Wilderness Vs Playgrounds

In the journey of forest school in a largely urban and manicured city of Singapore, we cross paths with the dilemma of urbanity or nature. 

Children in Singapore enjoy being at the playground way more than the Wild natural forest usually. (Some of our classes have close to 40% of the time spent there). The interesting notion to explore here is why? 

Based on our experience and sharing from children, here are some of the key points why the playground is the most visited place in Forest School Singapore.

 

1. Time:

Modern day Singapore children generally spend about 30min to 1hour at the playground. Just like a game that has not been fully experienced. Children see the playground in this context as a treasure that they love but couldnt spend enough time at. Hence the preference. 

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2. Familiarity

Urban children in Singapore hardly grow up with the “bustling” forest as their common ground. The playground is the most familiar place of play and development at their own pace, for them. They gravitate to it as a safe space to grow in confidence and self awareness. One that is predictable generally. 

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3. Independence

At the playground, in a forest school session, children get to dictate the play, rhythm and learning, they are in seemingly full control with very little uncertainty. Independence forms easily in this space with the fs approach. 

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Now, then why not run a playground school (not a bad idea for Nature-less location). But in Forest Schools where Nature greens are within reach the balance is struck between both spaces when children have satisfied their 3 key points. 

Children, when given so much time in the playground, grow familiar with it to a point that their independence draws them towards uncertainty, because they are confident and aware enough to face the insecurity that comes their way in the ever changing curriculum of the forest. The array of stimulation and events that happen in the woods stretch across such a huge spectrum that we can’t even in modern time be able to gauge the effect. 

Children then gradually form a bond with each of these spaces. The place becomes their home, their play space, their safe haven. 

All these developments and observations took time to develop. Our longest running forest school classes (4-5 years), visit more varied places now compared with their initial years.

In a wild Nature, children receive some of the highest forms of learning and growth. Survival, Exploration, Uncertainty, Fear, Trust, Relationship, Experience-based Knowledge and some day even “magic” from the forest, are realized through the time they spend with the Natural space. Their senses of their body, mind and spirit are enhanced. Sometimes so enhanced that they can form wisdom beyond our modern understanding. But all this takes time. 

Wild Nature is evidently a space that not many people living in Singapore find deep resonance with (Commentary: The awkward adventures of a Singaporean urbanite in a city in nature). And that holds key to the movement of Forest School in Singapore. As our little ones take on the journey to connect with their environment moving from one space to another, they will gradually find the resonance that defines the Orang Asli & Orang Lauts (Aboriginal people of Singapore) relationship with our land and space. On that very day, we will see the comfortable flow of acceptance to our presence in Nature and Urban. 

We have a dream, that when Playground and Wild Nature can be both seen for its beauty and balance in acceptance, we who live on this land, will evolve to be better stewardship and representation of our land, Singapore.

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