There's a 3 year old boy named Evan. Like any 3 year old, he loves exploring and finding out about the world around him through play. But Evan doesn't attend a Forest School. I met Evan at an after school club where he spends most of his time indoors. Here's a few things I noticed about the ways Evan likes to play:
He enjoys playing with toy cars. Sounds cute, right? Well, I haven't told you what he does with them. He bashes them into everything he can... really hard. It makes a lot of noise and he's broken a few.
He likes playing with marbles... by throwing them up in the air like confetti. He giggles as they shower down making 'ping' noises as they land all over the room and roll under every piece of furniture. This, of course, makes them incredibly difficult to retrieve and also makes me wonder whether I need to wear a helmet when in his presence...
He loves jumping. Actually, that doesn't really describe it. Leaping doesn't cut it either. Its more like throwing himself off of tables and chairs... Luckily, like a cat, he seems to always land on four limbs.
He enjoys climbing... up bookshelves, onto countertops and windowsills, and even up the curtains.
He also likes running... usually to make a break for the door like a prisoner attempting a risky escape. So far, he hasn't made it out as the 'wardens' are good at keeping the door locked and an eye trained on him at all times.
Oh, it's also worth mentioning that Evan doesn't respond when you ask him to stop and even if you speak to him about his behaviour, he just does it again. When he's got his mind set on doing something... he's doing it. There's no stopping him (except for the locking the door example... so far). So Evan is viewed as a handful. There have been discussions on what to do about him since staff are concerned that he will harm himself or the other children. They ask, “What do you do with a child like this?”
So I thought about that question and decided to respond with another question: “But what if he did it at Forest School?” To answer this, let's use the list of Evan's behaviours above and simplify them into categories to describe the ways Evan likes to play. Then let's think about if he did it at Forest School:
Bashing: Give him a mallet. He could bash it on rocks, conkers, and even do hapazome (beating up leaves with hammers)
Throwing: Throw leaves in the air and watch as they flutter down. He could also throw pebbles into puddles and hear them 'plonk' as they hit the water.
Jumping: He could jump off of logs. Finding ones with varying heights or areas with different landing surfaces, he might want to experiment with how jumping off each one feels.
Climbing: That's easy, climb a tree!
Running: With all the free space in the woods, he could run around to his heart's content (after, of course, learning the boundaries to know how to keep himself safe!).
So do Evan's behaviours of bashing, throwing, jumping, climbing, and running make him a handful? When you put it in the context of Forest School, he sounds just like a normal kid to me! So instead of asking the question, “How do we change the child to fit the environment?” maybe what we should really be asking is, “How do we change the environment to fit the child?”