Storytelling around a fire is one of humanities oldest traditions. The fire provided heat, light and protection, while the people gathered around shared stories of their day, or of the myths and legends of their culture. Even today, some cultures have an incredibly strong oral history, keeping the stories alive through the generations. In forest schools, the children can relax around the fire and learn folk tales or even make their own. During one of our sessions we encountered the ‘Reavey of Seeley Copse’, a mysterious figure clad in green who guided us on an adventure through the forest. Was he a man? An elf? A fairy? We could not tell. All we knew was that he knew the many secrets of the forest. He wasn’t bothered by the cold of the ground, the thorns did not hurt him, he strode ahead of us undaunted.
We all knew of course that the mysterious figure was actually our lecturer, wearing a cloak. But to a class of primary school children, he would have been as mysterious as he wanted to be. Children have a remarkable ability to use their imagination in role play. To them, it wouldn’t be Mr. Reavey in a cloak, it would be the Reavey of Seeley Copse. This use of the environment in storytelling, getting the children involved and making it a practical experience will fully engage the children and make the learning stay with them for longer.
There are many books set in nature, and these can guide and inspire the session. For example, you could act out We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, or create a Gruffalo discovery trail. The possibilities are endless, only limited by imagination and the space available. On a trip to the woods for another subject we created dens for the hobbits to protect them from the wolves, then made fires using ‘fairy blankets’ and ‘troll bogies’ (cotton wool and Vaseline to you and me). If you are struggling for ideas, the book Nature’s Playground by Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield has woodland activities, crafts and games for all seasons.