By Mariana Martins
Before Christmas, we came into Dacres Wood, Rowan, and I, to take down the parachute and organise some materials for the beginning of 2022. I was very excited to be working outdoors and finally experiencing a different kind of dynamic with children in the UK. I had a lot of experience with child-led education in Rio, where I am from, but not so much in London. What a great present and moment in my personal and professional life to be joining Free We Grow!
Progressively, during our circle meetings, during play and many planned and unplanned activities, I have got to know a bit more about the rules of our community, the meanings of our hand gestures and also slowly found out more about preferences and ways of communicating wishes and plans. Since my first week I had many opportunities of unveiling new meanings for my practice and presence in the many learning spaces we share, sometimes just observing and being present in situations, noticing different personalities. Besides all the construction of relationships and negotiations of boundaries and impulses, agreeing on projects, and facilitating conflicts, I also managed to fit in my routine my own wish of getting in contact with nature again, something I was so used to in Brazil throughout my childhood and younger years.
I arrived at FWG during a turbulent time of changes and new beginnings and had a bit of difficulty at first in finding my place in all those events. Some children communicated on my first day that they were leaving, and even though it is expected they were to leave this year, it was quite unexpected that they were to leave before July. We are all interacting with this energy of change, some days being more challenging than others. We have also been reflecting upon our own reactions to change and how healthy it is to start again, to transform spaces and relationships. People say to every thing there is a season, a famous sixties song referring to biblical verses: “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven”. Experiencing turbulence is not always easy, change is many times uncomfortable but it is part of the process of growing and learning to live in the world. Respecting each other and listening attentively to our friends in the circle has been incredibly important to all of us in this process. We have a lot to work on, undoubtedly. Little by little and every single day we are at Free We Grow. Unsurprisingly, the seasons are very noticeable when you are in daily contact with nature, and what an important analogy: we are going through Winter, through shorter and colder days. These may not be the easiest ones, however, they are incredibly necessary.
Difficult phases never last forever and in many ways prepare us for other moments in life and allow us to grow and build a repertoire of tools and strategies to live in a community and other circles around us.
Solutions to feeling cold have been brought up in many different ways, either by doing projects outside that require some energy and movement or by active play that warms up even the most unfit facilitator! 🙂
Indoors, we have been having lots of tea and wrapping up in cosy blankets, knitting and embroidering, and even learning new handcraft.
Dungeons and dragons (or RPG or narrative games as some of them are known) sessions, in which we have built imaginary characters and settings to live adventures through throwing dice and making decisions together, have been a great resource to play with the children and work around the construction of fantasy narratives. Who do they want to be? What kind of characters? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Following essential adaptations to the 5-11 age range, we used Andre Luiz Corrêa (Brazilian democratic educator) version of D&D for primary school children, which I translated from Portuguese. The adventure was played with RPG dice, lasted three afternoons and after concluding, we realised we could actually create our own stories to narrate to our friends and play together. We are now in the process of implementing this idea, started preparing a framework for our games and will soon play again with the children as “Masters of D&D.”
Last but not least, we have recently planted the seed of “reading buddies” and had small groups of young people reading books to each other during story time, either titles the children brought from home or others we offered and they felt curious about.
Hoping the new season to come brings us new beginnings, flowers, plants, and animals. Isn’t it just amazing to think now, in February, that in 36 days the sun will be setting at 7 pm again? See you all after half term!