Down on the Farm

In Outdoor Education lessons recently, Year 4 have been hard at work down on the farm with Mrs Cran…

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They have been ably assisted this term by school gardener Mr Buckley, who gave us this report:

‘Garden club have been busy planting seeds (both under glass and in beds) for the coming year as well as taking cuttings of perennial plants and building the supports for the beans. Older children have been given some insight into the biology and best practice of gardening whilst the younger ones have enjoyed the experience, hopefully encouraging them. We currently have Kalette and Lettuce and Carrots as well as onions on the go!

The Willow ‘Fedge’ at the bottom of the school field has been a good project and hopefully the whips will all take. Pre-prep, Forest School and Garden Club have all enjoyed this project and we should be able to extend the Fedge in future.

More seeds and plants will be put in the raised beds over the coming year and we should see some harvest before summer break!’

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As you can see, we have also been keeping the Hazlegrove hens company. A most enjoyable afternoon was spent clearing out the shacks and looking after our feathered friends. Some of our Year 3’s were also on hand to check make sure the pigs had enough to eat and drink. As ever, they seemed very happy to roll in the mud and have a good scratch.

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When the sun is out, there is no finer place to be than the Hazlegrove farm. It is always a treat to pay the animals a visit and enjoy the sights, sounds (and smells!) that lie in wait.

Indoor Education VS Outdoor Education

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INDOOR EDUCATION

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OUTDOOR EDUCATION

Open your exercise book Open the door
Don’t forget your date and title Don’t forget your waterproofs
Put up your hand Put up your tent
Pencils and pens Fires and knives
Don’t lean back on your chair Don’t fall out of that tree
Sit still …in your kayak
Careful handwriting Careful whittling
Making a PowerPoint presentation Making mud pies
Times-tables test A table you made from old bits of wood and string
Telling tales Telling ghost stories around the campfire
Passing exams Passing round the marshmallows
Peer marking Trail marking
Changing seats Changing seasons
Watching the clock Watching the clouds
Three stars and a wish Sleeping bag under the stars

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Tom Birch is Head of Outdoor Ed at Hazlegrove School, Somerset

@infinitebirch

‘We’re Arctic explorers, Sir!’

The winter waxeth colde, as the old ballad says…

The woods in winter can be a foreboding place. An icy wind whips through you and sneers at your best efforts to bundle up with scarves and gloves. Bare trees house only a few menacing crows who caw forlornly. You feel there is a decent chance of being struck down with hypothermia, and the odds are strongly in favour of you losing several fingers to frostbite after even an hour outside.

On such days, it is good to be outdoors with children. Children are invincible to the cold. They don’t even seem to notice.

The temperature may be low, but spirits are high as Year 3 head out to see how the trees are faring in our fledging Jubilee wood.

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‘Wooooo! We are the arctic explorers!’ they cry, as several jump in muddy puddles and skip across a waterlogged rugby pitch. One explorer losing his footing and barrels into a friend, who goes down giggling. I wonder if this is how actual arctic explorers behave when they manage to reach the North Pole. Let us hope so.

‘Do you know how polar bears sneak up on their prey?’ I ask. ‘They cover up their noses with a paw like this, so they look completely white in the snow.’ The children think this makes very good sense, and nod thoughtfully as I wait for the laugh that never comes.

Our aim this afternoon is to inspect the saplings, and see how they are bearing up in this bleak midwinter. Aside from a few snapped branches, they seem to be doing well. We inspect the wintery boughs, and children are surprised to see a few red berries and budding shoots appearing on the cherry and ash trees. Spring seems to be springing early this year. Not that you would know it today.

With flushed cheeks and frostbite surely setting in, our expeditionary force head on back to the bright lights and warmth of the classroom. On the way, we pass an old hollow oak tree and decide to see how many children can fit inside.

