Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Follow a trail through the woods

I remember back to when I first started working with children, and I remember distinctly the first group of children I ever took into the woods. We followed a trail that was marked with posts and signs and the children loved running from one signpost to another, checking that we were following the right symbols and always waaaay ahead of me.

The thing I noticed then and since, is that it takes a long time to lay a good trail or treasure hunt and then children will follow it in seconds.

I am a great believer that effort and time I put in to planning has got to a lot be less than the amount of time it absorbs others otherwise it's something I should keep as one of my own hobbies or entertainments. I remember two of my students complaining that they had spent an afternoon cutting out shapes for craft activity at an after school club and the children arrived, stuck them onto paper, bam! bam! bam!, in three seconds flat and were off to do something else.

This boils down to my default position when planning, "hmm maybe we get the children to do that bit".

So I don't ever lay anything but the simplest trails or treasure hunts for children to follow, maybe dropping a trail of feathers as I check out a site.
Collecting coloured feathers helped motivate this group
during a chilly walk and helped improve
 observational skills and awareness.

Otherwise, I see if the children want to lay the trail instead:

It helps improve empathetic skills; will someone else know this is the right way to go? How will they know which is the wrong way? How will we tell them if we are not there?

 You can split into two groups, each taking a territory and laying a trail for the other group to follow.

Have a set amount of time for each group to lay the trail and meet back at the start.

It's always good to have other things to look for along the way, animal footprints, interesting things to point out to the other group, it helps keep motivation and concentration levels up and encourages awareness of what is around.

 There are loads of different ways that you can make signs, but make sure they aren't somewhere that will get trampled.

 It can still help sometimes to swap one person from each group so at least one person knows where they should be going

Although that might just be taking the challenge out of it! Agreeing what signs mean is always helpful though.


1 comment:

  1. I love the idea of laying trails Lily. Our main bushwalk is also a horse trail, and it has markings on the trees every 100m. It doesn't take long each year for these to become significant to the kids - and it is not long before we can get them to run ahead and wait at the next marking.

    Next comes the natural landmarks - and although these change with the children, there are some that are handed down year after year (boat rock, surfboard rock).

    Last week my oldest son (who goes to the school attached to preschool) and his mate took a group of kids from other local schools on a bushwalk, and spent an afternoon beforehand marking out special places with arrows from sticks, and crosses from sticks much in the way you have shown. I'd love to do this with the preschoolers - feathers is a lovely idea.


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