The Harmony Project – evolving and growing the Dunannie curriculum

By Fiona Read, Head of Bedales Nursery & Pre-prep, Dunannie

The world is slowly reopening. As I write, those of us in England are anticipating being allowed to mix indoors once more, to enjoy again the human contact we used to take for granted, and to travel – albeit in a limited way for now.

It is exciting and welcome, and also a time to think carefully about how we want, and need, the world to be in the future. Central to this is our relationship to the natural world, with the COVID pandemic having underlined that we simply do as we please at our peril.

So, why should any of this be a concern for a pre-prep school head as she thinks about her school’s curriculum? One answer is that children are inheriting from us adults a world in which the pressures we place upon it mean it is more likely to bite us back. Consequently, exploring our relationship with nature and understanding the consequences of the choices we make are important. For example, COVID is widely understood to have originated at the uneasy interface of human and wild animal populations, and to have spread quickly through burgeoning urban populations, and our ever-growing appetite for migration – these are both the products of our age, and associated with a range of other ecological and human problems. If we are to avoid repeats of the pandemic, as well as other unwanted impacts, we need to rethink how we do things. Today’s children will be the next generation of problem solvers and will need to find creative solutions to the global challenges they will face in the future.

At least in part, that is why Dunannie has incorporated the Harmony Project into its framework for learning. Inspired by the vision of HRH The Prince of Wales and designed to help schools develop a curriculum inspired by nature, the project explores how applying principles of nature – such as interdependence and adaptation – can guide us in the ways we live both individually and collectively.

An understandable response might be that this is a little young for children to be grappling with such ideas. However, recent protests underline the importance of a healthy planet to young people, and at Dunannie we have been struck by the interest and understanding of our children. We don’t need to introduce them to the idea that there is a relationship between the choices we make and their wider impacts – they already know.

Equally important is that our adoption of the Harmony Project does not happen from a standing start. The Bedales ethos as established by founder John Badley – ‘Head, Hand and Heart’ – prescribes an education for the whole person, combining the academic, the practical and the social. Accordingly, we already take every opportunity to get children learning outside, which they love, with most, if not all, subjects benefitting from the connection. The time they traditionally spend identifying birds, growing vegetables and caring for lambs is as much a part of them growing into their adult selves as is time spent in the classroom and library.

Curriculum and formal learning aside, our application of the principles of nature through the Harmony Project can better ensure our pupils’ wellbeing and connection to their world – a particularly hot topic right now. In 2020, the re-opening of schools saw a renewed appeal for government to support the use of outdoor learning in response to the pandemic. In a letter to the Chair of the Education Select Committee, the group ‘Our Bright Future’, which included representatives from the Wildlife Trusts, the National Youth Agency, the Centre for Sustainable Energy and Friends of the Earth, identified recovery from the pandemic as an opportunity to reassess “how we socialise, work and learn”. Research shows that time spent learning outdoors and interacting with the natural world can raise children’s educational attainment, resilience, and wellbeing. The group proposed that this should be the subject of a government inquiry, with a view to making outdoor learning part of the regular curriculum.  We are far from alone, then.

This may sound rather ‘high concept’ and a big change, but in practice it need be neither. Rather, the Harmony Project brings additional focus to many of the things that we already do and love, and will see us do more. Ours is a broad and flexible curriculum and, shaped by the interests and responses of our children, it will evolve and grow in true Bedales tradition –learning with a cloak of fun.

More information on the Harmony Project can be found here. There is more about Bedales Pre-prep, Dunannie here.

Bedales scientists support Dunannie STEM event

By Liz Stacy, Head of Chemistry

Last Saturday was Bedales Pre-prep, Dunannie’s STEM themed Open Morning. Five of our Block 5 students – Rhiannon Griffith, Milo Whittle, Ben Bradberry, Mabel Watson and Athena Lucas – filled their lab coat pockets full of chocolates (the one and only time they will be allowed to put food in a lab coat!) and headed down to Dunannie to help the children with their science experiments.

There was an amazing range of experiments on offer, from making lava lamps using immiscible liquids and building circuits to power buzzers, to programming the Beebot robots to move and light up on command and looking at field line patterns using magnets. The students were tasked with judging each exhibit on presentation and also the scientific knowledge of the children manning the experiment. They also fielded questions from prospective parents about what studying at Bedales was like and the excellent opportunities on offer for students interested in pursuing science. I thought Milo was maybe a bit harsh giving one small six-year-old five out of ten for scientific knowledge – he did award a lot of chocolate though!

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Memorable third annual Three Schools’ Concert

Three-Schools-Concert

By Neil Hornsby, Head of Contemporary Music
Photo by Abby Hilton, 6.1

The Thursday before half term saw a wonderful musical collaboration between Bedales, Dunhurst and Dunannie in the third annual Three Schools’ Concert. A packed Lupton Hall witnessed a night like no other with 83 students taking part, ranging in age from seven all the way up to 18.

There were performances featuring each school, including Head Girl Lara Rippinger’s take on Esperanza Spalding’s I Know You Know, Group 3 Dunhurst student Eliot Santos’ show-stopping performance of Karl Bohm’s Perpetual Motion and the Dunannie Year 3 choir’s wonderful performance of Under the Sea from The Little Mermaid.

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Bedales celebrates International Day

By Tristan Wilson, Head of Languages

Photos by Abby Hilton and Henry Kingsley-Pallant, 6.1

International Day was celebrated across the three schools this year, and over more than one day. Celebrations kicked off last Monday when international 6.2 students led the assembly at Bedales Pre-prep, Dunannie, where they taught the children some words in their native languages, and learnt about the children’s own cultures heritage. At Bedales’ assembly later that evening, we watched a video put together by 6.2 Dons, which included various students and teachers reading poetry and reciting proverbs in different languages.

On Thursday, which was officially International Day, the action started before lunch in the Quad, where Bedales students entertained Dunannie children by writing their names in foreign scripts and other activities, such as making Japanese ‘Kabuto’ Samurai helmets out of newspaper. Afterwards, students shared language and cuisine from around the world, which included everything from Arabic to Chinese, and Tibetan steamed dumplings to ancient Roman food. Mary Wang won the National Dress Competition with her beautiful Chinese dress and we had a Beastie Boys song performed in Arabic by our very own band, the Upstanding Gentlemen.

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