I’m a Love Outdoor Play hero because…

I’m a Love Outdoor Play hero because I help children and young people reconnect with the natural environment through nature play. Here’s my story.

We were around the open fire pit at Somerford Grove Adventure Playground, and were in need of wood to stoke the flames!

130827 - 2We broke a few pieces of rotten wood that were still rooted to the ground. One of the pieces was rotten and broke into several pieces. To our amazement and horror, there were three great white (not sharks) grub like worms inside!  All the children gathered around and said, ‘that’s nasty!’ ‘What is that?’ ‘What are they?’ ‘They could be from another planet!’ ‘Lets merk them!’ (Adult translation: Let’s kill them).

I intervened and said: ‘No! I’m all for deep play, but we’re not merking anything! We need to find out what they are first. They could be worth millions!’  Followed by a group of children and young people, I took the large piece of wood with the grubs exposed and took them into the office. I put them aside in the office, still inside the broken tree trunk and we gave David Attenborough a call.

130827 - 1After searching on Google, we learnt that they were actually stag beetle larvae and a protected species. The same stag beetles I played with in abundance as a child. How weird! I hadn’t seen a stag beetle for decades, maybe this was true and they were under threat.

After instructions from Wildlife Trust, we then put the wood back together, to enclose the larvae back inside. If we didn’t do this, they would die of exposure to the air and climate. With the information we found and a bit more, I did a quick session on stag beetles the very next day. With some of the children and young people from the day before, I said:

“Do you know that stag beetles live for three to five  years as larvae? Then when they become a beetle they only live for four to six weeks? To which they all said: ‘What a waste!’ and  ‘oh that’s sad!’

I then continued, ‘however, they spend these weeks alive mating (making love)’ to which a teenager replied: ‘They spend all their life meeting girls and having fun?’

I said, ‘yes! All their lives meeting girls and having fun!’

He then said, ‘all day every day?’

I replied, ‘yes! All day everyday.’

He responded, ‘wicked! I would love to be a stage beetle!’

Insects can be a great source of fascination for children and young people. As we have seen, they can draw shrieks of excitement from them and help form a connection to the natural world. Play is the natural way children learn and therefore the best way to engage them with the natural environment and its inhabitants. For more information on activities and information, please go to Play England website.

This week’s series of blogposts is celebrating Love Outdoor Play heroes – all the individuals and organisations that make outdoor play possible.

Jamie Seaden is the Nature Play Development Officer at Play England.

2 Responses to “I’m a Love Outdoor Play hero because…”
  1. Jo Phillips says:

    Yes Mick…. we need to replicate this adventure playground over and over again! Whatever they are doing, whatever it looks like we need more like it. Not a clinical, sterilised adult version of a playground but one that has soil, and rotting logs and dirt in it. One that can be used for a huge number of experiences and not a perscriptive type of play that is as manufactured as the bright colours and metal and plastic as the play equipment, I could go on but will that do for starters Mick?? (steps off orange box and goes back to cooking dinner) 😉

  2. Mick Conway says:

    Jamie and the Somerford Grove children are true Love Outdoor Play heroes! Stag beetles are protected because they have been in steep decline for decades. But the thrive in co-existence with children in an inner city adventure playground in Tottenham. Food for thought?

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