The first week of summer holiday during the last month of the year is always a special time for children! As a child, I remember feeling a sense of anticipation and delight at the seemingly endless stretch of warm weather and unplanned time that lay ahead. I could not wait to get up in the morning, go outside into the sunshine and simply explore my world and pursue the things that I found interesting. It was the natural environment though that provided me with the most entertainment because it was unpredictable and mysterious! Simply going for a walk in the forest was an adventure. It was my own somewhat romantic childhood memories of this desire for open-ended summertime freedom to explore my world and ideas which inspired the holiday event, “Create Your Own Experience!” I loved it so much, I wanted to provide space for other children to have a similar opportunities for discovery and adventure!
The outdoor camp site in Tokai Forest provided us with a rich environment for such a holiday event. We had trees, fields, lots of sunlight, leaves and space. It is a luxury to be so close to the city and yet cocooned from it at the same time. Most of the week it felt as if we had wandered into the film set for National Geographic, especially when the campsite was visited by baboons and we went on snake hunting expeditions! This magically unpredictable environment provided a stimulating backdrop for the week long explorations that took place.
So what do you do all week when the schedule is so opened ended you ask? Well, at the beginning of the week, all the children were invited to come up ideas for a group project. They were asked to identify something they wanted to work on during the week and given parameters: it had to involve everyone, happen onsite, be finished by Friday and there must be something that could be shared with all the other holiday event participants by the end of the week. Each group explored their interests together…
The younger group with Rene, moved a leisurely pace through their days and seemed happy to simply while away their time making things in the artspace with Janet, hanging out under the shape of the trees and socialising with other children. The idea of a group project was something that emerged slowly and at the end of the week, they invited the other children to visit their shaded hang out spot under the trees, look at their art work and search for bubble making kits in the soggy paper used for paper sculptures!
I was working with the middle group and their group project was immediately shaped by the forest and dreams of fort making as well as their encounter with Bronwyn’s special whittling knives. In fact. they spent most of the week looking for sticks to shape and whittle into sharp points! It was amazing to see how patiently they waited for a knife to be available, how willing they were to share and what delight a newly sharped stick brought to the creator and those around him or her. By the end of the week, my group presented two tribes: the “Black Hand Tribe” which had a arsenal of weapons and the “Hoerikwaggo Tribe” which used their weapons as props for their energetic performance involving sangoma’s and warriors!
The older group were the ones that took the space available and created an experiential extravaganza for everyone! We were all invited to the “Pinecone Village Fair”, home tickets were distributed at the gate. Inside we were taken on a guided tour of: naughts and crosses game and a magic teepee!
There was a fortune teller who read your future in a magic ball and a tool maker shed where you could make stone tools!
The whole experience came to a end with story telling under the shade of a massive tree!
We even had a fourth group of children that formed across ages and connected around their love of transformers and other such figures! They decided to create their own village!
In between all the group project activity, children spent a lot of time swimming to cool off from the hot afternoon sun!
We took advantage of the unpredictable natural environment which surprised us at the beginning of the week with the possibility of puffadders in the forest to educate ourselves. A young man from Cape Nature Conservation brought a lot of different snakes to the campsite on the last day and gave a very impressive snake show to everyone’s delight! All the children were able to see and touch a range of different snakes that day. It was a fantastic way to end the week 🙂