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Marlborough College Interview with Sam Ponsford

Published on Wednesday, January 22, 2020

MCSEC Interview Sam Pons

April 2020 will see the launch of the Marlborough College School of English’s new venture: Open Minds Experiences. We talk to Sam Ponsford about what the new week-long course will entail.

1. This year’s new course, Open Minds Experiences, follows the launch of your Open Minds course in 2016. Can you tell us a little bit about how the courses are connected, if at all?

Open Minds Experiences was definitely developed as a way to build on the successes of Open Minds and the same philosophy underpins both courses. They are designed to foster a curiosity about the world around them and a passion and excitement for the process of learning. All our courses have a strong focus on creativity and use this as a starting point to explore big questions from multiple perspectives.

Open Minds Experiences takes the same educational philosophy but applies it outside the classroom: Each year the course will take place in a different location and will follow a programme that has been specifically designed to make the most of the opportunities for learning presented by the environment itself. The taught content of the course is fully integrated into a programme of outdoor activities and exploration.

2. You mentioned that the course will take place in different locations. Can you tell us about where you will be going in 2020 and why this was chosen as your first location?

In 2020 we will be going to the Sierra de Guara region of Aragon, Spain. When we began researching possible locations, we knew that we wanted the course to take place somewhere with incredible scenery, a variety of outdoor activities available, and a strong historical legacy and cultural tradition. As soon as we visited the mountains of the Sierra de Guara we knew we had found the ideal location to launch the course: the landscape is breath-taking, and we hope it will be a real source of inspiration to the students.

3. Could you give us some more information about the activities the students will be doing on the course?

Yes, of course. 2020 will focus on landscapes and how we perceive them. This will include an exploration of the differences between natural and constructed spaces and a consideration of our human impact on the environment. To access these topics, students will immerse themselves in the landscape- visiting sites of ancient cave paintings and modern land art, hiking and canyoning in the mountains and discovering medieval hill-top towns.  

4. The course is taking place in Spain, does this mean that there is not a language-focus to the course?

The course is designed to be intellectually-challenging and to develop key academic skills, which naturally includes English language skills. As with all our courses, there is a strong emphasis on discussion and debate, offering excellent opportunities to improve fluency in English. Having said that, the course is open to both native and non-native speakers of English and so is not designed around language acquisition, though all the MCSEC staff have a background in teaching English to speakers of other languages in addition to their specific areas of expertise.

5. Where can prospective students find full details about the course?

All the information about the course is available on our website at mcsec.co.uk/open-minds-experiences. The 2020 course will run from 13th April – 19th April and we are currently accepting applications via the website.  



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