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Standing inside an ancient tree is a strange feeling, like setting foot deep inside the earth. It feels slightly like being holed up inside a medieval iron-maiden, only with spiders and cobwebs inside instead of iron spikes. One cannot help but call to mind old stories of cursed witches being sealed up inside haunted trees. Enough to send a shiver down anyone’s spine, even without the chill February wind blowing.

They manage to fit seven inside, in the end. The children all seemed to enjoy it enormously, until I suggest that we ought to rethink the school’s discipline policy, and imprison naughty children inside for bad behaviour. At this point, they all run out squealing.

It’s certainly one way to keep warm in this bitter weather.

TB

Taking On The Exmoor Challenge

Exmoor. 267 square miles of rolling hills and clifftop coastline spread like a patchwork quilt over Somerset and Devon. Famous for its red deer, grazing ponies and literary heavyweights Coleridge and Lorna Doone, it is also the setting for the annual Exmoor Youth Challenge, in which over 600 children compete in teams of four to navigate a 16-mile course armed with map and compass.

Intrepid hikers from over 70 local schools brave the elements and attempt to finish the course, reaching checkpoints at scheduled times along the way. This year we return to the moor as defenders of the title, having won the mixed-team category last year. I can’t wait to see what the moor has to throw at us this year…

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I remember leaving school on a Friday afternoon last year with a minibus full of excited 11 and 12 year-olds in tow. Only a few of our expeditionary force had heeded our advice to pack lightly, while others had decided that six changes of clothes and multiple pillows were essential items of kit. We arrived at our campsite just as enormous black clouds came scudding across the sky. Tents were up just before the rain began to fall, and once it had started it didn’t let up for the entire weekend.

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Exmoor certainly lived up to its reputation for wild weather. Children awoke in the middle of the night to find themselves inside a whirl of billowing canvas and guy ropes. It was a relief to count our tents in the morning and find that no-one had blown away or carried downstream in a flash flood. After a hearty breakfast, each group armed themselves with the requisite maps, compass, first-aid kit and emergency rations before heading to Dulverton Primary School to start. Luckily nobody needed reminding to pack their waterproofs.

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Spirits were high as our first team were called. Entrants must submit to a kit check from the Exmoor Rotary before being allowed to set off. Do you know how to use this compass? What is this emergency blanket for? Why have you already eaten your emergency rations? And so on…

We kept our fingers crossed as we waited for them to emerge from the interrogation. Disaster struck as our first team returned, having fallen at the first hurdle. They needed an entry form. In the morning’s excitement, I had forgotten to give them out. We sent them back in with the necessary paperwork and then cheered as we saw them emerge on the other side. Possibly not the most auspicious of starts, but at least they were off! Our other teams followed suit, ready to take on all that the moor might throw at them.

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We didn’t see them again until the first checkpoint, where they all looked very pleased with themselves for making it thus far without falling over. They swaggered off and followed the gentle contours of Burridge Wood towards Northmoor Common. Piece of cake, sir!

By the time they had arrived at the third checkpoint up on the highlands of Hawkridge, the waterlogged terrain and hill climbs had started to take their toll. Once-joyous smiles had become more of a grimace, frozen in place by the lashing rain and fierce wind. Still they walked on, digging deep and encouraging each other to keep going. Teachers returned to the buses and encouraged each other to have another cream tea.

We stood with assembled parents and supporters at Tarr Steps and cheered as each team crossed the ancient clapper bridge, noting the impending exhaustion on several faces. Nobody was smiling at this point, the novelty of hiking across miles of muddy scrubland having clearly worn off by this point. Their aspect had begun to take on the bearing of beleaguered hobbits, trudging towards Mount Doom with grim determination.

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All four teams picked up the pace somewhat on the downhill stretch back into Dulverton, as they reached journey’s end and proudly donned their coveted finisher medals. Our mixed team managed to cross the line with such gusto that a bystander could only gasp that ‘they looked like a team of Greek gods!’

