Fueling the Fire of Curiosity, Wonder and Empowerment

by | Oct 5, 2020

This week at Forest School, we focused on the smallest of fires – the Fairy Fire. Like our woodland fairy visitors, the Fairy Fires appear in an instant and then are gone just as fast. This quick lighting-quick burning fire teaches the learners how to focus on the conversation that is fire starting. Like in most conversations, there is the giving and receiving of important information and a conversation with fire is no less listening than a person to person conversation. Each element is layered on when the fire asks for it. Too much or not enough of each piece will leave you with more smoke than fire.

All fires need the same three things to ignite: spark, fuel, and air. At our last fire class, the learners practiced “throwing sparks” into an empty fire pit to work on the technique that is flint and steel fire lighting. This class also provided the group for a low stakes way to practice our fire safety agreement. This fire class, we added the other two elements to our spark; fuel and air. With dried grass thoughtfully shaped by our learners into their best bird’s nest interpretation, we were able to start listening. With a bit of char cloth like a tiny egg in the center of our bird’s nest to catch our sparks, our learners looked for that tiny red glowing ember that could birth fire. Then we encircled that ember with our dried grass fuel to feed the future fire. Adding the last piece – air – is where our learners really learn to listen. Too much air too fast may burn the ember through the char cloth without igniting the fuel and not lighting fire aishling forest schoolenough air may cause the ember to burn out. Only slow, gentle, sustained breathes will ignite the fuel. Coaching from the sidelines can only go so far. The learners must experiment and see what works best for their fire. This is their conversation to experience.

The moment a learner’s first Fairy Fire is lit is one of the greatest moments to witness. How lucky are we. The thick white smoke appears and turns to a flickering flame… and the whole range of emotions; surprise, fear, excitement, joy, and amazement; cross the learner’s face. As mentors, we get to bear witness to the beautiful connection to nature and elements that happen when a learner births fire for the first time. The give and take of spark, fuel, and air. “If I can do this, what else can I do?” We can’t wait to find out, beautiful child.

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