Engaging a small mixed-age group after school can certainly be a challenge. Things are sailing much smoother, however, since the founding of the Woodlands Clubhouse. After snack I take the grade schoolers out to the forest, leaving the little ones to play inside. As a group, we picked our favorite site and began construction of the Woodlands Clubhouse several weeks ago. We use natural materials found in a forest as building materials. Sticks, leaves, needles, bark, and charcoal have come together to create a place we call our own.
Building forts in the forest allows students of varied skills, interests and activity levels to constructively engage in a project together. While one student might haul heavy branches back and forth for an entire afternoon, another may focus on tidying the floor and decorating the wall of a small room. The pride and ownership over the clubhouse, however, is collective.
Different shaped additions poke out of our main structure and evolve as time goes by. Birchbark signs with charcoal writing hang above entrances to tunnels and rooms. Forest leaves have been raked away and orange pine needles carpet the floors.
Today’s first snow reminds me of the changing weather and seasonal shifts that will affect our outdoor time and building decisions. I can’t wait to see how the clubhouse and its use evolves as fall turns to winter.