Along the way participants must reach seven checkpoints on time, if they are to avoid deadly penalty points for being early or late. One team adopted the high-risk strategy of running much of the course, then waiting just before each checkpoint for exactly the right time to emerge. Certainly not for everyone, but it seemed to pay off for the boys, who might have won their category if only they had remembered to write their names on their quiz sheet that needs to be completed en route.

As it happened, they came second in their category. The other Hazlegrove teams all managed to remember to name their quiz sheets. One of our mixed teams even succeeded in coming first in the mixed category, proving the validity of the ancient teacher’s mantra: ‘Don’t forget to write your name on it before handing it in.’

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I am incredibly proud of the success we achieved last year, and keen to defend our title, but mostly I am so proud of the way the children showed such grit and determination to make it round the course. The experience of navigating across Exmoor, with only your wits and a map and compass bearing to guide your steps, is one that I’m sure will stay with the children for the rest of their lives.

There are so many questions we now know the answers to, such as: Does it ever stop raining on Exmoor? (No.) How waterproof is our tent? (It depends if you zipped it up.) What happens if I don’t eat anything all the way around this 16-mile course? (You’ll probably regret it.) And… how important is it to put our names on this quiz sheet? (Very!)

But the easiest question to answer of all is whether it is worth putting yourself through the long months of training, the inevitable blisters, and the relentless wind and rain to compete in the Exmoor Challenge. The look of joy and achievement on everyone’s faces as they crossed the finish line told its own story.

There is no question at all.

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TB

Watch the Skies: RSPB Big Schools’ Birdwatch

It is a windy Wednesday morning in mid-January, and Year 5 are ready to take to the school field with binoculars in hand to take part in the RSPB Big Schools’ Birdwatch. Hopes are high as we leave the warmth of the classroom and make our way down to the lookout. Some children are certain they will see a golden eagle. Others are quietly confident that they will spot exotic birds of prey or colourful parrots. This being Somerset in the depths of winter, I hint that we might see a woodpecker (if we’re really lucky).

One child is worried that she might be allergic to birdwatching: ‘I did it once and felt really sick afterwards!’ We decide to take the risk.

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Hedges and fences provide our cover, and the children crouch behind them with binoculars poised. Silence falls as we scan the treetops. Until…

We hear our first birdcall, and the children gasp at the familiar ‘caw‘-ing of a crow from the next field. Spinning around to get a good look, we see the black plumage of about a dozen crows nesting in the bare branches of a nearby oak. Ruffling their feathers and perching imperiously, they seem as interested in us as we are in them.

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The children fill in their birdspotter sheets: ‘I can see eleven. No wait, thirteen!’ says one, screwing up his eyes.

‘I’ll just put down fifty’ says another, rounding up considerably.

“Let’s try and be accurate, shall we?’ I say.

After another few minutes of waiting, we attract the attention of some small garden birds. The children identify three blue tits and a great tit. They delight in watching them through their binoculars, as they hang upside-down and flutter wildly around.

A robin also joins the party; word seems to be getting around. A small brown bird touches down briefly, but in the commotion of trying to identify it, we manage to scare it away. Was it a wren, or maybe a song thush?

‘Did anyone see its beak?’ asks a child.

‘Shhh!’ says another.

‘We’ll call it a U.F.O.’ I say. ‘An unidentified flying object.’

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We keep watch and see more crows, some jackdaws and a pair of wood-pigeons calling from a tree. There is an unconfirmed sighting of a goldfinch. Time really has flown, and sadly we must start winging our way back to class.

It has been a most enjoyable morning of birdwatching. How wonderful to get out in the fresh air and appreciate the amazing wildlife right on our doorstep. Birds are free spirits, zooming around like feathered superheroes, singing their exquisite song. There is no price of admission, and you don’t have to drive anywhere or queue up to see them.

The children return to their lessons wide-eyed and rosy cheeked, talking about all they’d seen. It has been a welcome break from the familiar routines of writing in exercise books or staring at screens.

So what are you waiting for? Put out a request for binoculars, postpone that spelling test, hang up some birdfeed and get going. Our feathered friends are all around us, and very grateful for the help in these cold winter months.

