Free We Grow’s latest figures

by Mariana Martins

    • One felled tree
    • 3 miles walked in the neighborhood
    • 6 board games
    • 18 “rose circles”, with buds and thorns included
    • 7 dragons
    • 2 grape rituals
    • 99 hours of play
    • 100s of inedible mushrooms!

October is coming to an end and our numbers do not lie: what an amazing term with all its reverberations, equations and additions has this been! Some of our new kids are so much into numbers that these have been really influencing our vibes all over Dacres Wood! Especially this facilitator’s column! Forgive me if I forget some of the figures, I am definitely not a “Maths person”. Nevertheless, I think it was such a marked trait of our days in the woods that I had to honour it as much.

Against all odds and relying on just one of our two indoor spaces (due to works and Lewisham Council restrictions on the use of our bigger room) and the group’s own fantastic ideas, our new cohort of FWG members put in practice all of our concepts of creativity, collaboration, self-led learning, personal connections and so much more. Many of us went further into discussing our own habits and activities, comparing lifestyles, talking about our families and roots. Many of us learned how to make crochet and taught each other how to start chains and circles to now getting to making our first granny squares!

So many trees have been hugged and so many uncountable little plants have been looked after that it is easy to be overtaken by the event of the 9th October. Let’s remember the beautiful plane tree but let’s also celebrate the many ones we have and enjoy at home.

We had a tree, we lost a tree, it’s true. In one day we came together with a whole strategy to save this tree by the railway tracks, had the most connected and special day together talking to so many neighbours and members of the community, to then find out the following week that, even though more than 2.000 people had signed the petition, even with so many decorations and our glittering signs manifesting our love for the ‘185-year-old’ tree, we lost that new found friend, the plane tree that existed on the Sydenham Park cul-de-sac.

Then our artist in residence arrived with a number of paints and the biggest piece of paper we had ever seen and some of us transformed our loss into an explosion of colours, a mixture of textures, with jumps and skips and green monsters! The process of creation is still ongoing but the seeds and buds are all over our space.

So much joy and so much laughter, stories of clocks and stories of animals, dancing together and finding our rhythms. Stories of oral tradition, stories of mystery and curiosity, reviewing our times tables under a tent in the woods and realising the great pleasure of just getting muddy and listening to birds before lunch. There were dragons being hatched in the meadow, there were nests prepared by new friends who we just met. We remembered that even though some mushrooms look really cool and funky, we should never try them under any circumstances!

I loved being told stories of games and suspicious snails, learning about kids’ different talents and studying together how to get to make something that none of us had ever made before.

Soon I will have been immersed in the universe of nature play that FWG offers for a whole year. I joined the community expecting to stay for only a short period of time, I was to be in DW for the length of a maternity period. I thank the universe every single day for being here and being so lucky that I actually got to stay and be part of the holding team as well. I have achieved the love of learning ultimate prize: Whoever teaches learns in the act of teaching, and whoever learns teaches in the act of learning. This is a common theme in Paulo Freire’s works – our Brazilian educational philosopher – teaching and learning are reciprocal acts. You can’t do one without the other, at least not if you’re doing it right. “Because love is an act of courage, not of fear, love is a commitment to others.” The kind of learning we do in our routine feels wholesome, just true learning, embedded in love and respect, resignifying the world around us as we go along: “Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other”.

Let the new adventurers and dreamers of Free We Grow open the gates to more dimensions in this year that just started!

Footnotes: Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed