Forest School this week has looked at what it means to be STRONG! Against popular belief, I haven't been secretly training my own little army of Forest School minions ready to over-through Midsomer Norton at a moments notice, so I can final establish my Red Fox kingdom! (although that does sound like fun).
These past few weeks have seen our little Rangers getting physical around the site, like the climbing and risk I focussed on in my last blog post. It seemed only natural to progress to looking at strength especially with our pulleys and ropes and what it means to be strong? Now, when you ask a child if you think they're strong, they will always flex their arm muscles asking if you can, "see how strong they are?" We briefly talked of other ways we might be considered strong, be it emotionally or mentally, but for our Forest School purposes we were going to be looking at physical strength...or so I thought.
Forest School is a fantastic way of boosting the physical development and strength of children. It is an inherently active experience and is not only an ideal cardiovascular exercise but I feel is perfect at building up a child's stamina. At Free Rangers, the children are tasked to plenty of climbing, balancing and jumping, but there isn't much opportunity for lifting or pulling, especially something weighty. So once we had recapped on the previous weeks swinging, we looked at what the children thought being strong enabled you to do. Most jumped to the obvious: you can lift heavy things. What was less obvious was what they thought they could lift, or rather perceptions of their own strength. To start with I picked out a child, usually one who thought they could lift another child or me off the ground. I offered them the choice of picking a friend to help and we discussed whether it was easier or harder if someone bore the weight with them. Next, another child would come over and help until the child or weight was free from the ground and able to swing! It was great to see such magnificent cooperation and the surprise on their faces as they managing to lift each other as well as the enjoyment and thrill of being off the ground and swinging, but it was the start of their understanding that many hands make light work...
Moving on, I allowed the children to either use the rope and pulleys as either a weight pulling mechanism with a large bucket attached or whether they want to use it as a swing. With the idea still fresh in their minds that with more hands helping, a heavy item becomes much easier to manage especially with the pulley to help, I quizzed the children as to whether they could lift the children or weight, to which I reminded them the pulley was going to help shed the weight of the load too! Let's give it go! I have to say, even I was a little surprised at the ease of which they managed it! The combined strength of 8 little bodies with the willingness to succeed, is not something to trifle with! Rope were also used freely as well. Another focus for the session was the development of finer motor skills and seeing how we could use the rope. Children tied, lashed, wrapped and pulled the ropes in a plethora of different ways to both control play as well as create it.
When lifting the bucket up into the tree, I ask if the children could tie the rope securely first to start developing their undemanding of knots and lashings. Once tied and the loads lifted, I took the reigns, giving the children a count down and let the loads come crashing down to ground below with a deep resonating thud and crash, much to the delight and excitement of all! Who doesn't love a massive bucket of wood hurtling towards the earth! Once they had had their fill of this, I let the children loose to see what other things they could pull or drag by making their own swings on the cabin, underneath the Apple Tree, and transported loads (including the children!) in the trolleys.
One of the most popular parts of the week was a pallet swing seat near the Tree House which allowed the children to swing together as opposed to the "solo" rides on the rope swing. Some of the children attached ropes to it to use these strong arm muscles to add momentum to their friend's rides. So much fun, just listen to the giggles!
We witnessed some excellent role-play from the children. Some used the ropes to create dens and spaces to play, whilst others flexed their mental strength too as there was some serious logic, reasoning and problem solving being completed trying to figure out how to get the ropes over, under and through certain areas, and the right knots to secure the loads. It was super seeing the trial and error processes of much of the what the children were doing, as well as the heavy things they were trying to lift too.
Excellent work my little body builders!
As always thanks for reading, enjoy the photos and do leave a comment below if you would like to share your thoughts!
Red Fox 🐾