A Week at Morden: week 4



Thursday


Today we set out to create hedgehogs with mud, water, small sticks, and tools. We haven’t seen any of our spiky forest dwelling friends in this park - yet they seem to be a hot topic. From the off, children were shown pictures of them. We looked around for things that resemble them.


Children pointed out brambles as they have thorns. In doing so the children noticed the first ripe blackberry we’ve seen so far!


We quizzed them on their stages of development: flowering stage, green (growing stage), red (ripening stage), black (ripe and ready to eat!). We want the majority to be ripe before we start foraging so we moved on for the time being. We found a plant that had spikes around a roundish head. We decided to call it the "hedgehog plant". We all arrived at cave 1 where the adults modelled pouring the water, churning the soil, placing it within a scoop, patting it down to finally place on the table to add the sticks. The children were ready. They did fantastically whilst adults took a step back to observe. They were like cogs to a machine. Some watered, some churned, others did the crafting on the table. They then cycled their roles independently. It was brilliant. After a natural end - children were allowed to explore. They climbed, entered the ivy den, and hugged the mother tree. Some found a large, crumbled log and called it the 'tool station'. Here they equipped themselves with sticks to whack other decaying logs. We left to venture across the long grass to the mother tree woods. There, we had snack. Children then showed off their strength shaking young bendy trees to their will without damaging them. We then set course back to nursery. A great morning!


Friday


Over the week we noticed activity areas filled with litter. As we plan to use them in future, we thought to clean them so they were easily accessible for the younger group. Cave 1 and the mother tree are, unfortunately, litter hotspots.


Starting at Cave 1, the children retained the muscle memory being able to use the tongs effectively. It was some children's first time doing this - they grasped the concept well using both hands applying the tongs like hedge cutters. After cave 1 we emptied the litter in a bin on the bridge by the carpark - found a new bin, then headed over the cricket green towards the ‘Dragon's toilet’.


On the way, we spoke on how to identify horse chestnut trees by spreading the fingers imitating it and sycamores via it's red stem and samaras. We then found a maple. We gathered its samaras and threw them into the air after counting to 10. We ventured through the ‘Dragon's toilet’, passing the ‘Gruffalo’s house’ to have snack deep in the dark woods. We used the shortcut ending up at the mother tree. We hugged and thanked her, then proceeded to clean the area. Exiting we found ourselves near long grass. We brought nets out and children attempted catching butterflies and other insect life. We caught a cricket, a moth, and a butterfly. After a natural end children began to haul cut grass with the nets. We made nests with the piles and spoke about how birds do it.


Monday


Today we shifted our focus toward balance & coordination (b&c), endurance, climbing and general attunement in the forest. Forest obstacles are a great way to tick all those boxes. We skimmed through a narrow path where children had to raise their legs over dangers and part flora with their hands to proceed. At the river's edge, children (without prompt) knelt. Amazing. We got to the large white cricket boards, practicing climbing over and crawling under. This was our preliminary task. A large slug was seen. Children had the chance to hold but a few declined (something to work on in future). We had a specific area in mind to conduct this session, but it was overrun with brambles. We decided to take the group to the ‘Dragon's toilet’ - which was a first for many of them.


This is an advanced area. A narrow path accompanied by an edge toward the water must be used to enter from this direction. No easy feat for this age. We held hands, slowly pacing our way to safety. We arrived and congratulated the children. We practiced climbing; children were assisted. We then moved on, entering the dark woods, passing the ‘Gruffalo’s house’ to have snack. We routed our way out the dark woods, exiting out by the mainland. This concluded the biggest walk this group has even completed.


We were all very proud!


Tuesday


Creature comforts! Yesterday on our forest obstacles course we noticed a few children squirm at the idea of holding a big juicy slug (To be fair… it was rather huge). Today we wanted children to get up close and personal with minibeasts. Our long-term goal is for them to have the confidence to find, hold and contain creatures. It'll take baby steps. Venturing to an area harbouring many damp and decaying logs, we modelled the various ways of finding creatures. Under bark, on and under leaves, rolling over logs, breaking logs and digging through soil. ALL children held a snail and a few held worms after unearthing them. Some enjoyed containing worms and slugs, doing it independently.


We found a spider's nest managing to capture two. They were both false widows, so we didn’t encourage holding as they are capable of biting. We did allow children to hold them within the containers and view them without the lid on. All of which were comfortable doing so. We're happy that the children were avid finders of insects and most didn’t mind holding them. Most importantly - they were comfortable being near them, showing genuine interest.


Great stuff today!


Wednesday


We dwelled in Cave 3 this morning. I brought an assortment of items to promote choice and freedom within the children. Buckets of water, digging tools, rope, string, paintbrushes, a large metal spoon and pan for percussion and target practice... The rest was provided by mother nature. Children initiated play - Digging soil to mix with water, using paintbrushes on trees and climbing.


Some children used large sticks pretending they were hovers and brooms. They found appropriately sized sticks to hit the hanging target spoon and some safely threw small sticks at it. A few children were assisted in height attunement and balancing. After a snack we left for cave 2. Here we continued without digging tools, brushes etc. Children were in full flow, immersing without prompt using the entire area.


They rolled logs, climbed, balanced, role-played a train, boat, and car. Some found sticks pretending they were flutes whilst attempting to whistle. It’s so nice to observe children making choices within an area of options.


From playing alone to doing so together shone light on some lovely transitions of play. Well done all!


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