Week 4: Waterworlds

“What can you hear?”

“I can hear dolphins!”

“I can hear crabs snapping their claws!”

“I can hear whales!”

There is very little more enchanting to me than a child enraptured in a quiet moment of magic and wonder, and holding a cowry shell to small ears this week often created just that response. Suddenly the world opens up and the concrete playground is washed away by waves of imagination.

“You see these clouds above us? Did you know that they are made of water too, water that once came from the ocean very very far away just like this shell did. And did you know that the clouds can hear that sound you heard inside the shell? It’s the sound of the sea. The sea is calling the water back home. Would you like to go there with me?”

Water is so precious. I guess my vision this week was to create that sense of what an extraordinary journey water takes and how much we depend on it for our own lives. This week is national water saving week (http://www.waterwise.org.uk/pages/water-saving-week-2015.html) so it felt like a great step forwards looking at the importance of water after exploring underground worlds. We started by being the water cycle which was ridiculous fun. Surrounded by ‘puddles’ looking up at the clouds (and calling out all the creatures they could see in the shapes), I called out “evaporate!” and all the puddles started lifting off into the sky, running around the playground being wobbly water vapour until I shouted “condense” and they all began to stick together and form a big cloud which I then blew to the top of the mountain to fall as rain. We then flowed down the mountain, into a big lake and down a waterfall, before creating a parachute ocean to tell stories. And so the cycle begins again!

I feel very strongly about the value of embodied learning at any stage in life. I know that I learn best when making connections between things, by physically moving through them, making mistakes, collaborating and having fun along the way. There is so much scope for learning through outdoor play, from maths to languages to science. It’s a world of possibility that I wish my own schooling had been more geared towards and it feels like a real honour to have the opportunity to offer an hour of it to these children’s week. That’s not to say that the teachers don’t do amazing embodied learning with their classes, but there is something special about taking them out to play and explore and learn directly from the outdoors. nature doesn’t develop in the rational way we would like to think it does, and so exploring this world through play, imagination and creativity feels like such a good match.

This weeks entry is a brief one, but I wanted to share a couple of moments that were really powerful. This week I told many groups the story of the Selkie bride and of the song of the sea. At the end I told one class that every child who has webbed skin between their thumb and second finger is a descendent of a selkie, and that if they go to the ocean and sing the selkie song then the selkies will come and sing back. This was mostly met with delight, but there was one boy who looked like he felt far too old (and cool) for these silly children’s stories.  As we went back indoors, however, I caught him secretively examining his webbed fingers. I guess we never really know what impact we are having, but it’s important to keep telling the stories of wonder because they reach people in unexpected ways.

The other amazing moment this week I wanted to reflect on happened this afternoon. I was playing a game about people and water with a P7 class, with two teams carrying water on their heads and racing to fill up buckets. It just so happened that I hadn’t found enough buckets to bring water out for everyone, and so very quickly what began as a silly race with lots of water spilling descended into frustration and arguments as the water ran out. “You’re spilling it all”… “you took too much”… “I didn’t get a go” etc. This then led to a really interesting conversation about the politics of water as a resource, and quickly the 0.036% of our planets water which is actually surface freshwater suddenly felt much more precious. If I had more time we could have played the game again, this time seeing how they could have played it so that everyone had enough. At the end of the game I went to pour out the remaining water and the class all called out “Nooooo!!”

At the end of the session one particularly bright and engaged boy commented that he never knew water had the power to change peoples personalities. I guess the importance of water extends far beyond the nourishment it provides. It truly shapes our world and our perception of it.

1 thought on “Week 4: Waterworlds”

  1. I love this simple, powerful example of the transformative nature of working with story embedded in nature and exploring our relationship to nature. The fortuitous ‘running out of water’ moment — and the learning it catalysed for the children — is especially poignant and relevant. So glad this important work is happening in our schools. Wouldn’t it be great if the learning could be teased out more with the help if teachers following on from the creative sessions.

Comments are closed.