Behind the scenes… learning through play in Nursery

We go behind the scenes with Miss Joanna, Head of Nursery, to find out why her working day is all about learning through play!

What is your biggest belief when it comes to EYFS education?

That is a tricky question as there are so many things that spring to mind… I think my biggest belief is that education is about instilling a deep love of learning that affords children the courage to develop their imagination and explore their individuality. Children should be excited by their experiences in school and learning should ultimately be fun for both the learner and the teacher. In their earliest years, I believe this means that children should be given the time and space to explore their individuality by learning through play. This approach allows children to learn how to challenge themselves, problem-solve, share with others, use their own senses, communicate… the list is endless.

Why are these years so vital to development?

There is lots of highly-respected research out there that points to the fact that a solid early years foundation is the key to the future success of a child. It is so vital to get the years from 0-5 right so children have a good base to build upon as they grow through their educational years. Someone once described the importance of early years to me with the analogy of building a house and it has stayed with me ever since. It is like someone choosing to create a really beautiful loft conversion; with all shiny new appliances and lovely decoration. Without a solid foundation for the house itself, this shiny new loft conversion would soon come tumbling down. Early years education can be seen in much the same way; you get the foundations right, you give children every opportunity to have a great future ahead of them.

Why is it important for kids to get messy?

Messy play is not just about having fun, it teaches children to explore and challenge a wide range of senses at one time. I often say that the messier the uniform at the end of the day, the more of a sign it is that the child has had a successful and rich learning experience. On top of this, messy play is a great way to get young children to confidently communicate as they share their thoughts and ideas around how certain materials feel, smell and look. I will often look at the messy tray in my own class and see a large group, playing happily together, smiling, laughing and talking while they explore an open-ended activity as a group. Messy play can be calming as well; repetitively exploring the look and feel of slime, for example, can be quite meditative. Getting messy is just great, I cannot advocate for it enough!

What’s the most enjoyable part of your job?

The little smiles on the children’s faces when they see you in the morning. My job is rewarding in so many different ways, but developing those safe and trusting relationships with these vulnerable little beings is definitely the reason why I get up in the mornings! I also love seeing how far they come in the year. I know that’s the same for all teachers of all ages, but there’s something about these little people that come in covered in tears when they first start, growing in confidence and ending the year being able to listen, follow instructions, speak English and share in the fun of life together.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Getting the children from one place to another without any tears! At the start of the year, it is quite honestly like Monty Python’s ‘100 yard dash for people with no sense of direction’. But by the end of the year, they’re walking in a lovely little train from one side of the Pre-Prep to the other all in one line and that’s a huge achievement; and they know it too!

What is unique about education at RST?

What makes our Early Years unit so strong is the emphasis and time we allow for play-based learning. In Pre-Nursery, almost every activity that is on offer is open-ended, and while the stimulus is there to inspire the children, what they choose do with it and how far they decide to take it is entirely up to them. On top of this, the Specialist Teachers that we have make a great contribution to the children’s development. Each child has two PE lessons, a Swimming lesson and a Music lesson in Pre-Nursery and I feel this is pretty special at this age.

How does a typical day in your class embody the RST ethos?

In the Nursery years we teach the children socially, emotionally, physically, culturally and spiritually, as well as academically. Our school mantra is ‘the whole person, the whole point’ and Pre-Nursery embodies this in all that we do. It is not about academic excellence for me at this age, but about instilling children with a real zest for learning; providing them with fun and engaging school experiences that mean they enjoy coming in every day. It is about lighting that spark that makes them want more. If I can achieve this, then it has been a successful year for me!

 

RST Art Exhibition: 25-29 June 2019

You're invited to our

ART EXHIBITION

Open Evening

Tuesday 25th June 2019

from 5pm-7pm

in the Sixth Form Centre

On 25th June, from 5-7pm, we’ll be opening the doors to our very first public Art Exhibition!      Join us for refreshments as you peruse the collective artistic talents of our Prep and Senior students from this year.

