Once a year our very special WOW Week happens – it’s a top secret surprise and as students arrived at school this week, they found school had transformed into an enchanted forest !
Taking inspiration from the classic, much loved novels The Magic Faraway Tree and The Enchanted Forest, our teachers took an even deeper immersive approach to teaching all curriculum areas engaging children in lessons based upon characters and situational problems. The whole week has involved all students in developing plans and organising themselves to address ‘real life’ issues inspired by the novels – which have, of course, called upon their maths, language, reasoning, creative, philosophical and critical thinking skills.
Here, Headteacher, Mrs Gill, shares five key life lessons from the novels which threaded through through WOW Week, with students:
If you look at the tree in the Enchanted Wood, you see a tree. But why should it not contain other worlds, fascinating creatures or a life very different to our own?
Some of the most amazing careers and probably those we do not even know about yet – rely on the ability to use your imagination – so please don’t think this is something you need to hide as you grow up.
The book also shows us the importance of reading, of embracing the creative aspects of life and the wonder of storytelling, the delight in being able to immerse yourself in the adventures of characters in a story and the wonder of being able to create settings, places and lands beyond our own world. We experienced this during wow week with Abe and Alba losing their story and needing the Year 2’s to use their imaginations to write new ones, with story tellers, mantle of the experts and Leeds Playhouse visiting to engage our children.
Not just tolerating others, but truly recognizing them and their identity and learning to accept your friends for who they are, AND, embracing the diversity and uniqueness of those that we meet along our journey and respecting them, will expand your experiences.
Had the children just taken the tree at face value, as a tree, they would never have experienced the wonderful adventures in the Enchanted Forest. As the Foundation stage children learnt, the wolf in the three little pigs was perhaps misjudged and in Year 1, the children were persuaded by Little Red Riding Hood’s Grandma, that maybe the wolf was actually a creature just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and in fact, needed entrusting to the care of the Enchanted Wildlife Trust prior to returning to the correct land in the Faraway tree.
Sometimes you need to lean on your friends for support and at other times, you might need to save them from a gnome!
Okay well maybe not, but, ultimately the lesson here is that we need one another. Humans are a very social species and we need one another to thrive not just survive. You never know when you may be able to help someone else, or when you may need a helping hand, a kind word or a friendly hug.
In the story of the Faraway Tree, there were many opportunities for the children to show kindness and collaboration. Throughout their time at the Pre-Prep, our children get these experiences. Just this year, the residential to Cliffe House, the enterprise fair, the Feel Good Fridays, our Little Leaders programme and many other areas of the curriculum have allowed the children to showcase these. Year 1 showed care and collaboration during wow week by caring for the Wolf while Year 2 showed passion and enthusiasm for ensuring Abe and Alba returned to their story book.
Always make time to enjoy the journey as much as the satisfaction of reaching the destination. Everyone is scared sometimes but real courage and resilience is facing those fears, stepping into the unknown and trying to find the positives in every learning experience.
Value the importance of learning from mistakes, laughing at your failures and believing that with each new challenge or barrier you overcome, you are stronger and more able to achieve your goal. The children have embraced our behaviour curriculum this year – understanding the STEPS to politeness and the importance of LISTENing to others. They also understand how to move between the zones of regulation and manage their own big feelings.
The Faraway Tree is a story about adventure, about never knowing what may happen next and embracing the messy, often chaotic journey of life. We never know what ‘land’ we may face and how we may react but as Charles R Swindoll said, and we regularly remind the children,
“Life is 10% what happens to us, and 90% how we react”.
It is a story about the value of life’s experiences which help us grow in creating new beliefs and attitudes.
We see ourselves in the Pre-Prep as a little bit like the tree.
We know the children already possess so many skills and talents, our job is to nurture these, to show them the different worlds they may encounter and allow the children to see their own skills and talents and give them opportunities for them to develop, understanding how they react in different environments.
Therefore, my final wish for our children is this…
Climb those trees, embrace each new opportunity you encounter and remember, if all else fails and life is difficult, you can go anywhere in a book and reading offers such exciting adventures.
Our motto at the Pre-Prep is ‘where big futures start’. A future doesn’t lie ahead of you waiting to happen – so climb that ladder, scale that tree, be more snowdrop (our children l know what that means) and be prepared to stand up for what you want and what is right.
The last message I would like to pass on, from the story, is to be thankful for what you have and always be kind. Life is like the faraway tree, you find different lessons at different times of life.
“You simply never know what is going to happen”.
Other people’s journey may look different from yours, they may appear luckier and seemingly drop into different lands more fortunately than you. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else, just be the best you can be.