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Peace at Christmas

Published on 02/12/19

Peace is a word we hear frequently at Christmas. We spend time with our loved ones and reflect upon our lives and what matters most. There is a definite irony that this time of year can also feel overwhelmingly busy for both child and parent alike with myriad school functions, various social commitments, the shopping and all the preparation that goes into creating a magical time for the family. Christmas can be stressful.

As educators we are aware of the adverse effects of stress in young learners. It is a great inhibitor that can lead to anxiety, low confidence and poor health. Young children can become stressed over things that may seem trivial to adults but have resonance in their world: their reading book, a spelling test, a difficult friendship or even just a small change in routine. We live in an age where there are more pressures than ever on children and families in general.

Happily, we also live in an age where we now know, more than ever before, just what to do about this.

We now know a lot more, for example, about the psychological benefits of time spent in nature, exploring the outdoors. Forest School offers an opportunity for calmness, quietness and peacefulness; it provides children opportunities they may not have at any other time in their busy lives to explore the natural world. It promotes physical fitness, empathy and friendships. Research shows that children sleep better after time spent outside in the fresh air.

Within our enormous, hundred acre wooded site we have several unique trees, from giant sequoias to the prehistoric Wollemi Pine. We in the Pre-Prep and Nursery School have our very own Wild Wood in the farthest corner of the estate. The children have learned about and visited many of these trees at various times.  Recently Year 2 enjoyed a special Forest School session run by Noelle from the former Claremont tree society. It was lovely for the children to hear a story around the campfire all about trees and how sometimes the trees that matter most are the smallest ones that many people don’t notice. Certainly, without the trees around Claremont Fan Court many of the amazing Forest School Christmas decorations that the children have worked on producing would not have been possible.

It is difficult as a school to teach peace but I think we can certainly help the children to learn about it through these experiences. Our Forest School staff are well-trained, passionate advocates of outdoor education. A little over a year ago, Sir David Attenborough replied to a collection of letters our children sent him which detailed the learning they were doing in Forest School. He replied: ‘I am truly admiring of the work you are doing in acquainting your children with what is going on in the world that they will soon inherit.’  I am proud of Mrs Watson and her team. The learning they engender does not always present itself in immediate, measurable ‘outcomes’, but it is learning nonetheless.

In order to care for our planet we have started learning about the importance of giving a little back and have been planting some new trees. Nursery have planted two Hawthorn near the pond with two Elder and Hazel saplings still to be planted by Year 1 and 2 this week. If properly cared for and given warmth, nourishment and space, these trees will grow and mature over many years to come. In a distant Forest school session many years from now, these trees may be climbed and enjoyed by future generations of Claremont children: outside and active, engaged with nature, enjoying a moment of peace in a demanding world.

Have a safe and restful Christmas, from all of us here at Claremont Fan Court School.

Mr Michael Williams
Head of Pre-Prep and Nursery School