Brantwood – Transforming Lives
Sarah came to Brantwood Specialist School towards the end of 2013. She had been out of school for over a year and had not left the house for a long time but when her parents persuaded her to visit Brantwood for her assessment, she liked it so much it inspired her to want to come here.
At first she would be dropped off and collected by family members in their car, but she is now walking to the bus stop and catching the bus. Initially, travelling was a big issue and she only felt comfortable in familiar cars and needed to know the route she would be taking. Brantwood staff worked closely with Sarah and gradually introduced her to travelling on outings in staff cars. They would take her to show her the route before the outing so it would be familiar to her and built up her confidence by starting with short journeys and gradually extending the travel time. Over time, she was then able to travel in taxis and trains and go longer distances. Her family are now able to consider going on holiday with Sarah, which would have been impossible before.
Sarah is blossoming at Brantwood and is constantly reaching new targets which are set either by herself or jointly with her teachers and her key worker. She is now feeling very positive about her future and is making plans and with the encouragement of Brantwood she will no doubt continue to successfully reach and exceed her goals.
Below, Sarah gives her own view of how Brantwood has had a positive influence on her and helped her to grow in confidence.
“Before I came to Brantwood I never left the house, never ever thought beyond going outside into the garden. The tribunal said I couldn’t go to Brantwood because I wasn’t going out, which gave me the determination to try walking and that eventually led to being brave enough to get back in a car which was one of my biggest fears. I had even jumped out of a car before because I was so scared. Ever since being at Brantwood, not only has my confidence in travelling improved, going from driving in a designated car to not being bothered whose car I’m going in, my confidence in myself has also grown. Nothing is impossible. I can now travel to school on the bus and even went on a school trip to York on a train.”
Below centre, Sarah waiting for a train to York with other Brantwood students at Sheffield Railway Station.
Brantwood − ‘Inside My Mind’ with student Jules
Brantwood student Jules, pictured below, is definitely one of our most creative students. Jules is always happy to express himself and enjoys the creative possibilities provided by Brantwood’s practical hands-on curriculum. Jules is able to express these artistic abilities through a variety of mediums such as art, drama, music, woodwork and textiles.
Pictured above is a piece of art work by Jules which would not look out of place hanging in the National Gallery alongside a piece by Salvador Dali. Created for a project he is working on in class, the picture helps to visualise the cacophony of thoughts and feelings going on in his head at any one time.
Many of the students who attend Brantwood find it difficult to express their themselves verbally, and use art and crafts as a method of communication. Jules is also very creative in terms of how you can use your body in movement and there are opportunities to explore this further in Eurythmy and Occupational Therapy sessions.
Brantwood − ‘Life’ in Textiles
A very short term is coming to a close where Brantwood students have been exploring the theme of Life. In textiles lessons, this began with an exploration of plants, trees and flowers. Students have gathered inspiration from the beautiful gardens surrounding the school, taking pictures outside of the new spring blossoms. Vincent van Gogh’s sunflower paintings were also used as a source of inspiration for students’ design ideas before they created their own artworks in a variety of mediums. Students have learnt new skills in needle and wet felting, as well as fabric painting.
One student enjoyed the work in class so much that he decided to extend the skills he had learnt in wet-felting to an independent project. Reminiscent of an abstract expressionist painting, the work was impressive in size and demonstrated a clear eye for colour.
Students are now working on natural forms based on the paper cut-out art of Henri Matisse, which will be developed further in the next half term.
Brantwood’s Dandelion Marmalade
Can you make marmalade on a campfire? At our outdoor site at Eyam? We proved that you can!
It all started with a foraging course that I had been on. We learned how to identify edible plants and make delicious food with them; including cow parsley soup, won-tons with nettle and knot-weed crumble and marmalade with dandelion flowers that we had collected.
I thought the opportunity was too good to miss so set my students a challenge: can we find enough dandelions to make us all some marmalade to take home? I set them off with their brilliant teaching assistant, Kim to fill a carrier bag while I got the fire going. We washed our hands, the flower heads, pots and pans and shaved the bark from a stick to use as a stirrer.
The students practiced their numeracy skills by measuring the ingredients, reading the recipe out step by step. I peeled and chopped the apples which provide the Pectin, to make the final mixture into a jelly. We removed the stalks from two thirds of the Dandelions and added them to the bubbling pan. It smelt delicious already. After the apples turned mushy we sieved the mixture and put the appley/flowery goo on the compost heap.
The golden liquid had the sugar and lemon juice stirred into it and we boiled it furiously, while the students squeezed and picked the yellow flowers from the remaining stalks to add to the brew. This is where the pectin from the apples comes in. As the water boils away the mixture starts to solidify. The stirring stick is checked for any signs of marmalade-type jelly as it cools. When the end of the stick has golden stickiness on it, the mixture is poured into sterilised pots to cool. This is to stop the marmalade going mouldy, although all mixtures I have made have not had chance because they get eaten so quickly!
So the students headed home with their pots of marmalade held proudly in their hands. The golden liquid with suspended dandelion petals glowing from within.
Gareth Hills, Wilderness Teacher