Last night a group of newly qualified reception teachers came to the Foundation Stage Unit where I am doing some work with three to five year-olds. The lead teacher was talking about the ethos of the setting where I work and how the planning is built around the children and following their interests. The effort and energy is put into recording, reflecting and responding rather than planning and preparation and the environment is set up to enable the children to access resources and ideas on whatever level they are at.
I have been doing Forest School sessions with children from the setting and doing occasional work in the school grounds for almost a year now, certainly long enough for the children to have got the measure of me. One child, who had been to the woods and cooked on open fires with me last May decided that he wanted to make a fire. So he recruited me to the role of expert and we started to collect sticks. Other children joined with the collecting and we decided where to build our fire. I explained that I had nothing to light a fire with, but we didn't let that hold us back.....
The sticks turning green when we rubbed them together gave us a chance to talk about why some wood is good for burning and what it means to have wood that is seasoned or dry. We were also able to work out what it would feel like, and sound like, by snapping lots of sticks to listen to the noise that dry wood makes. We talked about how dangerous fire could be and how it is important to always have an adult with you when there is a fire. In short we were able to prepare for some fire lighting and cooking next week. "Can we cook soup!" "mm-mm yes, lovely soup" "I like soup". All of this happened pretty spontaneously and engaged and inspired lots of children, the learning fell naturally out of our actions and interactions.
I am really interested about their knowledge of rubbing sticks together to make fire and want to show them my fire bow-drill, a direction that I might not have taken without following them and their interests. The lead teacher and I are filled with glee, when we originally discussed my role within the setting we had wild ideas about building an earth oven and all sorts of fire related projects. The really exciting thing is the children have started us on that path.