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Field Centre Fun

I have just returned from the Year 2 annual residential.  Each year we take Year 2 to Juniper Hall, a Field Study Centre near Dorking, and we have two days of outdoor joy with a large sleepover in the middle of it!  The teachers at the Field Centre are well trained and challenge our children brilliantly by posing scientific questions then providing the equipment and skill set to allow them to find out the answers practically. The sun shone for both days and the whole adventure was very exciting both for children and adults.

When I was 7 my weekends were often spent on the common or in the woods making camps or climbing trees.  I always had a time to be home by and often a group of friends but I was off radar and my parents relied on trust rather than electronic communication.  Life has changed. I often wonder how I would manage my life without my mobile phone next to me.  Nevertheless it felt good to be out in the country with dedicated and very skilled tutors and a group of children delighted to be spending their days outside, discovering, building and exploring.  Taking time to indulge in problem solving is a very satisfying experience.  Children who sometimes don’t take the lead in the classroom rose to the top at Juniper Hall, leading with suggestions and solutions.  The team building activities which we often have to invent at school, occurred naturally with children placed together with a common task that needed volunteers, courage and people willing to think laterally. They did so with maturity and wisdom and we had a chance to sit and watch rather than direct from the front as the children engaged in orienteering, scientific discovery and survival skills such as shelter building.

Prior to heading into the woods to build a shelter from scratch, the children worked in teams to order cards with headings such as WATER, FRIENDS, SHELTER, IPAD, FOOD,CAR, MATCHES, BOOKS and PETS.  The objective was to rank the cards in order of importance to survive  in the event of becoming lost in the wilderness.  I watched one group place ‘friends’ and ‘pets’ as priority one and two in their line up and smiled.  When it was time to share the ordering and explain the choice I stopped smiling as an articulate child justified friends as people ‘who would help you and work together as a team to give you a better chance of survival’.  The next child in the team spoke up in defence of pets as ‘animals who would rely on their senses to lead you to a place where food and help could be found’ and I began to feel a tad shallow and disappointingly predictable with my imagined answers!

After tea we set off into the woods for a camp fire for singing, games  and an opportunity to toast marshmallows in the embers before heading back to sleep in dormitories with several bunk beds which  was the icing on the cake for the children. We were not surprised to hear laughter and happy chatter give way to sleep before long after such a wonderful day of hearty exertion in the sunshine. Before we knew it, it was morning and we were overseeing the children making their own sandwiches ready for lunch before heading in for a many course breakfast.  The children then ran out onto the lawn and were placed in teams for an instant rounders match which was completed just as the tutors arrived ready to start the day’s timetable which included small mammal trapping, pond dipping and shelter building.

I am now sitting with a glass of wine perhaps a tiny bit tired but reflecting on the many things that I have learnt.  Never mind maps, matches and pets; if I was lost in the wilderness I think number one on my list would be to have this year’s Year 2 by my side for the best chance of survival and entertaining survival at that!

Annie Thackray