Roles of Adult
(Written & Shared by : Darishna, Co-Coach for Forest School Singapore)
Trust, both the forest and the children. Children, like nature are not born without innate capacities. We do not need to teach a child to cry or a tree to grow. We simply trust they can. Similarly, trust the child is aware of how to balance and climb and trust that they know how to look after themselves. But most importantly, trust that the trees which provides you with the air you breathe and the shade we need knows how to protect you when were are deep among them.
This works both ways, ask questions when being asked a question or when you are curious yourself. Often when a child asks an adult a question they provide them with the answer. While the child is now knowledgeable with one more answer, it has taken away the many opportunities for them to explore their way to the answer. By asking them a guiding question instead, we encourage a thought process. They may not derive an answer immediately or may even get the wrong one but, be assured they have now opened a whole system of questioning and exploration in their minds.
Also, ask questions when you are in doubt. Never assume to understand what a child is doing when playing or what they are thinking. Encourage their creativity by asking them questions about their most mundane activities. Their answers may surprise you.
At forest school, our children attempt to climb, run, pluck, jump and much more. Observe for their safety but do not attempt to get involve or caution them. Often we feel the need to verbally warn them when we feel a task ahead is too difficult. Not only does that deprive them of the opportunity to learn their own capabilities, we create doubt and fear in their minds with verbal warnings. Discouragement is not necessarily the best teacher. Failure is a better teacher. Falls and minor injuries are beneficial for learning and immunity building too. As adults our roles then, is to silently observe and be at the back or the front to support, invisible to their eyes. We view ourselves as support structures that are a part of the forest, only protecting them from major injuries.
What may interest you may not interest a child. And that works the other way as well. When engaged in play or activities do not attempt to drag them away from it. We are interrupting their learning. Instead ask them to join us when they are ready. Using the phrase “I see you, when you are ready lets’ join the rest”, gives the child recognition of their current state of play and autonomy to stop when they are ready. It gives them an opportunity to make a decision, to continue with their current activity or to join the rest of the group. As adults we value and recognise time but, as a child, time is a limitless factor in the world of imagination. Be patient.
As adults we have the ability to create opportunities to facilitate learning and creative play. That does not mean we have to verbally encourage it. Each child has a unique perspective of play. It is important that as adults we recognise the need to step back either to allow the children to see each other or to allow them to go farther away from our safety net. We create learning opportunities for them just by giving silent encouragement and allowing them to express themselves verbally and even physically. Create the opportunity by being patient, asking questions and trusting full heartedly that they will get there.
As a Japanese Forest School Mentor once said,
“Hand Behind, Lips Sealed”, The forest school way