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It has been a pleasure to welcome a new colleagues into the Geography Department this school year. They introduced a new and exciting geography curriculum across all years in the Secondary School, with students (and teachers – like me) having the opportunity to investigate and discuss topical issues in much more meaningful and creative ways.
When I trained as a geography teacher, way back in the last century, I thought I was ahead of the game challenging students to produce story boards about natural disasters, and using drama and role play to explore the destruction of our rainforests, etc. Fast forward to this academic year and by Christmas I have been assessing the student´s knowledge and understanding of our oceans by producing their own podcasts, and this week I have been amazed by their musical ability and confidence to write and perform rap songs about the urban decline of Detroit city in the US.
I am a big fan of cross-curricular learning, and fully believe that enabling the involvement of skills and passions from other academic subjects, and a student´s personal interests, in your own lessons maximising the learning potential for all students in a classroom learning environment.
I would love to claim the idea of reinforcing the concepts of urban decline and deprivation with the use of a rap based on a soundtrack from Detroit´s very own Eminem, but I can´t, and must thank my colleague and the rest of the geography team for their approach and willingness to collaborate in such creative ways. It is refreshing to be able to improve my own teaching styles and ideas by learning from and observing others. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to my students perform their raps in class this week and have included an example of some lyrics on this page.
I hope you enjoy yo!
This is always one of my (many) favourite times of the school year, when senior students apply for leadership positions. It is a great opportunity to learn even more about our young people and what makes them tick, and what drives them towards success, both academically and personally. Involving our current senior leaders in the recruitment process is always rewarding. It gives them a chance to reflect on their experience during the interviews that they went through on application, and also how successful they have been whilst active in their current leadership roles.
It is always important to make these processes as educational as possible, and what better way than students working with students to discover and develop the best. It has been a real pleasure working with both our current Head Students. They have been an impressive team and awesome role models for our many students. They will leave behind big boots to fill! It was a pleasure to stand at the back of the auditorium at the end of last term and listen to them graciously speak to our prize-winning students before they received their prizes.
I asked them both if I could include an extract from their speech for this website, as I think it is important that voices and views like theirs are shared with as many people as possible who live and work across a school learning community. They are the role models and uphold the values that we should all aspire to.
Good evening pupils, parents, and teachers. It is with very great pleasure that we share with you this delightful evening to celebrate all of your accomplishments…
…Education is about far more than what happens inside the four walls of a classroom, and we are very fortunate and proud to have students and staff members who recognize this. In my opinion, one of the characteristics that best describes an outstanding student is their attitudes to learning, and how they overcome the hurdles they encounter along the way. We celebrate excellent attitudes in all facets of school life, whether that be in the classroom, in extracurricular activities, or competitions and events, and we hope that all of you prize winners who have demonstrated excellent attitudes to learning, keep up the work during your remaining time at school, serving as role models to all other students in the school.
All of you present today have additionally done an outstanding job in being great ambassadors for the school, and in remarkably representing the school values in such unusual times. The open-mindedness with which you all affronted not only the first months of the pandemic which came hand in hand with an intense lockdown, followed by an unconventional summer and finally, an atypical start to the school year, has been admirable. We live in a world of constant changes, and as humans, we are extremely privileged to be able to adapt to these transitions. We are incredibly proud of how well you’ve adapted to the circumstances, and of how hard you’ve worked despite it all. You made those revision notes, hustled the learning, dealt with online school and somehow made it through. By staying open and hopeful, even through tough times, you have demonstrated to us all how much you are capable of. Thank you for your determination, your perseverance for showing us all that hard work pays off.
Despite the inability to be physically present in school, this did not stop students, parents and teachers from seeking to make their contribution. Student participation in the wider school community is what really drives school spirit and motivates us all to keep going no matter what. Pupils who earn this prize have been role models in this area, as they have remained active during the online schooling period, seeking to give back and take part in school community activities as much as possible. Thanks to these students we managed to see huge participation rates in events such as The Around The World Challenge during the first few months of lockdown, the cake baking house competition, teacher and student Kahoots, and ‘dressing up as your favourite movie character’ competition. These events and many others, as well as the participation in them is what has managed to help keep our strong school community together during the isolated quarantine months, and have reminded us all that we must stand together. These three categories – excellent attitudes, school values and community participation – have proved what amazing things you the students can achieve, no matter the situation we find ourselves in.
