From the woods to the classroom
(By Filipa Pereira-Stubbs) Another Tuesday has rolled round, and again the rain hangs heavy in the clouded sky, but its another wonderful morning at Bramblefields.
We’ll start with a story, told by Tyler who has climbed back into his favourite tree, despite the wet bark, and slippery wells. He’s wedged comfortably into forked branches, and leans like a tiger.
There was a sleeping dragon… and a fox tiptoes then bites my boot off. Then I was fighting the fox. The snake was helping the fox and the stinging nettles. Then all my friends came – a horsey, a dog, and a cat…and a gruffalo. And some leaves helped me. And the flies helped me. And the sticks helped me. And the wellies helped me. And the hand helped me. And the sun and the rain. I had some bombs in my hand and I throwed them at the badies.
A comfortable boy high in the tree surveying how kingdom with satisfaction, acknowledging the friendships he has made in Nature, and his pride in his own climbing body.
Filipa: Are you going to come down?
Tyler: No, I’m going to stay here forever.
Filipa: Really? What are you going to eat?
Tyler: Leaves and stinging nettles!
Filipa: What happens if you stay in the tree forever?
Tyler: I’ll eat the bats, If I see a snake, I’ll jump on it. If I see a frog it will try and bite me, and I’ll kick it in the face.
Ongoing interests are revisited, and new interests develop. The trees are visited again, and climbed again, and many roaring running games are played. A show is held by the elephants, who have successfully chased away the elephant hunters – which no one comes to, it turns out, but this doesn’t seem to bother the elephants too much. Magic stones are found, dug by pirates, searching for treasure that has been left there for them by previous pirates. Huge amount of exertion is needed, and each new discovery is greeted with great excitement.
The magic stones are carefully wrapped in green leaves.
We have made books for the children – blank sheets simply stapled together, and these are seized eagerly – there is much writing of stories, of lists, of ideas, and many pictures drawn. Keira sits next to me while I watch the pirates dig, and writes in huge letters all that she sees.
Keira’s words are big and beautifully drawn – calligraphic in their precision – they sit fully and simply on the pages of her book. The morning feels like a reflection of this list – the play is full, and important, and yet simple and tranquil.
In the afternoon, the classroom environment, indoors and outdoors is rich with possibility. We want to honour and continue some of the ideas and experiences of the children as expressed outdoors, and see how the values that anchor our practice outdoors can be implemented in conjunction with the interests of the children once we’re back in the traditional classroom setting.
There is a wall and floor space set up for the stories and images told and drawn by the children. This week there is a big tree on their classroom wall – with pictures of the children climbing high pasted high in the tree branches.
There is lots of paper set out – big and small to draw/make creatures – imagined and seen. The children want to put creatures into the tree that’s on their wall – alongside the pictures of themselves up on the highest branches. They get busy. Butterflies, caterpillars, large creatures.
At one table Anita is busy working with the children who suggested making maps – all kinds of pirate maps, maps of the woods, maps of how to get home…
We bring compost into the classroom to hide stones in again, and to continue the fascination with tiny creatures – ear wigs this time.
SO many stories to tell in the woods – we don’t have time to finish them all. We are careful to make time to finish stories back in the classroom.
Last week we began building a den from willow – a lightly built construction – swaddled with masking tape. This week we continue working on it.
We make a canopy – drawing all the creatures we would like to have on our den.
We put up walls in the den – again, these are covered with names, and creatures.
Finally we begin to decorate our den.
Although it is fair to say we probably all prefer being Outdoors, this afternoon has felt like a seamless continuation of the morning- endless creating and storying, and sharing ideas, and games. There has been a sense of having enough time and enough materials to follow ideas through without interruptions, and to great satisfaction.