September is firmly here and as autumn begins we’re starting a new investigation as part of the on-going Comenius link project at Dunkirk school.
We always work on projects that explore Big Questions with the children, and this takes many different shapes and formats, but we aim to be as child-centred as possible and for the children and staff together to really ask searching questions and explore many different avenues of enquiry.
As part of the Comenius Project we are exploring issues around ‘Why Are Trees Precious’; with ideas, resources, work and impetus being shared between all the linked schools (Norway, Finland, Italy and ourselves).
I’m excited always by children’s questions and lines of enquiry but looking at trees in this way is especially wonderful, I’m deeply drawn to trees and woodland – so to look at this afresh with the children and staff is really inspiring.
We’ve been exploring the trees local to the school – something we do all the time anyway but this now takes on an additional emphasis. We’re lucky in having quite a lot of trees within an easy walk of the school, we’ve visited them with the children and we’ve held staff planning meetings under some of them (complete with a picnic).
We’ve begun to ask questions – the children have generated some brilliant lines of enquiry so far and much more will emerge. They've been thinking about the questions they would like to ask a tree. They’ve been talking about what they know already about trees and what they would like to find out. We’ve had various wonderful scientific questions but these also enable a deep philosophical angle to be explored. There are stories waiting to be created, all sorts of things to be made, songs to be sung and experiments galore to be undertaken…
Just a few of the children’s questions:
Do trees like drawing?
Do trees fly?
Do trees go to school?
How do the trees make their leaves fall?
Do trees have to sleep?
How many trees are there?
Can trees learn all about playing?
Trees and woodland are one of my favourite things to work with - as a subject matter in photographs, prints etc, in terms of story-generating and in terms of materials that I use. I also turn to woodland as an inspirational, soothing, calming and rejuvenating space. I’m lucky to live close to some incredibly stunning ancient broadleaf woodland in Derbyshire; its rich in wildlife and also in stories of human history (traces are evident through from ancient history, Roman workings to the Industrial Revolution and well beyond).
So, as I watch the leaves turn from green to yellow to gold to orange and begin to twirl off the trees and onto the ground… I also want to know if trees go to school, or if trees have a best friend, or whether trees like to play hide and seek…