One of the most popular features of the Forest School paddock is our assault courses. The original assault course, although now old and in need of a little TLC has proven itself as a worthy piece of developmental equipment, challenging its users both physically and mentally to overcome their fears and instability. This week, Forest School has really hit this idea home, as the children were once again given the opportunity to use the new assault course in a slightly different context. The incessantly wet weather has made the assault courses and ground quite dicey to navigate. Should this be a reason not to use them? We at Free Rangers think not. There's no such thing as bad weather after all...
When planning my Forest School session, I keep in mind that variables will often come into play, changing my planning completely, or like this week giving it a new context. I had planned for the children to explore different movements with our bodies in conjunction with the assault courses. I wanted them to be able to follow a string of movements as they navigated them, to follow a particular path on occasion. However, after the first day of Forest School it soon came apparent the instructions I was giving the children also worked in helping them better navigate the slippery logs and understanding my directions with greater clarity. To begin with, the group explored a range a movements at our new cabin, to warm their bodies up, and get them used to the main movements they would have to use. Then we would traverse the log piles and fort putting these movements into practice, but in true fashion, our children didn't want to follow a set path for long. And why should they? The assault courses are for freely climbing over, around and under, finding their own routes. These were the movements we explored:
- Bigs Steps like a dinosaur - A favourite with our boys, taking long strides and stomps (with the obligatory roars included) helped the children navigate the stepping stones, where as before most would 'hop on and then hop off'.
- Sliding like a slug/snail/snake - Although this wasn't a direct aid to them navigating the assault course, it helped when instructing the children to dismount in a particular way, especially at the end of the old assault course where the bark had come loose and left a very slippery surface beneath, not suitable to jump off from.
- Jumping like a Kangaroo/Hop like a Bunny - When dismounting the assault course, aided or unaided. With the added 'boing!' to go with.
- Crawl like a Caterpillar - One of the more pertinent moves for independent travel on the assault course, this would be instructed when navigating parts that they would normally need to have a hand held to complete. Also they could find small spaces that they needed to climb under like through the "Rabbit's Hole".
- Small steps like a Mouse - For those confident enough to travel upright across the assault course, but who are still not too sure. They also walked sideways like a Crab on particular parts.
- Climb/Swing like a Monkey - for accessing most of the assault course and the Fort the children have to climb to get there. Also gives them an excuse to act like a monkey too. A few found parts of the assault course to swing on too.
After the first couple of sessions were over, I reflected that the animal movements allowed the children to better decipher my instruction to aid in their independent travel across the assault course. So instead of the aim of the session being to travel across in set movements following a pattern, I allowed the children to show me different ways and patterns of moving across them, even jumping off midway to land in a muddy puddle. They found things to balance on, roll across, swing through, slide down, hop off and generally act like little monkeys! There was lots of "Look what I can do!" which spurred other children to have a go and see if they can imitate or better the movement. The unaided element of these session were excellent for confidence and self esteem, especially for our younger children that have graduated up from the Burrow or to our very new arrivals who have just joined the Free Rangers family. Often all they need is a little push to get them to walk across that high beam, or to climb down the wooden ladder, but with clear direction, staying nearby to offer support as they move and lots of positive praise when they achieve the outcome is fantastic. You can see the sense of achievements in their faces. It's very rewarding, and has meant for a very successful week of Forest School for both me and my little Forest Schoolers.
Until next time,
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