If we want our children to be happy and healthy individuals, we need to wake up and get back to the basics…
We need to set boundaries, give children a balanced lifestyle, provide nutritious food, spend at least an hour each day outdoors, teach responsibility and independence, avoid the use of technology, model values, provide opportunities for creative games, social interaction … all recommendations made by Dr Luis Rojas Marcos, Psychiatrist (1999).
As educators we’re well informed about optimum learning situations, promoting opportunities for developing appropriate milestones as children grow and change.
Underpinning our written, taught and assessed curriculum (within the International Baccalaureate, Primary Years Programme framework) is the acquisition of skills and application of the learner profile attributes. We categorise the skills, ‘approaches to learning,’ into: thinking, research, communication, social and self-management skills, supported by a myriad of sub-skills. The ‘learner profile’ attributes we promote are: balanced; caring; collaborative, communicator, inquirer, knowledgeable, open-minded, principled, risk-taker, thinker.
Children develop and enhance these skills/attributes effectively in play environments, ‘rich’ in resources. At The King’s School, Tudor House, our students benefit from these opportunities, largely due to our vast playground and diverse facilities, day in, day out!
I regularly find myself observing and engaged in activities with our students where I start a mental checklist of all the skills I see children acquiring and demonstrating. I have the enormous privilege of walking from one Kahiba (Outdoor Education Programme) activity to another on Friday afternoons.
I see happy, engaged students, communicating, thinking, self-managing and collaborating (using social skills). On a typical Friday afternoon at Mini Kahiba (Kindergarten to Year Two students) – boys are girls are building bases, collecting flowers and insects – and creating ‘homes’ for both, making swings and designing a massive marble track using PVC pipes and resources they find in Little Wildee. In a Paddock to Plate activity with Year Five, students are demonstrating similar skills, harvesting potatoes and attempting to catch yabbies.
The sounds of splashing oars and flapping ducks wings informs me that other Year Five students are honing comparable skills on Kearney Dam in canoes. Crusty damper (with varying modifications to the recipe) stuck to aluminium foil is another clue, that ‘approaches to learning’ skills have been practised by Year Six. Finding suitable branches and re-usable materials to build bases in the Year Three and Four Kahiba area, where travel to the destination is by bicycle, provides further opportunity for skill consolidation. This is just one, Friday afternoon … and time flies!
The skills observed and values demonstrated are tricky to ‘measure’ but clearly evident. Tudor House students (and staff!) are indeed benefiting as members of a community which sees the worth in providing time out of doors so they may flourish as happy and healthy individuals.
Anni Sandwell, Head of School, Tudor House