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Year-round inspiration from the calendar

Thursday, 18 June 2015
Janet Hickinbottom, Farming and Countryside Education

The calendar is full of special days and weeks which can be a focus for a wide variety of curriculum related activities. Use Countryside Classroom to help find resources to bring the seasons to life.

Occasions might range from religious festivals such as Diwali to ancient customs like Stir Up Sunday or local, seasonal activities along the lines of Shrove Tuesday races.

Let’s look at one example. Well dressing might be something many children have never heard of whilst those living in Derbyshire, in particular, might have a greater chance of having seen this. I remember seeing well dressing at Tissington on one of my first school trips from infants’ school, more years ago that I would like to recall! Local wells – of which there are many – are decorated with large boards into which clay is pressed. Then, into the clay, flowers and natural materials are added to create amazing designs and pictures. It is thought that the origins of well dressing are pagan when people made pictures as an offering to the gods of the wells to thank them for the water. Later the Christian church adopted the practice, still giving thanks for the water supply. Today well dressings are created by a wide variety of organisations, clubs and societies in a village.

Children can have a go at making their own well dressings – irrespective of whether they have a well to hand! They don’t have to be the size of traditional well dressings so that small groups or individuals can make them. You will need some boards with a rim – maybe an old tray would be good. Fill it with clay and then let the children’s imaginations get to work. Some might prefer to work out a design first whilst others will just get stuck in! Natural materials are best such as flower petals, leaves, pebbles and twigs but you could supplement your stocks with coloured tissue paper if necessary. What a lovely way to create art!

Another example is September, the time for the harvest festival. How many of your pupils know about this custom, how it originated and how it is still celebrated? Can they develop this topic to find out about customs and celebrations connected to food which are celebrated by other cultures?

The DfE national curriculum states: “reading also feeds pupils’ imagination and opens up a treasure house of wonder and joy for curious young minds.” Surely the exploration of some of these subjects will help to enhance your curriculum in this way. Pupils can prepare presentations as a result of their research during which their comprehension skills will be challenged. They can use the topics to improvise and script drama. And so it goes on.

So while your class starts investigating all those special days and weeks, you can browse the Countryside Classroom website – try searching for ‘Celebrations and Festivals’ to find even more exciting opportunities in which they can participate!

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Author Info
Janet Hickinbottom, Farming and Countryside Education
LEAF Education works to engage, motivate, and inspire young people through experiential learning in order to equip our future generations with a balanced and informed insight into food production, farming and the environment. As the leading agri-education organisation we connect farmers, teachers, and young people, to support our future generations...    Read More
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