Out to Play at Sandwood and Haghill Park Primary Schools – Small World Wanders

by Dan Serridge

‘All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost; the old that is strong does not wither, deep roots are not reached by the frost.’

J. R. R. Tolkien

Have you ever wondered if you can ever be truly still? What exactly is going on beneath your feet? Where do we end up if we scamper around like animals?

These are just some of the questions we are asking on my ‘Out to Play’ residency at Sandwood and Haghill Park Primary Schools. Each week, I’m taking the pupils on a ‘Small World Wander’, a walk to explore, discover, find and investigate some of the hidden secrets of the outside world. Over the course of five weeks I’m imparting the skills to truly wander effectively, namely; Still, Step, Scramble and Bound.

Firstly, in week one, we’ve been exploring the notion of stillness, asking the question of whether anything can ever be still. SPOILERS, It can’t. Unless you’re travelling at the speed of light of course. Nonetheless, pupils tried their hardest to make themselves as still as possible and then explore the natural world for all its possible stillness. At the beginning of each session they were confronted with a mysterious rucksack surrounded by leaves in their classroom, a message on top saying, ‘Small World Wanders – Back in a Jiffy’.

On arrival, the pupils were told of their impending training in how to be small world wanderers and how to walk, wander and, indeed, wonder about some unanswered questions. Out of the rucksack appeared a pocket watch that had stopped, I told pupils that time was standing still. Consequently many pupils turned to face the clock in the classroom to check that time was still moving as normal, the relief was written all over their faces.  Pupils ran, stayed still, played, stayed still, took a stick for a walk, stayed still, waddled like swans and, yes, stayed still.

As we delved into this topic we discovered that everything is moving all the time, even the ground that we stand on, even the blood in our bodies leading one pupil to exclaim, ‘How come, if the grounds moving, I can’t see it!’ At the end of the session we created still images of the things that they’d discovered along the way, from trees to leaves, from salt and vinegar crisp packets to banana skins.

It was very exciting to go on this journey of discovery with pupils all the way from P1 up to P7 and seeing the different possibilities that Sandwood and Haghill had to offer. For the next four weeks we’ll be exploring different concepts of wandering. Week two will encourage pupils to look at their own steps, the impact their footprint has on the natural world and they’ll design and create their own footprints from found material, perhaps creating new stories about the creature or thing that left them behind.

We’ll explore what is going on beneath their feet and what occurs when we step from man made surfaces to natural surfaces. Week three will see us scrambling around like animals and uncovering different ways animals explore and experience the natural world.

I’m very excited about seeing the teachers leading week four and seeing how they respond to the concept of wandering, what will come out of the rucksack? What way of moving will we explore? By week five, it’s time to move freely through nature, pupils bound around, feeling the wind in their hair and a spring in their heels.

Each session is designed to uncover something new or unexplored by the pupils, hopefully helping them make connections that they have previously not made between themselves and the natural world. I also hope that I can learn from the way pupils play in their natural environment, making discoveries about what they understand of  their connection to the natural world. Our first wander helped me see how much joy the pupils take from their own playgrounds, how excited they are to be outside and how keen they are to play, discover and investigate, even on a cold crisp morning in late October.

My process will see me present a ‘teacher in role’ style of delivery. Equipped with a pair of leafy binoculars, bright orange whistle and bobble hat, I’ll present pupils with a character who is endlessly curious of the world and excited by the stories and playful possibilities it has. I’ve been hugely inspired to come and work for Eco Drama, although always bringing Dan Story Man’s techniques and skills, I have learned so much from the work of Ben MacFadyen and Sophie McCabe. Their commitment to wonderment, excitement, inspiration, collaboration, sharing and reflection have provided an excellent framework within which to work and stamp with my own delivery style.

Can’t wait to see how this programme develops and what other surprises will come my way. In the meantime, Happy Wandering!