ROEDEAN School has switched biology for bushcraft and French for fire-lighting skills in a bid to reconnect children with nature after successive lockdowns.
The East Sussex school is piloting a curriculum strand for all its Year 7s that will see them abandoning their studies every Friday afternoon all year whatever the weather to learn how to whittle and use a knife, navigate by nature, use an axe and bow saw, predict the weather, interpret animal tracks, acquire gardening skills and trim an animal’s hoof.
The 11 and 12-year-olds will also study life in rockpools, which plants are edible and the names of wildlife and birds inhabiting the Sussex coast.
With children’s freedom severely curtailed by the pandemic, the school hopes the initiative will allow pupils to reconnect with the world around them and also provide a time for them to socialize with each other away from screens and academia.
The move follows a report published in September by the Royal College of Psychiatrists which reveals record numbers of children and young people are seeking access to NHS mental health services post-pandemic. The College’s analysis of NHS Digital data on mental health referrals showed that between April and June this year, nearly 200,000 young people have been referred to mental health services – almost double pre-pandemic levels.
Deputy head Dr Ross Barrand explained: “Children have suffered enormously in the last 18 months, staring at screens from their bedrooms and without a lot of interaction. We wanted to incorporate into the school week a designated afternoon where they would be outside, come rain or shine, chatting to each other and learning about the natural world and developing interests in areas unrelated to their academic studies. Whether its learning to identify birds, understanding growing seasons or learning about the journey from soil to plate, we want the girls to feel closer to the natural world around them.
There are six strands to the programme, Bushcraft and Outdoor Skills; Gardening and Horticulture; Creative Building; Outdoor Adventure; Farming and Environment; and Wildlife and Ecology. The school hopes to roll out the programme through successive year groups as it becomes more established.
Dr Barrand added: “How many people these days can name a plant they see on a walk or identify a bird singing in the trees above them? During lockdowns, when activities were often reduced to simply taking a walk, people realized the true importance of nature, particularly to their good mental health. This is about continuing that reconnection and encouraging a live-long love of the great outdoors.”Categories: Roedean School School News