So last week went rather differently than first planned! I had originally wanted the children to go down to the Brook to begin a series of sessions exploring water, starting with the buoyancy of materials (the following week the children were going to be crafting some boats to sail especially as a favourite activity en route to the woods is Poohsticks!) However, time restraints meant going off site wasn’t an option, as well as Monday’s children missing out due to the Bank Holiday. So this week, we continued with the slackline and an activity we tried briefly last week. As you may know if you have read either of the previous Forest School blog posts, the children have been carving new versions of themselves upon the Slackline, and this week was no exception. What started out as a simple exercise in ad hoc planning turned into something much more. Like last week, children really impressed me with their capability to push their comfort zones, as well as shattering some assumptions I had made.
We strung a lone 15m slackline (minus the ratchet), over a well positioned branch and securely attached one end to a heavy seat around our Fire Pit. Children took it in turns to walk up the softplay steps and clamber into the looped seat. Once the child was completely comfortable, and only then, did we start. Some opted to swing (and it was a good distance to swing too!), whilst others wanted to experience some height and were hoisted up until they shouted stop! They were always in control. Some stayed on for a long time, others felt it wasn’t for them and asked to get down. I continually checked to see how they were doing, reading their facial expressions, checked their seating position and where their hands were as well as asking whether they wanted to stop, go faster or higher, or if they were happy to just gently swing in the breeze.
Looking at this activity in development terms there was a lot happening. It was incredibly thrilling for the majority who had a go, and was simultaneously a great chance to develop their language. They decided how ‘high’ they wanted to go and how ‘fast’ with many wanting to go ‘higher and faster’ than the child before, as well as exploring the space around them as they travelled "forwards and backwards" mirroring our language work with tools. Others wanted to start a ‘little bit slow’, building up their confidence to go faster. They explored their height in relation to points of reference around them: the tall trees, houses, birds, as well their humble Forest School leader below, frantically trying to keep up with their demands (such a terrible job!). So they developed comparative language as they swung: “I’m flying like a bird!”, “I want to go taller than the trees", “Look how far i’m going!” or (my favourite) "I'm swinging like Spiderman!"
A child's smile doesn’t lie...
I was pleased so many tried or overcame fears, but there were obviously some who didn’t want to have a go. And that was absolutely fine. We gave them multiple chances to have a go and used encouraging language and voices, but never forced them on. This would have the completely wrong effect, not only reinforcing why they didn’t want to go on in the first place but also their trust and faith in the adults around them; something which is key to Forest School in my opinion. Developing strong and trusting relationships with children throughout the Early Years is crucial, as is developing each child holistically: in my experience the probability of a child trying a new activity or pushing themselves to overcome a problem (or seeing that problem as a challenge instead) is much greater if they feel supported by the adults and indeed children around them. This in turn will give them the ability to try new activities by themselves, with reinforced confidence in their own capabilities. It was lovely seeing some positive personal and social development as the children encouraged others and let their friend take a turn first.
So there you have it. The smiles really don’t lie. Next time you see a swing, get on it and see how high you can go...
Enjoy the photos below and have an exceptionally superb rest of the weekend and week ahead.