Features of Woodcraft Folk’s Age Groups

Much of the advice contained in these documents is intended to support Woodcraft Folk leaders regardless of the age group that they have chosen to work with. There are many features of Woodcraft Folk’s philosophy, principles and practice that apply to working with young members at any age (although obviously how these are addressed and prioritised may vary from group to group according to the needs of young members). These universal concerns include:
Safeguarding children & young people
Woodcraft Folk’s Aims & Principles
Planning activities to deliver outcomes for young members
Responsibilities of group leaders
Group administration tasks
Volunteers working together
Assessing and managing risk
Principles of inclusion
Adults working together
Recruiting volunteers and young members
Making use of Woodcraft Folk’s educational resources
Training & support for volunteers
Finance & fundraising
Other elements of the way that leaders work with their group will be highly variable depending on the age of the young members – and an ‘open’ age group will increase the challenge of finding ways of working that meet the needs of all the children and young people. Areas where different age groups will demand different approaches will include:
Style of group leadership
The choice of activities
The role of young members in the group’s activities
Managing the behaviour of group members
External factors affecting group members
The challenges that group leaders will face
It is also worth bearing in mind what changes your young members will experience when they move to the next age group, and ensuring that the group’s programme of activities helps prepare them for these.
Group styleLots of involvement from parents & carers (they will typically attend the group with their child)
Aiming to establish a familiar structure/routine to help children feel comfortable in the group
ActivitiesGames that focus on encouraging social skills like sharing and listening
Games and crafts that help develop motor skills
Outdoor activities to build resilience and encourage interest in nature
Young members’ roleBecoming used to joining in, playing and interacting with others
Becoming used to interacting with other adults
Managing behaviourMoving on when an activity has run its course
Using distraction if children become disengaged
Inclusion issuesWoodchip groups often recruit largely through social networks and word of mouth – this can lead to a lack of diversity in the group’s members
External factorsParents/carers going back to work
Starting school
Becoming a big brother or sister
ChallengesAttendance at Woodchip groups can be irregular (particularly for groups held at the weekend) which can make it harder for the group to build its identity
Choosing a day and time for sessions that is suitable for all can be difficult
Adults can find it difficult to focus on leading activities for the group due to the needs and demands of their own children
Next stepsA more structured group
A group that meets in the evening
Attending group without a parent
Group styleA wide variety of activates to sustain children’s interest
A familiar structure (e.g. game, news, main activity, snack)
Activities are largely adult-led
Consider a termly theme to give the programme greater cohesion
ActivitiesEnergetic games
Games that encourage social mixing
Games to develop concentration and listening skills
Crafts that are linked to outcomes/themes
Simple simulations to begin to explore big ideas
Short and focused discussion/reflection activities
Outdoor activities, under supervision
Young members’ roleListening to other children
Co-operating with others to achieve goals
Sharing thoughts and feelings, e.g. reflection on activities
Providing feedback, e.g. ‘how could we do this differently next time’
Managing behaviourAgree guidelines/boundaries with the children
Make use of distraction and positive reinforcement
Avoid boredom by having another activity lined up for children who finish early
Consider having a leader assigned specifically to address behaviour so that whoever is leading the main activity doesn’t have to hold up the rest of the group
Inclusion issuesBreaking up cliques and encouraging different genders to mix can be challenging with this age group
Additional needs may be becoming apparent, and children may be acquiring a formal diagnosis at this age
Ensuring that you draw children from different schools/areas will help create a diverse group
External factorsChanging friendship groups
School becoming more intellectually demanding
An increasingly structured school day may mean children come to group needing to ‘let off steam’
ChallengesManaging energy levels and transition from one activity to another
Managing children who don’t want to join in with certain activities
Dealing with children who are tired after a day at school
Next stepsBeginning to have discussion-led activities
Going away to camp without parents
Group styleDoing more ‘values-led’ activities
A balance between energetic and reflective activities
Giving children a level of independence while controlling risk
ActivitiesEnergetic games
Games to build trust and group identity
Drama & role playing games
Craft activities linked into wider themes
Simulation and discussion activities
Social action activities in the wider community
Outdoor activities that develop confidence and independence
Young members’ roleHelping to shape the programme of activities
Contributing to planning and evaluation of activities
Beginning to take on responsibility (e.g. leading a game)
Managing behaviourMake use of a group agreement to reinforce expectations of behaviour
Encouraging respect for other group members, their feelings and personal space
Using different techniques to break up cliques and mix up the group
Children may acquire smartphones and other electronic devices which can cause distractions at group (and pose some safeguarding issues)
Inclusion issuesChildren will become increasingly aware of their gender identities and sexuality with the onset of puberty – leaders must be aware of this, and not make assumptions
Children with additional needs may find a broader range of activities poses additional challenges
External factorsChildren undergoing puberty
Transition from primary to secondary school
Increased demands of homework
ChallengesDiffering rates of physical, social and emotional development can make finding activities to suit everyone difficult
Members may feel less comfortable with games involving physical contact
Leaders will have less contact with parents/carers, especially as young members begin to travel to and from sessions independently
Children may find their own parents leading group particularly challenging (and vice versa)
Next stepsMore values-led approach to the choice of activities
Having more independence within activities
Group styleLeaders increasingly become facilitators and enablers
Greater level of peer education as part of sessions
Activities become more issues-led and outward looking
ActivitiesMore activities led by young members
Social action and campaigning
Games to build trust and group identity
Young members’ roleTaking the lead in planning and delivering activities
Exploring and developing their own skills and different roles they can play in the group
Managing behaviourLook to the group to manage and uphold its own groundrules
Leaders need to look out for young people not joining in, becoming withdrawn or excluded
Ensure there is sufficient ‘down time’ to enable social interaction
Inclusion issuesEnsuring activities meet everyone’s needs/interests (not just a vocal minority)
Young people with additional needs may struggle with addressing certain themes and issues (Venturer groups have been found to have greater prevalence of SEN than younger age groups)
External factorsPuberty
Sex and relationships
Drugs and alcohol
ChallengesOther demands and priorities can impact on regular attendance
Young members who have been Elfins & Pioneers can have different expectations to new members joining at Venturer age
Social media can give rise to bullying and safeguarding issues
Leaders can lack confidence to address difficult issues with this age group
Next stepsEngaging with national and international events (e.g. Venturer Camp)
Organising own weekends away
Leading social action or running activities for younger age groups
Preparing for much more autonomy as DFs
Other life events
During their childhood and adolescence, our young members experience a wide variety of life events, and are subject to a great number of external influences. In addition to those that occur around particular ages and stages, there are some life events that can happen at any point during childhood and adolescence, and can have a short- or long-term effect on their wellbeing or behaviour, e.g.:
House moves
Parents splitting up or making new relationships
Arrival of new siblings (including half/step siblings)
Changes in custody/guardianship (including living with grandparents etc.)
Issues at school, e.g. bullying, homework
Physical, sexual or emotional abuse
Disability or chronic illness (of the child or other family members)