Because last week's theme was far too much fun for just one week, we decided to make use of our wonderful site further afield and continue the awesome adventure theme on Forest School all over again. And the week was not a disappointment. As I mentioned in my previous blog post about the open-ended creativity of children given the right amount of space and time, a child can create a whole world of fascination, all of which we witnessed on site here at Free Rangers. What then might happen, if we take them off site and introduce them to the brook and the wood? As we started our new adventures last week, I set the children up with a few questions: who and what we might find on our trip? Where might we go? Then off we marched down to the woods.
Our travels took us out through the farm, across the Green Way cycle track, where we stopped and discussed whether we should run straight across or stop and use our eyes and ears beforehand. Once over, we walked down through the fields and horse paddocks running parallel to the Brook and onto the woods. Of course, for the children it was never going to be a straight forward walk to the woods. The journey took us down rocky paths where we found the traces of dinosaurs footprints and we discussed which way we thought they had been travelling? were they friendly dinosaurs? did they have claws? Once the gates had been navigated we crossed the great plain full of beautiful blooming buttercups, where the horses grazed and the Aspen and Willow lining the banks of the brook swayed slowly in the warm breeze. As we neared the weir, we stopped and listened to the sounds of the crashing water. Were we near the seaside? What else can we hear?What do we think is making that noise? Across in the distance we heard the banging and clashing from the industrial site. But were they manmade noises? Or were the giants cooking in the kitchen? Were the dinosaur clashing and stomping? Was the Gruffalo on his way home to the woods?
The Brook also saw a chance for the children to get their feet wet (sometimes literally). Splashing in their wellies in the shallow water, listening to the sounds of the trickling brook as it swelled around their feet, and the sounds of thrown stones as they impacted the water's surface. Splash! Plop! Kersplosh! Does it float? Does it sink? Where will it end up? As we moved on through the buttercups, the woods soon beckoned some of us in...for a few, it loomed over them as a dark and foreboding place. As a Forest School leader it's important to remember, especially for the new children who have started, that the woods can induce quite a bit of fear. Bears, the Gruffalo, giants, wolves, and witches all make their homes in the woods in children's literature, not mention them covering feelings of isolation, darkness and feeling lost (as a nipper, Roald Dahl's The Minpins was enough to make me think twice before going into the woods!) Therefore it's important for me to demystify the woods as place of play, muddy knees, exploration and most importantly fun. Yes it can be dark, but where there are shadows, there is always light, and the dappled sun cascading through the leaves left beautiful patterns on the woodland floor.
At the woods, the children ran and hid, climbed and jumped, muddied their knees and stung their hands. They watched the Damselflies dart over the Brook surface. They hunted for where the Gruffalo could be. They helped light a fire and watched the flames dance and the wood char. They explored the thickets and chased each other round the glades. They used sticks as swords and as magic wands, both to destroy and to create. It was fantastic week and rewarding for everyone including the adults.
Interestingly this week, despite some groups taking the imaginative story making/adventure side of the activity into 5th gear, other groups used the opportunity to simply explore this new space for what it was: a open and free learning environment. For them, any imaginary component would have been superfluous to the activity, the natural environment gave enough to keep them intrigued, occupied and curious. Why pretend there's monsters over the hill, when hiding in the buttercups, and rolling down the hill is much more fun for them! Many a weary child made the journey home, so I hope that your children have regaled you with stories and memorable moments.
Enjoy the photos below, and have a wild, rainy, muddy bank holiday weekend, wherever it takes you.