By Sally Hall
“I have come to feel that the only learning which significantly influences behaviour is self-discovered, self-appropriated learning”. Carl Rogers
What a two years we’ve had at Dacres Wood (Nearly two years! We’ll celebrate at the end of this summer term). And what an opportunity it’s been to learn freely about ourselves, about others, and about our interests. I say ‘we’ because I can’t help but include Rowan and myself in the group of learners, and I think that this is just how things should be. Last week, Rowan and I were tidying up after pickup and stopped to admire some of the creations from the day… drawings, sketches and posters for the climate strike that took place on May 24th. Among the creations, Rowan had sketched a beautiful rhino, and I had painted a big blue whale, and we were both so proud! “My drawings seem more beautiful since I’ve been at Free We Grow” exclaimed Rowan, and I knew what she meant, it feels like it’s got something to do with the time, the flexible flow of the day, and being out in nature.
We all seem to be learning and developing in so many different ways at DW and it has been such a privilege to be part of it. As this is my last blog of the year, and of my time at Free We Grow as I shall be moving on next year, I want to dedicate this piece to all the learning that has taken place so far. Learning of all shapes and forms: the kinds of learning that are obvious and celebrated, the learning that happens outside of DW that we bring in to share, the learning that you don’t even notice you’re taking in at the time, but enters the conscious mind weeks, months, years down the line, the learning that takes time… and the learning that goes off like a rocket!
Here is a by no means exhaustive list of some of the ways we learn at FWG… at our own pace, in our own way, where, how and with whom we want to:
1. ‘Pride at catching up with the rest’ Learning
When a birthday card is being passed around to sign, and this time, you can proudly spell out the letters of your name along with the rest.
2. Shared Enjoyment Learning
The warm, cosy feeling of shared routines and working together towards a shared goal. Whether that be a collective gasp when Mary finally opens the door to the secret garden during story-time. Or the excitement and anticipation for what will be covered this week in Rowan’s first aid course.
3. Learning to Work Together
When you realise that overseeing a construction line of people to dig for clay and build mud bricks in the forest, managing shifts and staff break times is actually really hard because, “I actually have to think about others and how they’re feeling! It’s exhausting!”
4. ‘Keep Trying and You’ll Get There’ Learning
When the others can run and jump up the wooden board onto the top of the wall and you’re so nearly there but it’s taking time.
5. ‘Inspired By How Much You’re Into This’ Learning
When someone in the group is clearly the authority on parkour, or fashion design, or minecraft, or manga. And you’re not necessarily into the same things, but you can’t help but feel inspired by their level of passion and enthusiasm.
6. Learning to Ask For Help
When you ask for someone to paint a huge, intricate dragon on your arm with face paint, and making a request feels like a way to reach out to the person and connect, testing out how it feels to ask for help.
7. ‘People Have Different Opinions to Me! Who Knew’ Learning
When you realise that some people have real objections to your proposal to go to the London Dungeons because it’s actually a bit scary, and recommended for children aged 12+. You see the results of the survey gathering opinions on next terms trip, and you’d still prefer the London Dungeons, but you’re happy with the first choice too.
8. ‘Mastered It Overnight’ Learning
When you discover something new and just have to go home to explore more, returning the next week having committed to memory the cyrillic alphabet, or all the steps to making an origami triceratops.
9. “Leave off, I’ve got this!” Learning
When someone tries to explain how the metal detector works but you just want to turn it on and explore. You don’t get it right straight away but you work it out bit by bit and you did it all by yourself.
I’ve learned so much during my time at Dacres Wood – from the children, from Rowan and the team, from our community of families, from our visitors, trips and buzz projects, and from the time spent out in the reserve. This community is so special and I look forward to watching it learn and grow for many years to come.