Telling the children We're going on an adventure! is an excellent opening sentence for Forest School. The children's eyes lit up with glee when they heard these words and you could almost see their cogs of creativity starting to spin into action.
Last week many of our children had asked if they could go on an adventure, whether it would be a pirate orientated one, or hunting dragons and dinosaurs. We had several 'adventure weeks' last year, giving the children free reign over the direction of Forest School, as the explorative aspect has continued in our beautifully frosted and frozen site. The children flexed their creative muscles creating stories, role playing and sharing the adventure with their forest school friends. I was a keen adventurer when I was a nipper and often associate this passion with a child's version of Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe I used to read. Kitchen/bathroom cupboards were usually raided for empty bottles to take home-made 'medicine' in, and I would pack a bag full of string, sticks, toy binoculars, any cake within arms reach and bundled around the house, garden and further afield in pursuit of high adventure, climbing trees and making dens (and generally doing what children should, right?) I usually roped my younger brother along too, as a kind of Man Friday to my Robinson (I like to think it was character building for him...)
Before we embarked, I asked the children what kind of adventure we might have? Where might we travel? How might we get there? What might we see, feel and touch? Who might we meet? This got the children's imaginations whirring as they spoke of caves and mountains, dinosaurs and pirates, bears in caves, magic gates and buried treasure. Usually I set out some equipment for the children to select to aid us on our adventure, but this week we simply had a stick and some rope in our bag to maximise the children's time. Before we started, I also made sure that we remembered our old Forest School plant friend, Lords and Ladies, as it has now started to make an appearance and can be rather unpleasant if eaten and handled (there's a picture of one growing in the slideshow below).
The cabin was our starting point for our adventures. Although the children are now well versed with the lay of land at Free Rangers, giving it new context opens up a myriad of different learning and creative story making opportunities. The children took turns autonomously deciding the direction of where they wanted the play to go. Bushes became caves to explore, animal tracks were followed to their hedge-hole ends, treasure was unearthed and swords swooshed, the teasels and grasses turned into forests and jungle to navigate. Log piles turned into mountains and hills to conquer and secret password-locked gates were opened too. Each session has allowed the children to put their own spin on the direction of the play, which definitely kept me on my feet, whether it was digging, crawling, climbing, or swashbuckling. You name it, I probably had to imagine it and act it out alongside the children! The bitter winds and icy conditions haven't hampered the children's play, and there was a definite Frozen theme throughout the week. We revelled in being able to play and experiment with the ice from anywhere we could get our hands on it, especially the pond. Ice shapes and bubbles were examined, smashed, scrapped, stomped on, slid across, looked through, (and in one case, licked...) whilst one brave boy with hands held, saw how far he could get before the ice broke!
This week has really pushed the children's creativity as well as my own. As a Forest School leader I need to be creative otherwise I wouldn't be very good at my job, but this week has awakened the inner child and challenged my own creativity. Furthermore, through this open-ended creative play and experimentation, the children have been able to understand their world just that little bit better, by being able to have a tangible and experiential relationship with it. You don't get that from being inside now do you...
Thanks for reading as always, and enjoy the pictures below!