In autumn 2013 head teacher Rachel Snape wondered how this small area of tangled woodland could be offered to children as a place for adventure and discovery. In conversation with Ruth Sapsed and Deb Wilenski from Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination, and Richard Rice from County Grounds Management, some fascinating questions were raised: Should we clear part of the space to make access easier? Would this affect the feeling of wildness? Should we introduce new structures – a bridge, a shelter, platforms for climbing high? Who should begin the exploration?
CCI has years of experience working in rough and ready wildness. We encouraged the school to remove only dead wood overhead, and enough brambles to clear a couple of paths. We would learn from the children whether other changes were necessary.
Our Footprints project in spring 2014 saw the youngest children in the school become the first explorers. A pallet worked as a makeshift bridge, and a circle of logs was our meeting place. It was immediately clear that the tangled qualities of the woods, exactly the parts we didn’t clear, were what fascinated the children. Here they are showing Ruth their discoveries on day 5 of their project with us.
The diary posts below show in more detail how the children’s discoveries developed in the woods and classroom. CCI’s first wild exhibition event, This tree is bigger than earth, was curated from these explorations, and our series of professional development experiences in the Spinney often begin with the children’s words, maps, and stories. More recently the woods have been a space to continue our exploration of wild exchange with the poet Jackie Kay.
Throughout our work we hear stories of how far the ripples from woodland experiences travel. Shakila Bukhari, mother and governor, recounted her own family's story for our recent discussion event - Curating the qualities of wildness. She describes how:
When I saw my daughter lead me in and be so assertive it was quite magical. It has changed our lives as a family unit….it’s been a lifelong journey for us