Bedales celebrates Biology Week

By Clover Skerry and Maisy Redmayne, 6.2

Last Friday, Block 3 students participated in the ‘Bio Art Attack’ competition run by the Royal Society of Biology as part of Biology Week which sees events take place all over the world to celebrate biological science.

As part of the activity we went for a walk around site to collect autumn leaves and late flowers. We went back to the lab and used what we collected to create a palisade cell art piece. After this, we used the spare leaves to make landscape and nature scenes, which we also sent off to be judged for Art Attack.

Other Block 3s have been working on models and posters of  plant and animal cells for the competition.

Last week a budding group of sixth form biologists undertook dissections, as a celebration of Biology Week. Everyone seemed to think that chopping up rats and cuttlefish was a fun activity for a Thursday evening. Our specimens were swiftly dismembered and examined giving an invaluable insight into some basic anatomy. I hope that we are able to hold future dissections which will be met with equal enthusiasm.

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First impressions of the Putney School

By Freya Hannan-Mills, Block 4

The Putney School is extraordinary. At every moment someone or something is happening which is completely unique to both the school and its environment.

At Putney, the academic subjects are not taught in isolation, instead they are a brew of different curriculum areas all blending together into one class. For example, I am taking the ‘Humans in the Natural World’ class and we are studying the Colombian exchange and how stories are created. The class is an intriguing mix of geography, history and English and uses the students’ knowledge and skills in all those areas.

Apart from the classes we are also taking on activities and jobs. The activities vary from tai chi to digital photography, ultimate Frisbee, hiking and many more. You get the sense that nothing at Putney is done half-heartedly and this certainly goes for the jobs. So far, everyone’s jobs have been in the barn – some at 5am in the morning, and others at 4.40pm.

The barn is an experience! My personal practical knowledge about shovelling cow manure is very limited to say the least, but in an odd way the students here have an infectious enthusiasm towards doing it. Their commitment and energy makes it enjoyable and the milk and cheese they make is amazing.

The campus is picture postcard gorgeous,though I seem to be continually getting lost – mainly as I have no sense of direction. However, wherever I end up it’s always crazy beautiful.

Unlike Bedales, here the dorms are split into a number of smaller buildings. I’m staying in a picturesque building which almost feels Hobbit like, partly because the view outside is of wild Nature but also because it has a huge tree growing right thought the centre of it.

Jake is staying in one of the cabins in the woods – being there makes you want to give up on the 21st century and just move in.

Apart from the classes and the setting, what really embodies Putney, is the people. Everyone here is so bubbly, welcoming and always there to lend a hand and help us when we get desperately lost!

Have you been on the Murder Hunt in the English Department?

By Lucy McIlwraith, English teacher

Last week and this, English teachers have been training blocks’ students to be detectives. We’ve all been trying out an activity called ‘Murder Hunt’ in which a whole class have to use given clues and their own organisation and discussion skills to work out Whodunnit.

Students need to work together to work out: Who was murdered, by whom, when, where, with what and why. Once they think they’ve got all the answers they can ask the teacher, who is allowed to say how many answers are correct but not which ones. The teacher gives a time limit but does not participate in the discussion or control of the room (no matter how much they want to!)

Results have been extremely interesting: Left to their own devices, classes often elect a leader and scribe, some initially talk over each other until they realise how important listening is to this task. Everyone took the task very seriously and worked well towards getting the answers.

Bedalians are a kind bunch of people and this task shows them in their element: allowing others to speak, listening, offering alternative views without conflict and working together. I’m not sure we saw any Poirots, Morses or Veras, but we did see the developing discussion skills of people who solve problems together.

Bedales International Day: 4 October 2018

By Tristan Wilson, Head of Modern Languages

Thursday 4 October will see several departments combine forces for the first Bedales International Day.

This is an opportunity for us to celebrate not only the diversity of nationalities of students at the school, but also to embrace the creativity, knowledge of language, and the customs and opportunities to learn that come along with that.

The day will kick off with an international dress competition in morning break. During lunch break, there will be stalls set out in the Quad, with some traditional activities go on and traditional food for sale in addition to the canteen’s international menu.

In the afternoon, the Bedales International Film Festival will take place, with student submissions having a chance of winning a ‘Boscar’. Finally, the day will finish in the evening with a non-English open mic event in the Lupton Hall.

This will be a great event for students from overseas, but also for those who have an interest in languages and engaging positively with people from other countries and cultures. International Day ties in with the Study Abroad Roadshow, which will be happening in the library from Period 6.

Charlemagne famously said, “To have another language is to possess a second soul”. Bedales International Day is a chance for students to show us their second soul.

