One of the beautiful aspects of working outside with children is the opportunity for spontaneous events and situations to arise. These can be intrusive such as grass cutters arriving at the place we’ve chosen. Mostly they are natural and positive occurrences which I’ve blogged about before. Two weeks ago, the spontaneity was a direct consequence of a resource I had stuck in a rucksack on a whim.

With the classes with which I work, there is an element of unpredictability and sometimes a child can be having a bad day. Rather than setting up prescriptive activities, I tend to offer an open-ended set of options as I’ve found that most times, a child will engage when they have an element of choice, a say in what they are going to be doing and given sufficient time to make a decision.

The Easter Egg Trail worked a treat but as you can imagine, it’s the sort of activity where there are lulls when one child is engaged in a task that requires others to wait. For this reason, I like to have other bits and pieces available for children to discover and use. As a continuation of various rope work all classes had been using, I thought that a hammock would be a natural extension.

Within a short space of time, the hammock was discovered. One of the children along with a Pupil Support Assistant had managed to set it up between two trees. Nice work! The child which had particularly enjoyed writing with the chalk was suddenly engrossed but not as I had imagined…

Inside the hammock he had piled up all the painted stones and was having a whale of a time sorting them out and making words…

Other children thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of being totally enclosed. Sometimes it was hard to tell whether a person was in there or not!

As much as possible, we encouraged the children to try and get in and out of the hammock unaided. This  is more of a challenge but worth it in terms of the sense of achievement experienced and the independence gained by the children. It also led to some fairly creative approaches to doing this!

The tenderest moment came about very spontaneously. When the hammock was discovered by the children in one class, it was extremely exciting. For a long time (around ten minutes) I witnessed a group of children singing a version of “There were 10 in the bed and the little one said…” with two of the adults. Every child was engaged, focused and involved. Every child had a go in the hammock.

Whilst this may not be a big deal in most classes, this was very special here, as some children who mostly struggle to work truly within a group were doing so and for a sustained period of time. They were happy. I was happy. Everyone was happy. The sun was shining in every way on this glorious day!

I never would have thought that a hammock would prompt such happiness!

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Kierna C April 14, 2012 at 12:20

Wonderful Juliet, I think it is fabulous that you are getting to go outside with the same classes on a regular basis, the relationships you are establishing are great. I know when we first went to visit at our local ‘special school’ I didn’t foresee how much their children weer going to gain from observing mine. For the first time these children climbed banks, rolled down them & tried to climb the trees. Peers are the best role models ever.

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Tom Bedard April 14, 2012 at 14:34

Oh, those kids are always doing something we did not plan for. How great is that. I think that it is true more so in the outdoors because children explore with their whole bodies. 10 in the bed with the hammock as a bed. That’s clever

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Juliet Robertson April 14, 2012 at 22:04

Thanks for your thoughts. I think it came about because of Fred the Ted being around… there was Ted in the Bed, etc!

Peers do have a huge impact – I regularly use older children to work with the younger ones as it benefits both parties. I can’t believe the new term begins so soon!

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