Fresh from her holiday with Y3 to New Barn Centre, Dorset, this edition of Centre Stage is with the Y3 Boys' teacher Miss Bienkowski. We've loved her tales of pura vida living in Costa Rica and are pretty sure - judging by the calm, happy faces in her classroom - that she bottled up some of the peaceful atmosphere with her and brought it back to school.
What attracted you to St James?
On my first visit to St James I immediately recognised what a unique environment it was. Warm greetings, smiles and kindness was shown at every corner and made me feel truly welcome. As my visit continued, I was further welcomed by Mrs Bowman’s Year 2 boys who sung in Sanskrit to me with great strength and focus - I was completely taken aback and mesmerised. Finally, when I came to meet Mrs Thomlinson the spirit and charm of the school all made sense. I left feeling quite astounded by my visit, glad that schools like this do exist amid the hustle and bustle of London, and certain this was a place I wanted to work.
You recently returned from New Barn. What was your favourite part of the weekend?
The best part of New Barn was watching the boys and girls play, learn and explore the outside environment together. They were all truly in their element and I continuously saw smiles on their faces and felt joy amongst them! It was lovely to hear their excitement in sharing all their new discoveries with me from “Miss Bienkowski did you know stinging nettles are safe to eat – Mr Sawicki just showed us!” to explaining how “exhausting” life was for a Celt. Equally spending evenings drinking hot chocolate, reading a story and reflecting on the day was a lovely moment of peace too. I so look forward to going again!
Why do you think outdoor education is an important part of the curriculum?
Taking students outside opens the door to new adventures and discoveries. It helps them expand their mind and build curiosity and intrigue with the world around them. Teaching children new concepts in a classroom environment can sometimes feel quite abstract for a child. Therefore, enabling opportunities to connect with their outside environment can help make learning more relevant for them. I also believe that spending time in nature gives children/adults the chance to reflect on their own lives and empathise with how others live theirs.
You recently returned from a holiday in Costa Rica –your photos looked amazing. Can you tell us a bit more about it?
Costa Rica was quite an adventure and a place I had chosen to travel to after hearing about good surf, an abundance of nature and hills to run and hike up! I spent much of my time there up with the sun, listening to birdsong, hunting out white-faced monkeys (which I have far too many pictures of) and hiking in hope of discovering more creatures unbeknownst to me. I was also absolutely astounded by the kindness and sincerity of the Costa Rican people - they truly encapsulated Pura Vida (the pure life) and even said it in every sentence. Furthermore, the food was absolutely mouth-wateringly delicious – particularly the ceviche (raw fish, citrus juice and chillies). It was the perfect adventure if you love simply being outside and exploring.
What do you like to do on Sundays?
Sundays, are usually days I try my best to completely slow down and make very few plans. This involves me finding myself with a coffee, almond croissant and The Sunday Times. After a peaceful morning, I enjoy going for a walk; either exploring the city further with friends or heading to the countryside to visit family. Both destinations always involve a long and relaxing lunch- catching up with lives of my loved ones and before slowly realising it’s time to probably go home!