Over two previous weeks, the Den Forest Schoolers have donned their hard hats and paved their ways to some excellent play. The focus has expanded from simple building blocks to complex role-play and imaginations coming to the fore.
In the last Forest School blog, we looked at how the children dealt with their own concepts of strength and in particular weight. To facilitate this, we set up various pulley systems and gave them wooden blocks to add or take away depending on how much they perceived they could lift and pull. However, a slight oversight from Red Fox was that first and foremost, wooden blocks make very good building materials, so once the children had had their fill of lifting, they naturally navigated to use the blocks as they saw fit.
So to follow this rather obvious interest, I decided to focus more on the building side of the blocks, but retained a single pulley to mimic a building site of sorts, and the trolley for transportation purposes. Milk crates were also sourced as they make a wonderful resource for stacking, both interlocking completely and stacking very neatly. The first week went really well, and we thought back to the strength and weight discussions from the week prior. It was pleasing to see the children think about how we can share the resources, and pitched in with other children's ideas to see them come to fruition. One notable session saw half the group latch themselves onto one little boys train track design, which spanned half the paddock with stations, track and sidings. Very cool. The co-operative nature of the sessions allowed us to witness these kind of collaborative outpourings of imagitiive play which was very rewarding.
To extend the focus into the second week, I thought back to when we had run a similar session and had detailed how, despite the children finding great joy in the physical tangible construction of their ideas, the thrill of the destruction afterwards can rank a higher appeal. Repeating this theme also served as an excellent opportunity to discuss the possible hazards and risks and arm the children with strategies to manage it themselves. So for the second week, we let them explore this repetition of play: build & destroy, build & destroy. Structures would be erected and we would devise ways we could bring it down safely: the main aim of many of their creations. Before the excitement of the collapse, we discussed a variety of the following questions: Can we push this tall over with out it hitting our heads? Could we use rope? Is throwing something at it safe? Where should our friends stand? Could we use the zip-line? How could we build it stronger next time? Are their other materials we could use? Do we need our friends to help us? How can I make myself taller to reach the top?
This made for elongated and focussed play where the children, whether individually or in groups, would build structures/buildings for various purposes with stories attached. The main theme of role-play came through the guise of being on a work site. We had pulleys for lifting materials into the tree house, the trolley acted as a truck of sorts to transport blocks (and children) across the site, and we even had wrecking ball in the guise of a zip-line with a bucket.
This particular aspect served a brilliant purpose of improvement of our work, generally through trial and error. On occasion I would pretend to be a King, and would challenge my lowly plebs to build me a castle wall strong enough to stop the Cannon Ball (zip-line) in its tracks. This was great fun, and really exhilarating for the children to be sat at the bottom of the zip-line whilst it hurtled towards them.
Blocks aside, we also had a 'box of bits' for the children to access including ropes of different lengths, pulleys, bungie cords, bags, and chain to aid them in their designs. It was nice to see the children construct with the rope too, creating games and play around what they made, like decorations for parties, or tying up a prisoner (usually me). This proved to be a good point for the children to practice their knots. I could teach them how to tie a secure hitch, but where would the memorable learning be? I'll let them work it out for themselves...
Towards the end of the sessions we quite frequently visited the bug homes, which allowed us to see how the bugs have built theirs. Of particular interest to the children was the Ant's nest, which opened up discussion as to how the ants work together to make a gigantic task much easier, as well as the comparative strength of such a little creature, which tied in the thinking of the the past three weeks of our Forest School rather well!
Hope you have all had great weekends, see you in the next Forest School blog post!
Thanks for reading as always,