So once again, congratulations for having come this far. It is our honour to celebrate all you’ve accomplished despite the unusual times we are living in. This isn’t the end, but just the beginning! And we look forward to seeing how you all use the tools and skills you’ve been given to create a world fuelled by fresh perspective, innovation and action. The future is yours. Keep up the good work and enjoy your very well deserved Christmas holidays.
´The best views come after the hardest climbs´ (Unknown)
I can see San Pedro from our front window. He stands upright, out of place, in the forefront of the vast Sierra de Gaudarrama to the north of Madrid. He is like a small-ish afterthought of vast tectonic movement from millions of years ago, beckoning you towards the much mightier snow-capped peaks of the Sierra. Alas, San Pedro stands alone between Madrid and his superior peers, at a scalable height of 1450m, and easily accessible on a sky blue sunny afternoon (or not). It was during lockdown that I first become drawn to San Pedro.
As we entered phase one, we jumped into the car together for the first time for almost 3 months and headed towards the mountains, liberated. We soon realised that all the car parks were closed and the national parks were still not accessible to the public, so we decided to head home and contemplate a family movie. My daughter urged us not to though, and reminded us of the King´s Around the World Challenge and that we must do some physical exercise that would extend us beyond our normal routines. At that very moment, whilst cruising down the M-607, San Pedro appeared within our left hand side windows, teasing us to take him on. Two of us were well up for it, one was pretty neutral, and the other two not so keen at all. So I offered the incentive of 5 Euros each on completion of the climb for the school challenge and to support the four school charities. The challenge was on! We parked the car at the foot of the mountain and started our ascent together and in high spirits, relishing the new found freedom of phase one. The positive unity lasted barely five minutes as dissent and abandonment started to be expressed by certain members of the group. Regular false promises of nearly being at the top became the only strategy to get everyone to the summit, very much at the expense of good moods and humour. We made it though and soon realised how worthwhile the long wait, and difficult climb had been, to absorb the amazing 360 degree views together was a reward in itself and a satisfying family accomplishment.
We have now climbed San Pedro a number of times, and revert to him when seeking a closer to home challenge that doesn´t require a full day out and multiple ruck sacks full of sandwiches, snacks and drinks. My daughter has suggested that we climb him every month, seeing as our last ascent was in early January, con snow! A bold idea and challenge – accepted.
Let´s see how we go…
I didn’t think I could fall in love with Spain any more than I did exploring the south of the country during the summer holidays. Having to stay put for Christmas wasn’t what I had asked Santa for… but stay put we were resigned to do. It, in fact, turned out to be a brilliant Christmas, a staycation to remember, with very little staying put actually taking place. I gambled and bought myself my first Spanish book, detailing walks in north Madrid and the Sierra. It gave me the confidence to really drag the family out and to explore what is on our doorstep, discovering the many hiking trails and unbelievable vistas within minutes of where we live. We walked almost every other day, soon abandoning the guide book and following new paths to hidden gems. Many that we will return to again and again. We found snow (before it officially arrived in January) and took our sleds up high, dragging them along trails and through the pine trees, where nobody else could be seen.
It might be a good idea to start a King´s Soto family walking group – possibly meeting up once a month and sharing our favourite walks? If you are interested then please do let me know.
Back home in the warmth, and during rest days, we re-discovered chess (mainly due to a popular Netflix series!). We spent hours with the board and pieces, honing our concentration and making sure that each of us made less mistakes than the other to win. It has got quite serious in our household, chess, my eldest has beaten me for the first time ever (in fact three times now), and my youngest is getting quite competitive when he concentrates. We are talking moves, defence and strategy… I even see them playing by themselves at times. It is good to see and to share with them. I am sure we will now take a chess board with us on our next adventure away from home.
I think Chess Club will continue to be popular in school, it is every Friday lunchtime in room B2F. It would be great to have some inter-school competitions and a Soto chess tournament on a Saturday morning in school in the near future. If you would like to be involved then please do let me know.
