The Scandinavian proverb goes that “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing”. It can be hard to believe this on a wet, grey day in the woods, frantically trying to put up a shelter that will keep us dry or as we usher fourteen energetic Robins into a tiny cabin- heaving off boots and hanging up sodden clothing by the fire.
Yet children always find little ways to enjoy themselves – we have stood back in torrential downpours whilst children have rallied together to empty a puddle underneath a swing, build dams to create pools, constructed bridges across boggy patches or even collected rainwater from the edge of shelters drip by drip and perhaps used it to observe their own reflections. Obviously not having to take responsibility for the washing basket can bolster your creativity in wet weather!
We have also watched children fling off coats in the freezing cold as they move their bodies so much they generate some sort of mystical warmth which as adults we struggle to replicate.
At Wood School, for all the plans that we make, our days are determined by the weather. Low light on grey days can make some craft projects impossible and when temperatures approach zero any skill involving fine motor skill is a write off. However, as
well as an obstacle, it provides an opportunity for the children to be spontaneous and for us to be creative as educators in finding new ways to spark curiosity.
Rallying together to empty a puddle or build a dam provides massive learning opportunities for developing social and communication skills and when disagreements inevitably arise, for conflict resolution skills. Children can also learn about physics as they try to figure out how to build their dam or bridge and as they work out how to channel the water in the direction they want. Collecting water can provide an opportunity for us to present children with the language of measurement and capacity.
Knowing how to dress when it’s cold and where to put your belongings when you no longer want to wear them can be a really long and repetitive lesson, but if we persist over time it furnishes children with skills to take responsibility for their self-care.
Hence, our task as educators sometimes in the wet, wintry woods is to develop a better perception of when to simply abandon our well-laid plans and use the natural environment and it’s unpredictability as a learning resource which the children themselves know best how to access.