Enrichment Week 2020

Taking a week off timetable has become a regular feature of the Summer term at Habs Girls.  It’s always creative and varied and draws upon a myriad of talents across the Habs community to inspire and excite our students – no mean feat you might say.  Now imagine having to create something like that without being able to gather the community together in one physical space.  Such was the challenge facing the organisers this year and if the feedback from students is anything to go by, they succeeded beyond measure, taking the week to “a whole new level”.

The new improved Enrichment Week kicked off with a conference of internationally recognised speakers entitled The Time Is Now.  It was a day of inspiration, education and activism at Habs.  It was made possible by the need to take the week online, thereby opening up the opportunity for world-renowned speakers to joined us from their homes across the globe. The conference was attended by over 700 members of staff and students throughout the Senior and Junior school and included talks by respected speakers in their field including ‘Activism’ by Tobias Garnett, ‘Systematic Racism’ by Prof. Iyiola Solanke and ‘Gender and Diversity’ by June Angelides amongst many others. All the sessions provided detailed insights into key humanitarian issues of the day and a continuous theme throughout the day was that of the importance of our students, as young people and capable individuals, to be active in challenging and working against these issues in our society.

We were also very lucky to have Tiwa Adebayo, one of our alumnae, deliver a powerful talk on ‘Activism’. Her insights gave new perspectives into defining activism, and methods of going about being an activist.

Rachel in Lower 6 summed up the day in the following way, “The day challenged us all to reconsider many socio-political issues and encouraged us to further educate ourselves to become more well-rounded, knowledgeable and compassionate people. We were extremely privileged to hear from such a wide variety of interesting speakers on so many crucial issues and I certainly feel it inspired me to not only continue to become more aware of these issues, but actively address them and do what I can to improve the society around me.”

Having set the bar high, Day 2 did not disappoint.  Having heard about and worked on their door hangers of happiness, students then learnt about the different parts of the brain; how exercise makes you feel happier; and the sleep/wake cycle, before hearing from Dr Kathy Weston about resilience.  The afternoon provided a dizzying array of activities from which to choose, ranging from cooking Malteser cake to attending a dance class (to boost those happiness chemicals students had learnt about earlier).  Tallulah in Upper 4 chose the ‘Loving kindness’ meditation with Ms Tebb, “which was very relaxing and peaceful, as my first activity, and made some pasta during session two. This was also very calming but more like squeezing a stress ball or punching a sand bag – the dough was very hard!”  The day ended with an engaging House debate establishing that ‘Happiness is NOT the key to success’.

Wednesday focused on Sustainability starting with a talk from Dan Epstein, Corporate Director of Sustainability, and Sophie Thomas, Director of Design at Useful Projects. The speakers discussed waste in the sea and how it ends up there and shared some very interesting but devastating facts: one whole rubbish truck of rubbish goes into the ocean every minute, and by 2050, it will be four rubbish trucks per minute, meaning there will be more plastic than fin fish in our seas!

Students learnt that sustainability is essentially based on keeping everything in the R loop (reduce, reuse, recycle). It is also about the materials we use, and how we must consider what goes into our home environment and be fully aware of what is around us.  Will we choose to see nature and our natural environment as some place separate to be used for its resources, or will we include it as part of our everyday lives?

Following this talk came an outpouring of creativity from the House upcycling competition and you can see some of the results here. Students also made posters on key environmental issues such as littering, pollution and deforestation answering questions on how they would like to make a change. They could then choose from a range of TED style talks presented by some of the Habs staff.  All in all, an extremely thought-provoking day.

The creativity didn’t end there though.  Day 4 focused on Creative Conversations and students worked on a series of activities that put words and art together to create new pieces of original artwork.  Ebelechukwu in Year 6 tells us more.  “First, we wrote a poem based on the sounds that certain letters make. For example, there are nasal letters, like m and n that are said by creating friction between your lips. That was a very interesting and informative activity and I enjoyed it a lot.

The second activity that we did was focused a lot more on art. We studied an artist called Tom Orico who draws bilateral pictures (this means that he draws with both hands simultaneously). We each had a go at drawing like Orico, listening to poetry as we did to feel the movements of the shape. This activity was about going with the flow and there wasn’t a clear right or wrong which was a pleasant change since there’s a set of instructions for most of the work we do.

For the last part of the morning, we studied concrete poems and created our own poems inspired by Imtiaz Daker and EE Cummings. It was fascinating to study different types of poetry and creating my own poems based on my chosen poet’s style was a lot of fun.

The afternoon was my favourite part. Not only did we create unique, creative poems about objects, we got to use art to bring them to life. I chose to do a word-art theme and almost succeeded in filling my whole butterfly with words. It was an enjoyable, yet relaxing activity and the perfect way to end the day.”

Abigail in Lower 5 shares her thoughts about the final day.  “Enrichment Week ended with a bang, as Habs explored its musical and dramatic side. The day started off with a ‘Music Festival’: a compilation of lockdown performances sent in by a mixture of students and staff, with pieces ranging from classics like ‘Claire de Lune’ to quarantine compositions from Dr Bridge and Madame Lavelle. This session showcased the incredible musical talent to be found at Habs, with some students even accompanying themselves –  it was impressive to see Fleur Sawday and Amelie Jones in duplicate and hear Risha Alimchandani quadrupled, playing all four parts of a trombone quartet. Even though many at Habs may not have strayed far from their homes in the past few months, this musical morning transported listeners all around the world with a diversity of pieces from places as far apart as India, Poland and France.

The next section of the day was also devoted to music, and a range of challenges were set, from recreating an iconic album cover or designing a concert poster, to using household items to recreate famous sections from pieces of music or shooting new versions of music videos. The responses to these tasks were creative and varied, including a Minecraft based reproduction of the school Carmen, Lego recreations of the album cover of ‘Abbey Road’, and a poster advertising an Ed Sheeran concert.

To finish the day, and for that matter the week, various drama-based activities were suggested, and the school got involved in kitchen sink monologues, Shakespeare, speech-writing, and the recreation of famous film scenes. Sections from ‘The Lion King’, ‘Titanic’, ‘Life of Pi’, and ‘Star Wars’ were remade with Lego, soft toys and family members, and scenes from ‘As You Like It’, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘Legally Blonde’ were performed, sometimes even by pets.

Friday’s activities provided a wonderful opportunity for both the students and teachers to launch themselves into the worlds of music and drama, one of the few forms of travel that is totally unrestricted during this lockdown period.”

Out thanks go to all the staff and students involved in such a memorable week.

Extra thanks to Rachel Simmonds-Rosten, Tallulah England, Zahra Yadallee, Ebelechukwu Ezeuko, Abigail Sleep and Sia Kulkarni for their contributions to this article.