The weeks on either side of our half term break have found Pre-Prep and Junior School pupils very busily engaged in their classrooms and beyond. Activities which bring together groups from within and across Foundation schools are always much anticipated and it has been great to witness or receive first hand reports about a number of these recently.
For Pre-Prep classes the new half term has brought a new topic, ‘Picture This’, encompassing all that is art, innovation and creativity. What better way to start a topic, involving a world of imagination and celebration of elements appealing to the eye, than a super launch day? Pre-Prep pupils, with the help of parents - many thanks - from across the Foundation took part in the launch on Monday. Everyone dressed up, mixed up and got creative for a whole day! In vertically structured groups the children explored different types of art and used a variety of elements to inspire their own artistic creations.
Using simple paper plates the children added sequins, crayon, feathers, ribbon, paper strips and anything they could find in craft boxes to make their own masks. Some children chose to cut and shape their mask while others preferred embellishments. The variety was far ranging and it was great to see the children’s personalities reflected in their masks. One child said that they didn’t think their mum would recognise them any more. The children enjoyed seeing what others in their group did and even what they created on different sites in our end of day celebration.
Inspired by Mary Poppins jumping into the chalk picture on the pavement, our children took to the playground and used it as a canvas to create a larger masterpiece. They then worked on a smaller scale to show where they would like to escape to. Julius showed a beautiful rainbow while Catherine decided that a forest would be her perfect escape location. The children thought hard about the landscapes and spent time choosing colours and using different media of chalk and oil pastels.
During the day the children spent time with peers in different year groups and on occasion had to be reminded of correct names, ‘I am not Beren today I am Pablo Picasso’, ‘...call me Vincent not Lucien’ and we welcomed Beatrix Potter at the gate, what a privilege! Further opportunity to dress up came in the portrait activity. Children spent time as portrait drawer and muse. They donned extra hats and props then sat as still as possible while their partner drew the portrait. Some of the results were remarkable, we hope parents have proudly displayed these on fridges and in frames throughout Cambridgeshire now. Vincent Van Gogh was our main inspiration for this but luckily no ears were lost in school time.
Finally, the children had the opportunity to innovate their own piece of art based upon the mathematical shape puzzle, the tangram. They decorated the seven pieces and then arranged them into their own design. We saw rabbits, fairies, forests, trucks and abstract arrangements. It was great to see them support each other as they carefully cut out shapes, with the Year 2 buddies taking a strong role in helping their Kindergarten friends. All in all, a wonderful day spent launching the new topic and inspiring our pupils to learn more this term, hooked into ‘Picture This’.
Many of you will know about the most successful joint ski trip to Switzerland, the Year 4 Roman Day held at the Junior School and the Year 6 WW2 Evacuation Day held at Dame Bradbury’s. You may not have realised, however, that Mr Neil Kohler’s talk about crossing the Atlantic, the Chess Tournament and the PFA’s Valentine Cake Sale also ‘count’ as collaborative events, as these involved students whose daily paths are usually separate. And yet more events are mirrored between schools, such as the celebration of Chinese New Year and Performers’ Platform concerts for soloist musicians. It is exciting to have seen a marked increase in our pupils’ awareness of pupils, older and younger than themselves as well as of their own age, within the Foundation and they now need little encouragement to actively look out for them when opportunities arise.
Year 2 pupils joined Years 3-6 for our first ‘Inspire and Guide’ event of the term. ‘My Summer - Life at an angle’ proved fascinating as Mr Kohler gave us a wonderful account of his involvement in a Clipper Round the World Race with Team UNICEF from New York to Londonderry, followed by a shorter race to Liverpool. Although life on board was very basic, Mr Kohler enthused his audience with tales of feeling like a ‘rock star’ as they sailed past the Statue of Liberty into the ocean where whales, dolphins, stunning sunrises and sunsets, fogbows and (sadly) plastics punctuated the periods ‘on watch’. As Mr Kohler described his amazing experience and reflected on how he drew upon our SPF learning habits throughout the voyage, he showed us some amazing photographs, his crew member’s uniform, which Mrs Rogers gamely modelled, and the SPF teddy who proved to be a faithful companion. While taking part is more important than winning, it is clear that coming second on the leg to Londonderry and sixth overall, was the icing on the cake for Mr Kohler and his crewmates. He ended, to great applause, by showing us his certificate and flag of achievement, before urging his audience to ‘have a go’ at anything when you get the chance; wise advice indeed. Thank you, Mr Kohler.
