Festivals and Forest School

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ShambalaSNLA’s Summer of Love… Buddhafield, Green Gathering and Shambala 2013

SNLA spent the summer working at three festivals – Buddhafield, The Green Gathering and Shambala.

Working at festivals is a challenge but also great fun. In schools, the kids turn up in predictable numbers and grouped for the purpose. At festivals you have to be ready for all comers – and they can walk away from the activity whenever they feel like it!

Buddhafield takes place in Somerset. The festival has a spiritual feel, with a no alcohol policy and is amazingly relaxed and friendly. The festival has a large, loyal following.  We offered adult workshops on making temporary labyrinths for relaxation and well-being, and Forest School kids sessions.

In the Kids Field we found ourselves competing with fun fair rides, a huge Chinese dragon full of children and a Circus Skills tent – much more of a challenge than we expected. You have to raise your game hugely to attract kids in an environment crammed with so many colourful, noisy and fun activities. Our usually popular ‘Jack and the Beanstalk Towers’ didn’t quite cut it with so much going on.

‘Labyrinths for Kids’ was our theme at the Green Gathering.  Set in Welsh borders countryside, the Green Gathering gets our vote for the prettiest location. Situated on an elevated location on the outskirts of Chepstow, there are views of ancient forest, the River Severn and Offa’s Dyke. We worked in the Kids Field, building a labyrinth. The labyrinth was decorated with an elaborate willow surround that the children made and decorated with several dozen beautiful mobiles inspired by the labyrinth theme. Making mobiles (dream catchers, ‘God’s Eyes’, and ‘free-style’) enabled us to engage with children as young as 3 and as old as the mid-teens. At the end of the festival many of the children came back to claim their mobile to take home

Stick Labyrinth

Our thanks to Helen Hatt of Majical Youth for inviting us to join her team on the Kids Field.

Shambala takes place in Northamptonshire in the grounds of a stately home. This was by far the largest festival of the three, with a strong emphasis on dance music – a kind of  ‘Ibiza in a Field’ with a fantastic party atmosphere. Fancy Dress Night on Saturday was particularly lively with an amazing range of themed costume characters parading around.

At Shambala we worked in the Permaculture Field and ran a series of ‘Science with Sticks’ workshops. During our 5 day stint we made a full- scale shaduf  (Egyptian water raising device) next to the lake and a working trebuchet. Both activities are fully described in our The Power of Outdoor Learning manual. The shaduf worked magnificently – but the trebuchet disappointed with a throwing range of only 15 metres.

The most popular activity was arrow-making, attracting more than 60 children and their parents. The throwing arrows were made with feather flights, soft tips (for safety) and streamers. It is a highly accessible activity and kept parents and kids busy for a full hour. No one walks away from this one!

We a held a mini-bridge building competition, utilizing thin willow sticks and string. Working in teams of 4 to 6, with minimum adult intervention, the challenge is to build a suspension bridge with a metre wide span using thin  willow sticks, string and a few tent pegs. To win, the bridge must take the weight of a 15 kilo wooden block. Happily, the bridges all worked!

Our thanks to Rob and Ali Swift and Adele for inviting us to work with them in the Permaculture Field at Shambala.

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