We, the visitors and teacher, all gathered around the perfectly excavated hole beneath a lean-to of pallets at Miško darželis. I thought to myself, “Now there’s a Minecraft hole if I’ve ever seen one.” I haven’t played Minecraft myself, but it was the topic of conversation with some of the older children at our Tink camps this past Summer. And guess what? It was a Minecraft hole!
The thing about the Minecraft chatter at our camp is that it quickly established common ground amongst the older children who were meeting each other for the first time and it gave them ideas about what to play. Interestingly, that play usually was all about building something together. This hole though, with its perfectly straight edges and depth, oh the depth was exactly child-sized and you could see that the connection it would bring to the basic and very dear element of Earth would be there. And it was…
Here is the story…
But, wait, first the story that leads to the story. It is a simple fact that it is in our essential nature to seek out the natural world. Maybe not all of us will be outdoor enthusiasts, spending whole days or weeks outdoors, but we must touch the natural world in order to fire our creativity and revitalize our souls. We actually carry bits of our surroundings within our bodies, not just the bits that stick to legs, hands and hair as we run about, but inside in our gut in our blood. This larger world and all its possibilities and limitations give shape to our inner world and the smaller, but important, world of regulated behaviors.
At both Miško darželis and Lauko darželis we saw this in evidence with both staff and children. Please know that it is not just children who benefit from this kind of venture-out, parents and teachers’ imaginations and creativity are also sparked!
I have shared information about Lauko darželis in two previous posts (see below for links). This post includes photos from both nurseries. Lauko darželis nurseries are located in Kaunus and Vilnius and the children of Miško darželis, another newly-established forest nursery is located in Klaipėda County Lithuania. The children who attend this nursery begin their day at the ferry that will take them to the nursery, waving goodbye as they cross the Curonian Lagoon. The ferry also takes them back to the mainland where their parents meet them at the end of their school day.
The children troop to the site to and from the ferry. We followed their trail arriving at their door. Their forest is bordered at the front with large branches laid end to end and their door is two upright branches with a board across the thresh hold. The door had a set of keys/words to open it up for our visit and for the children’s comings and goings. Imagination, connection to Earth, a place to commune with the natural world, all are told in this simple structure that welcomes and gives shape to the children’s space.
The children were sleeping when we arrived and so we were able to have a quick tour of their forest and to talk with one of their teachers. He is the one who told us the story of the hole and the gift it gave one of their children.
He told us how one of the very “active” boys (a better translation might be “rambunctious”) sat in the hole for a very long time. He sat inside and next to another child, wedged in, back and knees held, hugged, by the earth. The teacher checked on them and could see, or rather feel, that this moment, this stillness, was necessary and needed to roll itself out over time. Later, the boy told the teacher that he knew what he would ask for as a gift for Christmas. He wanted a machine that would calm him, that would bring him comfort, and he knew just how to design it. His teacher asked him how he had thought of it and the boy told him he figured it out while he was sitting in that hole. The teacher could see that something meaningful had happened. His sense of self and body language had shifted.
Look no further for vision quest, creative thinking, problem-solving, sense of self and place, or whatever we each want to call it, the simple ingredients needed will always be time and connection. The hole brought that much more connection and the forest and the teacher gave him time.
And that is the story the is led by the story of the forest.
For other posts about our Lithuanian trip, please click on these titles…
On our Growing Together blog,
And on Kierna Corr’s blog, Learning for Life