bought a carving kit and I have to say the process is enormously gratifying...and addictive! I would absolutely recommend this as a hobby for the current situation. The boys are trying to make their own porridge spoons, and so I suppose this has become a family hobby after all.
How do you structure your days?
As I have already mentioned, my days usually start with a ride or a run. After that, I have a coffee and check my emails whilst the house is still asleep. My year group partner, Miss Brannen, is normally up early too and we have a quick catch up for the day ahead. By then the boys are awake and at the breakfast table, and we will do reading or number work then.
From there it is onto the first of the Google Class Meets. We are following the mantra ‘if the sun is out - you are out!’. The boys are out riding, climbing, or making things with sticks for as much of the time as possible. My eldest will have a walkie talkie with him, and we keep in touch that way when I am at my desk. Occasionally on a Google Meet with me you might hear a plaintive crackle asking for some apple or a juice! My wife, Alex, and I arrange our schedules to manage our professional and family duties for the day and that means that we are online working quite late into most evenings.
Any top tips for home working?
I often tell the children in my assemblies that they need to look for the right balance between their screens, families, and fun. And in my experience at home, that certainly is what works. For my own children, the focus is on their wellbeing more than anything else. As long as they are kind, active and find ways to challenge themselves during the day I am more than satisfied. I am in no way interested in comparing where they should be in a hypothetically normal school year.
We look at the weather forecast as much as we do the timetable. If the weather is good, we will stretch out what needs to be achieved and when the weather means we are indoors, we will focus on different activities. Lego and Star Wars have become a huge obsession at home, I have built a Lego table that does not look like it will be leaving the lounge until lockdown ends! Making time for one's own children is the hardest part of working remotely, whether it is a quick game of football in between lessons or something more like going for a walk and turning it into an expedition is important. They need to feel valued throughout this situation too. Working at the moment is a bit like a slinky spring. Some days can be compressed and efficient and other days, for whatever reason, slow bandwidth, glorious sunshine or other needs, time is stretched and work is returned to later.
Den Building Challenge
DEN BUILDING CHALLENGE | The Junior School Den Building Challenge was a wonderful success! Last Friday afternoon, the children were all encouraged to turn off their laptops and computers, step away from their screens, and take part in a school-wide challenge to build a den. The brief was simple: build a den indoors, in your garden, or in the woods. The pupils were encouraged to be as creative as possible - and their creations were simply amazing. There were dens in closets, bedrooms, lounges, gardens, woodlands, boats as well as under trees with fairy lights and blankets!
We were so impressed with all the entries. You can see lots of them in this video slideshow below, which was created by Mr Barrable.
Special mention must go to two pupils. First, Ting who built an unusual and very creative indoor 'Geo Den'. Together with her dad, Ting sourced a plan showing what pieces were required and the relevant sizing. Their next step was to cut out the templates and then 49 individual parts out of cardboard. After this, they connected the pieces together flat on the floor using duct tape. They hoped that they would be able to pick up the pieces from the floor and slot them nicely into a circle, however this didn't happen on the first attempt. Ting and her dad sourced a third pair of hands, and used copious amounts of clothes pegs to hold everything up while they checked that they had assembled the constituent parts correctly. They quickly identified that they had not connected one of the square base pieces, and so Ting disconnected two squares and slotted the additional piece in and the parts then all fitted together perfectly! With the roof pentagon slotted in place, the structure could finally support itself and they taped the outside joints. Ting then added some finishing, cosy touches including a blanket, some pillows, and some mood lighting. Wow. What an amazing effort!
Secondly, we would like to mention Lois for her impressive yet cosy outdoor den covered in lots of leaves, and kitted out with lanterns, cushions, and blankets!
Reflecting upon the den building challenge, Mr Barrable, Head of Outdoor Learning, said "even though we are working and learning away from our peers, it is so important to keep that feeling of connectedness with our friends and teachers. It was wonderful to see such a high participation rate. This connectivity and collective effort is the glue that binds our school community together and, after a weekend of photographs and videos streaming into my inbox, I am convinced that St Leonards truly is a strong and vibrant community. I am incredibly proud of all those who took part."
