“Forts?” you ask. “Why does Nueva need forts?!”
Nueva’s forts are a treasured play area near the Mansion, once an old olive grove. Beautiful in their simplicity, they draw lower school students into imaginative and social play outdoors.
Students design, create, or remodel forts, teaming with one another to carry large branches, decorate their structures, climb trees, trade currency (pottery and stones), and form community. As long as the weather is fair, students can be found playing, experimenting, exploring, and connecting.
“The forts are an important part of the life of our Lower School,” said Lisa Hinshelwood, lower school social-emotional learning teacher. “It is a cherished learning environment where students authentically collaborate, are resourceful, take healthy risks, and build resilience.”
In November, four second graders — Bence O., Dixon F., Eddie R., and Kota N. — revitalized interest by hosting a community meeting in the Ballroom and a hands-on workshop in the forts grove, sharing ways to use materials and how to work together.
At the meeting, these four students shared their love of the forts and invited their classmates to play. All attendees watched a video about the history of the forts and afterwards Lisa facilitated a conversation to answer the question “What is one creative idea you can offer to make the forts more fun?”
“Share your sticks, even if you don’t know someone.”
“Help each other build.”
“If your fort collapses, make it again. If it happens to someone else, they will see your work and not get discouraged.”
“Don’t claim things to yourself.”
Fort agreements were created by students many years ago and are updated by the community and posted in the forts area. They include: “Be friendly and respectful to existing Forts and agree to share and trade sticks. Never war, steal, or hit people with sticks.”
This is a solid framework for cooperative play, and yet, as in life, sometimes conflicts occur.
Lower School Head Megan Terra joined the meeting and described faculty as facilitators throughout forts playtime. “Students put their imaginations and all their SEL skills to use and reliably develop solutions that we, as teachers, would have never thought to consider. We observe closely from the background, supporting the students’ work.”
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November 29, 2017