Sunday, 27 September 2015

Den building - the journey!

In the dim and distant past I met an amazing group of people whilst doing some work for 4D creative in Manchester. One of these was the brilliant Cathy Cross - a theatre designer who can turn a whole pile of random stuff (include stuff I would have thrown away) into magical worlds and art.

For the past two years we have been working on a book all about den building. Originally this was aimed at teachers and we had a complete ball literally 'playing'

This was the original intro to this book.

When you tell people that you are writing a book about ‘den building’ in the classroom, you get one of two responses:
1.       A completely blank expression followed by a ‘tumbleweed moment’, usually swiftly followed by a nervous cough or laugh and a comment along the lines of ‘Sorry …you are doing what?’
2.       A huge grin followed by ‘that’s amazing – do you want to come to my classroom …I’m so jealous.’
Why den building in the classroom? The combination of a den builder with a theatre arts background and a photographer with a creative teaching background gives you two grown woman with a license to ‘play’, experiment and create. The beauty of den making is that anyone can do it – it doesn’t require a range of specific skills, just an openness to different ways of working with children, a willingness to ‘have a go’ and the ability to see the world through the eyes of a child again.

If you think back to your own childhood, most of you will have created a den of some sort. It may have been in the living room with chairs, an old clothes horse (wooden or plastic, depending on your age!), a blanket, some cushions and a torch.

Over the last two years we have worked with every age group from Early years through to A'Level, to student teachers to whole school teaching groups. We have worked with SEN pupils with a whole range of needs.
We have made so many friends, we have laughed, we have broken a few things and collapsed exhausted but exhilarated.

Why den making? The positives for the classroom are -

1.      .. Children learn by interacting with each other and developing social skills.

2.       Problem solving skills are vital – children need to work out how to fasten materials together?  How do they ensure that the den is safe?

3.       Empathy – they need to put themselves in the shoes of a person who would use or need this space.

4.       Understanding of abstract concepts – the den is a representation not a replica.

5.       Using all of their senses – multi sensory approach, texture, lighting and sound. – Does it feel different to write a poem in the dark?

6.       Becoming a team leader - children now take the lead and make decisions.

7.       Deepen understanding and become fully immersed in their learning.

8.       Children are ‘hooked’ into their learning and the magic in everyday objects is revealed.

9.       They begin to adopt a different way of looking at the environment.

10.   Children are doing what comes naturally – playing, using their imagination and creating their own worlds.

  Having spent a long time in classrooms we decided to branch out and aim this book directly at children. Teachers don't worry - we have loads of 'stuff' you can use - Cathy will come and build dens in your school and we are happy to support and offer advice.   is a separate blog just for den building in your classroom.

   The book is finally on Amazon and can be ordered HERE or using the link in the side column.

Cathy and I are really excited and can't wait to share this with you and see what you think. Please feel free to get in touch with us x

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