It is important we all keep learning….
I have been so fortunate in my career, to have worked in both state and independent school and even from 1999 to 2008 in Sydney, Australia. I have taught in small Infant Schools and standalone Prep Schools but it is a through school (from Early Years to Sixth Form) where I thrive best, where I get to see our Prep pupils step up from Prep School, flourish and fly in Year 7 and beyond. Teaching is clearly a vocation, a career you go into that is a privilege as you are influencing future lives. Personally, it is also important to me that I work for an organisation that lets us, as a school, be ‘one of a kind and part of a family’ and the GDST achieves this so well. So, it was with much thought and planning (I do like a bit of planning!) that I applied to complete three weeks of my study leave. This opportunity is something which is unique to the GDST, for teaching staff who have worked for the Trust for a minimum of 10 years, to have time to study, to learn something new which will impact the school. It is very much appreciated by staff and is a precious gift amid our busy school lives. It was also possible thanks to the dedicated Prep team we have and a particular thank you to Mrs Dawson, Mrs Durrant for being ‘acting Prep Head’ and to Mrs Gunn and Mrs Ruiz for the extra workload it brought their way, along with the rest of the Prep staff.
The aims for my study leave were to have:
Time to complete some ‘Blue Sky Thinking’ to research and plan how we can make the Prep School even better.
I knew this would be about outdoor learning, Fernwood House and the ‘LookOut’ (Our new outdoor classroom). Along with completing a course into Reggio Emilia approach to Early Years teaching and learning.
Time to complete a course that follows an interest, a passion of mine – Art.
The reasons for this were a) To show the girls that everyone continues to learn b) To lead by example. I talk to the girls a lot about finding passions in life (Inspired by Angela Duckworth’s book, Grit). If you can combine your future career, with a passion and a way to ‘give back’ it will have a huge impact on your life.
So, three weeks later, I thought I would share some outcomes of my study leave with you all and I also shared these with the girls in assembly last Monday.
Breathe the Wild Air Lessons
From September 2022, a weekly Natural History lesson for Nursery to Year 6 in the ‘LookOut’.
This outcome has very much been driven by the girls. When they wrote their Purple Pledges in the Autumn of 2020, which are displayed in school to remind us, it was clear they care passionately about the environment. Our current Year 6 girls are very articulate on this topic.
“The question is, are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren may never be able to see an elephant except in a picture book?” David Attenborough
Breathe the Wild Air
All of us benefit from being in the great outdoors, walking in the countryside, breathing in the fresh air, bird spotting, seeing our very first Nuthatch or Kingfisher or Newt! It not only teaches all of us about nature, about the environment, it is makes us feel better and for our pupils at Sutton High School, that is our aim, we want our pupils to ‘do better because they feel better’. So, quite naturally, as we see the benefits of our Brains Matter programme, where pupils learn about the basic parts of their brain and what happens when they feel anxious or worried, and to deal with these feelings too, we are looking at how being outside can help our brain health.
Our aims of Breathe the Wild Air lessons are:
- Count on Me!
- To look after myself (Mental health and Physical health)
- To look after each other
- To look after our world
What will be taught in our Breathe the Wild Air lessons?
Each class will have one lesson a week in the Lookout (whatever the weather) and these lessons will be based on Natural History and the scheme or work bespoke to us at SHS, having been written by myself (Animals, Insects and Birds, Trees, Plants and Flowers (Woodland Trust)), Mrs Gunn (Gardening & Well-Being), Ms Capon (Conservation and Sustainability), Mr Rodrigues (Weather and Climate Change) and Miss Hargrave (Orienteering).
“The title ‘Natural History’ refers back to a long tradition established in Britain of classifying, understanding, observing and reflecting on the natural world. It looks forward, to better consciousness and management of our relationship with the natural world and back at all of the insights that we gain through the history of engagement with nature.” Tim Oates (Director of Assessment and Research, Cambridge University Press & Assessment)
The lessons will be grouped into six key areas which will rotate:
- Orienteering and Signs of the Season
- Animals, Insects and Birds (RSPB Wild Challenge)
- Trees, Plants and Flowers (Woodland Trust)
- Conservation and Sustainability (Eco Schools)
- Weather and Climate Change
- Gardening and Well-Being (RHS School Gardening Awards)
Our pupils will develop the skills to help them develop a future career in the natural world if they wish to – for example observation, description, recording and analysis, and going on field studies.
New Year 6 Residential Trip to Wick Court
In connection to Field Studies, as part of my study leave, I visited our new Year 6 residential trip for 2022-2023 at Wick Court, Gloucestershire. Many of you may already have heard of Farm for City Children set up by Michael and Clare Morpurgo.
FFCC has now offered a limited number of weeks per year for Independent schools. This is such an exciting opportunity and one we have grabbed with both hands. Wick Court, is not only in one of the most idyllic and beautiful settings it provides experiences which we cannot replicate in the classroom, even our stunning new Outdoor Classroom. The pupils will literally be Farmers for a week, they will be the only school on site, and they even visit the dairy farm next door.
Art Course at Kew Gardens
Inspired by my love of art and our school visit to Kew Gardens, I enrolled in a botanical illustration course at Kew Gardens. This was led by Lucy Smith who is a botanical illustrator at Kew and has recently completed the enormous task of creating a life-size watercolour painting of the waterlily flower and leaf. It was fascinating to see her work, and she gave demonstrations and taught us how to draw to actual size, as a botanical illustrator does. The aim of the course was to develop a sketch book and how to use these ideas to develop ideas into a final piece of art wort. It really was fascinating, challenging and I learnt a lot and my drawing skills improved! I am aiming to use what I learnt with the girls, in our Natural History lessons as well as our Art lessons.
See my Twitter and below image for examples from my course.
“It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of virtual beauty, the greatest source of intellectual interest, it is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.”