Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Embracing Uncertainty in Forest School Programming

Narrating Play through Interactions, Encounters, and Milestones 

By: Diana Fedora Tucci; Forest School Practitioner; Founder: TFNS.  Making our way into the forest on our very first summer, Forest School adventure the child and I were a little nervous about the unknown elements that would ultimately shape our day.  At Forest School there are no predetermined schedules so each session begins with a strong dose of trust.  We placed our trust in nature to guide us and to embrace us in its presence, to move us to playfully engage with it, and to reveal itself in order for us to learn.  We both made a mental and physical shift away from our comfort zones of predicability to ones of being open to receive whatever transpires between nature and child in the moment of play in place.  

Play as Ritual: A ceremonial welcome blessing from the forest itself
We began our day by venturing right into the forest and our 'greeting circle' consisted of us just walking and chatting as we went along.  I  really love this way of greeting because it is active and an experiential way for children to participate as they encounter nature in the moment.  Each Forest School session begins by embarking on a forest adventure and what better way to start off than this?  Our greeting circle didn't take very long, though, because within just a few metres from the second turn on the path we spotted this...

A Curtain Wall of Mist Rising to the Sky from the Cool Forest Floor to an Opening in the Canopy Above

It never ceases to amaze me how the forest just opens up to these magical moments that are presented to you if you just learn to look for them.  Nature called us to play and we accepted.  On cue, we playfully stepped through the mist of the (pretend) forest gates into the magical world of the forest and beyond; a ceremonial welcome blessing from the forest itself!

Narrating Play Through Interactions, Encounters, Milestones:
From then on we were official adventurers of the unknown forest that lay before us.  We began narrating our play through interactions, encounters, and milestones and what emerged to shaped our day was truly magical.

Through many encounters with the flora and fauna in the forest we learn that we are but a small fish in a big pond and we begin the process of subtly adjusting our behaviour in parallel to those around us.  By making space for 'others' we begin the process of adaptation.

Milestones or bumps in the road or intersections are moments when nature reaches out to us and calls us to look it in the eye.  It can come in the form of rocks, bark, plant matter, fungi, earth, or living creatures.  In shared attention we create what are the beginnings of a sort of conversation; noticing, wondering, considering the 'others' through playful connections.

Using a loupe to look closely and see if these galls are actually baby snails.  Checking to see if we can spot the swirls on the snail shell.

Creature companions: Placing one of our found land snails on a stick and carying it with us as we explore.

Snails need food so the child finds some lichen, smattered on tree bark and removes it from the fallen log.

Breaking Ground: Interactions with nature, loose parts, tools, community & child-directed play.  Play is an outflow of energy from the child.  After countless encountering with diverse creatures in the forest (those that appear in the photos above as well as those that got away), the child created a bond with the land snail as a travelling companion.  He selected a travelling stick for his snail and watched as the snail carefully clung to it.  He would check on the snail as we went along on our adventure through the forest to see if it was still there and to observe what it was up to.  The child became very aware of and connected to this 'other' presence that had joined in on our adventure.  Sometimes, the snail would poke its head out and the child would stop and observe making careful motions so as not to scare it back in its shell.   The child wondered if the snail was hungry and provided food for it in the form of lichen and began creating a forest shelter for all creatures.

The child found a stick and selected a mallet from the tool supply and started by making a hole in the mud, an act that I later found out through his mother that he was doing at school.  I really loved this connection of continuance and building on competencies from school to forest.  There was a long, long stretch of purposeful play and when the child finished, a habitat appeared.

But the most interesting part of our adventure that day was the on-passing community members that were hiking in the forest, many of which went round and round the trail, witnessing the evolution of emergent learning and engaging through encouragement and amazement with the child as they passed us observing the child building the structure and chatting with him about it with words of encouragement and wonder!  The child asked me, "Do you know those people?"  He wondered how they could be so jovial and open.  Surely, I must know them.  When I told him I did not know them he was pretty surprised but it was so lovely to see.  How often do we interact with our community?  In the forest, it seemed that walls were removed and boundaries dissolved.

"Creativity can't be bottled like a summer firefly.  Flashes of insight wouldn't be flashes of insight if they could be manufactured on an assembly line."

                                                                                                 Nonsense: The power of not knowing, p.202

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