The Power Of Nature

The Power Of Nature
Highfield & Brookham Newsletter

Nursery Busy Nurturing Their Natural Talents

In Nursery, we are well aware of the huge benefit of spending time outdoors, in terms of both the children’s learning and their well-being. As ever, the happy children had plenty of opportunity to enjoy the natural environment, as they eagerly continued tending their vegetable plot in the garden, animatedly re-enacted the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff using giant building blocks to build the rickety bridge, and honed their ever-improving athletics skills in willing preparation for Sports Day. The children also spent two glorious afternoons at Forest School where, among other things, they hunted for minibeasts, looked keenly to see which different species of birds they could spot, and garnered their outside cooking skills over an open fire. And, let's face it, who wouldn’t enjoy the experience of eating baked bananas with friends around a campfire in the woods, surrounded by the sound of birds singing?

Sam Forster, Head of Nursery

Reception Thrive In The Great Outdoors

In Reception, we try our level best to spend most of our days outside and with some form of contact with nature, and this week we have put that connection at the forefront of our thinking. By spending time in nature, children develop a deep sense or respect and admiration for the environment. As famous Greek philosopher Aristotle once stated 'there is something to be wondered at in all of nature'. And it's fair to say that the Reception children are deeply connected to their natural environment. From the open-ended natural resources within the learning spaces to snack time, maths and literacy outside, walks, Forest School and gardening, there is a plethora of learning to be done in the great outdoors. Not only is there so much to learn and cherish outside, but a calm and joy settles in; worries and concerns drift away and are replaced by smiles, giggles, and simply a sense of being. We are so lucky at Highfield and Brookham to have such beautiful grounds in which we can roam and explore endlessly, and that is exactly what Reception enjoyed all week. And the inquisitive children noticed things in nature using all five senses as they counted, discussed occurrences and, of course, tumbled playfully down the big hill!

Lucy Deary, Reception Teacher

Thoughtful Year 1 Get Close To Nature

The thing I like best about being outside is the feeling of fresh air on my skin and the feeling afterwards.

So said pupil Orlando, and he wasn't alone. With the 'power of nature' as the theme for our Mental Health Awareness Week, Year 1 embarked on wonderful walks around the blossoming school grounds, where the children were able to discuss and realise the significance of the great outdoors on our mental health. It was a perfect opportunity for calm time outside; the children lay on their backs and looked up at the sky using their senses to take in the fast-moving clouds, branches swaying in the wind, and sounds of the different birds busy tweeting in the trees. Noticing these subtle nuances, for instance the different shades of green that made up the colour of the trees from the top of the hill, is an essential way of developing their resilient learning muscle. Furthermore, they were encouraged to observe and comment on patterns and details, such as how many different types of wildflowers they could pick out. Along the walk, the children looked up, eager to be the first to spot a bird’s nest, or they kept their eyes peeled for different catkins which had fallen to the ground. Back in the classroom, the thoughtful children reflected on their walk and how it made them feel by choosing three words. The decision was unanimous: relaxed, refreshed and calm.

Henrietta Platt, Year 1 Teacher

Year 2 Leap Into Action As Sports Day Looms

If we provide enough space and possibilities for moving freely, children will move as well as animals: skilfully, securely and naturally.

They were the words of Dr Emmi Pikler, a Hungarian paediatrician who introduced new theories of infant education, and put them into practice at an orphanage she ran. Well, I often regard myself as having the best classroom at Highfield and Brookham – the outdoors! The children are so lucky to be able to enhance their physical literacy through the wonderful grounds that our playing fields are nestled upon. Sensory feedback is heightened through the sounds of nature and the children’s balance, strength and agility is often challenged by moving within woodland, on grass and through sand, among a variety of surfaces. For children to understand the importance of resilience and to persevere they must experience success and learn to recognise areas for development, they must be challenged and they must rise to the challenge. Year 2 certainly rose to the challenge as they leapt spectacularly into action to complete a round of long-jump heats ahead of the much-anticipated return of sports day. The children have been working on improving their ‘hang time’ in this highly-technical discipline by watching each other and imitating, offering peer feedback and learning to ‘feel’ the jump through kinaesthetic feedback. They have also been channelling their resilience, becoming absorbed in their practices, and managing their distractions to maintain focus while waiting on the starting line. It was a lesson filled with intense concentration, huge satisfaction and a few falls. But, most importantly, all the children got back up, dusted themselves down and carried on.

Jess Oecken, Head of Brookham Sport

Year 3 Fired Up For Forest School Project

In spite of a somewhat mixed week of weather, Year 3 have been embracing the great outdoors and looking to promote their mental health by spending quality time at one with nature. In Forest School, the eager children worked collaboratively in teams to build different types of fires. Looking around the wonderful wooded site that we are lucky enough to have at our disposal, you will now see fine examples of a tepee fire, a cross-ditch fire, a log cabin fire and a lean-to fire. The children really engaged with exploring the site to find tinder, kindling and wood for their fires. And all of the hard work meant that the children had definitely earned a warming cup of hot chocolate as they sat back and reflected on their fine forest fire efforts. Meanwhile, as part of their work in science, the green-fingered children made newspaper pots and planted a range of different seeds which they can watch grow in the coming weeks. As the newly-made newspaper pots were busily being filled with compost, it was clear that not only would the children develop their scientific knowledge but also experience the joy that comes from planting new life and watching it grow. The children really enjoyed talking as a year group about how an outdoor activity such as gardening can help our mental health and well-being, providing moments of calm reflection and relaxation.

