Technology

forest school bridge

Lessons from a forest school

Pupils at a forest school in Sussex were given the challenge to construct a bridge over a stream using only materials they could find in the woods. They tackled this task with enthusiasm, working in teams to discover what worked and what didn't. Each resulting bridge was unique. Being cold and wet seemed only to heighten the children's determination and their sense of triumph when they achieved their goal.

These students may not have realised they were having a lesson in physics and an introduction to engineering. Nor did they realise they were demonstrating Froebel's point that when children are intrinsically motivated they have amazing perseverance. What they did know is that they solved some very real problems through trial and error, and that they had loads of fun in spite of wind and weather!

Boy at workbench

Understanding how boys learn

With four brothers and three sons, I've always been fascinated by boys' learning. Many teachers have observed that four- and five-year-old boys find it particularly difficult to sit still for long stretches of time. They need lots of vigorous outdoor play. Tricky fine-motor skills like holding a pencil or cutting with scissors become easier after large-motor action.

Men who recall their own childhood can support lads in appropriate ways – but men are scarce in early years. So the rest of us must do our best to understand all the children we work with. Boys often learn best through hands-on activities with real tools. If we focus on their strengths, we can provide what each child needs to feel happy and competent.

Not enough mud

Not enough mud!

At a time of year when most people have seen more than enough of mud, a six-year-old made this remark to the contrary. He and his friends had decided to drive over a section of black pipe, but discovered that it moved. How to stabilise it? One of them had a brainwave: lay bricks along each side! So the next quarter hour was spent collecting, transporting and placing the bricks. But the bump still moved! What to do? Oh yes, they could pile mud onto the bricks to hold them down! Another 15-minute project digging and transporting mud… That’s when he made his comment about there not being enough.

Just this week I read of a 12-year-old in Florida who has invented a superior sandbag to use in floods. It has some expandable ingredient that makes the sandbag lightweight for transporting, but heavy and dense when wet so it stays in place. I can imagine these lads making similar innovations if they continue discovering and solving problems with such enthusiasm!

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