The exhibition will remain open from the 25-29th June and will be open daily from 8am-6pm (Weds-Fri) and 10am-1pm (Sat).

Behind the scenes… the staff football team

We’re going behind the scenes with Mark Symmonds, our ‘Year 1 Sharks’ teacher who helps manage the staff football team.

Why do you think having something like this is important?

We have a huge campus and the school is growing all the time, so we don’t cross over with other areas of the school as much as we’d like. The football team brings a group together and allows us to make better connections as individuals, as well as giving better understanding of each other’s personal strengths at school. Many of the staff I’ve employed for the RST Holiday Camp have come off the back of learning their characters when playing for our team.

What’s your role within the staff football team?

Due to my aging bones I have taken a step back from playing and become the manager of the team ensuring we are competitive on the pitch. I have been tasked with communicating with the league on the fixtures, arranging the team for each game and bringing us together at the end of each season to celebrate our successes.

Who do you play against?

We play in a two-division six-a-side league and we are currently in Division One. The teams consist of a range of nationalities. There are some teams from the local area, teams from other local and international schools, as well as teams from Russia and other parts of the world.

Are the matches just a bit of fun, or do you take them quite seriously?

Initially it began as a bit of fun but as we played more we realised that we were able to compete and so it has become a little more serious. We ensure that we give everything we have on the pitch and support one another no matter the result; just as we do with the children in school.

How do you feel after football each week?

Win, lose or draw (and even if we are a little sore) we enjoy getting together after the game to celebrate our success and discuss where we can be better next match. The bonds that we have developed has been a real positive to being part of the team.

What are your future hopes and aspirations for RST’s football team?

Much the same as I say to the children I teach, we all just need to keep improving and aiming a little higher each time. We won promotion in our first season, as well as the Vase, so securing our place in the First Division and then pushing on for more success from there. With the new intake of staff we’re planning to create two teams next academic year, so we can involve more people. I think the aim is to have one more competitive team, and a team for staff who want to keep it more fun.

Marcus Large kicking the ball in a Rugby School Thailand staff football match Friends cheering the Rugby School Thailand staff football team

 

Behind the scenes… sailing on the school lake

We caught up with Ben Collings how sailing on the school lake makes him feel, and why it draws on his musical talent.

What’s your role here at RST?

Primarily, I’m a class music teacher for the Pre-Prep and Prep schools. I also teach one-to-one singing lessons to students in the Prep and Senior schools, as well as directing choirs, smaller instrumental ensembles, teaching music technology and coaching sailing.

When did you start sailing?

I started sailing when I was about 10 years old, so roughly the age that children start learning to sail here at RST. My family were inspired to join a sailing club back in the UK following a flotilla sailing holiday around the Ionian islands one summer. Within a year, my Dad and I were competing together at the Miracle Class national sailing championships.

How does sailing make you feel?

Sailing provides me with an unparalleled sense of freedom and tranquillity, especially when I am out on the water alone. I find it the perfect way to unwind and take my mind off things. It is also a fantastic shared experience, when you are in a two-person crew. The sense of challenge and strategy that is presented each time you go out on the water, particularly when racing, is invigorating and to have the opportunity to literally feel the force of nature in your hands as you are holding a sail is one that I would recommend to anyone.

What’s the best thing about running this co-curricular activity?

It has to be seeing the enjoyment and sense of achievement that the children get from doing it each week. Our sailing coaching staff are highly talented and I have learnt a huge amount myself from them.

How does sailing compare with your daily role as a music teacher?

Sailing a boat correctly requires tremendous attention to detail, patience and practice, in order to succeed. Similarly, when learning an instrument or a particular piece of music, you must also pay attention to each minute detail to realise the composer’s intentions. Even the smallest adjustment can make a huge difference.

How does sailing benefit the pupils who do it?

Sailing provides the students with the opportunity to get away from the daily classroom routine and experience adventure. No two days are the same on a boat and the children quickly learn to deal with challenges that they face. Sailing also gets them to use the skills that they learn every day at school in a new and unique environment, perhaps without them even realising.