NOTICING NATURE | This term, in her Lower School assemblies, Miss Boissiere has been encouraging the children to marvel at and spend time thinking about the natural world. In her first assembly of the term, Miss Boissiere focused on 'mindful moments'. She encouraged the children to go outside and have a mindful moment - to stop, breathe slowly, empty their minds, listen for sounds, look around themselves and REALLY see, or to close their eyes and let the brain do the work for them. Taking a few moments to soak up the beauty of nature helps us to slow down and remain calm amidst the chaos and uncertainty around us.
Her second assembly focused upon Earth Week, a worldwide environmental movement which happens each year at the end of April. She showed the children some amazing images of the positive impact that lockdown has already had on the earth - reduced pollution to name just one. She explained that these positive changes can only continue if individuals commit to helping the environment and caring for nature, and that one way to do this is to reduce your usage of electricity. She therefore challenged the children to see how long they could go for without using electricity - which is surprisingly difficult! Why not see if you can reduce your environmental impact by reusing, recycling, regenerating, or repurposing. Please do send in your photographs.
Her third assembly of the term focused on Carleton the Cuckoo, the fastest tagged bird to travel back from West Africa to the marshes in Suffolk, England. Carleton broke the record by travelling 4,000 miles in just one week! She then challenged the children to put their minds to something, and to see what they could achieve. We would love to know what challenges the Lower School pupils have set themselves - do send in your photographs and a blurb to Mrs Dewar.
If you haven't already had the chance to give Miss Boissiere's challenges a go, then why not give them a shot over the weekend?
ZEN GARDEN | This week, Lottie created a miniature Zen Garden (or Japanese Rock Garden) using sand, pebbles, and moss. She also made a little rake from wooden skewers and cocktail sticks, which she used to create shapes in the sand. The result is fabulous! If you'd like to have a go at creating your own, all you will need is a tray, some sand, some natural objects (e.g. shells, rocks, crystals, driftwood - but use your imagination), and a cocktail stick or small twig with which to draw different designs with in the sand. Please do send in a photograph of your creation to Mrs Dewar!
REMOTE RIDGWAY | It is with great sadness that, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, we have had to cancel the Year 7 Ridgeway Adventure. However, we are delighted to announce that Mr Barrable and Mr McLeish will be running a Remote Ridgeway experience over the half term holidays - a time to turn away from your screens, learn new skills, and overcome obstacles! Next week, we will release a schedule of activities that will be available to all the pupils in Year 7, not just those who had signed up for the trip this year. We will be adopting the three principles of the Ridgeway Adventure School for this remote experience: be self-reliant, think positively, and leave people and places better than when you found them. You will be able to dip in and out of the activities - watch this space!
Nature & Pet survey
NATURE AND PET SURVEY | We invite you to take part in a survey conducted by researchers from the Schools of Education & Social Work and Life Sciences at the University of Dundee which focuses on the connection between pet ownership in childhood, empathy, and nature. Please follow this link to complete the survey.
The data is encrypted and kept online, on a password-protected computer and according to GDPR legislation. It will be kept for ten years, and only used for research purposes. All data collected is anonymous. This research study has been approved under the regulations of the University of Dundee’s School of Education and Social Work Research Ethics Committee.
Many congratulations to this week's recipients of Headmistress's Commendations, Spirit of St Leonards Awards, and Art Commendations (awarded by Miss Neave). As ever, there are lots of achievements and actions to be celebrated!
MAGNIFICENT MAZE | This week, Harris decided to combine his artistic and mathematical skills. He spent lots of time researching mazes before creating his own intricate maze design, which he then mowed out in the field below his house. What a fantastic and imaginative project!
PUPIL SPOTLIGHT | Thank you so much to all the pupils who have sent in footage and reflections for our Pupil Spotlight section so far this term. It has been great to see how some of our families have found lockdown life and the first few weeks of St Leonards Connected. Due to the late entries this week, we are going to have a double spotlight in the next newsletter... watch this space! Also, if you would like to feature in our Pupil Spotlight section over the next few weeks please do send in your photographs, video clips, and written reflections about your experience to Mrs Dewar - we'd love to hear from you!