Ellie Graham, Year 3 Teacher

Smetana's Vltava Awakens Stirrings Of Nature In Year 4

Smetana's symphonic poem, Vltava, is one of six pieces that form 'Ma vlast' (my fatherland). The pieces evoke the landscape, people and legends of Bohemia. Year 4 listened attentively to the work without knowing the title and were asked: Where does the music take you? What is the story? What title might you give it? And it was fascinating to hear how many were drawn outside to woodland, to the sea, or beside a river. Vltava is indeed a river in the Czech Republic and the flowing notes of the cellos and violas at the opening depict its constant flow. Composers were often inspired by nature in their works and, although there may not be a literal motif, like the sound of a cuckoo, the feeling of the natural world can be tangibly recreated in sound.

Mary Hall, Deputy Head of Music

Year 5 Learn The Key Lesson Of Self-Love

Resourceful Year 5 children have learned the valuable lessons of self-love and self-esteem during Yoga, a fascinating element of the Keys programme which puts the emphasis on well-being and mindfulness. The pupils took to the sports hall to work on Niyamas, getting in tune with healthy living, spiritual enlightenment, and a liberated state of existence. Closing their eyes and reducing the senses, the children looked inwards as they meditated, making a positive effort to slow their breathing and reduce the stress on their nervous systems. Balance was another key technique that empowered the young yoga pupils and helped channel their energies and raise self-esteem. And having initially worked alone, the group worked together on an observational meditation task which involved a landscape drawing. Noting a perspective from the drawing, the children used their own interpretations to form part of a group pose which highlighted both difference and unity. 

Samantha Swanborough, Year 5 Yoga Teacher

Year 6 Boarders Boxing Clever For Chariots Challenge

There is a palpable energy in the Junior Boarding House. Having welcomed several Steps-to-Boarding children, and the arrival of the Summer Term, the chatter, laughter and activity is louder than ever, and nowhere has this been more keenly felt than with our wonderful Year 6 cohort. With no access to mobile technology, the children enjoy and value time outdoors in the evening. And after tea, junior boarders can often be found in the cricket nets, riding their bikes, excitedly battling each other in Nerf Gun wars around the vast school grounds, playing hide and seek in the woods, or roasting marshmallows around a fire pit. Yet despite the overwhelming desire to be outside every evening, the excitement this week has centred around creating an array of fancy 'chariots' for the upcoming Chariots of Highfire boarding event, where the competitive children race their cracking cardboard box creations down our infamous slip and slide course to the cheers and whoops of their fellow boarders. Is it strong enough for a child or two to sit in? Will it stay in shape? Will it stand out in terms of decoration and style? There are certainly a lot of factors for the racing teams to consider, that's for sure. With all this time to socialise after school, taking responsibility for their possessions and learning to organise themselves for the day ahead encourages confidence which, in turn, can benefit mental health, happiness, and ultimate life outcomes. The boarders learn to become one big family at Highfield and they develop deep connections that are likely to last a lifetime.

Kerri Wilkes, Junior House Parent

Waterloo Win Year 7 Swimming Gala Battle

With the annual House Swimming Gala nearing its exciting conclusion, it was the turn of Year 7 to make a splash on Monday. Although the gala has had to be staggered because of Covid rules, it hasn't stopped the noise of happy and competitive swimmers. Six children swam an individual medley to get the latest leg of the Gala under way, with Waterloo taking the lead, and all the individual races were swum with speed and style while their team mates cheered the swimmers on. The final race, the cannon, saw every child take to the pool, swimming two lengths of front crawl, with many of them displaying excellent tumble turns. And Waterloo weren't to be denied as they held onto their lead throughout to clinch first place on the day. Trafalgar claimed second place with Agincourt not far behind in third. It was a fantastic session of swimming by all of the young competitors, and now all eyes turn to the Year 8s who will wrap up the House Gala on Monday when the overall champions will be crowned. Waterloo won the latest battle, will they win the war?

Sharon Simpson, Head Swimming Coach

Ethical War Issues Pondered By Deep Thinkers Of Year 8

Year 8 are busy looking at war ethics in Theology, Philosophy and Religion (TPR) at the moment and discussing deep questions such as - is war ever justified? Is world peace ever going to be possible? What is pacifism and does it achieve anything? With that in mind, 8set3 were looking at the Muslim ideal of jihad, which means struggle. The aim was for them to understand the true meaning of the word rather than the distorted version often portrayed by the media. We discussed the inner struggle people face (greater jihad) and then looked at the Muslim criteria for a holy war and compared it to the Christian-based just war theory. To underscore their knowledge, the children enjoyed using a game-based Kahoot learning platform to refresh their memories of Islam and then engaged in some fantastic discussion. It seemed especially pertinent to be discussing this given the terrible situation in Israel/Palestine, so we also dedicated some time to talking through what is happening in that troubled region too.

Zoe Thesiger-Pratt, Head of TPR

You may also be interested in...