When we say the forest is magical, it really is. Seeing almost teenage kids go gaga over free play and creating their own magic in the forest is a first for me. Watching them race with exhilaration down the forest trails is a huge shift from their initial reluctance and lethargy after being dragged down early in the morning. Witnessing the spontaneous chemistry and deepened bonding over 3 short mornings among children from 5 to 12 years of age. They built solid dams, with the ingenuous idea of mixing clay and sand, just like our cement and plaster concept. And all natural materials found by the river! They made clay pots, jugs, dishes…. They weathered the stormy rain for a good half hour. They ventured all the way downstream in areas rarely trodden by others. And hence they found root potatoes, air potatoes, sweet potato plants, durians, rambutans, pond skaters, and so much more.
None of the kids were bored for even a second, and they all came on time every day, eager to go forth on more forest exploration, much to the surprise of even their own parents. Well, put this in contrast to their typical school day. When kids are too drained from sitting in classrooms for most of the day, forcing their brains to stay alert or risk getting chided by the teacher, and suffering from a severe lack of stimulation from nature and body movement… no wonder the rocketing stress levels among our students these days.
10-year old Shane is loud, openly himself, all child-like and a surprisingly potential leader. He is not the oldest, but he is genuinely himself. He sees the danger of not checking well as we attempt to cross the road, and positions himself on the side and yells to everyone to fall in line. He gets the hang of using the fire starter tool, and is immensely pleased to keep trying it and teaching his peers too.
Siblings Imelda (7 years) and Irfan (5 years) are the most bubbly, gung-ho and team-spirited kids we have seen, gamely taking part in all of the activities their older friends suggest, and showing little fear going forth. Climbing the huge boulders, exploring the hidden river, and not complaining at all even when the heavy rains fell.
7-year old Issac who is so frank he doesn’t filter any of his words, and says aloud all his worries about getting wet and muddy, not liking the rocky surface beneath the river surface, and wondering how to make that natural clay pot. With encouragement, he always made it through and did things by himself.
And so many more of them.
It might have been just 3 days, but hopefully the experience would keep them invigorated, and may they never forget the natural magic of the forest – and themselves.