“The real voyage of discovery…”

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

Marcel Proust

Who doesn’t like a treasure hunt? Tales of lost riches are common in fiction and even in real life we speak of discovery with some excitement whatever our age. In education we discuss strategies for discovery-based learning, allowing pupils to find out for themselves and to make progress through doing. Over the last months where we have been necessarily more confined to campus, we have perhaps been more appreciative of what is to be found on our doorstep by looking more closely. You do not have to go far to discover.

Discovery in the classroom is not always as easy to achieve as may be thought. Some teaching has to be more didactic, more teacher led but there are usually some opportunities to allow for students to find out for themselves. The British curriculum is particularly strong when it comes to creative subjects, an area where there is an opportunity for pupils to discover their style. The educationalist Kurt Hahn wrote that in every young person there is more than they thought. The journey of education is not simply focused on subjects, skills and acquiring knowledge but it also about learning of what we are capable, developing self-control and unearthing an unbridled curiosity about the world around us. This self-discovery is at the heart of education. Interestingly it is sometimes discovered in those times when formal teaching is not happening.

Two notable annual events occurred yesterday. The Nursery Class visited the Debussy Building where they discovered the story of the school dog Cleo. Something of a celebrity in the late 1950s when she appeared in adverts for Hush Puppy shoes and Vittel water she was also a much-loved part of the school establishment. Nursery were able to follow a trail, discover clues about Cleo and eventually build a word from letters that they found as they went. There was, of course, a valuable reward in the form of biscuits at the end of the search. In this case there was both discovery and delight.

The Senior School had their sports day. Always a day for some to discover that there is indeed more in them than they know. Some found that they were perhaps a little faster than they might have thought or that they can leap just a little bit higher. Others simply discovered that despite their worries they can run 800m without stopping and that spectators at the BSP cheer as heartily for the final finisher as they do for the winner.

Over the course of the year, restrictions have meant that we have had to curtail some of the activities of discovery that we would normally enjoy, opportunities that would often lead to discovery. As we look to the end of term and perhaps allow ourselves a little hope that we may return to something like normal next year, we plan to restore these activities, provide these opportunities, and allow our young people to discover even more about themselves.

Nicholas Hammond