At Botanic Gardens, we visit this tree top net quite regularly. The children always requests to begin their day with us climbing “just for FUN!” Familiar with the location, they are able to find their way there and enjoy simply climbing up and down the net. It’s so interesting to see how they navigate their way around this area, comparing how they were when we first explored the tree top net, with how they are now, after playing on it for several weeks.
Recalling our first exploration there, the children were fascinated with the spiral stairs and wanted to go up and down, gathering dried leaves from the bottom and bringing it up, only to let them fall back down to the ground. They were exploring concepts of height, gravity and perspective. Not too sure what to do when they saw the nets, they referred to the signage that had rules/regulations regarding playing at this space. No bags allowed, no eating etc. They were assessing the place - is it safe to play? how can we play safely? Finally they started climbing, cautiously balancing and making their way to the tree trunks. Some didn’t dare to go and stayed by the sides, hanging their feet down. Others didn’t even want to go near the nets and busied themselves collecting fallen leaves and flowers on the deck instead. They learned that the tree was a Tembusu tree, providing shade and beautiful small peach-coloured flowers. As the weeks went by, we continued to visit our tree top net, providing time for children to explore.
Fast forward to today, our children have become so familiar with this place that once they get there, they immediately put their bags down and begin to play. Be it climbing all the way up, or staying low along the net, or laying down on the net looking up at the vast sky, or even playing around net on the deck, they know that they are in a safe place. A place where they can try new things, where they can choose what they want to do, where they can grow. Those who were initially afraid to step onto the net now sit comfortable on the net, talking to friends. Those who could touch the tree trunk in the middle can now climb up and hug the trunk. They pick leaves caught in the net and create pictures with them. They engage one another in conversation of their surroundings and play. They willingly help and encourage others.
This is part of our urban forest school’s approach, exploring and familiarising ourselves with areas within our parks, to provide children with a conducive environment to nurture their curiosity, creativity, and holistic development. Just like our experience with the tree top net, a lot can happen in just a matter of weeks when you revisit a place and become comfortable with it. You connect with it, you take risks, you let go. And when you do, you learn so much about yourself, your friends and the environment. This tree top net is now fondly called “OUR tree top net” :)