Building a Den

The erection of a temporary shelter using only natural materials

Building a shelter, with woodland material is a practice done for centuries by our ancestors and past human civilization. It is the basic form of living and survival, a roof over the head. The simple form of activity, is a huge hit with children and even adults. In this picture story, you will see me enjoying myself, building a den, with no manuals, and mostly woodland materials (only the rope is man-made), just my own creativity and logic.
It is a mini-den/shelter, built within the Mayfair Park, near Rifle Range Road and Bukit Timah Plaza. It was made together with the help of my assistant Germaine Kho and E, a little girl who was playing in the park.

Firstly, there was alot of picking to be done, which obviously isnt shown in the pictures. We went to search for sticks and big leaves to build the den. And I found a nice Y-shaped stick aka “the Pillar”, he’s pretty sturdy too. The tough part about picking some of the stick is that they are found near a fire ant’s nest, bites are inevitable. In picking for sticks and leaves, we only pick those that has fallen from the trees, because we do not want to remove the parts that are still part of the tree (for legal and natural reason). For most part, these materials will be cleared by the park maintenance personnel, so I don’t think they mind us using it.

After gathering the materials needed, we begin building the base of the den, I hammered “the Pillar” in, followed by tying a 3 triangle shape base aka “the Tripod”for “the Pillar” , to keep it stable on the ground.

Next I put another big stick aka “Joey Boey” onto the Pillar’s Y-space, and place Joey Boey’s other edge firmly onto the ground.

The next step will be the therapeutic process of differentiating the sticks by sizes, and placing them according to size along “Joey Boey”. It was fun.

The toughest part, is the special shaped longer sticks aka “Snakeys“, because the park area doesnt have much long straight sticks. Many of the plants and trees have winding branches. Not ideal for the den I feel, but we can always make do.

Next step, is roofing, where we have to cover the roof up with big leaves which Germaine found, around the peripheral of the park. We had to slot the leaves in between the stick, to keep it intact.

Once more, the Snakeys make it really difficult to place the leaves in between the sticks properly, luckily we manage to find bigger leaves which could weave into the Snakeys’ end of the roof better.

After roofing, we lay the remaining fray sticks, on top of the leaves, to hold the roof intact.

The ground beneath the den, was carpet by Ms E, who got the help of her little friends. It was really nice to see the ingenuity of children.

There will be more opportunity to try out new crafts and skills in the set up and running of Forest School. This experience, really help me feel and understand how our learners will experience the activity, the sense of pride and competency is very different from getting an A in English composition. This pride and confidence comes from knowing that you are capable, not in comparison with anyone or any standard, just the need of the environment and yourself.

“Sir, Why are you not wearing shoes?” – Little Ms.E

I had alot of queries about my barefooted-ness during the den building. I wanted to do what I think some children would do in the open space and park, take off their shoes. What I realise was the feeling of gripping the ground with our own bare feet, gives us the natural connection back with mother nature. What we used to define as “dirty”, well isnt really dirty. These are all pre-conceived ideas, set to us by our urban upbringing. See being barefooted, gives us a sense of awareness, that will help keep us safe and healthy. We are more careful when we walk barefooted, because we know we will encounter objects that may cut our feet. And that is just one example of the awareness and benefit. There is a level of risk-benefit involve that will allow learners to grow and develop better decision making and holistic well-being. Overall, I did it to ensure safety, and I vouch for the safety of being barefooted in Mayfair Park. (These are what defines the Philosophy of Forest School Singapore)

Go to the link below to see more information on why we should get barefooted

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