What makes it such a popular activity to offer?

We are in a unique position at RST to be able to offer sailing thanks to the outstanding facilities on our huge campus, which includes several lakes. Not many school’s have the space to make sailing an activity on-site! Our visiting team of instructors are also brilliant teachers, and have all competed at national and international level in the sport.

How does sailing embody the RST ethos?

Through sailing, the children learn to apply the academic knowledge they gain in the classroom in a unique setting with real life challenges. For example, our pupils can use geography to identify wind directions and look for patterns on the water; they are able to use mathematical angles to project an appropriate route through a sailing course. The sense of discipline that our pupils learn from sailing also enables them to succeed in a classroom environment, so you might say they were symbiotic.

Two boats sailing at Rugby School Thailand

A teacher conducting a choir - Rugby School Thailand

Ben Collings singing

Behind the Scenes… the staff choir

This week, we caught up with Jo Westlake on the exultations of singing in the staff choir.

Why have a staff choir?

Music is a universal language. Every culture makes music. It unites and brings people together from all walks of life. As avid singers ourselves, Mr Collings and I thought a staff choir would be the perfect way for staff to get together and provide an outlet after busy school days. Group singing is such a good ice-breaker, and the boost you get from creating harmonious music is excellent. It releases endorphins, relaxes and inspires – and encourages time away from technology!

What kind of things do you sing?

In Term 1 we prepared a repertoire for the Carol Service, and the choir sang ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ beautifully for the Prep School. Since then, in weekly meetings, we’ve rehearsed a variety of songs, with anything from Miss Jones to African music.

Can anyone join… even those who can’t sing well?

More often than not people lack the confidence to sing, rather than lacking the ability to sing. We welcome anyone who’s up for being part of it – and no one expects you to be perfect on day one! Singing in a group gives such a great sense of camaraderie and is an excellent way for staff to bond and support each other.

How does singing make you (personally) feel?

When I sing I feel happy and relaxed. It improves my breathing and posture, makes me feel more focused and less distracted from any irritations. In many ways I find it a meditative practice.

I’m sure many people would agree that music is highly evocative; it’s often at the root of strong feelings and memories.

How does the staff choir embody the RST ethos?

It models the ‘whole person’; it is physical, mental, social, emotional. I love the way our staff choir (any choir) offers a unifying space where people can switch off from daily life while creating something wonderful.

A music teacher conducting a choir at Rugby School Thailand

Spring Camp 2019

Spring Camp 2019

While RST students disappeared off for the Songkran break, two adventurous young tribes descended on our campus. Divided into ‘Panthers’ and ‘Peregrines’, the children taking part in our day and boarding Spring Camp were able to experience one of the best holiday camps Thailand has to offer.

‘With a schedule full of activities such as zip-lining, archery, mountain biking, STEM, ‘The Tower of Power’, rugby, sailing and trips to local attractions such as the Elephant Sanctuary, it would be hard to pick just one highlight’ says Camp Director, Mark Symmonds. ‘Spring Camp concluded with a Grand Finale where children, parents and camp staff could reflect on what was an amazing eight-days. The children had all tried something new, learned something new, made a new friend, and become stronger people from their time at camp.’

Mark Symmonds, Camp Director

We could tell you more about what went on at Spring Camp, but why not watch the video and see for yourself why we’re on track to become one of the top holiday camps in Asia.

‘We’re now getting excited about the three-week Summer Camp in July, where we will build on the success of the Spring Camp and add even more amazing activities, lessons and excursions’ says Mark. ‘There’s a reason our holiday camps keep booking up so fast!’

The Summer Camp is sold out, but we’ll be announcing new holiday camp dates soon… so watch this space.

A boy choosing lunch at Rugby School Thailand Holiday Camp
Lots of children toasting marshmallows at a camp fire - Rugby School Thailand
Holiday Camp at Rugby School Thailand

When you’re green, you’re growing

A boy jumping at sports day, Rugby School Thailand A canoe on the lake at Rugby School Thailand

By virtue of our lush emerald surroundings, we are constantly reminded to think green. While our pupils enjoy activities outside and the nature around them, we ask them in return to take responsibility for this environment. In doing so they can not only enhance the world around them, but reap personal rewards, broadening their outlook in life and developing good values.