VE CELEBRATIONS | Last week, as a school community and as a nation we paid tribute to the generation who endured the hardships and trials of war so that we might live in peace. Teddy and Alex marked this momentous day by putting up lots of homemade bunting and flags along their garden wall. It will certainly be a day to remember!
Goldilocks and Goonies
GOLDILOCKS AND GOONIES | Year 1 have achieved so much in the fourth week of St Leonards Connected. They have covered a broad and interesting range of topics, and also tapped into some of their parents' expertise including yoga with Mairi's mum and British Sign Language with Sofia's mum. We hope that you enjoy reading about some of these highlights below.
Finally, Year 1 learned about money this week, and off the back of this Albert was inspired to make a short video about his 20p collection after noticing the different dates on his coins. Why not give it a watch?
Dressed for School
DRESSED FOR SCHOOL | Have you been wearing your school uniform for your lessons on St Leonards Connected? Or have you favoured comfier clothes? Dressed for Home Schooling is project that is investigating children's dress codes in the context of lockdown. If your child(ren) would like to be part of this project, please do encourage them to fill out this questionnaire. It is intended for children aged 6-12 years, and will take approximately 15 minutes to complete.
EXHIBITION PREPARATIONS | The Year 6 pupils are busy preparing for this year's PYP Exhibition which will be happening next half term, though the exact form of the exhibition is yet to be decided. This is the final project that the pupils will complete as part of the PYP, and it is a chance for them to apply all of the skills that they have learned over the past few years including communication, research, and self-management. It is a completely self-guided project with the lines of inquiry, methods of research, and methods of presentation chosen by the pupils. The project is intended to be collaborative, although given the current circumstances lots of children have opted to work on their own or to collaborate with their parents. The pupils are working with mentors from the Senior School staff, enabling them to familiarise themselves with the teachers who will be working with them as they move into the MYP.
This year's cohort have selected a wide range of lines of inquiry ranging from organic food to mental health, and animal conservation to the coronavirus pandemic. Mrs Fynn and Miss Cormack have been so impressed with the pupils' ideas so far! For example, this week, Shelagh took some time away from her screen to create a picture of an ideal town based upon reducing technology, increasing human interaction, and using horses for transport.
We are looking forward to seeing how the pupils take their ideas forward for the eventual presentation of the exhibition. Great work, Year 6!
FABULOUS FUNDRAISING | This month, Lucy and Evie have been busy raising money for their chosen charities by making sure that they do at least 11,000 steps every single day. Most days they have done over 14,000! Evie will donate the money that she raises to the NSPCC. She became aware of the wonderful work that this charity does through its emotive TV adverts. Lucy has selected Dundee Baird as her charity, and hopes that they money that she raises will help feed children who would otherwise go hungry at this difficult time. This ties into her Unit of Inquiry. So far, the girls have almost raised £500 - they hope that this total will increase even further by 31 May. Keep going, girls!
RIVETING RECITATIONS | Over the past few weeks, Mrs Stewart has been tasking her classes with learning poems by heart. Year 6 can now recite Weasles by John Latham, Year 5 enjoyed learning Chickens by Jack Prelutsky, and Year 4 have given some polished performances of Daddy Fell Into The Pond by Alfred Noyes. Above is one of our favourite performances, in which Lois speaks with real eloquence!
Marvellous Magic Tricks
MARVELLOUS MAGIC TRICKS | Lewis has been busy perfecting some new magic tricks over the past few months. Why not watch this card trick that he has recorded - we can't work out how he manages to do it, can you?
