At Mairtown Kindergarten we offer our children the opportunity to be involved with, to experience, to discover and to notice and reflect on nature through our Nature Programme.
Our nature programme is on ongoing programme where every Friday, for the whole Kindergarten session, we meet our 10 oldest children in our local bush at Mair Park.
A couple of weeks ago on the nature programme Kim introduced the children to whittling. Last week when it was my turn to be the teacher on the programme, the children introduced me to whittling!
Whittling is the art of carving shapes, typically out of raw wood or bone, with a knife. We used small hand knives and collected some straight wood for the children to whittle with.
As I observed the children in their work with the wood and knives, it was clear they found this not only stimulating and at times challenging, but also very relaxing, almost meditative. They were fully involved in the process. At the time this reminded me of the phrase “to whittle away the hours” it’s clear to see how you could do just this with a simple stick and a small knife.
Of course before the children began their whittling we did talk about the correct and proper handling of the knives. The children were required to sit down, with the stick firmly on the ground or held out in front of them. The knife always went from the top of the stick to the bottom, this is known as a ‘push stroke’.
At this point in our early involvement and learning of whittling, the children are mainly shaving the outer bark off their sticks creating some beautifully smooth and soft wood. There have also been a few really determined children (along with me, I was also desperate to have ago) that worked hard to create points to their sticks, “Ready to spear a pig” as Hori told me.
After talking to the children about their whittling experiences when back at Kindergarten, they choose to reflect through their drawings:
"I cut some wood with a knife, I just cut the wood" (Kito).
"It's like a sharp one, you put the stick down and put the knife down" (Tane).
"Whittling is just on a stick and sometimes I whittle with a knife. You get the outside off the wood to see what's inside" (Kate).
“Whittling is an activity that allows children freedom, flexibility and a chance for a lot of personal space to connect with their sense of self and their natural environment” (Clare Warden)
As Kate said "You keep safe by whittling down" and Kito agreed, "You go up with your hand but down with the knife". Tane also added, "You move out so no one is near".
It will be interesting to see where the children's interests in whittling takes us to next...