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. This worked well and the children were rarely bored, but it all felt too prescribed, and not how Forest School should really be. The main thrust behind any planning I do stems from the children's interests. Why plan something for them to do, when they have no interest in it?
So this week, based on a few sessions the children have recently enjoyed, I planned the sessions around activities I knew would go down well with the Free Rangers, but also that they could pick and choose. They had the choice of continuing the theme of Fire lighting to see how much the children could remember about our Fire Triangle and what we need and how we go about lighting them, going on bug or treasure hunts with some jumbo magnifying glasses to discover small worlds and interesting finds, a homemade building kit made from hazel that they could piece together to make structures as well as pieces of Ash to stack and test their balance skills. Also we have continued to focus on Lord and Ladies, a plant (Arum Maculatum) which is not only abundant, but is also quite toxic. It is my aim not to rid the ground of these plants, but to educate the children on what they look like but also why they shouldn't touch them. Frustratingly, the plant looks similar to the also very common Broad Leaf Dock (Rumex Obtusifolius) and the children can get confused between the two. The clearer they are the safer they'll be. We ID the plant every session we go out, as well as reinforce the 'No Picky, No Licky' rule we keep the children free of ingesting anything nasty!
Across the week the children enjoyed the mix and freedom of the activities, and on no day did we see a favouritism over activities. Each session brought different approaches. Many children altered the activities set out because there was purposely no instruction on what how they needed to do to fulfil them. These 'loose parts' could then be appropriated and adapted to fit their own purposes. For example the children took many of the stacking pieces and used them to roll down the ramp of the cabin, exploring how far they rolled, how they rolled and different ways of rolling them. Magnifiying glasses were also readapted as Pirate telescopes, and some of the connecting pieces of hazel turned into swords. Children's imaginations are always amazing. It's what keeps my job interesting.
In short, I felt the activities worked really well this week. The structure of the sessions allowed the children who wanted to sit down and focus on some stacking or building the chance to do just that, but also allowed the more energetic children the ability to go for a run around finding bugs or treasure. Everyone was happy. What I also enjoyed about the sessions is the freedom to allow the children to pick and choose their paths, also allowed them the chance to explore and make up their own play. As a result we've had some excellent child initiated play and games. One session the children worked effortlessly together to make a pirate plank to walk off into a shark or crocodile infested sea...brave stuff so i'm looking forward to next weeks mixed bag of fun!
Until next time...