Prince Charles spoke of the ‘special pleasure’ of visiting Ashley CofE Primary School in Walton-on-Thames in February to open a stunning hexagonal Harmony Centre.
The school, recognised as one of the world’s leading eco-schools, has embraced ‘Harmony learning’ based upon the principles enshrined in the Prince of Wales’ 2010 book Harmony: A New Way of Looking at our World.
Harmony learning is founded on the conviction that everything is connected, and that an understanding of interdependence, diversity, cycles, oneness and health enables students to see the world around them in a completely different and more sustainable way.
The Prince of Wales was ‘fascinated’ to see how the school, an academy in the diocese’s Good Shepherd Trust, has integrated the principles of Harmony into the learning and spent almost an hour and a half meeting with staff, dignitaries and pupils.
He saw pupils sculpting ice as part of their learning about the Antarctica and climate change, others spinning tops in paint to create Fibonacci spirals and a geometry lesson where one pupil was so engrossed in her learning she barely looked up to see the future king.
Ashley School has developed a programme supporting teachers and educationalists to link subjects across the curriculum with traditional arts and the natural world in line with the Harmony principles and the new centre will be used as a venue to deliver workshops to visiting teachers as well as by the school’s pupils and the local community.
After opening the timber-framed centre, which has used locally-sourced Douglas fir for the cladding and recycled Welsh slate for the roof, Prince Charles stopped by to see the school’s extensive organic growing areas nourished by compost made from recycled school dinner waste.
Prince Charles said: “I just wanted to say what a great and special pleasure it has been to join you all here at the school today and to see some of the work you are doing on Harmony.
“I was amazed when your headteacher took an interest in this and the fact that he has managed to turn the book into a living demonstration of how to reconnect us all to the world around us in nature and to understand better the harmony and interconnectedness.
“I have been fascinated to see what you have been doing.”
Headteacher Richard Dunne said: “It was a great honour to have the Prince of Wales with us for such a special visit and it was thrilling for the children and staff to not only welcome him, but to also sense his genuine interest in what we are doing.
“There is now overwhelming evidence that humanity is living beyond its means, consuming and polluting in ways that are exhausting and degrading the natural world and impacting on the lives of the most vulnerable.
“It is quite clear that business as usual is not an option. It’s important that Harmony learning isn’t seen as just another thing to do , rather it is about shifting the focus, making learning even more effective, even more engaging an even more empowering of our children .”
Last year Ashley School became one of only nine schools in the country to be awarded Eco School’s Ambassador School position and as such is working closely with other schools on their journey in education for a sustainable future.
The school’s sustainable policies include cutting its energy consumption, designing school menus to minimise waste, creating biodiversity maps for the grounds and using an eco school uniform supplier.
The £250,000 Harmony Centre was made possible thanks to generous sponsorship of the local Charity of Robert Phillips and the Elmbridge Community Infrastructure Levy Fund as well as school fundraising.