Wrap up warm, watch the skies, and don’t forget to count carefully.

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TB

@infinitebirch

Aim High: Archery in School

This term we added Archery to the roster of Outdoor Education activities here at Hazlegrove. Saturday mornings for Year 5 pupils are now spent with bows and arrows in hand, as they hone their technique and practise their aim. It has been wonderful to see children take up this ancient skill and follow in the hallowed footsteps of such archers as Robin Hood, William Tell and Legolas the Elf.

Archery is instantly appealing to children. The promise of wielding ancient weaponry, the thrill of launching sharp objects through the air, and the undying hope of hitting a bullseye combine to create an experience that lives long in the memory. It is open to all; you don’t have to be good at sports or overly athletic to do well at it. All you need is a steady aim, a clear eye and nerves of steel. Obviously a bow and some arrows are also fairly essential, as is something to fire at.

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Once children have understood how to stand with a bow (at 90 degrees to the target, legs shoulder-width apart), they can begin to learn to shoot. Picking up a bow for the first time can be a heady experience for a child. Images of armies clashing on Middle Earth or medieval battle fields flash through their mind’s eye, and a sudden transformation takes place. They cease to be a mere schoolboy or girl and become Robin Hood, charged with defending Sherwood Forest against the Sheriff’s men.

Make sure loose clothing is tied back, and that the bows and arrows are the right size for the age group. Explain the whistle signals for shooting and collecting arrows. Nobody should cross the shooting line until all arrows have been loosed and the command given, unless they want to go the way of poor King Harold.

Archery is one of those things, like gardening or going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, that looks far easier than it really is. Nearly everyone who loads an arrow onto the bow for the first time suspects that they are secretly a highly skilled marksman and fairly certain they will hit the bull’s eye first time. They will then go on to split this first arrow with their second, and the third will fly through the air in a graceful arc before knocking off the Guy of Gisborne’s hat.

This is, sadly, not the case. Children may not even manage to hit the target at all with their first few rounds of arrows. They will need plenty of encouragement and practice if they are to become decent archers. But as they say, in archery as in life, it is good to have something to aim at.

Once the basics have been mastered, you can take it in any number of directions. Pin some balloons to the target, or tie a penny to a piece of string and aim for that. We recently created an experimental piece of artwork called ‘art-chery’ by filling balloons with paint and having them explode over a large sheet of paper. The finished product was somewhat reminiscent of Pollock, we thought. Great fun, if a bit messy to set up.

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There are so many archery games you can play. Can children build an archery pizza by shooting an arrow into the white band of the target (for bread) yellow (cheese), red (tomato sauce) and then pick a topping (could be black olives?) Print out some cartoon villains or monsters and practice your aim on Disney baddies.

For those children who like card games, how about a game of pontoon? Pin some playing cards face-down onto the target and shoot two arrows each to deal your ‘hand’. The archer closest to 21 wins the game. Will you twist or stick? Broadly speaking it’s best to keep cash bets to a minimum, as this will often lead to fallings out, particularly if the children are under ten and wielding a bow.

Archery has been a huge hit with the girls, who seem to consistently out-shoot the boys by way of their superior concentration and cool temperament. Here is a sport with a full quiver of great female role models, from the ancient amazons to fiery Queen Boadicea and, of course, Katniss Everdeen, current archery poster-girl of Hunger Games fame.

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Start-up costs can be kept low by getting hold of 3 or 4 entry level bows, and arrows can be bought very reasonably. You’ll need a couple of targets, quivers and some arm-guards to protect clothing.

It is a good idea for a member of staff to attend an Archery Instructors course through Archery GB, in order to comply with the safety and legal aspects. I attended a weekend course last year with the excellent Brixham Archers, in Devon. Alternatively, outdoor centres and leisure centres offer sessions tailored specifically to school groups.