Happy New Year to you all.
The UN have set 17 challenges that are everybody’s goal, they are things that impact on the way we live, like zero hunger. We have decided to take up one of the challenges and improve Madrid. We are hoping people from around the world will see what we are doing and will try to spread the word so that all homeless people and people in poverty will be able to eat some food. By the end of 2030 these goals are hoping to be reduced by at least 50%. Will you take up this challenge with us?
We are doing this to help homeless people that can’t afford food, so many people are struggling because they don’t have anything to eat . Now that we are in this pandemic of the corona-virus, people are struggling more and more with financial problems. We are also trying to help by using paper bags and recyclable materials instead of plastic.
How much time will it take?
We think that it will take approximately a week to do this, since 2 days will be enough to prepare the food and things, and the other 3 left over days, the school council and some teachers will be able to talk to the homeless and comfort them and hand them the food.
We will need:
Baking paper to cover the food
Buns, cheese, ham and butter for the sandwich.
And fruit for a small desert.
THIS IS EVERYONE’S GOAL, SO HELP US ACHIEVE IT!
Zoe – Year 5
I have been leading a short global citizenship programme for our Year 11 students post-examinations. We have been looking into the importance of global citizenship education, what it is, and how we can all become better global citizens. In one of the first sessions I used my analogy of a sandwich and the endless variety of ingredients (see earlier post) needed to make a satisfying sandwich, and the representation through the eyes of a geographer placing two pieces of bread at exactly the opposite sides of the Earth at the same time.
We also looked at Wangari Maathai´s simple but powerful story of the hummingbird, you can watch it here. Still a real favourite of mine.
I challenged the students to form their own analogies of global citizenship after our early discussions and to submit their ideas in between sessions via a form. I thought I would share just a few…
How can you best explain global citizenship or represent it (be as creative as you like – a sandwich, a hummingbird…)?
Clockwork – global citizenship is a mindset. It is like clockwork. When you work with other global citizens it creates a system or rather a society that allows humanity to coexist with the problems you are passionate about. Combining all aspects that create an effective global citizen you become a crucial part of that clockwork that allows for society to keep moving.
Spaghetti – I would represent global citizenship as a spaghetti plate where all the cultures, ambitions and personalities intertwine and contribute to the whole, like the individual spaghetti pieces.
Sea– it has different species of different colours, that together, form the sea, and they come together to form something beautiful.
Ship – global citizenship can be represented as a ship, commanded and sailed by all the nations in harmony with each country and citizens taking part in sailing the ship.
Beach – each grain is a quality, as someone develops, their persona grows and becomes stronger. Each wave, metaphorical for opportunities, brings new grains upon to the beach, (qualities) shaping the strengths and weaknesses of one’s personality. However, sometimes challenges arise, but a good global citizen will learn from such threats or conflict and learn new attributes.
Circle of hands – I would represent it as the different cultures and minds around the world folded hands in a huge circle while a white dove passes by.
Ants – I chose ants because they are a small dot on the huge planet but by working together they can get things done fast and can really make a change.
Bee – pollinating the flowers, and therefore helping the wider world.
Door – global citizenship is awareness which comes after you have opened your mind to new experiences and to being selfless or generous. When you open a door, there is effort behind this action however it is not as difficult as it may seem, and when the door is opened, you can be conscious of the real world.
This year we are living a very different reality.
Kenya has been in partial lock down since March and everyone has had to adapt to a new way of living, just like in Spain. Schools are closed but the children are still being taught. The curriculum is available on a TV channel and there are also lessons on the radio. Not everyone in Kenya has access to the internet but some teachers are sending in materials which can be downloaded. This is really useful especially for the Nyumbani children who can enjoy benefiting from extra input. All the subjects are covered, maths, science, English, Kiswahili, social studies, etc. so not too different to Spain!
The children in Nyumbani Home in Karen are all well and safe. They have been extra careful with washing their hands and using sanitisers as well being equipped with masks and gloves. None of the members of the Nyumbani family have suffered from Covid-19 and we are very grateful to all the staff who are working tirelessly to ensure the good health of everyone involved in the programme! No visitors from the outside have been allowed to come since the start of lock down.
