We have been working with this school for three sessions and during these sessions we have seen a number of changes and the teachers and adults present have often commented on their learning, behaviour, responsibility and general positivity during the sessions.
This particular week we saw the largest changes I have ever seen in ANY forest school programme and very much in a single session. The day had opened with this groups usual play and separated by activities with a number very heavily involved with swing play, including trying to get the swing rope over the branch and number of the young boys were playing out their usual stick fights and developing discussion around safe stick use, den building, bases being built and running play.
as they settled and moved around the site, we noticed they were using different areas than previous weeks and that is not unusual as groups get used to their space.
as the session progressed I wanted to fulfil my idea for the session of trying to get some of the learners higher off the floor so installing a rope ladder was part of my plan. We have larger Beech trees along the edge of the site and most of the trees in the interior element are too small. I lashed a long rope between tree using branches and had the rope passing back and forth about four times over which I threw the ladder rope twice and then inserted the rungs with a marlin spike . I was abled assisted by two of the smaller learners from this group which have until now proved quite quiet and they assisted with some of the rung cutting and inserting the rungs.
What happened over the next ninety minutes or so was quite something! A few of the learners asked what it was, others could see it was a rope ladder. Some of the more ‘confident’ learners (I say that as they are ones who I knew their names and were very upfront and centre in the group) really struggled to get their body in the right stance to climb without the rope wildly swinging and them struggling to stay on. Then a young person climbed it with total ease and needed no input from an adult, second or third time they climbed passed through the gap at the top and descended the other side, totally unexpected (again, I say this as they have been very quiet during the sessions and on the periphery of the play). That same learner and one of those who helped with the rung cutting started to find long straight sticks and climb them like someone getting a coconut from a tree, shimmying up the wood to get to the lower branches of the Beech trees. Others could not quite get the right body position and were too upright. This one child continued to lead the way. Now the extraordinary thing is that the teachers had ever seen this side or would ever have expected it from this child. This child suddenly went from in the background to the ringleader and explaining that others had to do to achieve.it was fascinating to watch others in the group take the idea and attempt to get into the lower branches of the trees, some succeeding and others not quite but the physical demands of the techniques they were attempting was a real challenge for some. Form the adults there was ‘wow look at that’ look a X they’d never do that anywhere else’ ‘I didn’t expect that from y’ and it want on for the remainder of the session.