Award-winning poet, playwright and novelist visits Bedales

Simon Armitage - Bedales hi-res

Simon Armitage (centre) pictured, from left to right, with Teacher of English Jen Moore and Bedales students Connie Gillies, McCauley Fischer and Michael McGuirk

By Alex Lunn, 6.1

This man had come a long way. Simon Armitage had ventured down from the depths of Huddersfield. I suspect those that came along will not remember Simon for his gruelling trip to the unknown ‘South’, but for an incredible hands-on experience with a BAFTA-winning, internationally acclaimed and captivating modern poet.

For those who visited Simon and his workshop, I’m sure they will have lots to say. Simon quickly gave the impression that we weren’t to be ‘messing around’.

After an exercise in which we had to write for a couple of minutes, non-stop and the fastest we’d ever written, we were told to pause and read our examples. They were certainly not the finished product! However this taught me a valuable lesson. Poetry and writing is raw, alive and, to quote Mr Armitage, “thought vomit”. There is time for editing (punctuation even!) later. Writing is best in its purest form.

The class also had to complete a poem. As we drifted down the lines, Simon would interject and say “make it about a surprising object in the left hand corner”. At the time, unanimously you could hear the class groan, and you could sense this was the reaction Simon wanted. Constraints help to illuminate a path of simple creativity. Writing about the seemingly dull, might just end up being the most inspirational. You just have to read Simon’s poem Poundland.

After the workshop, an ecstatic audience witnessed Simon give a charismatic and deeply inspirational reading. The theatre was alive with the sounds of words with weight and gravitas, albeit in a slightly foreign language – Northern!

Jokes aside, I’m sure the school and all that met Simon Armitage will remember the evening, just like I will remember his words.

Google Expeditions: from classroom to…

Google expeditions
By Paul Turner, Head of Geography

Virtual reality is purported to be the next “big thing” in education. Recently, Bedales was extremely lucky to be one of a handful of schools to have the Google Expedition Pioneer Programme visit for a whole day of Google Cardboard VR fun.

Across 18 sessions, 351 students from both Bedales and Dunhurst explored the world, the body and space. The day was an opportunity for staff and students to reflect on their normal classroom practice and question their potential use of VR.

The younger Dunhurst students were especially wowed by the experience. See a short video of the experience here:

…and a timelapse of how it might be integrated into future lessons here:

What can we get out of doing exams?

“What can we get out of doing exams?” I asked the students at assembly on Monday.

This term is the most beautiful of the year at Bedales, yet it is a serious term, too, during which every student will sit exams of one sort or another by the end of term. We started addressing this question by looking at different motivations for doing something: extrinsic goals and intrinsic goals. Exams are generally thought to be good ONLY for extrinsic reasons: they are the ticket by which you access lots of other things you want, such as places at competitive universities, or jobs in industries where particular skills and qualifications are valued. There is a problem, though, in only going after extrinsic goals. Aristotle pointed this out in the Nicomachean Ethics, where he noted that if we only ever do something in order to achieve another goal, then we have no real reason for doing anything. To make this clearer, I used the example: if learning is for exams, and exams are to get you to university, and university is to get you to professional training, and the professional training is to get you to a job, what happens if, after all that, you don’t like the job you were aiming for? If we can find something intrinsically good about doing exams, all the better.

I was arguing that exams are good because they allow students to become the authors of their own learning. We talked about different philosophical/psychological theories of knowledge acquisition, including Locke (which we rejected), Piaget and Vygotsky. It was Vygotsky’s vision we settled on – that when students receive the right support (scaffolding) with their learning from peers and adults, they can progress much better, such that they develop the structures of mind to begin to learn independently. It is this that the revision period gives to students: the opportunity to make learning their own, to move from needing the structures, to taking the content on as theirs. This is part of the conceptual furniture of their mind, not simply some knowledge fed in by a teacher and received passively by the student.

I was arguing that the term ‘revision’ is misleading, because it suggests you are looking at something again; in fact, I think revision allows students to see the material for the first time through their own eyes, as opposed to through the eyes of their teacher. A student of mine in 6.1 proudly said to me the other day that she “owned Plato” now she had revised that material. Intentionally or not, she hit on something by saying this: in her process of independently working through the content, it has ceased to be my content, presented to her – her learning has become authentically her own. And this is something, I think, that we can say is intrinsically worthwhile, and in line with the school’s aim that we “cherish independent thought”.

By Clare Jarmy, Head of Academic Enrichment and Oxbridge, and Head of Philosophy, Religion and Ethics

Read an article in the TES by Clare Jarmy on the subject of revision (with a slightly different argument)

Watch a video about Vygotsky: