Green Tick : The Stick Book

‘The Stick Book, subtitled ‘loads of things you can make or do with a stick’, describes seventy no-cost or low-cost ideas over eight chapters’.

‘The Stick Book, as with some others by the same authors, is available as an e-book, so you can take it outside with you, especially useful if you can’t find all the bits and bobs for the idea you’d decided to try’.

ASE Evaluation

Jo Schofield and Fiona Danks
Frances Lincoln Limited
ISBN: 978 0 71123 241 9
£9.99

Authors Jo Schofield and Fiona Danks are passionate about getting children and families to enjoy the outdoors, wherever they live and whatever the weather.  Their website, www.goingwild.net, describes their approach to reconnecting children with the natural world through play and exploration. They have used Jo’s background in educational psychology and photographic skills, coupled with Fiona’s knowledge of environmental education, together with their experiences with their own children, to create a series of books full of creative and fun activities to do outside.  The series includes The Stick Book, along with other titles such as The Wild City Book (things to do outdoors in towns and cities), The Wild Weather Book (ideas for playing in wind, rain and snow) and The Beach Book (lake, riverside and seaside activities).  I would thoroughly recommend at least one of these books for any parent of young children or teenagers and to any primary school teacher.

The Stick Book, subtitled ‘loads of things you can make or do with a stick’, describes seventy no-cost or low-cost ideas over eight chapters.  The activities are suited to children with different interests, such as ‘Harry Potter-like’ magic, art and craft, playing games, music, conservation and adventure.  Each idea is beautifully illustrated with colour photographs.  My favourite chapter, ‘Creative Sticks’, has stunning photos of the things the authors and their band of young volunteers have made, such as picture frames made from sticks (obviously!) combined with leaves, feathers, seeds and bound with grasses. Children are shown wearing autumnal crowns and bearing nests they’ve made for Easter eggs, alongside wistful dream catchers, weavings, mobiles, lanterns, and natural star and wreath decorations.  My 8 year-old goddaughter enjoyed some of these activities. However, she was far more interested in the book’s first chapter.

The first chapter, ‘Adventure Sticks’, is very engaging for children, although there are some elements of risk. It includes instructions for building and cooking over fires, building dens and tents, making swords, catapults, pea shooters, arrows, staffs and spears.   The authors make clear that the book contains some potentially dangerous activities, but that children should find out how to judge risk, and that readers, and children in their charge, take part in the activities at their own risk.  Each activity is graded in terms of difficulty and risk:  one stick ‘may be possible to do on your own’, two sticks ‘some tricky bits which may need a little adult help’, three sticks ‘involves the use of tools (such as a knife), or fire, or being near water, so adult supervision is essential’.  Whilst the health and safety advice related to each activity is clear and eminently sensible, sometimes you have to turn to another section of the book to find it.  Bearing in mind that some young parents may not have played out much themselves and may, like their children, be more at home in the technological world, I would have preferred to see all the relevant safety notes alongside the instructions.  For example, instructions for making a pea shooter from elder do not mention any hazards associated with making one from other plant stems.  This all said, to encourage children and families to engage with risk is commendable and I would support the authors’ aim that children become less scared about tackling life’s challenges and better able to assess risk and take personal responsibility for their own actions.

To my surprise, in the ‘Stick Games’ chapter, there are instructions for the game Pooh Sticks.  Doesn’t everybody already know about Pooh Sticks?  I thought this would be a worldwide pastime, but was interested to find recently that it’s not a game in France, where some friends we were walking with on holiday clearly thought us slightly eccentric when watching ‘le passage de la baguette’ under a bridge for several minutes.  Other stick games include Pick-up sticksMaking flying machines (like kites), Capture the flag, Aunt Sally, Quoits and a Stick tower challenge.

The Stick Book is not designed as an educational resource, that is, to support any national or other curriculum aims.  However, it contains ideas that could be used or adapted to help teachers enrich their schemes of work with creativity and improve the use of the school’s surroundings.  Activities such as laying stick arrow trails and creating a miniature map of an area of ground for a treasure hunt could be used within geography topics.  Many of the creative ideas link beautifully to the art curriculum, with some of the photos showing sculptures almost resembling Andy Goldsworthy’s work.  The stick storyboard idea and the ‘Magic Sticks’ chapter could support English work and teachers will identify clear opportunities to link to numerous children’s books.  There’s a chapter on making musical instruments, and another, ‘Sunny Sticks’, which could be linked directly to science work on light, shadows and the movement of the Earth.  Other science links that could be made to activities in the book include properties of materials, changing materials, forces including floating and sinking, habitats and minibeasts.  Measuring ideas link to maths, and design technology skills are woven throughout.  There’s even a set of instructions for making a stretcher, just for fun, or for anyone who is worn out by all the ideas and fresh air!

The Stick Book, as with some others by the same authors, is available as an e-book, so you can take it outside with you, especially useful if you can’t find all the bits and bobs for the idea you’d decided to try.  I recommend looking at the website, as this provides a really good flavour of the books themselves.  Goingwild.net aims to spread the word to as wide an audience as possible.  This has a blog where readers can share their own ideas, so others can benefit.  The authors have written articles for a range of national and international press, journals and magazines, as well as giving talks and running training events for wildlife trusts, educators, parents, schools and those working in the environment. 

Green Tick