2018 – Darnley & Cardonald Primaries Adventure Out to Play!

by Sophie McCabe

It’s a pleasure to begin the 2018 ‘Out to Play’ project with Darnley and Cardonald Primary Schools, in my second year, and third residency working on the project. This year, I’m using a combination of the most successful drama exercises, imaginative play, nature connection exercises and games, plus interactive storytelling of a variety of traditional, folklore or cultural stories to encourage respect and love of nature. I’ve been greatly influenced by founding Drama Artist, and fantastic nature storyteller, Ben Mali, who also co-wrote a schools resource pack with me last year – the second edition to his original “Out to Play” resource pack. We also welcome on board Sarah, who is developing the project for early years and bringing great inspiration and experience. It’s also great beginning this year’s project having read the multitude of positive feedback in the 2017 project report, which showed how powerful the project was for many pupils and staff.

We began at both Darnley and Cardonald Primaries with all participating classes opening a treasure box, to find a rugged and raggedy explorer’s map of their school, which had been turned into a castle surrounded by imaginary and fantastical lands such as the Desert of Dreams and Enchanted Loch. This technique,  now a solid ‘Out to Play’ favourite, is a great way to inspire both pupils and teachers to easily bring a space to life in their imagination. Some classes have even made their own treasure map for their Wonder Box and all you need is a few tea bags to make it look authentic!

After packing our imagined explorer’s bags using mime, and armed with our invisible explorer’s cameras to photograph any nature we found, off we went, creeping past the sleeping tigers (other classes working in the corridors). We also began all sessions by collecting (where possible) real twigs and branches to build and warm our hands by an imaginary fire, imagining and describing colours and sounds of the fire (and not forgetting discussing fire safety even though it wasn’t really on fire!). To this day, foraging for twigs seems to be one of the most fun things possible for modern children, which really emphasises how rare getting out and muddy might be for many of them, and how we certainly don’t need expensive toys or technology to play and have fun!

We also had a fantastic time getting to know each other through nature name games – “I like saving mini-beasts!” was one of the more unusual, but lovely outdoor hobbies the children shared, and nature mindfulness / connection exercises for older groups “I can smell, grass, twigs, Chinese food, and a wee bit of dog poo” announced a primary 6 (Well, you probably can, to be fair, as we’re just off the main street!). We used soundscapes, an easy imaginative technique, to take us to the Forgotten Forest, with pupils closing their eyes and making the sound of the wind, leaves, streams and animals in a spooky forest, which they told me made them feel everything from “relaxed” to “scared” to “Like I was actually a Gorilla!”.

Younger classes focussed on basic drama and nature games, movement and song with older classes using techniques such as follow-the-leader, working in partners  and creating frozen picture stories to journey around the imaginary zones we could now explore. We rode on camels through the Desert of Dreams, swam through the Enchanted Loch, spotting sea creatures and sat under the story tree, while pupils reminded each other “don’t pull out the grass, ’cause it’s alive just like you and me!” with younger classes enjoying the tale of the Scottish Forest Fairy, the Ghillie Dhu.

I found that using a prop (a tiny Mexican worry doll, the smallest person I could find!) and a fairy door placed at the bottom of the tree, along with adding even more interaction, further improved this story for the children this year. Older classes also engaged well with a traditional tale from Kazakhstan, The Magic Garden, complete with gold coins brought in my pocket, with some classes helping act out characters from the tale. Although something a bit different, the classes seemed to be enjoying their outdoor adventure, “I had a fabulous time going out to play” (Sophie, P2, Cardonald).

Week two sees us begin to think about the web of life, and how plants, animals and humans are all connected. This was brought to life though Grumpy Gecko, a story from Bali, about jungle creatures all having connected roles which I felt worked well for all the participating ages. Classes also looked at their playground more closely using ‘magic’ frames to find things that were different colours, textures, and that were living. Pupils also used animal image cards and question and answer to find animal pairs and identified habitats or biomes which the animals live in. Younger classes enjoyed getting their hands muddy and making mini-beast and animal sculptures from clay, with everything from Snails to Dragons being created outdoors and going back into the classroom to be displayed.

Clay Snails made by younger pupils at Cardonald Primary

Older groups were also artistic this week, creating a giant chalk picture of the Tree of Life, working in groups to show the creatures which you would find below ground, all the way up to the sky. We’ll also be looking at food chains and physically showing the web of life with our oldest classes. I was amazed when Lewis from P3/2 at Cardonald told me that “a Hummingbird is connected because it needs the sweet nectar from the flower”, I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Pupils drawing animals in their “Tree of Life”

I’m really enjoying working at both schools and look forward to more imaginative adventures as the weeks progress!

Oh and, no, the tiny red spiders we find in this country are not poisonous, children… or are they!?