We firmly believe that ‘when you’re green, you’re growing’ and make this attitude part of the educational experience at Rugby School Thailand. With the city smog of Bangkok some 140km away we feel truly grateful for our green surroundings and fresh country air – but it’s a close reminder of increasingly alarming environmental issues.

Runners getting ready at Rugby School Thailand's largest lake (aerial shot) Students learning about growing produce at Rugby School Thailand

The news on global warming, pollution and animal extinctions can be overwhelming, but our actions as individuals can make a difference. “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” (Margaret Mead). We all have choices, we need to change our behaviours and make the right ones to meet the UN Global Goals for Sustainability. Because there is no Plan(et) B.

At an Eco Beasts Action Day attended by a select group of RST pupils, a speaker pointed out that ‘children are 20% of the population, but 100% of our future’. This is why Mrs Dawson has recruited a passionate Eco Club within the school. These pupils make an excellent body of green ambassadors for their peers, developing initiatives such as poster campaigns promoting energy saving and waste reduction.  They have had fun doing recycling craft projects such as making bags out of old t shirts, decorations from rolled newspapers and planters from plastic bottles.

A teacher with students learning about green energy at Rugby School Thailand Pupils learning about kinetic energy at Rugby School Thailand

As a school, we have recycling bins throughout the campus. Our on-site café, Scrummy, offers discounts to anyone using their own cups. Staff and pupils are encouraged to use their own water bottles, rather than paper cups by the water dispensers, and paper shopping bags are available in the school shop to minimise the use of plastics at all. These initiatives help remind people within RST to reduce, reuse, recycle.

As the campus here develops, we do our best to be sustainable; planting trees, growing produce, preserving areas for wildlife and adding ecosystems with our school lakes. We are also working with BANPU INFINERGY to install solar panels across the campus, and these already produce almost 30% of our energy (a figure set to increase substantially). Project week this year focused on power and renewable energy, which we were able to demonstrate live in action. We are constantly reminding pupils to be environmentally conscious – the hope being that this attitude becomes second nature and that every child leaves RST with an innate sense of duty towards the world.

A solar powered tuktuk at Rugby School Thailand A solar powered tuktuk at Rugby School Thailand

As motivational speaker Denis Waitley says, “There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them.” So, we are accepting responsibility and doing our best to counter some of human assault on the world. We may only be a few caring people, but we’re here to change the world.

 

Behind the Scenes… at the Prep boarding house

Behind the scenes with Tim & Fliss Jones, our Prep Boarding House Parents, who tell us why the multi-cultural ‘family’ in Marshall House is so special.

Tell us a bit about what you do?

As House Parents, our role is to provide pastoral support and guidance to the children in their home away from home. Boarding is such a unique environment; the children are away from their own homes, but they become part of a really unique family environment here. They are loved and supported, and develop a deep sense of loyalty, responsibility, kindness and courage, helping them to thrive in other areas of school life, as well as nurturing characteristics to see them into adult life.

How do you create such a warm ‘home from home’ environment?

A lot of it comes from the children themselves. Boys and girls, across all age groups and nationalities, come together as one big family in a very natural way. They genuinely look out for each other, 24 hours a day, every day of the week. We see our children here develop such a strong sense of loyalty towards Marshall House, and it’s a very happy place for them to be.

The sense of community here is something special. We seem to have drawn on the best of the traditional British Prep School model – keeping pupils active and entertained, nurturing individual interests and community spirit– whilst drawing on top qualities from the international system – notably the empathy and understanding that comes from the wonderful mix of different cultures, and the lifelong friendships it fosters. Ask any of the boarders what they love about it here, and friendship will be top of the list.  Marshall House is a unique ‘family’ of friends.

How do you keep everyone entertained and happy?