Each cottage in Nyumbani Home has children of various different ages, just like any normal family. Each cottage has around 14 children so that’s a large family!
As always the children get up early (6 am!) in order to take their medicines and have breakfast before classes start at 8 am. They then tune into the Educational Channel on TV. The children are divided into groups depending on their grade. Classes carry on until 5 p.m with some breaks and time for lunch too. There is a large open space with grass and trees where the children can run about and play safely. No visitors from the outside are allowed to come so there is very little chance of infection.
Last week the cottages were involved in an art project and made some posters which they displayed on their front doors. They are all hoping that the virus will take note and stay away!
Nyumbani, beyond the Home in Karen.
Many people have lost their jobs as a result of the virus and so a huge number of our Lea Toto families are now living below the poverty line, unable even to access basic food. You may remember some of the lovely crafts which are available for sale in the school at events such as the Mighty Merienda. These crafts are made by our Nyumbani Lea Toto families living in the informal settlements around Nairobi. Now they have nobody to buy their goods.
Nyumbani Village is also in lock down and so the grandmothers who were relying on the sale of their baskets for an income are suddenly left with no customers. The needs of all the families grow daily.
We have had some very welcome donations which have slightly eased the immediate need for food, but as this crisis continues, so also the need becomes greater and the families more desperate. A recent report really brought home the reality of the crisis. A woman told of how she put stones in a pot to boil in the hopes that her children would tire and fall asleep before they realised that the anticipation of food would come to nothing. These are truly tragic times.
As well as Covid-19, Kenya is also dealing with other emergencies. A swarm of locusts are destroying the crops while floods are rendering many families homeless.
Despite all the devastation, we are working with great determination to ensure that all our people are staying safe, accessing their medicines and basic foods. We are grateful for any donations, particularly in these times when the needs are global.
Thank you! ASANTE SANA!
It has been a challenging and unusual few months, but the Student Council in my school have continued to meet weekly to share feedback and to work on new virtual projects that enhance the spirit of adventure and collaboration. A challenge has been planned to replace the annual Summer Fair and to raise much needed funds for the four school charities. The challenge draws on the promotion of physical exercise and also community togetherness to reach a goal, at the same time raising funds for the charities.
Aim: To complete one full lap around the world as a school community (approx. 40,000 kms)
The student committee has encouraged everyone to extend their physical exercise routines and to go above and beyond. This does not mean the usual walk to the shops, or a typical stroll around the block. They are encouraging you to do that bit extra, not only for yourselves but also for charity! This can include any form of exercise: running, walking, skating, swimming, climbing, skipping, rolling, cycling… as long as you have challenged yourself, covered a certain distance and recorded it. The students then ask you to submit your distance (honestly and truthfully) whenever you have completed it, this could be daily or weekly, it doesn’t matter. The website has been specially designed for this challenge by the students so that everyone can input their totals, make a donation, and monitor the collective progress around the world. The website also includes information about the four school charities.
The students would like to encourage everyone to be as honest as possible, and therefore recommend that one of the following apps, or similar, are used to record your distances when exercising specifically for the challenge:
Try and beat your distance each time and set yourself some personal targets. Maybe even link these targets to a monetary amount that you (or more likely your parents!) will agree to donate if you achieve them. The important thing is to enjoy your exercise though and to be safe, always inform an adult of what you are doing and where you intend to go if you are exercising alone.
To donate is easy and very important. Ideally we want to raise as much funds as we do during a typical Summer Fair, so please do support this challenge and share our website with family and friends. They can take part too! There is a link to our GoFundMe page on the website, and here you can make your donation; once, twice, as many times as you like! A few ideas could be:
The total funds raised at the end of the challenge will be divided equally into four and donated to the four school charities listed below :
The students very much look forward to hearing about and seeing the journeys around the world, and thank you all in advance for your enthusiasm, support and kind donations.
I do like a sandwich… fresh bread, a variety of tasty fillings, a scattering of potato crisps and a beautiful summer’s day on cut grass for a picnic. But sandwiches come in all shapes and sizes, types and flavors, with a wide variety of ingredients and fillings, no one is perfect but all can be equally delicious.