So stand tall, aim high, and get those arrows flying! As teachers, we give children plenty of targets to hit in schools, but here is one that might well develop into a passion for life.

Ready, aim…

TB

Cool School: Ukuleles in the Classroom

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The ukulele is the Tom Cruise of musical instruments: small in size, but mighty in stature. Undergoing something of a renaissance in recent years due to bearded Indie bands and inane yellow cartoon characters, this plucky instrument has also established itself as a firm favourite in the classroom. Music shops sell about 250,000 ukuleles a year in the UK, with a huge number of these being delivered to schools. It is easy to see why.

Being small, brightly coloured and easy to play, the mighty ukulele is an ideal first step on the road to musical enlightenment. It sounds wonderful played solo or in a large group. Perfect for wowing the crowds in assemblies or school concerts. Follow this handy guide to get started…

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First Principles

You will need an armoury of ukuleles. Luckily for your school’s music budget, they are amongst the cheapest instruments you can buy. A decent one can be picked up for little more than a tenner. Mahala and Malaka are decent brands, which seem to stay in tune more easily. Try to order enough for one between two at least. Go for a range of colours and designs that will appeal to the boys, girls and Spongebob Squarepants fanatics in your class.

Tune In

The top string on a ukulele is tuned higher than the others. This lends it the famous sing-song quality you will have heard on Hawaiian lullabies and cloying adverts for mobile phone companies. The first string should be tuned to a high G, then the others to a lower C, E, and A. Teach your class to do this using the mnemonic Good Children Eat Apples. Generations of children have learned to sing the tones of these open strings by singing the words ‘My Dog has fleas’ as they are plucked, though no one seems to knows why. My dog would never stand for such slander.

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Demonstrate the correct posture – stand up straight and hold the ukulele against your chest, pinning it underneath the elbow of your strumming hand. Don’t be concerned about how small a ukulele looks on an adult. I am 6ft 3, and I look ridiculous when I play. This is all part of the instrument’s diminutive charm and bulldog spirit. Besides, the naysayers will be silenced when you start to play. In essence, you should be trying to pull off the effortless glamour and joie de vivre of Elvis in the photograph below. Shorts are optional.

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Your First Song

In the first lesson, go over the ground rules and spend some time plucking the open strings, creating a pleasing South Sea wall of sound. Have a go at playing quietly, and then loudly, strumming a C chord in time with a tambourine. At this point you will inevitably attract the attention of passers-by and neighbouring classes, who may start banging on the walls in a show of support.

Hand out the chords and lyrics for a song you know your class will love, be it a Disney singalong or Ed Sheeran ballad. There is no need to wait until everyone has mastered every chord, just dive in and see what happens. The wonderful thing about playing the ukulele in a large ensemble is that mistakes and wrong notes go largely unnoticed, and can even add to the enjoyment. The same cannot usually be said for listening to novices on the trumpet or violin.

How much more enjoyable than the usual hellish routine of trying to get a tune out of a squeaky plastic recorder… In marked contrast, the novice who picks up a ukulele for the first time will be stunned at the ease with which they are able to start making a joyous noise. With only one finger on the fret board, newcomers can be strumming a C or an A minor chord in minutes. Put them together and you’re playing the start of doo-wop classic ‘Stand By Me’.

The seven year olds in your class will be delighted to know they can play Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off with only three chords (C, Am and G). He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands requires two chords, as does David Bowie’s Rebel Rebel. Teach your class the chords below, and voila! The entire repertoire of popular music is now at their fingertips.

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Be merciless with people playing when they shouldn’t be. Don’t be tempted to play with a guitar pick. Try to keep it pacy and fun, and know what you want to achieve by the end of a session. That’s all there is to it, your class has just learned to play the ukulele.

Uke Can Do It!

Where you go from here is up to you. At Hazlegrove, we started our ukulele group in the autumn term, and began by learning Christmas carols. Away in a Manger and Silent Night sound lovely when plucked in 3/4 time, to the accompaniment of carol singers and a roaring fire. Triangles and bells all add to the festive sound.

