Week 6 & 7: Growing People

When Jack trudged to market to sell his mothers cow, it wasn’t money that he wanted. It was adventure, it was danger, it was treasure, and it was the excuse to be a very naughty boy. He got what he was searching for in the shape of a tiny bean. Now, if you could climb your own beanstalk, right up to the sky, what would your magical world look like?

The sowing of seeds needs little introduction to be an act of magic. Tiny dreams. Muddy fingers. A sprinkle of water and wishes. Patience and care. The soil, alchemical. Life a potential for flourishing. After these weeks exploring the wonders of nature with children how better to put ideas into practice than by making it themselves?

This weeks outdoor adventures have been about home, journeys and transformation. As inspiration I asked the children to bring in an object that was important to them, one they would take with them if they were to go on a journey. It was wonderful to see how excitedly they shared the importance of these objects with each other. What quickly emerged was a very organic tool for storytelling with children, using their own lives as a narrative to explore what it would mean to leave what is known and go on a journey. Human history is one of movement and transformation, and by connecting to ideas of what is important to them should they find their world changed we had the opportunity to begin to see how the human story is part of a bigger story of movement in nature.

Passing a huge inflatable globe around the circle we were able to explore the amazing journeys that elements, plants and animals embark on. Migratory markings crisscross weather patterns, and pebbles wash from mountains to oceans. A daughter leaves the family farm to find work in the city. An autumn leaf falls. Continents collide and planets orbit. The world is in a state of constant flux. Humanity is facing such challenging times. How can we open the possibility of connecting young children with concepts as upsetting and huge as climate change, deforestation and mass extinction? I feel strongly that by creating a mythical and creative space for young people to explore the ways in which the human story is one of change we can begin to connect to the bigger Earth story and empower them to know they can change their worlds and take a step forward in service of life on this magical fragile planet.

After exploring journeys, we bought their stories of home and movement back to the mythic by telling tales of movement, of adventure, and of collaboration. For the younger ones the story was “Harambe!” the Tanzanian tale of how the animals first brought sunlight to Earth by working together. For the older group I told the story of a young boy who steals his grandmothers magical chestnut and has to adventure to the end of the world and back again to save her. this tale has been told to me many times from childhood by my teacher and storytelling inspiration Jane Flood. Both stories had rhymes and movement to join in with, which really connected them to the epic journeys of the characters. Weeks after telling stories that have specific movements I sometimes find myself unconsciously doing the same movement in front of a class which is met with a joyous chorus of the matching rhyme. It’s a great sign that they enjoyed the stories, as well as knowing that the learnings from the tales have somehow resonated and will remain with them long into the future.

This week was also the first time that the classes were introduced to Eco Drama’s very exciting new show ‘Uprooted’, which will be an outdoor performance in a living stage designed by Tanja Beer. The stage itself will be made from household objects filled with plants grown by the children from the Out to Play project, with the support of Permaculturist Katie Lambert. After introducing the project, we created a space for them to brainstorm their ideas of household objects and how they might be transformed when taken over by nature.

There were some lovely ideas, including welly boots filled with strawberries and washing machines filled with potatoes. The idea behind this was both to use their ideas as inspiration for Tanja, Katie, Emily and the performers, as well as to give the children real ownership over the piece, so that when they come to see the show they will see the boots with strawberries and know it was their creativity that got them there.

It starts with one seed. One act of imagination. One intention for flourishing. And a whole lot of care along the way.