In preparation for the first day at Dacres’ Wood, I made a map to give to the children. The map was a sketch of the reserve made into a puzzle. I had named some of the main landmarks I could see and invited the children to explore the forest and find which is which. I knew at the time that this map would be temporary. That with time and play, names would change, places would morph, and legend would emerge. But little could prepare me for the richness, depth and intricacies of the meaning of place in the children’s world; and I challenge any cartographer to capture the contours of a world which shifts with season and story, dips through dimensions and holds the hand of imagination.
It’s a sunny day sometime last term and I’m standing in the kitchen making some coffee. Lunch has just finished and a few children are outside in the woods playing Harry Potter. Rowan is out there too playing the part of Voldemort. Some other children are indoors making constructions with straws.
All of a sudden, Rowan rushes in and in a serious tone she calls over to me.
The day the children started cleaning the bricks was magical for me. I’m not exactly sure how it started. One moment there was a pile of old used bricks covered in hardened mortar, and the next there was a production line of workers meticulously hammering and chiselling the mortar off, piling the bricks into countable piles and checking for quality control. It was even more organised than that, with a boss giving out jobs and instructions and organising breaks for the workers to run around the forest in turn and rest tired hands. Continue reading “Learning to lay off”
Last term (spring term) we started a science club. This came about when a visiting parent suggested it in the meeting, the children cheered, and there it was, up and running. Friday afternoons, dedicated to science. It would be fun, it would be experiment based, the children could propose experiments or themes they wanted to explore, and no one would be forced to take part. We started by doing lava lamps and gigantic bubbles. Both afternoons were fun and the children’s understanding of the properties of materials was probably enhanced. Continue reading “Are gorillas grown up monkeys?”
Every day I spend at Dacres Wood I learn something new. Last week it was how to identify animal tracks left in the snow and what moorhens like to eat. The week before that it was wood carving and bricklaying. The past week or so however, for me, has been a lesson in how to hold different kinds of spaces at Dacres Wood. Spaces for quietly concentrating, dreaming and making; as well as spaces for group play, discussion and laughter. Continue reading “‘Sitting Down’ v ‘The Upside-Down Jungle’”
Music gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything –Plato.
One afternoon a few weeks ago at Dacres Wood, as I wandered up the steps from the pond to the meadow, my ears picked out a sweet sound amongst the birds, the blowing of the trees and the giggling of children. As I climbed the steps and turned the corner towards our ‘climbing tree’, the sound grew nearer. This was the tuneful strumming of a ukulele and the rhythmic rapping of a tune. Sat upon a log, bathing in the sunshine, T, L and E had formed a band called The Colourgrams and were practising their first song! Continue reading “Strewing Music”
I was watching a Ted Talk the other week called ‘Nature is everywhere, we just have to learn to see it’, by Emma Marris, an environmental writer who writes for National Geographic. In her talk she makes the point that we have stolen ‘nature’ from our children. And by that she doesn’t mean that we’ve stolen nature itself, but that we’ve stolen the definition of nature, the word itself. Continue reading “Rambunctious nature rambunctious children”
The moment I heard the group had voted to go visit Pinewood on a day the wonderful Forest Families community meets I felt very excited and moved. For those who don’t know much about Forest Families, it is a learning community of adults and children who meet every Thursday in a beautiful little woodland in Croydon. Our family has been incredibly lucky to be part of this group since it started and we feel a very strong connection to the people and the space. Continue reading “From Dacres Wood to Pinewood”
One vivid image strikes me most when I think back over our first few weeks at Dacres Wood: the troop of children joyfully bouncing and zipping around the woods, along the bridge, to the courtyard like a deer herd, bellowing and screeching as they go.