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Let it Snow

Last weekend, I sat out in the sunshine at Kenwood and felt a sense of excitement as spring was in the air. But on Monday everything changed as, from seemingly nowhere (or maybe even Siberia), The Beast from the East met storm Emma and blizzard conditions hit Highgate. There is definitely an inverse relationship between age and the excitement at the prospect of snow – and for me, the thought of a snowy week ahead was something else that needed to be managed.

There are the logistics to think about. Will staff be able to get in? Will food deliveries make it for school lunches? Will the entrances to school be safe? Will the children turn up? The answer to all of the above was yes, so to the chagrin of teachers, school was open as usual. No Snow Day at Highgate Primary!

However, what followed was a week the children will remember for years to come. Snow is quite unique – it changes everything. When it snows, things look different, sound different, definitely feel different and, for some of our children, taste different too… It’s a brilliant building material that can be moulded into any shape and can be made into all manner of things. Over the course of the week I saw not only snowmen, but snow penguins, snow dinosaurs and a snow seal. And the best thing of all about snow is that it’s really good for sliding on, especially on whiteboards smuggled out of the classroom.

For teachers, competing with snow for children’s attention is always going to be a losing battle. Phonics, well taught, can be pretty exciting, but for a class of five year olds, the excitement of snow is always going to win. The only solution is to work with it and incorporate snow into the teaching.

In Reception, trays of water with plastic animals were left outside overnight, giving children hours of fun liberating polar bears from their frozen wasteland. There was lots of investigative work to be carried out too. What happens when you freeze shaving foam? I don’t know, but our youngest children do. Our older children learnt about the water equivalent of snow. Do you know how much water you get from a litre of snow once its melted? Our Year 4 children do.

Teachers in Year 5 moved afternoon lessons into the Peace Garden, lit a fire to keep warm and toasted marshmallows. It might not be on the National Curriculum, but real learning took place that was genuinely memorable.

Over the course of the week nothing was cancelled. Children were outside in the snow every break and lunchtime, playing, exploring and having fun – and as snow is soft, there were fewer accidents or injuries than normal. We went ahead with Forest Schools, children in both Year 1 and Year 2 experiencing the woodland setting as never before. It was magical. We even did our before-school ‘Run a Mile’ in the snow, although on reflection that wasn’t necessarily the best decision; running up an icy slope is not straightforward.

So, The Beast from the East came and went, and this week things will be back to normal. But what a fantastic week we had – something even the grumpiest of snow-cynic headteachers begrudgingly appreciated.

William