By Carrie Komesch, Educator
It’s never possible to predict what an individual or group of students will do with an assortment of loose parts. Each time a play structure/obstacle course is created on site from the boards and logs that sometimes serve as firepit seating, the result looks differently, and is used differently, than any structure/course that precedes or follows it. The dynamic of the group as well as the interests and personalities of each student influence the outcome, and this week was the most individualistic and peaceful incarnation of these loose parts that I’ve ever witnessed.
There is usually an element of competition or danger in how the boards and logs end up arranged and used. However this week, they were consistently used for balancing, with one or more individuals to a board, and different variations in body position.
We also participated in some risky play at the Rocky Mossy Place, where the students were allowed to climb trees so long as they first took part in a discussion about safety.
“How do you know if a tree is dead or alive? Why might one be safer to climb than the other?”
“What could you say to the other people around you to keep everyone safe?”
“Where is the strongest place to stand on a branch?”
“Why is it important to have three points touching the tree at all times?”
And then, it was climb on!
We ended the week by going on a hike to what’s referred to as the Second Rocky Mossy Place. En route we found bones (the first I’ve ever been personally involved in discovering in these particular woods). I assume they belonged to a deer. (Some of the students were quick to clarify, “But not a BABY deer.”) At our destination, we did some more tree climbing, read stories while sprawled on the warm rocks, and–after a serious discussion about the safety parameters–collected wild ingredients to make tea with back at site.
One student was particularly smitten with the wintergreen he was taught to identify, and we gathered a small handful of the minty leaves to accompany some pine needles and wild blueberries. Back at site, we lit a fire in a Kelly Kettle, something with which I was unfamiliar prior to my arrival at the Forest School, but something whose utility I have come to appreciate. While we do have a teapot in the shed, the students decided they wanted to observe the steeping process, and so we poured the boiling water over our ingredients in a pot, and muddled them together using a pair of tongs. In the end, I could really only taste the wintergreen, but I still consider that a success for DIY wildcraft tea!