This is Etienne in New Zealand preparing one half of a very special sandwich.
This is Angel in Spain preparing the other half of the same sandwich.
We call this an Earth sandwich where two slices of bread have been carefully placed in the exact opposite places on the exact opposite sides of our Earth.
So if Angel was able to drill directly through the centre of the Earth from Madrid in a straight line he would come out somewhere in New Zealand with Etienne, probably close to the city of Wellington. There are other places on our Earth, but not too many though, where this unique feat of creating an Earth sandwich can be achieved. You can see all the green shaded areas on the map below and their opposite locations. All the black areas would end up in the oceans or seas and therefore not be possible to make the sandwich.
Being a geographer, I love this concept of an Earth sandwich and the accurate use of latitudes and longitudes to map opposite locations. I especially like this idea of an Earth sandwich when I consider myself as being a global citizen. Myself and the Earth as the pieces of bread and the fillings being all the unique elements that make me the global citizen that I am and want to be.
These fillings are endless… and could be shaped by… our nationalities and heritage, the places we have travelled to and seen, the religions and faiths we may follow, the hobbies and interests that we have, the way we interact and communicate in person and in cyberspace, the languages we speak, and the habits we probably should give up, and the habits we should try and be better at.
They could also be shaped by the global goals for sustainable development… or even the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Even schools (should) help us everyday to become people who care for others and the world around them, that is why I am passionate about global citizenship education.
For me global citizenship is about having a go, being prepared to leave your comfort zone and trying new experiences. But this is not enough. A global citizen is always learning, they focus on the moment and make connections with the people and the environment around them. They reflect on how they were made to feel and how they made others feel, striving to learn more about themselves and other people. A global citizen always wants to learn more and is not afraid to set personal targets for self-improvement and growth.
In a school and throughout a learning community there are an abundance of opportunities for global citizenship education. These opportunities should not be perceived as separate, or an add-on, to a formal education programme, instead they should be fully integrated and encouraged to enhance the overall learning a person is able to achieve inside and outside of school. The whole truly is greater than the sum of its parts. There are many individual parts that make up a sandwich, we may not particularly enjoy the individual parts or choose to eat them by themselves, but together as a whole, lovingly prepared and reflectively put together, these many ingredients and fillings can make a truly amazing and successful (global citizenship) sandwich.
I was in Phuket, Thailand, attending an IB course for geography teachers in November 2003. The course was great, challenging and collaborative, just as you would expect from the IB programme. My priority though was finding a television, one with the right satellite connection, this was our time!
The England rugby team had made it to the final of the Rugby World Cup and were playing their great rivals, Australia (the Wallabies) in the final, right smack-bang in the middle of our IB Geography course! Luckily, our facilitator was a fellow rugby enthusiast and we were able to motor through the agenda and finish in time to find a suitable venue and watch this momentous match. It was a tight game, and at 17 – 17 the match entered extra-time. The England scrum-half, Matt Dawson (number 9) made a darting break through the Wallabies tired defence giving England territorial advantage in the dying seconds. Matt picked himself up, re-positioned himself and spun the ball back to the England fly-half (number 10) Jonny Wilkinson… the rest is history! You can watch it here.
Matt Dawson is now a TV and radio presenter and pundit for the BBC in the UK. One of the shows that he features in is called ´A Question of Sport.´ To raise awareness and to support the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK, Matt has been doing as many quizzes as he can, joining people from all over the world, online, to complete a quiz. We were very lucky and honoured that Matt was able to join us for our weekly staff professional development session last Thursday and complete part of our starter quiz. This was Matt´s 108th quiz so far since starting less than two weeks ago. It was a real pleasure to meet Matt and to have the opportunity to reminisce with him about the 2003 final. He was interested in every one of us and how we are successfully adapting our teaching and learning during these testing times. He also answered a number of questions asked by the teachers at the Meet. It was a real highlight of the school week and we would like to thank Matt again for his kindness and sincerity in joining us. #NHSHeroes #StayHomeSaveLives #DawsDoesQuizzes @matt9dawson