Whilst building the website I found a document that dates from September 2012 during the Play England Exploring Nature Play Project South West. It was written by my colleague, Jane Hembrow, Project Officer for Exploring Nature Play South West for Play England. It may well have been the seed from which Sylvan Adventures developed. It made me smile so I thought I would share it.
Listening to Chris Evans show this morning I was reminded of something that took place during the summer. Imagine if you will, a circle of people who have been brought together, prior to this week they were mainly strangers and are now sat (having received a “how to, how not to” brief) in a circle enjoying the late summer sun. They have sticks and knives, and the discussion goes like this .. where have you been on holiday? .. natter natter .. Is it true that the water that goes down the plug hole in Australia goes down the opposite way to here? … natter natter …Did you enjoy the theatre the other evening? .. natter natter .then one of the group gets out a ukulele and starts playing, slowly and quietly .. taking requests … the whittling continues, things are starting to take shape ….then a strange but rather magical thing happens .. a rather thoughtful, but shy member of the group “Robin” moves around the back of the circle and stands behind the musician, he is transfixed by the tune that is being played – Louis Armstrong’s “Wonderful World” – he starts to sing along, beautifully accompanying his new friend … a continued peace envelopes the group … and knowing looks are passed amongst some .. all very lovely you may think!
But what was really special about this is that it was a group of 11 year old boys meeting for the first time this week before they start secondary school as part of Torbay’s Summer school project. They had started the week, lively slightly disruptive, runners in the group had already been identified by the teachers, playworkers had through observation checked out those that would benefit from outdoor play. And here they were a group of such children including a “runner”, (a visit earlier in the week had allowed our “Robin” – from batman and Robin – his choice of name as Robin is always dissapearing!) the opportunity to show us what he liked doing and after a chat had made a really best friend of one of the playworkers) 2 or 3 “disruptives”, a couple so shy that they had not engaged with the sport or art on offer .. but here they were back with the playworkers ( their favourite place), whittling wood, careful thoughtful conversation, and the most beautiful musical offering .. it is indeed a “Wonderful World” and this group had certainly experienced it as part of their “Exploring Nature play” session! (During the session the school lead had popped out to check and make sure everything was OK and was totally amazed by what he found – this group totally absorbed in the wood whittling, high level conversation, afterwards he had told us that he was blown away! and just wished that the school could meet the needs of these youngsters in the same way… but he feared that this wouldn’t be possible …..Our Community Play Development worker is popping back to school soon to see how play can support them to make sure it continues to be a Wonderful world for these young people….