We have met every Wednesday at the Rutland Farm Park at 10am and got ready to walk to the woods for our session in the Community Woods (Victorian Arboretum). The site has changed over the course of their time here and a new log circle has been made with a fire pit in the centre, a tool area is emerging and being developed on one side of the site and the Willow trees were cut as they had been a hazard with some weak limbs. The logs from the willow now act as a climbing area and are now home to a huge number of fungi, mosses and insects. There are now two swings, the climbing area, the bridge has been completed during this time too and there is a designated climbing tree, which the children identified and had a good think about its hazards and benefits.
Our time in the woods continues to begin around the fire circle to consider our values as a group and ends in the fire circle to consider what we have learnt, how we have played, what we have enjoyed and what we wish to do the following week. The group have taken time to build relationships together and we often discussed the children’s feelings in the reflection session or in response to some elements of play that needed clarification among the group.
There were some types of play that needed discussion to sort out the “group rules.” There was a wish by some children to play rough; jumping on each other, chasing and mild wrestling play. Some of the children were not keen on this type of play. We had many discussions about how to manage some children’s need for this type of play and the other children’s need to stay safe and unhurt . We discussed asking for consent around playing in a rough play way, and also decided that we should only play as rough as the weakest person in the group. This took some working out as it’s not necessarily the smallest person who is the weakest so there was lots of thinking about permission to play in this way and the level of rough play that should be used. Children seemed happy to discuss this and set some ground rules for the small group and it has worked well.
Two more children joined our group this term (Autumn) which again altered the dynamics of the group the children have been working together to accommodate each other in the woodland setting. The new children have brought their skills and warm personalities and added a new dynamic to our group.
The swing on Cyril the Sycamore became a very happy place however there obviously were tensions among the group about taking turns and who had the longest go. We bought an egg timer and we provided children with pen and paper to write a name list so they could take turns. We talked about what might be a sensible time to have a turn on the swing and they stuck to their plan most of the time. Sometimes though, other things became more interesting, and all of the waiting and organising of the swing timetable was quickly abandoned as something else became the stimulus. A few weeks after the egg timer and name list was introduced the children started to work out for themselves when they would take turns. They also were risk assessing constantly while using the swing. They recognised that there was a branch in the way and so we had to take tools to remove it they also recognise that there were many stinging nettles and although they were afraid of them in one way, they also wanted to fly on the swing as high as they could to swing over the stinging nettles.
The children found a den that they wanted to call their own and there was some frustration about who was ‘allowed’ to use the den. This was another opportunity for discussion about our value of “fair share” and about enabling all people to access all places so that people feel included. The den still needs some work although it has fallen down the children’s list of priorities right now. We would like to invite them to do some work on this then to make it a manageable place to play and to set up some boundaries within it because of its proximity to the stream.
We have enjoyed lighting fires this term and the children have taken a keen interest in fire lighting and looking at materials that will catch fire quickly when starting a fire. Children have been helping to prepare wood to for the fire and have been able to use a Froe and mallet to chop our ash logs into smaller pieces.
In the autumn and children picked prepared used other ingredients and cooked with us the cordial and then enjoyed the drink over a couple of weeks to warm our tummies in the woods. We are pausing for a half term break now and will return in November for more play and learning in the woods.