Compass Archie Stouffer is a school-age program in the heart of Minden. For those who aren’t familiar with our area you may not realize the sheer amount of trees and forest that we have. In fact the playground at our school is essentially half-forest. We feel very spoiled by this as our children love to play in the woods, discovering animals, climbing trees, playing hide-and-seek, capture-the-flag, and countless other games. But our all-time favourite activity is to create forts.
Season after season our children race into the woods to gather the best possible fort-building materials; there’s always a cheer after a big storm when large branches are knocked off of trees because there are more materials to work with. The children have spent so much time building forts that they have learned important construction skills, how to build something stable and sturdy, something that can support their weight, or block out the sunlight for some needed shade, something that they can crawl under or use to help them climb trees.
After a day of constructing our children cannot wait for their parents to arrive so that they can show off their forts with pride. Several of our parents work in various parts of the construction industry and when the children are showing off their forts they point out building hat their parents have shown them and they ask for advice on how to make their forts better.
By the end of last Summer when some of our forts were well-established structures in our forest and the children had run out of building materials to add to their forts they decided to extend their play by decorating their forts and turning them into a home. They raided the school’s lost-and-found pile that was now up for grabs to create decorations and cozy spots. The children saved those items in our classroom to take outside with them whenever they wanted. As time continued our children began to look at the things inside our classroom and think about how they could be used in their forts. The creativity was, as always, astounding.
While it’s obvious that our children gain gross-motor, construction, and decorating skills from building their forts they also gain many more skills. They’ve learned how to plan, how to work together as a group, how to take charge, how to listen to others, how to look at materials in many different ways, how to embrace their imagination.
Fort-building is for many an integral part of childhood, but seeing how it has become central to the play of so many of our children has astounded me.
Lindsay Jowett OCT
Compass ELC Archie Stouffer