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Teenage pupils avoid scenes from ‘Lord of the Flies’ as they go back to nature to live in technology-free village

The Village project at King Alfred's School. Pictured elected village leader Sam Dolling, 13, using bushcraft firemaking skills. Picture: Polly Hancock The Village project at King Alfred's School. Pictured elected village leader Sam Dolling, 13, using bushcraft firemaking skills. Picture: Polly Hancock

Sunday, June 1, 2014
8:00 AM

Pupils went back to basics last week as they disconnected their smartphones to work and sleep in a technology-free “village” in their school’s grounds.

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The Village project at King Alfred's School. Pictured from left Adel, Sonny, Areil and Zac chopping firewood. Picture: Polly HancockThe Village project at King Alfred's School. Pictured from left Adel, Sonny, Areil and Zac chopping firewood. Picture: Polly Hancock

Youngsters at King Alfred School in North End Road, Golders Green, worked for weeks to make huts from scratch before moving into their hand-built village from Monday until Friday.

Teachers were on hand to make sure the project did not descend into a scene from Lord of the Flies – William Golding’s novel about schoolchildren-turned-savages – but the Year 8 group of 12 and 13-year-olds learned all the basic skills they needed to survive on their own.

“They couldn’t believe they had to cook, and then wash up, and clean, and then prepare food, and then do it all over again,” said the project’s leader Stephen de Brett, who is head of design technology and PSHE at the school.

“They said, ‘I never realised my parents have to do so much!’

“The village is like a laboratory of learning. We do it to learn from what we are doing and we look at what independent learning is all about for children of that age.”

Pupils elected two village leaders and democratically agreed on community rules, including what time to go to sleep.

Teachers taught them to build fires, forge metal tools, chop firewood, forage for food, and other basic skills to make the village feel as realistic as possible.

As with any small community there were the inevitable neighbourly disputes but these were solved peacefully after the group decided they should try to settle arguments with compromises.

Pupils were banned from taking their mobile phones or tablets into the village and were instead encouraged to bring in musical instruments to play during leisure time.

“We wanted to open up to them a new way of connecting with each other,” Mr de Brett added. “We didn’t allow football either because otherwise it can turn into a football camp for some of them.

“We’re taking them out of their comfort zone and, by doing that, they end up discovering all kinds of things.”

Pupils have to keep a diary of their time in the village and the project culminates in presentations of what they have learnt during the week.

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