These past two weeks of Forest School have seen the children take to building: both through the assembly of structures and the construction of stories. And what a fascinating two weeks it's truly been.
We opted for the story of the Three Little Pigs as it was a popular choice for the children inside the nursery. It tied in well with the recent spate of building/construction that has ran through the children's focus in previous weeks. We started the week with a rendition of the 3 Little Pigs, using three little plastic 'oinkers' (including a cameo by Peppa Pig) but alas we lacked a fitting Wolf, so opted for a rather ferocious but erudite Tyrannosaurus Rex, who for some reason we decided heralded from Spain. And was called Esteban. (Don't ask) We ran through the story once taking our cues from the children's memory. A few groups wanted to re-tell the story, with some hilarious outcomes, whilst others forged ahead with the rest of the session. We provided the children with all the necessary resources to build the three houses, with an emphasis on helping each other, developing our risk management through careful building and sharing resources to strengthen our relationship skills, empathy and communication.
Our budding Thespians did a brilliantly job at reanimating the story, and their houses were superb. Not every group wanted to build just one house per building material, so quite often, one of our three little pigs had to scurry to his 'holiday cottage' made of the same building material, before moving onto the next more substantial abode as per the story. Now as you can imagine, blowing down the house didn't always work in reality (the houses were quite drafty), leaving Esteban to huff and puff and "stomp your house down!" to marvellous effect. Interestingly when we arrived at the brick houses, some groups chose not to stick to the story and kicked down the door to the last piggy stronghold, allowing Esteban a trio of pork-based snacks. Others stayed true to the story leaving the brick house upright, resulting in our T-Rex antagonist to climbing atop the roof only to tumble down the chimney to certain saucepan-ny doom. The children in this group, not only built the chimney on their house, but also recycled some the sticks from the second failed piggy house for the fire, and found a saucepan to boil some water. So much auxiliary learning was going on here, bringing together a varied range of themes, and skills to fulfil the story outcome. Round of applause for them please.
It's quite an interesting story to work with, as it deals with a whole range of issues: camaraderie, threat, problem solving, empathy, and some serious structural engineering! We frequently ran out of time with these sessions, and were faced with moans and groans as we trudged back inside. I decided it was only fair to expand upon this week and rolled it over like a Lottery jackpot, to see what winning stories the children could create for themselves.
The premise for week 2 was simple. Make a story. Any story. About anything. It has been fascinating to see how the children took to this challenge. Before starting the session we discussed about the kind of stories we could construct using our powerful imaginations. They could be exciting stories, filled with adventure, perhaps a sad story about loss/loneliness or a broken heart, or a scary one about ghosts or dragons; the possibilities were endless. Then we chatted briefly about what a character was, discussing who we thought the characters were in some popular story books like the Gruffalo. We provided a range of animals, people, and vehicles to base the characters on, as well as building materials to form stories around. Furthermore, we had a bucket filled to the brim with pine cones, colourful leaves, twigs, and feathers to embellish their stories, as well as three rather hideous looking masks. They just adored these to terrifying effect.
The children's stories didn't always have a story line or structure as such, but their innate capacity for imaginative play made for brilliant tales of high adventure which were played out in various guises. Interestingly, most loosely based their stories and play around the 3 Little Pigs, creating variations on the theme; alternative characters, homes that were inevitably knocked down, and even the odd plagiarised line. Their stories were punchy and to the point, and changed frequently. Characters, settings, events morphed into new elements, as their play intertwined with their fellow Forest Schooler's lines of thought, creating a melting pot of creativity. It was really quite something, and at times hard to keep track of!
As we progressed through the sessions, we found it pertinent to softly question (we don't want to direct their learning with our interference) and tease apart the children thoughts and directions, allowing us adults into their amazing world. It allowed them to stop and think through their stories, clarifying their creations however vague they might be; they are obviously important to that child and are treated as such. These weeks have, once again, highlighted just how powerful a child's creativity can be, morphing the natural resources into something completely different, whisking themselves off to distant lands, and engaging in high adventure and exciting tales. Never underestimate or take for granted this gift they have. Nurture it and see what grows...
I hope you all have a creative weekend! Share with us what you're up to!
Thanks for reading,