The Arsenal Foundation has helped fund the Woodland Adventure, a local project run by Scarabeus Aerial Theatre for pupils and staff from Grafton Primary school. Soren Nielsen explains what it’s all about…
I’m a co-founder of Scarabeus Aerial Theatre, as well as technical director and a workshop leader. I was born and raised in Denmark but have lived in Holloway for 28 years.
In total, 90 children and 15 adults took part in the Woodland Adventure, with each child attending four sessions. These involved climbing on giant ‘spider webs’ rigged around a cluster of trees, with the children learning how to take risks, trust themselves and others, conquer fears, feel more self-confident and be active, all the while experiencing the outdoors from a new perspective.
The children explored the wild beauty of the wood, noticing and naming trees, learning about the seasons and spotting birds. They did bug hunting and made artwork from forest materials. They were also taught how to look after nature – not creating damage to plants and trees and not leaving litter. They also each planted a bulb in small pot they took back to the classroom.
The children loved it, but some benefitted in ways we couldn’t have predicted. One child had suffered a bereavement and become very withdrawn, struggling to concentrate in school. He really enjoyed the activities and laughed and smiled for the first time in a long while.
Another boy from a troubled background lived in constant fear and was often disengaged and unable to open up. The sessions helped him to connect with his classmates. He found the school curriculum really difficult to access, which knocked his confidence, but he didn’t have these boundaries when surrounded by nature in the woods, and he really felt like he was able to achieve something on his own. He spoke about the sessions for days afterwards, they made a real impact on his life.
There was also a girl who’s being raised by her paternal grandmother with no contact with her mother, which has left her with some trust and relationship issues. In school she often displayed disruptive and violent behaviour, low self-esteem and poor peer relations. She’d also undergone surgery on her right leg, which had left her lacking in confidence. She was initially reluctant to tackle the spider webs alone, but as the sessions went on she showed great resilience and completed some of the course independently. This was massive for her self-esteem.
For me, it’s always a pleasure to watch how naturally children take to the outdoors, how they open up and roam around confidently. It’s also a pleasure to see children who struggle in a classroom situation suddenly flourish and become role models for their peers. And I think it’s great that Arsenal give back to the local community and create opportunities for children and adults.
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