Last Week's Forest School hit such a chord with the children we thought we'd continue it into this week, but with a few extra tweaks and resources to extend their learning and interest.
During the week prior to last, we introduced the children to a box of "bits"; open ended resources the children could access and use as they saw fit. No brief, just "what's in the box?" It was so well received by our little Rangers, I thought it would be ideal to roll it over. The children would have probably been quite content to continue exactly as previously planned, but to maintain the children's interest we looked to alter the activity, adding a different context.
If I was completely honest, I think the longevity of engagement wasn't as robust as in previous weeks, which my pedagogical egotism has put down to the inclement weather we faced (and not my planning...) But true to form the children have shown how an activity can be transformed into something completely different, despite the low temperatures meaning a few of the sessions were shorter than normal. As with last week, we kept the zip-line up but extended the children's use of the pulley system. We included a "washing line" set up (imagine the washing lines spanning archetypal Italian streets) to allow them to pull bottles of water from the bottom to the top of the Tree House without having to set foot on the ground. Because this part was adult created, I wanted to reinforce the open-ended aspect to the sessions. Along with the box of bits, I screwed a single piece of plastic tubing onto the Tree House, and provided extra tubing lengths and connective pieces as well as guttering so that they can create their own water transportation back down to the ground.
From there the children were free to explore the water as they saw fit. It was interesting observing what each group did with the same resources as all the ropes, chain, pots and pans, hammers and bucket and pulley set ups were all still available and they had the benefit of last week's interactions to develop upon. One little lad really enjoyed the experience of the availability of so much rope, and pretty much monopolised its use last week, blocking up entrances to the Tree House, controlling how the others accessed it. He continued with this train of thought this week but on a much grander scale, using the slack-lines and rope to create a bridge across the paddock, utilising the same interesting tying/lashing configurations he used previously. Of course the water played a pivotal role in the majority of the play and exploration. Some groups lead very independent involvement, focusing on their own interactions and experiments, where as other groups we witnessed an interesting 'Marxist' scenario develop on a couple of occasions. Each child adopted his or her own role: the "Proletariat" or "workers" would be at the bottom on the pulley system, filling the bottles of water and attaching them to the ropes, whilst others would be helping to pull the paracord lines to transport the water. These children enabled the "Bourgeoisie" up in the Tree House, who were largely the end users of the water being transported and generally ordered those on the ground around to maintain the flow of water for their own delight and pleasure. From up there, they tipped the water down the pipe work system exploring how the water moved and ways in which they could change the pipes to direct it.
As with all capitalist Marxist scenarios in children's play, the system collapsed as those children transporting the water, wanted a slice of the action at the Tree House. And who could blame them! Water usage was also interesting to observe. I'm not one to waste things. In fact, I hate waste. So when the children started just flinging it out of the Tree House I had to bite my lip, and think "why are they using the water like this?", "What is it about this action that they enjoy so much?" I imagine it was very sensory driven: watching the glistening morphing globules twist through the air or the lovely splat and plopping sounds it made as it hit the ground. Plus they can get away with it on Forest School!
Despite the cold really having an impact on the level of attention and how deeply they could involve themselves into their play, we saw some superb learning develop:
- Motor skills - the fine motor skill of filling bottles with narrow necks and pouring water into tubes from different vessels with different characteristics. Some vessels like the saucepans were wider so the water came out quickly, but also had a spout or lip to help control the flow. Trying to figure out how to get the water there was another challenge.
- Problem solving - children had plenty of opportunity to figure out why something wasn't working this week, especially with the tubing and figuring out how to direct the water. I heard "why isn't the water coming out this end?" on several occasions. Similarly being able to work out how some of the resources worked proved to be really interesting to watch.
- Balance and navigation - with the wet weather and the consistent use of the same area, the site got VERY muddy underfoot. Add that to the already slippery logs and you've got a recipe for a seriously slippery space. Learning how to deal with this during your play is a valuable learning experience. We also had the SlackLines to navigate along as well. This also reinforced the children's own concepts of risk and how they can manage it.
- Sharing of resources and co-operative play - much of the resources this week, could be and were shared. Other took resources for their own needs, but when the time came and a child asked to borrow, largely the requests were met positively. When they weren't we discussed how long we thought we could play with the resources before offering it to someone else to use. Similarly, the process of transporting the water from top to bottom involved some solid teamwork and lots of communication & language skills developed to co-ordinate its use.
- Roleplay - as with last week, roleplaying within the session personalised much of the activity for the children. Octonauts was a popular one this week.
So, a chilly week, yes. A fulfilling week, absolutely. Next week we're looking towards extending our use of tools and to give our feathered friends a little help in this cold weather. All will be revealed!
See you all then. Thanks for reading.