Thanks also to Mr Walker for hosting the hugely successful Chess Tournament in the Senior School Activity Space, involving keen players from Year 3 to the 6th Form.
Finally, thanks to our indefatigable PFA members who hosted a wonderful Valentine Cake Sale in the Senior School Dining Room; most unusually this was actually on 14 February, less unusually the sale raised a good amount for PFA projects. We are grateful to parents who supported the event by providing cakes and filling their children’s pockets and purses with spending money.
While talks given by visiting speakers are always inspiring, so too are assemblies led by pupils. We greatly enjoyed a special assembly on 11 February to mark Chinese New Year. This opened with a song performed by members of Year 3 & 4 Mandarin Club along with 6Alpha, the first of our Year 6 forms to have had a taster series of Mandarin lessons, in preparation for language choices in Year 7. This was followed by short presentations given by six pupils, who shared with us some of the exciting ways in which they and family members had celebrated the Spring Festival.
Two days later members of 6Aleph presented their class assembly, giving the audience much to think about. ‘Making a Difference’ was the theme and what a superb cross-curricular experience this proved to be, using ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ by Norton Juster as a launch and dipping into many subject areas, including Sport, PSHEE and German!
Shortly before half term we were treated to a truly memorable Performers’ Platform concert, with pupils from Years 5 & 6 wowing their audience by playing a great variety of pieces on a fair range of instruments. Congratulations to those involved for their most accomplished performances. Some pupils have instrumental lessons out of school but many learn with our Foundation peripatetic teachers, which leads perfectly to a news item from Miss Buczak, our KS2 music teacher and coordinator.
Make some noise and have a go!
Pupils in Years 3 & 4 have started a series of instrumental taster sessions with several members of the Foundation’s fantastic peripatetic team. It has been wonderful to watch pupils who have never picked up a brass instrument achieving a strong sound, others managing to play what they described as a ‘clown’s horn’ noise using a clarinet reed, and many smiling with wonder when realising what a beautiful sound the cello can make.
After learning about and listening to each instrument being played, including the clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, trombone and cello, pupils have then been able to take the very first steps towards playing these instruments themselves. The aim of these taster sessions is to allow pupils to have a more hands-on experience, with a range of orchestral instruments, and we are hoping that some will be so enthused by this opportunity they will choose to pursue it further. Pupils have been very excited and many are already incredibly keen to have lessons on their favourite trial instrument.
Learning an instrument is well known to have an incredibly positive impact on a child’s learning across the curriculum – helping to consolidate skills in organisation, discipline, practice, coordination and literacy. Learning one of these orchestral instruments also opens up a whole world of opportunity to the pupils, including the chance to be a member of the various orchestras throughout the year groups, as well as Concert Band, Jazz Band, Arco and Pizzicato Strings.
Instrumental staff can offer 1:1 taster lessons on a range of instruments, which enables pupils and their parents to make a more informed decision before potentially starting regular lessons. The Foundation offers a very reasonable instrument hire service to support this instrumental tuition; Miss Buczak and Mr Rudd are both very happy to discuss instrumental tuition in more detail. Please contact Miss Buczak (email@example.com) for general instrumental enquiries and Mr Rudd (firstname.lastname@example.org) if your child is interested in arranging a trial lesson or starting lessons.
Anyone dropping into the Junior School early in the morning or late in the afternoon on Tuesday might have wondered if they had entered some sort of time machine as they would not have gone far before encountering Roman soldiers, WW2 evacuees and Tudor lords, ladies and paupers! Somehow, we managed to have 80% of the pupil population (and quite a few members of staff) dressed in historical costumes as Year 5 pupils went to Burghley House on the same day as the Year 4 and Year 6 collaborations. This was a happy coincidence and worthy of a time travellers’ photo!
We were tremendously impressed by everyone’s costumes and also by how well the Year 3 pupils admired these, with no sign of envy, as they went about a normal day dressed as 21st century school children! They are, of course, very much looking forward to World Book Day on Thursday 7 March, when all pupils are invited to dress up as book characters. We expect to see a few foxes in Pre-Prep and Junior School classrooms as we will be welcoming Jeb Soanes and James Mayhew, author and illustrator, of ‘Gaspard the Fox’.
Head of Pre-Prep and Junior School