As well as the in-house team (us, the assistant House Parents, Penny and Steve, and the house matron, Amanda) we have a rota of Prep staff who bring an extensive range of evening activities into the mix. It includes everything from fun sports, to more relaxed or creative options. Some of the more popular activities have been dodgeball, ultimate frisbee, face painting, drama, slime-making, baking, photography and Mr Dawson’s famous Scottish dancing!

On weekends, highlights include going to the beach, catching the latest movie, ten-pin bowling, exploring some of Thailand’s best water parks, trampolining, laser tag, pizza-making, ziplining, rock-climbing, marshmallows around the campfire… the list goes on and on.

How does boarding fit with the school ethos, ‘the whole person, the whole point’?

The ‘whole person, the whole point’ aims to help pupils reach their potential not just academically, but also in sports, music, the arts, drama and equally in the formation of their character, morals and manners. Boarding provides a supportive environment where we actively encourage all of these things; but also where pupils are happy and healthy, allowing them to make the most of all the activities offered to them throughout the long school day. Instead of travelling long distances or sitting in traffic each day, boarding pupils can immerse themselves in all that Rugby School Thailand has to offer. And that’s a lot, right on their doorstep!

A group of children in the boarding house at Rugby School Thailand

Residential Diary: Irina (Year 7)

For their residential trip, year 7 went to Khao Yai national park and stayed in the Wild Lodge. Irina tells us about the many exciting activities each day and how they slept in lodges.

Monday

After a long trip by bus, we were relieved to finally arrive. We had a quick briefing about the camp, after which we went to our lodges and settled in before lunch. After lunch, we were divided into three groups in which we would be doing the activities, and in them, we did some games relating to teamwork and collaboration. The groups were ‘Pink Fluffy Unicorns’, ‘Flying Pigs’, and ‘Better Than Flying Pigs’. (‘Better Than Flying Pigs’ waited for ‘Flying Pigs’ to announce their name before naming themselves ‘better than’ them!)

After that, we were allowed to swim, but if anyone did not want to, they could play board games or read. We swam in the groups we’d been in on each of the two buses. Thirty minutes after both groups had a swum, we had our dinner at 18:00. For our entertainment that night, we did three quizzes: a general knowledge one, a sports one and a singing one. Then, before heading off to bed, we were asked to do a summary of our Monday; we would be doing that every evening.

Tuesday

Our daily routine

07:00 – Breakfast
*Activities*
12:00 – Lunch
*Activities*
16:30-17:30 – Swimming
18:00 – Dinner
Evening entertainment, writing the summary of the day before going back.
21:00 – Lights out

High Ropes on the Rugby School Thailand residential trip to Khao Yai

On Tuesday, our first round of activities was introduced. Our groups would take turns doing cookery and the aerial challenge. My group, Flying Pigs, did cooking first. We were separated into smaller groups and cooked two Thai dishes, competing against each other in our groups. Afterwards, we were allowed to stroke the dogs that lay near the house we were doing the cooking in. I liked them.

On the aerial challenge, we had to overcome different obstacles in the air wearing harnesses, such as walking on a rope while leaning one’s hands against another one to balance one’s weight. At the end of each obstacle, we jumped, having to trust our instructor that he will hold us securely. It was a lot of fun, and I challenged myself in many ways. Near the end, Rebecca walked on the obstacle made of wooden boards, with nothing for the hands to hold, blindfolded, after which we headed back.

Every day, after the activity after lunch, we would be allowed to swim until thirty minutes before dinner.

After dinner, we played a game where one person is asked questions by the others, who are pretending to be journalists. The person being questioned does not know what he has done, but the journalists do, and from the questions the person has to figure out what it is.

Wednesday

On Wednesday, we were introduced to a set of new activities that we were going to do after lunch. These included scrambling, climbing and canoeing, and archery. Flying Pigs began with archery, where we received an informative lesson about the parts of a bow. After getting divided into three smaller groups and practising shooting, we got to do a competition with balloons (whoever hits one gets ten points) and then a mini competition with only one shot. We then headed to lunch and after started preparing for scrambling.

