“I have an idea!” “Let’s try our idea!” “We have another idea!” There was an eruption of ideas at Visual Eyes Creativity Center in Thetford. On that morning they were exploring ice – investigating how it moved down sleds and slides with various obstacles, covering it with sand, watching as it changed in their hands.

Director Melanie French’s advice is to not get bogged down by expensive plastic things, and focus on free natural materials. “Don’t worry if you don’t have something,” she says, “kids will find wonder in a blade of grass.” She says her students spend more time and find more things to do in the apple tree than the play structure. Melanie had a student with different sensory needs whose favorite thing to do was to lie on that apple tree branch. The textures, sounds, and the muscle work help students reach a state of both engagement and relaxation outdoors, Melanie explained.           

New in the yard that morning were cut stumps circling an island of sand. The stumps were set up as stepping stones of varying heights. On their first attempt of circumnavigating the sand, some students asked for an adult’s finger to hold. The kids persisted, and soon they were balancing on their own. As students gained confidence, some challenged themselves by jumping from stump to stump. The chorus changed to: “I got this!” “I did it!” 

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