“Can we go into the forest today?! PLeeeaaaaassssee?”
In just one month’s time, the vast majority of our group prefers forest time to time spent on the playground, blacktop, soccer field, or gym. When asked why, here’s what some students said:
-because we can play and live in the forest and it’s fun
-because it’s fun and there’s things to build stuff
-because once we build a fort, we can go inside and play
-because I get to go inside the cool fort
-I just like it!
-I like to build forts and there’s sticks to use
Our forest forts and fairy houses have evolved over the course of a month. Some have been built, taken apart, and moved. Some have grown more and more elaborate. Some have stayed simple, but have struggled with various team dynamics as we work out a space sharing system that keeps everyone happy. An originally simple tee-pee structure now has a moss roof. Another has dead bark walls (to keep out predators). One student hasn’t built anything, but by walking around the same area again and again, he knows it like the back of his hand.
We’ve discovered things that would never be possible (or allowed) in a classroom. Different thicknesses of sticks make different sounds when banged against the trunk of a mature tree. Pine needles make for a soft landing after tripping over a raised root. Carrying long sticks is really hard – or on a related note – it’s worth giving people carrying long sticks plenty of room to walk. It feels colder and darker in the forest. Moss that is moved onto a latticework of a fort wall can establish itself and grow if kept moist. TONS of different mushrooms and fungi grow on the forest floor after a few days of rain, and most of them are really slimy. Pine sap is the perfect glue, but it’s better to keep it off our clothes. …these are just a few of our discoveries.
Most of all, we feel comfortable in a space that felt like mysterious wilderness just a month ago. We each have developed our favorite area in the forest, and after constructing a fort there, most of us feel pride and ownership, and have become caretakers of those special spots.
So back to the question, “Can we pleeeeaaase go out into the forest?” My answer is almost always, “Yes!”