So another week done and another whole term done. It's end of summer term Friday, on the cusp of a week of bank holiday summer fun. It's a bit different this year. We'd usually have been dancing round the Maypole today, at the May Festival celebration. And we'd be looking forward to a week of some rest, adventures in the woods with lovely children, time away camping with the bestest of friends and some dreaded school report writing to distract us from having too much summer fun.
Instead, the school reports are all written, we'd all but forgotten that it was bank holiday on Monday and the camping and playing in the woods with others will have to wait. There's a chance we'll do some virtual campfires and we have actually managed to get out to the woods for some exploring, playing, making and learning by doing.
There is all sorts of media and social media reporting and sharing on the topic of the latest government advice re: lockdown exit strategies. It's not all helpful or beneficial. We squeezed in a 'virtual' director's meeting to consider some of the advice and future project plans for Sawpit Woods CIC.
A key aim for Sawpit Woods is to give experiences to those most in need or who are least likely to access learning, playing and being in a woodland environment. To develop this aim, we are exploring an opportunity to participate on a social enterprise skills programme. In the initial meeting we had to try to describe the impact Sawpit Woods CIC in 7 words. That's a tricky thing to do! Some ideas included Creating. Experience. Nature. Learning. Environmental. Connection. Education. Community. We're meeting 'virtually' again next week to discuss it further, yet learning and connection with other social entrepreneurs would be an amazing opportunity.
Em is also drafting a contribution to the National Association of Environmental Education (www.naee.org.uk). She has coordinated their book reviews for a while and is always on the look out for interesting, inspiring and useful recent publications connected to environmental education. Let us know if you’ve any recommendations and check out their website and book reviews here.
The official government published advice on returning to school and how we might bring groups back to the woods is lengthy, but it has it all in black and white if you have the time to read document after document- which we do! . From that, the main message is hand washing. We are finalising and finessing a grant application about water installation and shelter building but we’ve also taken the opportunity to go and create a tip top wood craft contraption in the woods.
We have had many years of experience building tippy taps and they are never quite right, but we thought we'd try to make a hand washing station that is as 'hands free' as possible.
Firstly we watched some videos- this on of a 12 year old boy in Kenya was an amazing inspiration.
We didn't get to his masterful engineering heights, but what an amazing invention and what wonderful things children are capable of. We drew up some plans and collected a trolley load of stuff which might be useful.
Sawpit Woods include hazel coppice, so we have an abundance of natural resources to work from. After selecting some suitably lengthed straight poles, we cut and pruned them. Could have done with a bill hook, but we made do with loppers, which enabled the smallest helper to get involved. There was measuring and marking the lengths with pencils and then charcoal from the fire when the leads broke! There was some good giggling involved when we worked out you need many hands to lash a tripod together. And helpful as a two year old can be, his knot tying isn't up to speed yet!
Anyway, perseverance and resilience prevailed and we managed to create a double pedalled, two bottled, hands free tippy tap, with a sink for transferring the waste away from your feet whilst hand washing. Because no one wants a soggy foot in the pursuit of cleanliness. An old coat hanger fashioned a great soap holder for now (we are gonna have to skill up our engineering practice before we can work that one out hands free) and we walked away from the woods with gorgeously clean hands and satisfaction.
Can't wait to be there with others, eliminating dirt and the yucky stuff we don't wanna have sticking around on our hands or in our lives.
So next week we will continue to go out and spot our 'Plant of the day' We've done over a full months worth so far. It's great spotting, learning about and documenting the abundance of flora in our micro environment. Also it has been fun finding out former names, sayings and folk tales surrounding the plants. And reminiscing on our childhood and books such as the 'Flower Fairies' and how the plants are evocative in smell, place and form of our childhood.
There is a wonderful book 'The Lost Words' which has beauteous illustrations and acrostic poems about nature and wildlife which may be slipping from our modern lexicon. https://www.thelostwords.org/book/
Hopefully his recent period of our lives has given many the opportunity to connect and re-familiarise themselves with some of these words. Our friend Finn is just two and he can identify a daisy, buttercup, bramble and nettle (amongst others) by their form, colour and verbal description. Language development in line with nature connection is a wonderful thing and capabilities never stop surprising us and filling us with awe and wonder. We'll see if we can keep up our 'Plant of the day' when the 'new normal' starts and we have more work on our hands?! At least we are wallowing in the here and now of the process of connection.
So as Whitsun week unfolds, like the ferns fronds outside, we will be discussing future opportunities and we'll be out there in the forthcoming sunshine with gorgeously clean hands, spotting some more emerging flowers and plants and ideas around us.