Week 1: “To Neverland!”

Peter Pan turned to Wendy and said “I come from a very special land far away. It’s a place where the stars shine day and night, where every day is an adventure, where time doesn’t go forward and children just like you stay young forever. It’s a place where everything you could ever imagine can come true. Would you like to go there with me?”

Phew! What an amazing journey it’s been on my first week of school adventures. So many special memories already: of P1’s transforming from tiny seeds into ginormous trees; of P4’s flying through the sky to the top of the mystic mountain; of P7’s making compasses by rubbing needles on their leather shoes: of one girl telling me she always thought nature was just plants and animals and now she knows it’s so much more; of one P4 class looking completely flabbergasted after telling them the glass in their school windows is made of sand; of imaginary butterflies landing on eager heads before taking off to a chorus of “goodbyes” and “thank yous”.

My vision for the first week of the Out to Play sessions was    to instil a sense of wonder. To dive deeply into imagination and free play and allow their own exploration to lead them to a care for the natural world on their own terms. By creating the environment for magic and curiosity, they became open to the possibilities that spending time outside can create a deeper connection with nature, even when all you have to explore is a concrete playground!

I started by preparing them all for their adventure, using improvisation games to pack their bags with everything they might need, before telling them the opening of Peter Pan to get them into the world of myth and the spirit of exploration. It was a good idea to start with a story they already knew. I hope to go to some interesting and obscure places with the stories as the weeks go on, and (sadly) listening to storytellers isn’t something many of us are used to any more. After that I showed them a ‘very special ancient map which my great-great-grandma Wendy gave to me (!)’ which showed their outdoor school grounds but full of magical landscapes. The rest of the session was an exploration of those environments, each navigated towards by special map and compass readers, and the cohort following behind flying through the air or trudging through mud.

P7's writing nature adventure riddles

There were certainly challenges: the cold definitely being a major one, especially for the smallest fingers. There also seemed to be a trend that being out in the playground meant far more chaos than classroom time, but bringing it back to the story (if you stand in the middle of the circle you will get too hot in the magic fire!”) seemed to have a good effect with the younger ones at least. No falling tears yet, luckily… touch wood!

Much of the journeying through mythical landscapes was about bringing natural places back to life using the imagination, one example being in ‘The Meadow of Memories’, where they gently took imaginary insects, worms and spiders from my pockets to a new home. I’m hoping that we will return to these environments in the coming weeks and see them continue to flourish. To see the ways spring brings life back to them. Alongside this, by setting the scene we can also return to these places and understand humanities impact on them: “why are there no fish left in the enchanted lake?” and try to support the next generation to rewrite our relationship with these places to one of deep connection and care.

As I gathered the amazing memory drawings of one class at the end of our session together, one little girl showed me a picture of a fish underwater, and told me it was her. It felt really profound to be holding the space for a connection with nature that extended far beyond just experiencing the outdoors but encouraging a deeper sense of ‘oneness’ with all the abundance of our fragile, magical planet. I hope that between now and next weeks sessions they will continue to explore the landscapes we created together in their break times. I can almost hear those little wolves howling from the woods now.

Adventure onwards!


3 thoughts on “Week 1: “To Neverland!””

  1. Sounds wonderful. Must feel such an honour to be invited to the magical places children find in their own particular corner of concrete. Looking forward to the next installment!

  2. This is so wonderful to read, Ben. I am really fascinated to learn more about your creative practice – very thought provoking and inspirational. Thank you for sharing.

  3. What a wonderful example of your special capacity for imagination, dear Ben. You have retained and developed the creative capacity of a child of that age in a way which just shows what a generous and imaginative up-bringing can do: this must be the consequence of the rare combination of characteristics of your two parents and the encouragement to creativity you enjoyed all throng your up-bringing..

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