Thursday, December 1, 2016

Community Building in a Forest Village

A Forest Village is something that happens often in Wild Art. After a certain amount of exploring, kids usually between about seven and twelve years old get industrious. Some begin converting whatever materials they find around themselves into decor, clothing, 'food', weapons, or other commodities, and selling them in pop-up shops. Some spend minutes or hours building all manner of lodgings, theatres, town-halls, shops, and other useful structures. Some offer classes, sharing skills they've brought with them or just discovered, while others offer tours of the local mushrooms or 'fancy places'. When necessity dictates, they build bridges and ramps, doors, 'fire pits', and ladders, and often go into business procuring the supplies for these projects and selling them to each other for various combinations of stone, stick, and leaf currencies. Safes, stashes and banks happen. Even robbers happen. And often we end up having police, mayors, town criers and all sorts of other interesting positions. Today I was instructed to be the person who tells everybody else "when it's night time - and do it at least twice!!" But I forgot the second time, because by then I was a detective, wearing a mustache of a moss we call 'old man's beard'. I was on the trail of some robbers, but when their exploits made the rest of the villagers too angry, I called a town meeting and became a spectator as the group of young villagers sorted out what was actually a genuine conflict quite ably. The robbers became spies.

A Forest Village is a wonderful place to work out real-world problems, and to make real-world discoveries. With a lack of imposed structure, kids' imaginations are the source for everything. It's amazing to me what deep issues a group of primary kids can discover, confront, and solve with the innate compassion, dignity, and reason that has not yet been trained out of them. The forest is a dynamic yet safe vessel for these explorations, and eventually the skills developed here will become a strong foundation for those who will inherit our communities.

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