A-maze-ing labyrinths at The Coombes School

28 July 2010 · 5 comments

in Developing School Grounds & Outdoor Spaces, Reflective Activities, RME Outdoors

Children love mazes. Whenever I undertake consultations with children about what they like to do, the idea of having a maze in the school grounds really appeals to them. One school I worked with ran a competition for a maze mural, and the children created this picture as a result:

However I’ve always had conundrums about mazes in school grounds. Chalk mazes are great for individuals to experiment, but after a little bit of use or rain, they quickly disappear. I’m not keen on permanent mazes painted on playgrounds as they offer little continuous challenge. Hay bale mazes are fun for a PTA fund raiser and have great play value on a temporary basis. I’d love to live in a warmer country where growing a sunflower maze would be interesting and fun. A simple maze can be designed in long grass by mowing a path or pattern.

At The Coombes School a labyrinth has been adopted as the school’s symbol. There are two labyrinths or mazes in the grounds. If you click on the link you can see the sort that get painted onto the school’s playing field. However I particularly liked this one:

The construction is remarkably simple. The turf has been removed and bark chips placed directly on top. Broken tiles and man made stones are used as lines. Β This means that it is very easy to change the layout according interest, ability and need. In fact if you look at this YouTube clip, the layout is different:

On the day I was there, many classes went out to undertake the controlled reflective walking as described in the video clip. At intervals along the path were questions and biblical quotes to think about, if you wished.

The children and adults walked the path of the labyrinth, following one behind each other.

Whilst we were walking and reflecting, a parent played music for us. This really made the atmosphere quite special and calm.

Once you had gone through the labyrinth, everyone was asked to gather at Coombeshenge, the nearby stone circle and to sit or stand there quietly.

Everyone was asked to share their thoughts as they walked through the maze. The questions and biblical quotes were discussed briefly. I really liked the simplicity of this activity as one approach to undertaking RME outside.

Now in case you are wondering if and whether there is any difference between a maze and a labyrinth, the answer can be found at this A-maze-ing website.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

SquiggleMum July 29, 2010 at 03:14

What a fresh and innovative way of taking RE outdoors. Just gorgeous.

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Debi July 29, 2010 at 03:27

My 5-1/2 year old would love this! He loves playing follow the leader and especially enjoys following patterns on the ground or in gardens. What a lovely place to visit!

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Sherry and Donna July 29, 2010 at 09:25

If we had the space Juliet a labyrinth is something Sherry and I would absolutely, most definitely want to have!
Donna πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

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Juliet Robertson July 29, 2010 at 21:29

What I liked about this labyrinth is that it opened my eyes about the potential for reflection. The activity doesn’t need to be religious…but it can be…it can be whatever we want it to be.

This wouldn’t be practical in a small space, but a silent follow the leader in a natural space for a minute or two would be uninteresting experiment with a group of very young children.

Children rarely have solitude at school. This sort of activity just gives an alternative contemplative time. Hmm..

I perhaps also should have said that The Coombes School is a Church of England state school so Christianity has to be component of the curriculum. However I did like the sensitive way this was covered. I think children from different faiths or with no religious upbringing would be comfortable with the approach taken here.

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Teacher Tom July 30, 2010 at 23:30

I walk a labyrinth with other artists several times a year. When done as you describe here, it is a remarkable opportunity to reflect.

I was just thinking about mazes yesterday. We were trying out the wool-web ideas that our Australian friends have been doing at their schools. At one point I realized the children were no longer weaving a web, but instead were treating it like a kind of maze.

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