Hundreds of people have been through the doors of our Crafty Explorers pop-up shop over the last month which has allowed us to try out lots of different things.
The format of Crafty Explorers is simple.
Everyone is successful.
Families who visit us are given a piece of clay and are challenged to turn it into a creature. To help them, we provide all kinds of natural materials that you could find yourself in the local park or beach. We have shells, wood, wool, feathers, spices, petals and all kinds of colourful and smelly things. The only unnatural thing we provide is a pair of boggly eyes. We learned very quickly that a pair of boggly eyes on any piece of clay quickly turns it into an animal looking creature.
The process of sharing materials has been extremely valuable. The vast majority of children who enter the shop do not know where clay comes from and thoroughly enjoy smelling the different materials, especially the raw wool that smells of farm and the star anise that makes the shop smell wonderful.
The process of making the animals is highly rewarding. From playing with facial expressions to creating unbelievably ambitious, ridiculous creatures, there are a vast range of opportunities, themes, issues and ideas to explore for both with individuals and groups.
After making their crafty creature we give children three missions to complete in one of the parks that is within walking distance of the shop. Most families take up our challenge and take time building nests, climbing trees, attempting to fly and hiding from squirrels. When they return we celebrate their success with stamps of approval in their ‘mission books’ and stickers that they can wear with pride.
To encourage more active outdoor play and learning we give any child a set of materials for free if they complete all of their missions. In some cases this has meant children coming back every day for a week!
Our pop-up shop in Nunhead is an ideal location for running a pilot. Provided by Southwark Council, for a relatively small amount of money and with low risk we have been able to spend 6 weeks experimenting, trying ideas and reaching more deeply into the community. It has taken 6 weeks for us to establish proper relationships with local schools and community groups and as we have collaborated more, so have the numbers of people visiting. While Nunhead has been fantastic pilot location, we know that if we had been in a location with higher footfall we would have seen even more people.
That said, we have made the headlines! Crafty Explorers were featured in the Southwark News on Feb 17th on page 17.
We are delighted with the feedback that has been coming back through our ‘secret exit poll’. Not only do parents and carers recognise the health and education benefits of our work, but these parents represent a wide spectrum of the local community. We now know that we are effectively supporting and enabling families to play and be active outdoors and we are looking forward to having even more of an impact in the future.