Happy New Year Everyone
I’m opening 2016 with a request for help from any Scottish teacher, early years practitioner, support assistant or adult who works with children. Back in August 2015 there was a Skogsmulle Awareness Conference. This is the next step, building on the thoughts and opinions of the participants – to begin to create a nature character for young children – but we need their ideas. Read on for more information and how you can help…
The Outdoor and Woodland Learning North-East Group want to create a fantasy character who will help children learn about and take care of nature and the outdoors in a fun way. To do this we need ideas from children about this character.
We would very much appreciate you spending a little time with children in your group or class thinking about this character. Here are some things we want to know:
- What would the fantasy character look like – its physical appearance?
- What would the fantasy character wear?
- What would their calling sound or words be?
- What is their name?
- How was the character born?
- What does this character do to help children learn about and take care of nature and the outdoors?
- Write an interesting fact about the character.
- Anything else you would like to tell us about this character.
Children can draw and write their ideas or tell us them via an audio app, if you send us the link. Please remember to write your name, age and school/organisation so we know who has contributed.
Please send the children’s work (pictures, drawings, photos, video links, etc.) to Dawn Ewan via email firstname.lastname@example.org by 5pm on Monday 1st February 2016
We will keep you updated. Everyone’s input will be acknowledged.
Why a fantasy nature character for Scotland?
In Sweden, a fantasy nature character called Skogsmulle helps children aged 5 and 6 years to learn, play and have fun in nature. It is a highly successful approach that began in the 1950’s. More than 20% of the Sweden adult population have experienced the joy of meeting Skogsmulle. The character is a puppet but, like Santa Claus, children do get the opportunity to actually meet a real Skogsmulle once or twice.
We think a nature fantasy character will aid teachers and those who work with children in Primary 1 and 2 with aspects of learning outside in many interdisciplinary ways. It will be used to build upon the play-based experiences in nurseries such as Forest Kindergarten. It will be a positive approach to embedding the values and principles of learning for sustainability.
We intend to develop a support package around the fantasy character with ideas and suggestions for use. We are part of a wider UK and international network that has grown out of the Skogsmulle concept in Sweden. We want to involve others, especially children in this exciting development. This is not a commercial venture but will be part of the wider Outdoor and Woodland Scotland resources available on their website.
Why are you asking children about their ideas?
We know that children have imagination and lots of suggestions which will make a character more relevant and interesting. Also, it’s about respecting children’s right to have a say in decisions which affect them (UN Convention on the Rights of a Child, Article 12)
Is this a competition and is there an age limit?
No, this is not a competition. It is quite possible that the fantasy nature character will not be just one child’s idea but a combination of several ideas. Or if a particular idea is a theme, then we will take account of this interest. The character is going to be used for children who are aged 5-6 years old so older children need to know this and think what this age group might like.
Are there any illustrations to give children ideas?
We do not want to direct children’s thinking by showing photos of different fantasy characters that already exist. Likewise, we have not specified a gender or whether the character is human-like or otherwise.
What’s the best way to get children thinking about a nature fantasy character?
We know that children are influenced by their surroundings. If possible, introduce the idea outside – an urban park or school grounds will do, a woodland, beach or other wilder space would be a bonus.
Children may want to design a character on the ground or draw around themselves to create a character. Alternatively, they may wish to design a three-dimension character out of materials found around them – a sculpture. Ideas drawn on paper are equally valid.
I don’t live or work in Scotland – can I still get the children I work with to think about this?
Yes. Just bear in mind that the support package that is produced will be geared towards children in Scotland.
Is this a Creative STAR venture?
No. I am one of several people involved in driving the project forward as I believe in the value. It is being funded by Outdoor and Woodland North-East Group. The other people involved are:
- Grace Banks, Silverhaar
- Dawn Ewan, Mucky Boots
- Terri Harrison, Nature Nurture, OLNEG
- Claire Livingstone, EY practitioner and Forest School Leader
- Julia Mackay, Deeside Forest Schools, OLNEG
- Mandy Tulloch, Mud Pies
Can I be involved?
Yes. Please email Dawn Ewan and ask to be on the consultation/email list. But we need friendly people to advise, trial, comment, be critical friends, offer support and so on. This is a collaborative project.
If you have any more questions, please get in touch – add a comment below or contact Dawn Ewan on the email listed earlier in the post.