At a recent concert, the ukulele group played Joy to the World, and were joined for the final verse by a fanfare of brass and percussion from the school band. A handful of brave teachers joined the throng, and our Headmaster even played along for a song or two. Instant ukulele camaraderie!

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You will find that children bring in their own songs printed from the internet, or form their own ukulele bands to play in talent shows and the like. They also make for an ideal Christmas present; you can expect to be tuning new ukuleles for your children well into the New Year. Last year I had a child bring in a marvellous Union Jack uke, who proceeded to play God Save the Queen to the huge delight of the class.

I think every school should have a ukulele band. Bring some island spirit into your dark school corridors this winter, and banish the gloom with this cheery joymaker. Don’t let the Hawaiians or those little yellow minions have all the fun. Get your class strumming, and start a ukulele revolution in your classroom today!


Helpful Resources:

www.ukulelehunt.com

www.ukulele-tabs.com

www.ukeschool.com

Ukulele for Dummies by Alistair Wood

School Ukulele Orchestra by Tim Lewis

The Ukulele Handbook by Tom Hodgkinson and Gavin Pretor-Pinney

Outdoors Ed for Those in a Hurry

There are so many benefits to getting your class out of the classroom during the school day, they almost don’t bear repeating. But here are some of them:

(a) It can do wonders for your pupils’ physical and mental health and wellbeing. Children smile more easily out of doors. Maybe you will too.

(b) It helps to foster a vital connection with the natural world outside of your classroom window.

(c) There is a whole world of exciting, fascinating learning to delve into, from bushcraft to orienteering and natural history. Help your class to tell their ash from their elm.

(d) It vastly improves children’s concentration and focus in other lessons. Tackle the afternoon slide into lethargy head on with a burst of fresh air after lunch.

(e) It beats doing another spelling test.

It’s easier than you might think to add some great outdoors to your day. All of the following activities can be completed in 15 minutes or less. Perfect for when you have time to kill before afternoon assembly and you’ve finished today’s chapter of War and Peace.

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1. Bring the Outdoors indoors

Back in the dark ages before interactive whiteboards, homework portal apps and and trolleys of laptops that don’t work, any primary classroom worth its salt would have its own nature table. A nature table was at the cutting edge of immersive classroom technology in its time. On it would be displayed any interesting finds the class had brought in with them from the playground or the back garden. You could look at them, smell them, pick them up and everything.

Reinstate this glorious tradition by finding a suitable tabletop or chest of drawers, covering it with a table cloth and supplying a magnifying glass and field guide or two. Encourage your class to bring in their findings, and hey presto: your very own corner of the countryside is within easy reach. Excellent inspiration for starters in literacy, art prompts and the obvious links to science.

I once had a child bring in his collection of silkworms in a shoebox, which sparked a fascinating mid-lesson tangent about caterpillars, life-cycles and Chinese silk production. They couldn’t half get through some mulberry leaves, those silkworms.

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You never know what will come in on a Monday morning. Exhibits might include sheep skulls, owl pellets, exotic mushrooms or four-leaf clovers. In his schoolboy memoir Moab is My Washpot, Stephen Fry recalls his failed attempts to win a star for the most impressive nature table exhibit of the week:

“I had entertained high hopes that week for my badger’s skull, boiled, vigorously scrubbed clean with Colgate toothpaste […]. I tried a starfish, a thrush egg, a collection of pressed campions and harebells and a boxful of shards of that willow pattern ironstone china that the Victorians buried in the earth for the sole purpose of disappointing twentieth-century treasure seekers. None of these met with the least success.”

He eventually brings in the body of a recently deceased mole, only to be outdone that very day by a classmate who brings a live donkey to school.

I would allow just about anything from the natural world on the nature table, but I’d probably draw the line at a donkey.

2. Mini scavenger hunt

Children love to collect things. Harness their mania for acquisition by sending them off on a scavenger hunt.

