On Monday this week, it was great to be school with Michelle and Francis to install the new turf floor and put up the tent frame construction. We cleared space in the assembly hall area, pulled up the blinds and let in the light! Using pale green plastic sheeting over the windows diffused the light, and made a tranquil oasis of calm. Amazing how, as staff passed through the space, they commented on the light, and how big the room suddenly seemed. Comparisons to us going camping indoors were of course taken with great humour! Made a sign saying ''Please Play on the Grass'' , to ensure full advantage would be taken by all children and staff to feel and experience the new turf rather than feel they werent allowed.

On Wednesday, myself and Francis brought in many different real leaves and created many different shaped material leaves with the children, using tactile textures, rough, soft, smooth. Working with Blue Gum class for the first session Dawn loved the smell of the Verbena leaves, the music and the feel of the fabric vines, Francis had constructed to fix leaves too. We should use more herbs and good smelling leaves in future, very effective with stimulating the sense of smell.I worked one to one with Joel, who was transfixed looking through my mobile phone view finder at the leaves and his ALD display. It was great to communicate with him through this method, and Icould see the amazing possibilities of todays technology to provide communication applications in a mobilephone for children like Joel to communicate. He also really liked to touch all the different textures of materials. Robbie  came in late to the session but then very enthusiastically made his leaves.
In Banksia's class,it took time for Alex to engage but then he chose lots of shiny materials to stick on his leaf, Samuel wasnt really in the mood for tactile sensory work but he stuck his choices of textures on a leaf. It was interesting how they worked on easels, and we had to make some adjustments so they could press down on the material and glue.They all really enjoyed it, when Donkey puppet came and tried to eat their leaves!
We used the animal chorus music in the session but in retrospect it would of been great to have an atmospheric forest soundtrack.
We also linked the leaves and vines to the real Jub Jub Tree bulbs growing in pots, needing the sun & rain to make the forest grow.
I had to leave unexpectedly early , so I cant wait to see how the forest now looks!
Feedback from staff included
'Really good activity'
'Great range of textures and materials'

Today all sessions took place in the assembly area where the forest is taking form! Our new structure lends itself beautifully to creating the boundaries of our magical forest and seems to be a welcome addition to the space by the students and staff.  Throughout the day, other students and EA’s came simply to be in the space, to pass through it, have an explore and a feel...lovely to see!  (Must be the "Please Play on the Grass" sign!)

The sessions consisted of letting the children on arrival have a good explore of the space, taking their shoes and socks off and rolling on the grass.  In most instances it seemed that the children felt very happy to be in the space, they felt secure, yet stimulated.  It was delightful to see a couple of students who lately have been unsettled and upset, transform in the space and become very contented and joyous!  We welcomed the students to the forest with a forest song about all the sounds they might hear, and then introduced the instruments one by one that replicate those sounds- water, crickets, birds, rain, and a touch of magic with the chimes.  The children were given the opportunity to play them as they felt.  It was awesome to be able to give all the children as long as they needed to play and explore, and the combination of being in the forest space and playing the guitar softly created a very contained space in which most children stayed very present. 

I decided to investigate working with the loop pedal, and see how the kids would respond to being recorded and hearing themselves or sounds they had created. One by one each child played one of the instruments which was recorded on the pedal, until there was a complete forest soundscape complete with all sound effects and additional ones created by the kids.  The response to the exercise was overall very positive, though there were varying degrees to which the children understood when it was their turn, that they were being recorded, and that they were hearing the sounds they had created.  Those that did understand seemed thrilled!  David especially, from Room 5 demonstrated strong feelings of accomplishment and joy, clapping whenever he heard his sounds.  We will be able to use these recorded soundscapes in the show so when the children watch they may recognize their sounds, giving them a greater sense of involvement and connection to the performance.  A slight technical blip in the last session meant we had to abandon making a recording for Bluegum’s class, but that didn’t seem to bother any of them, who were much more keen to get into playing with water! We used tubs and watering cans to let them all feel the ‘Rain” as I played the rain song, they would have all climbed in the tub if they could have fit! 

Feedback from some staff who passed by during the sessions was the ambience in the forest was so pleasant, they felt very enticed to come and join in, just to lay down and listen to all the sounds.  All I all, a beautiful day in the forest!

Mental note:  I would like to make better use of the wonderful aided language displays that are beautifully made up for us,  i have not yet been confident with how to use them so they get quite underused which is a shame, because i feel they hold much communicative and educative potential in the sessions we have run.