Mind-stretching opportunity

Friday lunchtime and it’s time to plant a lime tree: joining my four tutees (head boys and girls), we are the last of the tutor groups to do this; planting the penultimate tree of the stately line of limes that will increasingly mark the entrance to the school. Much talk about trees as we wait by our spades: how many we have, plant and how to look after them. Well, that was my project for the day – OK, a bit of a cheat, really –  in the great tradition of quasi-ceremonial tree-planting, the hole had been beautifully dug (out of dense clay) by a crafty (mechanical) digger before we did the nurturing bit with compost, tree-food, stamping and bark.

But it’s in the evening when the projects really get going as, in the SLT, we have the first of the 6.1 Extended Project presentations. The EP gives any 6.1 who chooses to do it a mind-stretching opportunity to pursue anything they want: they are assessed (for their resulting AS grade) entirely on the process – it’s all about planning, research and independent study – the best kind of learning through doing. And it is a shimmering display of enquiry and endeavour as we heard the seven presentations – each for 10 minutes with 5 minutes’ questions. Elize L on Tellling a Story through Dance. Emily H on A Brief History of the English Language. Maddy G on The Morality of Punishment.  Kristaan F on The Physical and Mental Effects of Aeronautical Activity. Archie H on How Steam Changed the World and why is is important to preserve it. Felix C on Eames Chair Build. And Sam W on Computer Security. Wonderful to see the confidence and ingenuity of the presentations – some with touches of the most expressive of TV presenters; one with more than a hint of the great Steve Jobs. But above all, it was the reflective comments that showed how much learning had gone on: “I hadn’t realised how much work there would be creating such a complex artefact.” “I wanted to get better at planning and I feel I did.” “If I could do my EP again I would do it again as a magazine [rather than as a website].”  And the sheer enthusiasm: “it was much more fun to do this than doing my [other AS] work.”  “I was really enthralled.”  Well, so were we.

By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools

Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music school. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.