IMG_4252Their quarry will depend on your surroundings and the time of year. In autumn, children might find red and yellow leaves, a pine cone and a conker. In winter, a holly leaf, red berries, two turtle doves and a partridge in a… you get the idea. Children could write lists of items for their classmates to find. Set a time limit of ten minutes, and supply a small container or paper cup to store their finds.

Variations include ABC scavenger hunts, where children find something beginning with each letter of the alphabet (pity the child who makes it to q) or photograph challenges, where children take photos of their finds instead of picking them up. This at least has the advantage of reducing the amount of greenery left on your classroom carpet after the lesson.

3. Ramble on

Lead your class on a short wander around the school, taking in nearby outdoors spaces such as sports fields, vegetable patches, ponds, forbidden forests, etc. Ask children to keep their eyes open for wildlife such as wild flowers or insects as they go. Hand out some paper back in the classroom afterwards and ask children to write down as many different sightings as they can remember. The child with the largest number of items on his or her list wins.

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This can also work in more urban settings where outdoors space might be scarce. Take a magnifying glass and look closely at a brick wall or fence. You will be astounded at the variety of mosses and lichen growing there. Just don’t stare for too long, people might start to talk.

The most important thing is to make the effort and get out there. I know it’s probably raining, and you don’t have the time. But there are so many benefits to taking children outdoors. I don’t think it’s necessary to set aside a huge chunk of your day to enjoy them.

Besides, those laptops probably won’t connect to the wifi, and the iPads haven’t been charged. The children have done enough sitting down for the day. Get their coats on, step outside and blow away the cobwebs.

Your class will thank you for it.

TB

Piglets’ Bid For Freedom

The Hazlegrove pigs are the undisputed Hollywood A-listers of the school farm. In terms of sheer glamour and charisma, our star sow and her plucky piglets never fail to deliver the goods. They are immensely popular amongst the children, who take any opportunity to go and see them. Regardless of where we might be headed, the request comes in: ‘Can we go past the pigs on the way?’ And of course, even if it means going the long way around, we usually do.

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The pigs’ popularity reached fever pitch one afternoon in March this year, when they mounted a daring escape attempt. Tiring of life in the sty, our pigs made a bid for freedom and overcame the farm’s defences in a serious breach of security. It was like a scene from The Great Escape, only with fewer German guards. Or motorcycles.

How they managed it is still a great mystery. Some say they ate their way through the fencing. Might the piglets might have sprouted wings and flown over? Some say the pigs have a friend on the inside?

In any case, they managed it.

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And so it was that the silence of a sunny spring afternoon was broken with the piercing cry of ‘Pig!’ from the nearby tennis court. An observant Year 5 had spotted a rogue piglet moving towards them at some speed.

‘PIG!’ she shouted again.

‘What did you call me?’ asked the games teacher.

‘No, not you! Look, pigs!”

And she pointed to where not one, or two, but three piglets were gleefully trotting along in single file. Our now comprehending tennis coach sprang into action, and with arms outstretched, began to herd them back. By now, word had gotten around and children were out in full force to see this once in a lifetime event.

The piglets were caked in mud and squealing happily, oblivious to the commotion they were causing. Piglet no. 2 (”piggy in the middle’) had found a snail in the grass and was trying to hoover it up. Piglet no. 3 was playing to the crowd, rolling over onto his belly and generally giving the audience what they wanted.

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The games teacher advanced, and the piglets retreated. The games teacher went this way, and the piglets went that way. For a moment it looked as if the our runaways might have the upper hand. Speed was certainly on their side.

Their new-found freedom didn’t last, however. They seemed to sense that the game was up. With a flick of their curly tails they were gone.

The celebrity pigs have remained happily in their muddy abode ever since. At the time of writing, their popularity shows no sign of waning. Only time will tell whether or not they can put their heads together and come up with another break out plan. In the meantime, we try to keep them as happy as we can.

And that, as Porky Pig would say, is all folks.

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TB