Variation on a Plamping Theme

This week, we have in a long winded way, continued the "Plamping" from last week's Forest School activities. It has been very mixed again, but there has been plenty of ad hoc focus on the play camping, with the tipi again being utilised as a play space as well as a learning and exploration. The week has taken on various different aspects. The children redesigned the 'bypass' on our assault course as they felt it wasn't very safe anymore so a group of 5 like-minded boys set to task to remove and reshape the alternate route. They've also released frogs back into the murky depths, watched two male Emperor Dragonfly's arial acrobatics as they dog fight over territory above their heads around the pond, not to mention the occasional sporadic "let's lift this up and see what lives underneath" moments. But what caught my attention the most this week was the  children's own extensions of the "plamping" we did last week. The children had dismantled the Burtonsville Fire Rig I had made for them (no pleasing some children!), as well as the fire pit, for reasons unknown, but regardless of why, they found they had lots of mini pegs and pieces of kindling lying around the camp. They also had the logs from the fire pit surround. Naturally, they put two and two together and began hammering them into the ground!


I've found that any activity embedded within kinaesthetic, tactile and physical play, is usually a safe bet for our Free Rangers, and this was no exception. A few girls started this activity, then like bees to the honey pot, they soon found themselves surrounded by those who also wanted a go, or wanted to show them a different or improved method. And here we found ourselves with a problem. 8 children all wanting to hammer these little pegs into the ground but only 2 hammers doesn't make for good social maths! I managed to scrounge together a few chunky logs to improvise but still was short. Plan B? Make some more! A few children were keen to help so we set about sawing and chopping a large, thick piece of hazel to make long handled mallets for them to use. This was a great motor skills activity, especially when two children where hammering atop the axe to make the handles which meant for some serious teamwork and timing! (see the gallery below!)


While this activity was going on, the tent was still being utilised as play station, and more fire making was being modelled by the children using the offcuts from our mallet making! Previously I hadn't wanted to light any fires in the garden to protect the grass, but more importantly because of the amount of children present at the time. However, this week I felt due to our reduced numbers we could light a small fire, but also show the children an alternative method of lighting fires by using Cramp Ball fungus (Daldinia Concentrica otherwise known as King Alfred's Cake) and a fire steel. This is done by landing a spark onto the concentric rings of the internal part of the fungus and then blowing on the ember until the fungus turns into a coal. This is added to a tinder ball of dried grasses or similar and then further agitated by blowing or waving softly through the air until the tinder bundle catches alight! It's quite dramatic and the children were transfixed watching the smoke get thicker and thicker before flames leapt out of the grass and they loved exploring these rock hard but beautiful fungi. Some the children thought they smelt of chocolate but I wasn't so sure. Once lit, they then assisted in feeding our miniature inferno by carefully adding on the hazel chippings. There was plenty of healthy discussion throughout, some accurate, some not so much, all of it valuable.

I really enjoy these weeks, as the children effortlessly lead the direction of the activities from day to day, and each group brings something new to the table. All I have to do as a practitioner is watch, listen and assist when required. It makes planning much easier too, as the children are showing you where their interest lie. Rather handy really...

Here's to the start of the new term! We look forward to welcoming you all back from your summer breaks, to new and exciting times ahead!

See you all next week.

R. Fox

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