Being new…

Whenever I turn into the road and see the Dacres Wood site, I get a smile that starts from the inside and makes its way through to my face! It’s a feeling that I’m in the right place, and I am experiencing such good fortune to be part of Free We Grow – this secret world of cat ninjas – with their unique skills, talents, interests, and hidden depths to be revealed slowly and in flashes. It’s a precious thing and I’m happy to be at the start of this journey!
Each of my four days at Dacres Wood, and my four online, have been different, and wonderful. I know that this is usual! As the children arrive, the energy builds and gradually creates a new flow for the day. I’m so grateful for the warm welcome, everyone showing me support and kindness, in different and subtle ways – explaining things to me as we go along, including me in games and making, being aware for me of what it is like to be new, while carrying on with what they want and need to be doing, with a few really taking me by the hand to bring me into their world. Moments of affection, buddying up for tasks, being asked to get involved with projects – all signs and ways that little by little I’m settling in.

Nature…

Walking around the reserve with the facilitators is a perfect way to get ready for the day – checking in with each other, and checking in with the wood and the pond, before our day begins. It is so refreshing and grounding to feel that life all around. With the old and young trees, you feel connected to the big picture of life continuing and the present moment all at once, especially in Spring! It’s good to take an approach from the wood into facilitating, and it is what I guess children are absorbing by being there – a feeling of everything calmly taking it’s place, negotiating for its space, and taking its time. It also needs care-taking, and brings the thought of responsibility – that each interaction we have, with each other and our world, leaves a mark. I’m glad to think that Dacres Wood can breathe a sigh of relief while we’re away, to use this springtime to rest and repair!

Time…

What has stuck me most is the feeling of how time feels at Free We Grow – not just that time flies by when you’re fully involved in something – but how it feels to have enough time to explore a project, come back to it when you’re ready, to allow for it to develop in different ways. I feel like it helps the children to build a realistic sense of how long things will take them…and to not feel pressured or stressed by the idea of not finishing in time, or of focussing on the end product. I think this is so key to overall well-being, it’s a wonderful gift they have been given.

Voice…

I’m slowly learning the meeting. For this group, I know it is not unusual that a child leads a meeting, or takes the space to articulate their feelings and opinions, or to make proposals, but for me it still feels brilliant – having been in so many situations where it is not like that for children! This is what I came for, and this is what I love – to see the power being shared and the decisions taken together and for the good of all. Most of all, I love to see the impact of this way of doing things on the children – when they know themselves, when they can check-in to feel what’s right for them, to say what they really think. I’m impressed by those that lead the meeting – it takes effort and attention to keep the meeting on track, and it takes attention and respect to support it by participating. Again I think these are fundamental skills for life…!

Fun…

I’ve already started collecting snapshots of magical moments – running through the wood laughing, dodging slippery mud, stopping behind my forest guides as they stop to notice small changes, and monitor favourite spots – sitting by the water to watch the ducks and chat – a sea of legs jumping over and over our limbo ribbon in waves – engineering experiments with paper planes – standing up for injustice – making lemonade while thinking about how everything is made of particles, so a tiny part of us is touching everything, all the time – a proud chant over and over ‘We did it! We did it!’, which is now how I think everyone should celebrate a quiz! – the music, all the music, I love the music – my own sense of achievement in making part of a treehouse – being instructed to make sure sticks only lay on the path and not to damage any young trees or ground cover – tidying the wood and looking after muddy patches – making a brilliant group story about penguins – piggybacks, ball games – watching group members look after each other – talking with Rowan every day – and now, every time a bit of magic arrives in our shared drive or over the WhatsApp groups, and getting to connect with families one to one. Thank you everyone, in these strange times I’m also having a wonderful time growing into your lives and having you in mine!

Sara A.