Saturday, 16 June 2012

what can you hear amongst the blades of grass?

It feels incredibly special to be able to develop the allotment space at Dunkirk with so many pupils and staff.  We're discovering so much there and every visit brings new surprises.  The children spend so much time looking, exploring and sharing their discoveries - they are full of endless questions about what they can see, hear and smell.   Why are some bees bigger than others?  What is the name of this grass?  Why are there holes in the ground?  Why is this leaf smooth?  What made this mark?   

It's a real privilege to share journeys of discovery with children and vital to make time for the questions to emerge - and equally vital not to rush into answers.  Children's questions are usually incredibly astute and often illustrate just how attentive to detail children are.  They notice so much - and very often the things they notice are things adults often rush past.

Working on the allotment with the children is also an illustration of how crucial it is to return to the same place again and again throughout the year.  It lets you get to know a place incredibly well and you peel away layer after layer as you explore.  It also lets you really get a sense for the seasonal changes of a place - and to see how familiar things are different as the weather and seasons change. 

For children, there's also the incredibly important aspect of routine, repetition and ritual in returning to the same place.  Children need time to revisit places and activities and to test them out over and over: each time they learn new things.  They work like scientists do, testing out hypotheses as they scrutinise the things they discover.  

We've loved watching all the wild flowers emerge on the allotment.  We've planted lots of things to attract wildlife but of course hundreds of plants have found their own way to us.  At the moment there is an area of clover, covered in bees.  The children have been so interested in this - and we've found safe places where we can sit and watch the bees without hurting them (or us).  The children have been fascinated by the many different kinds of bees and just how different they look.  "Why are some bees bigger than others?" asked one of the reception boys a couple of day ago.  He watched the bees for such a long time, making up a song about them, noticing how they weren't all yellow and black stripes.   

We're lucky also to have Nottingham Canal run at the back of the allotment.  We're busy making a pond at the moment and although that's not complete yet, because the canal water is just beside us, we are getting so many dragonflies, damselflies and other interesting creatures.  The place is full of birds too and forms a crucial place in the wildlife corridor of the area.  

The allotment is a place where stories emerge - from the children and adults as they discover things and also from the place itself.  It's in the middle of the city, but it feels like another world.  Everywhere you can see signs of the things that happen when people aren't there!  Every day there are new things waiting to be discovered.

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