Example poetry

Exploring nature on National Poetry Day 2022

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October 6 marked National Poetry Day 2022 whose theme this year was the Environment; and, against the backdrop of the hottest summer on record and soaring energy prices, the importance of reconnecting with nature seems more important than ever.

To celebrate National Poetry Day, Anne Musgrove, Head of Preparation at Sutton High School shares his thoughts on how Sutton High School has created beautiful new learning spaces inspired by the bestselling book by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris The lost words.

“Remember that your words can plant gardens or burn entire forests.” — Poet Gemma Troy

In the fall of 2018, a colleague gave me a wonderful gift: a book that later became my all-time favorite. Full of stunning watercolours, with gold leaf making them shine and capturing the significance of the subject, nature – animal, bird, flower or tree. Each subject is accompanied by a poem, a thought or a spell that captivates the reader. Reading, autumnal conkers were cascading to the ground outside, and upon returning home I felt inspired to re-open my own watercolor set after many years and start painting again: the power of nature. And more importantly, this magical book inspired and engaged our students to paint and write too.

“Once upon a time there were words that began to disappear from the language of children. The words were the ones children used to name the natural world around them: acorn, viper, bluebell, bramble, conker – gone. Fern, heather, kingfisher, otter, crow, willow, wren…all gone! The words were lost: more alive in the children’s voices, more alive in their stories. — illustrator Jackie Morris and author Robert Macfarlane of The Lost Words

Illustrator Jackie Morris and author Robert Macfarlane created The Lost Words in response to the Oxford Primary Dictionary removing words such as acorn, conker and bluebellwhile adding new words such as Voice Messaging and broadband.

The removal of these seemingly humble words caused a stir and led 28 authors and illustrators to write an open letter asking for the words to be reinstated. How can our children deal with nature if they don’t know what it is? They won’t feel passionate about saving the local bluebell wood if they can’t describe the calm and beauty that comes with traversing one on a cool May morning. Children need to get to know nature in nature; as the pedagogue Margaret McMillan said, “The best classroom and the richest cupboard have no roof but the sky.”

“The best classroom and the richest cupboard have no roof but the sky.” — educator Margaret McMillan

The Lost Words selects 20 animals that kids might see in their local woods (by the way, I recently finally spotted my much-wanted kingfisher after 50 years of searching!). Each animal – bird or plant or tree – has three sections. The first is made up of shuffled letters – the disappearing animal – the next is a spell to bring the subject back in gold foil. The final section is that animal in context: for example, the precious kingfisher with its young above a stream.

The wonder of words and nature inspires an outdoor learning project

After looking into The Lost Word, I knew I wanted to use it in school and in a meaningful project. In the fall of 2020, we were attending architect meetings on our new prep building, Fernwood House. We decided that this building should be an early childhood center reflecting the fact that these children are building the foundations of life. We wanted an environment rich in experiences to develop their vocabulary. We also wanted an outdoor classroom, which we call The LookOut, for use by all of our prep students. Quite simply, we wanted our students to learn about nature in nature: research clearly shows that this translates into pastoral and academic benefits.

“After looking into this book {The Lost Words}, I knew I wanted to use it in school and in a meaningful project.” – Anne Musgrove, Head of Preparation at Sutton High School

During these first meetings with the architects and landscapers, when we described the vision of the project, this book was at the center of our discussions. This learning environment was more than just a space to provide more classrooms for a growing school, it was a space to inspire and create a sense of change, to be beautiful, and to be a joy to learn.

Fernwood House became a reality, and on National Poetry Day this year, as the girls read the Lost Word poems in their mini amphitheater, they were surrounded by beauty. The wooden sculptures of animals and birds, which have become the classroom alignment poles, curve around the play area, drawing you into a space surrounded by carefully crafted flora and fauna. chosen. Ivy, beech, mountain ash, holly, honeysuckle, etc. grow in hedges and surround play areas. One morning, I spotted a real fox hurrying under the door as soon as I arrived; he appeared to do a double take at his sculpted twin gazing proudly at the playing field.

“Fernwood House has become a reality, and on National Poetry Day this year, as the girls read Lost Word poems in their mini amphitheater, they are surrounded by beauty.”

Other Outdoor Learning Projects and Initiatives at GDST

At GDST, we place great emphasis on making time for our students to be outdoors participating in outdoor learning activities, to encourage and nurture in them an interest and love of nature. Discover other outdoor learning activities at GDST schools.

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