We put on a helmet, sunscreen and some insect repellent, then headed off into the national park. We often stopped to talk about the nature we passed, and we saw a lot of interesting things. We found a crab, discussed how vines grew, and the broken dams we encountered while walking along the riverbed. Afterwards, we took a different path to return.

For dinner, we were pleasantly surprised to have spaghetti Bolognese. As our evening entertainment, we split into four groups, and a member of each was told a word, and he had to draw it so that the others would guess. Next, we were blindfolded and had to follow a rope that had ten objects on it, feeling them and guessing what they were. The winning team got a bag of chips each, and the other teams got less according to their place.

Thursday

The next day in the morning, Flying Pigs did climbing. We practised on a little structure with four climbing walls before going to the area where we did the aerial challenge. But instead of climbing the rope-ladder to the platform near the top of the cement posts, we climbed the two climbing walls on the structure in which two of the obstacles ended. We tried to beat Simon’s record of 18 seconds going up the easier climbing wall, then we abseiled, the second part of the climbing activity, in which one climbs down instead of up.

We practised on a tree before heading into the structure with the two climbing walls. The objective of abseiling had been to ‘feed’ the rope to the harness, with one’s feet on the wall, so that one would slowly descend with their back to the ground. After one descended to about halfway, they were allowed to jump, pushing off from the wall.

Next, we went to canoeing in our swimsuits. The canoes were for two people, so we had to pair up. We played a game where there were nine levels, each one harder than the last. For the last level, we had to overturn the boat of our instructor! It was very fun, and some of us had fun swimming when they were required to.

After a dinner of kebabs, chicken nuggets, and french fries, we went back to our lodges to prepare to go out to the campfire—we were going to roast marshmallows! We also used that time to pack up, since we were leaving the next day. When we came down to the campfire, the sun had already set, and we could see the stars. I admired the campfire for a while, and looked up to the stars and the brilliant black they were scattered in. I watched the sparks from the fire go out as they slowly ascended into the void of the night. The instructors lit several smaller fires around the main fire in the middle—coals on dying fire whose feebleness was put to use. We had been bringing our torches to every evening entertainment session, but this is the first time we actually needed them. We used them to examine our marshmallows to see whether or not they were properly roasted. This was probably the best night of the camping trip.

When we returned to our lodges, we resumed packing. The next day our Year 7 residential trip came to an end… leaving us with the Year 8 residential trip to look forward to!

Residential Diary – Lily (Year 8)

For residential week our Year 8 group travelled up to Chang Mai. Here is Lily’s diary of her time there.

Monday and Tuesday

Drawing of a tent by Year 8 pupil at Rugby School Thailand

When we arrived at Chang Mai we went to the camping site and set up our tents, then we went whitewater rafting.

I really enjoyed rafting and having to work together. I think it helps us know more about other people. I also enjoyed sitting around the campfire, it gave us time to calm down and relax.

Sleeping in a tent was challenging. It was hard to sleep because of the noise, but it was still a good experience.

Wednesday

Drawing of biking activities by Year 8 pupil at Rugby School Thailand

We had breakfast and then split into two groups. One went kayaking first, the other went biking first, then we met for lunch at the national park and switched activities.

I enjoyed both activities, they were challenging and exciting. Kayaking allowed us to work with new people and biking helped us to look after each other. Riding the bike uphill was very tiring, but I got to watch the beautiful view around me.

Thursday

Drawing of cooking at the rice farm by Year 8 pupil at Rugby School Thailand

Today we went to a rice farm. We learnt how to make charcoal and harvest rice. We then helped each other build a charcoal oven and cooked the rice! I really liked both activities, as they gave me a lot of knowledge, but I enjoyed the charcoal oven the best. It was very fun and interesting.

Harvesting the rice was challenging. Even though the sickle was very sharp it was hard to cut through the rice and separate the rice from the husks. The activity showed how much effort people have to put in just for a bowl of rice.

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