Tag Archives: school

1 July: Into the forest

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I don’t think the ancient Israelites were altogether fond of the forest. One of the most vivid forest stories tells how Absalom, King David’s rebel son, was caught by the hair as he rode under an oak tree while his mule galloped on without him. Absalom was a sitting duck for Joab and his men, who killed him, bringing David to tears. (2 Samuel 18, 19). Earlier, in Joshua 17, we read how the tribe of Joseph cleared away the forest to have room to settle and farm, a process that continues around the world to this day.

But, even setting aside the effect on the climate, something is lost as we clear the forest and then build suburbs over the resulting fields. Closeness to creation and the creator. Abel, at 3¾ years has found it at Forest School: he spends a day a week in the woods with his nursery school, getting muddy and enjoying himself among the trees. We would wait forever for him to tell us what he gets up to, but my teachers’ magazine ‘Educate’ tells how children are equal partners in learning and can take over the leadership of such sessions, under the guidance of their teachers.

One teacher, Jen Hawkes, says, ‘It’s about shared experiences and making friendships. They build a bond in the forest that helps them in the classroom. We’ve had lots of children making friendships who have previously struggled with that – which is so important, especially for mental health.’ So what the children do is by no means all that they learn out of doors. They learn to trust each other.

Perhaps the priests who ran my school were prophetic in sending us boys into the woods on half-holidays. There would be one or two at least in July; the priest-teachers were probably as sick of lessons as we were, and whatever we may have fancied they were up to in our absence, they no doubt had meetings to discuss our progress and all the routine matters that arise in any school. But we were free for the day. Note the seven pound jam tins, blackened from being used to cook a shared meal on the open fire to the left.  Glamping this was not!

Fifty-odd years after this photograph captured the moment, I am in touch with three of the lads shown, as well as others not here present. That says something for the bonds built in the forest and other parts of our shared life. Perhaps the fathers were prophetic!

MMB

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hop little froglets, hop, hop, hop!

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A message just came from the Butterflies class, who have been observing and caring for some of the frogspawn in this picture.

There are five froglets and a few tadpoles with legs! Great excitement in the classroom, but the children know the froglets and their brothers and sisters will soon be coming back to their native pond. For certain sure, more of them have survived than if they had been in the pond at the mercy of Mr Blackbird.

Thank you Butterflies class and your marvellous teacher!

A Frog for the Butterflies

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Miss Turnstone teaches the butterflies, a reception class of 4-5 year-olds. and every year takes some spawn to school so they can watch the tadpoles develop. The frog spawn comes from her mother’s pond.

Hoping to get a photograph for them, I found myself beset with reflections wherever I squatted myself down. Having rejected my snaps altogether, I tried for just one more. This frog chose that moment to swim across the mass of eggs in the bottom of the pond, and gave us an action shot. Not great, but good enough.

The clear water in the pond suggests that it is more than good enough; there’s plenty of weed to start the tadpoles off in life, but we do need to keep a weather eye out for frost. Once the eggs are afloat we could lose a lot to freezing conditions. We’ll live in hope and be ready to help.

A winter’s sky.

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One morning a couple of years ago a group of people awaited the arrival of the substitute librarian at Wood Avenue branch library in Folkestone.

I looked up and saw this skyscape. The black line at the top is the top of the library wall. Standing in the shadow allowed me to capture the two faint spectra in the grey sky created by the cold and the neighbouring English Channel. Re-organising files allowed me to share the picture!

The Folkestone libraries were very welcoming to my students and me; lets hope that can continue for my colleagues despite the financial constraints.

Butterflies in Winter.

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The village school’s reception class is called the Butterflies, and they brought a hint of Spring to a winter’s day at the L’Arche garden. The four and five year olds came to learn and exercise a few gardening skills, to meet some of the community and enjoy the winter sunshine.

Of course, the sun shines as brightly in the village as in the city. And it’s generally quieter there, unless a tractor or chain saw is on the go. The inner ring road runs roaring past the garden so it’s never really quiet. But we, sometimes grudgingly, ignore it and so did the children, though one boy noticed the trains accelerating from the station, something he would not hear at school.

Everyone noticed the sirens as the two fire engines raced past. Drama that does not happen in the village! I looked up from my planting to see three of the girls, arms linked, dancing in a circle, chanting nee-naw, nee-naw, taking pleasure from the sounds, taking pleasure from being alive on a sunny winter’s day in the youth of the world.

And my mind’s ear remembered the blackbird who lifted a telephone warble into his song, and the thrushes and starlings who also make music of our human racket, even getting me halfway down the garden path to answer a starling’s phone call, and I thought, why not? Why not dance when the world is young, and your friends are around you, and you have a day off from routine, and so much to be grateful for? Words are not always enough.

Picture from FMSL

A Summer Walk in the Downs

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It’s a while since you were invited to join us for a walk. This one started at the Timber Batts pub in Bodsham and took us by field paths and along country roads, back to our starting point. Boots on!

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Almost at once we are into ripening grain crops with wild flowers blooming along the field margins where the path runs.

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Along this lane we met no traffic except a stoat.

 

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The farm buildings at the top of the hill included this old shed, which looks like a WWII prefabricated building.

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Kent chalkland is not the most dramatic scenery, but the contours lie easy on the eye. Civilisation means that electricity cables are never far away though. But they make life possible for the farmers and other locals.

 

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A few sprigs of wild marjoram (oregano) will help flavour an omelette.

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Scabious on one side of the lane, poppies on the other, wild clematis, ‘traveller’s joy’ in the hedge. Happy memories of using this for our daughter’s wedding last summer.

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Along another lane, we passed this old house, the oaken frame raised off the damp ground on a stone plinth.

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Then into the shade of a belt of trees, which still smells of wild garlic underfoot.

 

 

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The path now is partly loose flint, but naked chalk in places; both surfaces require careful walking, the chalk can be very slippery when wet. This dry summer is another matter.

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Back in the lanes, where honeysuckle and willow herb brighten the verges. But this is working countryside.

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And Saint James’s church at Elmstead is a working church, though 900 years and more old, with a ring of six bells in this unique tower. The church was open.

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And this lady was waiting to greet visitors.

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From the church we went back to the Timber Batts, and after a welcome Disco Cider (made from Kentish Disco-very apples) we attended the Bodsham School Fete; a good day out altogether!

 

 

On the move.

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I was waiting at the seaside bus stop when a handsome young lad arrived, a smile on his face. He was dancing on the spot, though his headphones were off his ears and indeed switched off. He looked crazily happy, but not crazy!
One of his mates got on a couple of stops later, and so we heard just why the firstcomer was so happy. He’d just got accepted at university. ‘I can’t wait to get out of here, man, and get to university. This place is dead, there’s nothing to do.’
I got off at our local university, to walk home in the Spring sunshine across the green of the campus. Two students alighted in front of me; quite a few prefer to live in the peaceful resort rather than the city.
No doubt there will be young people coming to Canterbury from the town where my fellow-traveller is going, glad to get away from somewhere that has grown too small for them. Many come from London, glad to get off  their patch and out from under their parents’ eye.
I trust and pray the fire that made the seasider dance will burn within him all the days of his life.