COMMUNITY SPIRIT | At the start of lockdown, Conor and Aidan decided that they wanted to do something to help and support those in need. They put out a basket at the front of their house with a sign asking for donations, and a note saying that they would take any donations to the food bank. The boys collected items from the basket every day without fail, and by the end of last week had amassed 96 items which they dropped off to the food bank Tuesday past. We are so proud of both Conor and Aidan for displaying a thoughtful and generous spirit at this difficult time, that should serve as an inspiration for us all. Mr Barrable has therefore decided to issue a challenge - make sure you tune into his Wednesday assembly!
TASTY TACOS | Archie B treated his parents to some tasty vegetarian tacos earlier this week, complete with a fresh salsa and homemade chilli. They look absolutely delicious. We are excited to see your culinary creations and home bakes as part of the St Leonards Masterchef Challenge 2020!
Virtual Youth Orchestra
VIRTUAL YOUTH ORCHESTRA | Over the past few weeks, Eliza and Rory have enjoyed taking part in the Showcase Virtual Youth Orchestra. They get sent a piece of music each Friday, which they practise over the course of the weekend, and then they record themselves playing their part by the following Thursday. A techno-wizard then weaves these recordings together, and they have the satisfaction of watching the virtual orchestra performing as one! The finished performances really are incredible - one was featured on Good Morning Britain to raise awareness about the importance of music for children's wellbeing, and the other was released on Tuesday in collaboration with the NHS to celebrate International Nurses Day. Why not try and spot Eliza and Rory in the video above?
KEBAB CRAZY | Year 4 went kebab crazy in Maths Kitchen this week! After watching a short clip, they were tasked with shopping online for the ingredients that Mrs Arkwright and Scott had used to make kebabs. They then added the cost of all the ingredients and calculated the change from £10. These tricky calculations meant that the pupils worked up a big appetite, and so they set to work to create their own kebabs. The results were fabulous!
CREATING CHARACTERS | Cara has been busy creating some interesting and innovative characters over the past few weeks. The above video is an extract of a longer performance filmed in her mum's car. It stars 'Wee Granny', an agile 100 year-old Glaswegian who walks from Glasgow to St Andrews daily. She enjoys yoga, spa treatments, and the odd tipple - a drink called labershandy. We hope that you enjoy watching this clip - Cara really has captured this eccentric character!
PLAYGROUND REFURBISHMENT | We are delighted to share with you some pictures of the renovated playground at St Leonards. This week, the key workers' children have enjoyed the new game ideas that have been painted onto the tarmac. From hopscotch to snakes and ladders, and noughts and crosses to number lines the colourful painted games and resources will certainly be a fantastic way for the children to learn and play outside. Many thanks to the PA for raising the funds necessary for these renovations.
NHS Heroes | We continue to give thanks for the amazing team of NHS staff and key workers in this country who are giving their all to fight the coronavirus pandemic — their commitment, dedication, and perseverance are truly inspirational. To show our appreciation for the NHS heroes, Emmy's sister Maddy, who is in the Senior School, recorded this heartwarming rendition of Somewhere Over The Rainbow. We hope that you enjoy watching her short performance.
BODY SYSTEMS | This week, Year 4 have continued with their investigations into body systems and how they work. Sophia made this excellent video to demonstrate the respiratory system - if you get your larynx confused with your pharynx, why not give this a watch!
HOUSE SHOUT | Whilst you cannot be physically present with your peers, we know that the strong house allegiance here at St Leonards will be able to bring the pupils in Harris, Lewis, Skye, and Mull together in spirit to produce some excellent performances for the House Shout competition. Your house needs you - be a risk taker, be confident, and get singing for your house!
The competition will be happening in a virtual manner and to enter you are invited to sing or play a song on any instrument. You can upload a solo performance, or join with your siblings or other members of your House to produce a group performance. Please upload your songs to Flipgrid or this Shared Google Drive folder. Mr Barrable, Miss Brannen and others will be judging your entries - we are very excited to see and hear your talent!
Pirates & Party Hats
PIRATES & PARTY HATS | Year 2 enjoyed some brilliant birthday celebrations last week. The pupils have enjoyed fancy dress birthday Meets with Miss Fisher - they came wearing party hats to celebrate Harrison's birthday, and then dressed up as pirates for Jonathan's birthday!