Our planning discussion on Tuesday focused significantly on one young person who, since we started doing the sessions on the valley, has struggled to focus and be part of the group. When we are in the allotment it doesn’t matter that he has a tendency to wonder off and do his own thing, as it’s a safe and contained space. The agreement we made with the young people, including him, clearly didn’t have the affect with him that we wanted it to. When we discussed the agreement with him at the end of the session on Thursday, he suggested that he couldn’t remember what we had said when we made it and that maybe he should stop coming altogether. When we explained the agreement again to him, he told us that he didn’t think he would be able to remember that for the following week. He told him that if he wanted to be involved in the valley sessions, and we really wanted him to be, he needed to agree to the agreement we had made. He needed to commit to not going out of staff sight without an adult present. Given he couldn’t commit to this; we had a bit of a dilemma.
We wanted him to continue attending the sessions on the valley, but equally felt it was a risk if he wasn’t going to stick with the group. At the same time, a significant part of being on the valley is to be freer and to explore. And, the session is not meant to governed by rules. The fact that he wants to explore is a positive thing and what was the worst that could happen. The valley was directly behind his house and he probably knows the area better than us. However, we need him to be safe and HPS is responsible if something happens to him on the valley. We do not have the resources to give him a one-on-one nor do we want to make him the focus of the sessions.
We eventually agreed that we would have a chat with him at the start of the Thursday session and see if he would then agree to stick with the group. This was made possible as we started by sowing seeds on the allotment. During that, we spoke both to him and the group as a whole. At this point, he agreed to stay with the group which he kept to when we went onto the valley. The only minor issue occurred when we were on our way back and he wanted to take a detour, which we did not have time for. He started working in that direction anyway, but when he saw that we weren’t going to follow him, he rejoined the group. We had wanted to talk to him at the end, but he still seemed hung up on us not taking his detour and he left abruptly, again claiming that he might not come back next week.
Having taken some time off to start my other placement with Forest School Camps (FSC), I was now back at HPS. On Tuesday, we planned the Thursday session at Killingbeck, where, having got permission from the council, we hoped to do den building, kindling collections and some games. The session itself ran slightly different to what we had planned. There weren’t many young people that week and those that were there seemed quite distracted. I ended up leading some sensory forest school games, and then we collected wood and eventually made a small fire (see photo). The fire hadn’t been planned, but having collected the kindling, it felt that it would be an uncompleted job not to actually make a fire.
Following on from making the poo signs, at the Rosebank on Friday we put the signs up. It turns out they really enjoyed planting the onions and were excited to watch them grow and so after putting the signs up we planted sunflowers and peas. We ended the session by making seed-bombs (or what now have to be called seed angels...).
The following Tuesday we had the team meeting and then more evaluation of the previous week and then more planning for the upcoming week. We agreed that one issue with running sessions in the meadows at Killingbeck, rather than the contained allotment, was the risk of people walking off and/or leaving without the staff knowing. We therefore agreed that in this weeks session, we would start by discussing with the young people and coming up with an agreement which everyone would respect. Central to this, was that the young people would not go out of site without asking if an adult would go with them. I found it slightly uncomfortable that we wanted the young people to come up with the agreement, but at the same time, we had a set of ideas which we felt we needed the young people to agree with.
On Thursday, the struggle was getting them to focus and engage with the activity. Understandably, they didn’t want to discuss an agreement, but to go into the meadow and make fires and play games. Ironically, their reluctance to engage meant that we ended up only having half an hour on the meadow, when we had hoped to have over an hour. When they did engage in the conversation about the agreement, they said very sensible things and one of the first points they made was about always being insight of an adult. It'll be interesting to see whether they stick to the agreement. Within the agreement it also states that if they break it, the staff will have to chat with them about the behaviour on the meadow before they are allowed back to a session on the meadow.
Spring seems to have appeared - the wild garlic is out, the sun is shining, and the evenings are long. The onions and some other vegetables are also starting to come up at the allotment.
Having missed the chance to make rocket stoves last Tuesday, I was keen to help finish them off with the young people. While some people had finished theirs, the majority had gotten most the way and then left them. So, I sat down with young people, and helped them to put the finishing touches onto their rocket stoves. A lot of people had done the big bits of work such as cutting the holes, but hadn’t done the fiddly parts link bending the metal back so that the insulation didn’t fall out. With a little guidance we completed these jobs. Everyone seems proud of their work.
On Thursday, at Killingbeck, we were transferring plants from one bed to another - mainly strawberries and currents. There was one boy who wasn’t interested in doing this job and so I tried to engage him in another job – taking the plastic off the cardboard boxes. It’s interesting how these little interventions give you the opportunity to get to know people better. As we were working one-on-one I was able to ask him questions which in a group setting I couldn’t have. I found out that he’s going to London for the first time with school over Easter for a few night. He’s worried about where he is going to stay. I tried to reassure him that the school would have sorted that. He also told me his parents were concerned for his safety following the incident at Westminster on the 22nd March. I didn’t know what to say to this, so asked him what he thought about the attacks? He just shrugged.
Dog poo on the Rosebank has been a consistent problem, and so on Friday, we made signs about clearing up your poo. We then, planted lots of onions in small pots. The idea is that because you put so many onions into a pot, they don't have the space to grow like normal onions and so will grow like spring onions. The young people each made on pot and took these home with them. Doing this also facilitated conversations about food and made me realise how bad their diets often are. We hoped that by teaching them how easy it is to grow their own food, they might show a greater interest in eating more healthily. Obviously, it isn’t that simple, and diet is interrelated in many other social, economic and cultural factors, but it is important for them to develop a connection between what is grown and what they eat.