Connecting with Nature #2 February
9th February 2016
Come February and the half term break we may be yearning for the spring and to get outdoors, but the weather often has other ideas. I have grown to dislike the oft-quoted saying: “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes,” as even the best dressed individual can soon get fed up when the rain is lashing down sideways for hours on end, as it has done this winter. Through working with large groups of forest school children in pouring rain or bitter cold, we have learnt a few things about having a positive experience outdoors even in the most challenging weather.
Keep moving: Being active doesn’t stop you getting wet, but at least you’ll be warm. We don’t know many children who leap at the idea of a walk, but with the following ideas you can call it an expedition or game, and they’ll be none the wiser.
Walking sticks: Select sturdy hip-length sticks and carve to make your own design. Potato peelers are safer than knives for younger children but always ensure everyone carves down and away from the body, with plenty of space around them. Deco pens from Yellow Moon paint well on any surface including wood. Make a comfortable woollen or twine handle with an invisible knot using this simple ‘Common whipping’ method. Or for something more fancy try French whipping (no sniggering at the back, it’s a knotting technique!).
Tracking: Divide into two teams of trackers and trailblazers. The trailblazers lay a trail through the woods using arrows made of sticks or stones then hide themselves, or some treasure, at the end. After 10 mins the trackers can set off on their trail.
These Common Tracking Signs from the Scouts show how to show to lead false trails and dead ends to outfox the other team. Tip: clear a space on the ground to make sure all the arrows stand out and make sure that the next arrow is always in a directly straight line from the preceding arrowhead. You can use angled arrows to show a change in direction
Fox and Hounds: This tracking game warms everyone up. The foxes set off armed with a bag of flour or a whistle, laying a trail of a dusting of flour on tree trunks or a whistle every 30 seconds. After a 5 minute head start, the hounds give chase. If all the foxes are all caught then the hounds win, but if just one fox remains at large the foxes win. Tip: Its amazing what distance you can cover in this game. Agree an end time and a meeting point to make sure you don’t lose anyone.
Mirror walk: On a walk through the woods, tired legs can drag their heels but a promise of a walk in the tree tops may buck up spirits. Place a hand mirror on the bridge of your nose and angle it so you can see the top of trees. Walking along you have the strange sensation of feeling like you are walking in the air. Your vision is only upwards, so as you try to step over branches that are not there, you may trip over the roots that are – it’s a good idea to have a guide at your elbow to be your eyes on the ground.
Story walk: Add life to a walk by making up a participatory story as you go along, inspired by what you see around you, or adopt one to suit. On a walk past the wood carvings at St Ives we adapted the story of the Reluctant Dragon, with lots of interaction including impromptu poetry, swords fights and dragon slaying.
Next month: Ideas for March – making the most of mud!