Make room for Mummers

What ho! What ho! Make room for Mummers! We are nearing St George's day and as a traditional custom mummers plays will be happening around the country. These are folk performances that tell the story of life, death and rebirth through the year. Although not the normal story of St George I wanted to bring this custom into the nursery.

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Cavalcade of Forest School

As Spring has finally decided to grace us with her presence, I have decided to change tact with how we run our Forest School sessions at Free Rangers. I think maybe all this sun has gone to my head... Generally speaking, the children would come outside to Forest School and be entertained by a main activity, whether this is the assault course or fire lighting or whatever the children's current string of interest lies as well as a few extension activities should they get bored.

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Part of the same game

It's become a normal part of our day for parts of the garden to get blocked off for repairs by builders, recently there have been disagreements between the builders and the bikers who need to travel down down them. The other day, after several sessions of this stalemate we managed to come to a solution Builders: "The road's closed, you can't come this way."

Bikers: "I need to get down this road, my home's over there!"

Bu: "There's a crack in the road you can't come down"

Bi: "Tim, we can't drive down here but I really need to get over there"

T: "Sounds to me like there's some serious work happening: what's wrong?"

Bu: "There's a crack in the road we need to fix it"

T: "And how long will that take?" (this question really helps with sharing problems, give the children control over their time limits in turns)

Bu: "uh.... I think.... but, well it'll be about 5 hours" (they won't really take 5 hours)

T: "Ah, then we need a diversion!"

I ran in to get some chalk and explained briefly what I was about to do before starting to draw arrows along the ground for children to follow...

This is common in the way we work at FRHQ and is (unironically in this case) called scaffolding. The adult's role is to extend ideas introduced in play to open up new ideas and directions to children, to flow with the play and only directing it if problems are becoming apparent.

In the above example my part was not to tell the builders to move or the bikers to stay away from the road, they were all part of the same game... they just didn't realise it yet!

Once the arrows were down, I left the chalk out and let the activity carry on unhindered:

"Alright builders, let's get the bits and bobs done"

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One child drove on to the building site with his bike, the builders all turned and explained calmly that this was not allowed, the biker responded "Oh, I'm not in work today cos my baby's ill. S, Can you take my bike home? I've got some work to do" and promptly joined in.

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I watched the play expand and evolve, taking in new ideas and bringing different children into the mix. There were arrows drawn, cracks created and fixed, blocks marked with different names so we knew who had put it down... There was even a sojourn in the jungle (I am still unsure how that happened) and when the session came to a close the play was still in progress in one form or another around the garden.

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Building work continues to spring up around the garden but now it doesn't prove a big problem, everyone knows what the game is and get around as best they can

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Fool's Gold

What is a fool? blog MI 200520131

A fool is someone who steps back from the everyday, who looks at it and wonders what can be done with it

A fool recognises that he is a fool and is, therefore, not so foolish as he first seems

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A fool makes us laugh: frees us from the constraints of being too serious about our day to day lives

blog MI 200520132

A fool is utterly serious about his foolery

blog MI 20052014

A fool is the wisest person imaginable

Thanks to Simon Blakeman for performing and guiding the children through his extraordinary world!

Gung Hay Fat Choi

We're coming into the year of the Snake on the 10th February and this week we've had a blast at Free Rangers getting into the spirit. The week started with us telling the story about the creation of the calendar: the race between the 12 animals and how the rat climbed atop the ox's head before hopping off right at the end to win the race! In celebration of this year's animal we put together a giant snake, painted in bright green and pink with foil stuck over it, the children decided that it would look more snake-like if it was wiggly and helped to cut out the shape before it was put up in the Den for everyone to see. The week was capped with a real lion dance, the path was mapped out beforehand, the lettuce for the lion was carried by a (willing) volunteer and then the lion was released amongst the noise of drums and shakers! We're certainly looking forward to a year of good luck at the nursery!

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This celebration was made all the more enjoyable by one boy, T, whose family is partly Chinese. During one session he started talking to an adult about how he and his dad have "Chinese hair" but not his mum; he demonstrated his knowledge clearly not only of what made him 'him' but, because he also has a strong friendship group, he showed that he has a positive view of himself as an individual. Working in a primarily white setting leads me (the equailty officer) to the question of how diversity and different cultures are expressed in a meaningful and un-tokenistic way in order to provide positive learning experiences for all our children. Our children's interest, recognition and pride in their own individuality and that of others is key to unlocking this question and our Chinese New Year was a perfect chance to work with such a vital and delicate subject.

In discussion with T's Mum, she told us how as a family they went to watch the celebrations at the M shed in Bristol each year and expanded on what we already knew about T, that he recognised Chinese writing when he saw it and that when the family went to China town in London he was amazed at how many people looked just like him! To help us with our learning, she asked him to choose a selection of his favourite decorations and items from his home to bring in and share with us and provided us with some red pockets to hand out as well.

I felt so pleased with the way the children all got into the spirit of the event and though there were some worried looks at the lion when he came to life, all the children who were concerned took themselves to a safe distance... though where they could still watch!

Good luck and best wishes to all and and may you have a prosperous and joyous new year,

Tim