A UK school teaches children how to hunt, fish and perform outdoor skills with hands-on classes on skinning game, building fires and more.
A primary school in Britain is engaged in a curriculum that some would find questionable, especially on that side of the pond. The school teaches children how to hunt and fish, use knives, shoot guns and make bows and arrows, start fires (and keep them going), field dress animals and cook the meat, and more.
It sounds like a training ground for young Jeremiah Johnsons. But the curriculum at Eastbourne's West Rise Junior School has advantages that go beyond teaching kids how to be self-sufficient.
"The Secretary of State is now very keen on character-building," says Headmaster Mike Fairclough, a bit of a character himself. "Well, this is what we are doing. You are not going to build character by sitting behind a desk all day writing. They need to be challenged mentally and physically in an expansive way."
Here is a Channel 4 video Fairclough shared on his YouTube Channel:
The youngsters have plenty of classroom work as well, it's just that the school supplements more traditional teaching with hands-on outdoors activities. And apparently it's doing wonders for the kids. The UK Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) rates the school as "good", and says the curriculum is "outstandingly rich."
Grades in other subjects have improved and the children do indeed look to be building character. "If children are excited about coming to school, if they're being inspired and enthused by being outside, then that has an impact back in the classroom," Fairclough said.
One young lad, Harvey, age nine, proudly declares, "We're the best school in England, you know." That's not just an idle boast from a loyal student either. West Rise Junior consistently outperforms other schools nationally in exam results and school ratings.
While learning to shoot guns and to hunt might horrify some parents, Fairclough maintains that "the most dangerous thing you can do to a child is to not expose them to an element of risk and danger."
Another interesting twist to the story is that many of the children come from poor families. Nearly a hundred of the West Rise's 274 pupils benefit from the school's "free lunch" program. That's something of an oddity, as the schools of poorer areas are routinely criticized for their low test scores and troubled youth.
It sounds like a fantastic idea that, no doubt, many parents would embrace. Of course, were we to implement such a program here in America, we may have some trouble getting past some of the politics, social concerns of misguided adults, and regulations.
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