As staff at The British School Warsaw gathered the end of August to prepare for the start of a new term, Jackson joined twenty two EYFS teachers and teaching assistants to lead a CPD day exploring the possibilities of Outdoor Learning. This was Jackson’s first ever visit to Poland – and here, couched in the language of the Early Years curriculum, are the Top Seven Highlights from his trip!
Communication and Language: By the time we’d finished lunch, the weather was scorching hot, at a sweltering 320C. So taking advantage of the shade provided by the “forest”, we looked at ways of using the outdoors as a stimulus to write collaborative poems. Participants were in control throughout the process, just as the children would be, inhabiting the minds of the pupils they work with to select the overall theme, the content and individual words – and we ended up with a beautiful piece combining plants, animals and ecology!
Lots of kinds of trees, every shade of green,
Each a living habitat, with animals to be seen.
A squirrel, a woodpecker, a tawny own –
From a tropical tree, a monkey’s howl.
We love and need trees – they give us fresh air …
So you want to chop them down? Don’t you dare!
Physical Development: I certainly exercised my walking muscles during my time in Poland. Not only was I on my feet from 7.00am to 3.30pm on the CPD day itself – but I spent time both that evening and the next day exploring the city. And the Vistula Boulevards, along the left bank of the titular river, provided me with one of my favourite strolls – with the gentle breeze providing a welcome respite from the heat!
Personal, Social and Emotional Development: To my shame, I knew little of the events in Warsaw of August/September 1944 before visiting the Museum of the Uprising in Grzybowska Street. I certainly hadn’t realised how organised and co-ordinated the Uprising was, with what hope it began and how the combination of devastating Nazi firepower and Allied support that came too little and too late eventually quashed it. So it was moving beyond belief to read and hear the personal stories of some of those involved – including the twelve year old children who acted as couriers.
Maths: Eating out in Warsaw is incredibly cheap (as is public transport) – as I reminded myself every time I mentally converted zlotys into pounds! And it’s easier than you might think to find good vegetarian food, including some delicious pierogi (Polish dumplings) stuffed with potato and cheese – and, in an example of Polish-Italian fusion, an amazing cauliflower and pumpkin risotto.
Literacy: To a native English speaker like me, Polish, both spoken and written, is almost impenetrable. As are, initially, anyway, Warsaw’s hugely complicated public transport maps, detailing bus, tram, metro and rail routes. So it was with some satisfaction that I did manage to both traverse and bisect this long city. If in doubt, the number 74 tram is a good bet – as it seems to go just about everywhere!
Understanding the World: In common, I suspect, with most tourists, my first port of call was the Old Town (courtesy of the 74 tram, of course). What little was left of this architectural masterpiece after the Uprising was totally obliterated by the Nazis – so the 1950s saw the beginning of an audacious project to rebuild it, using original plans and illustrations – and, as far as possible, the bricks from the rubble of the devastation. The results, including the resurrected Royal Castle, are astonishing – and the Old Town rightly deserves the UNESCO World Heritage status it was granted in 1980.
Expressive Arts: I’m a big fan of Soviet art – and there are still original examples to be found dotted throughout Warsaw. They occupy an uneasy place in Polish culture, though, inextricably linked as they are with the country’s effective annexation by the Soviet bloc after the Second World War. However, the artform does seem to have enjoyed something of a renaissance in recent years, with public art at Swietokrzyska Metro putting a contemporary and definitively Polish twist on it. For, as the memorial at the entrance to the Museum of the Uprising puts it, “We wanted to be free – and owe this freedom to nobody.”