On Tuesday 4th June we had our first Forest School session and we were very lucky with the weather. The children who were invited to participate arrived in school wearing their forest school clothes, eager for the session to begin. Once putting on name badges and wellies, the children were introduced to our Forest School leaders, Sian McAulay and Nina Arbuckle. The children did a warm up exercise and then counted everyone in the group before lining up and making our way over to the school field. Once seated in the base camp, the children were told the three Forest School rules, which are:
1. No pick, no lick
2. Stay within the boundary
3. No walking inside base camp
The children came up with and agreed an additional rule which was:
4. What lives in Forest School, stays in Forest School
After learning the rules, the children walked the boundary and helped to identify any risks, such as being wary of stinging nettles and thorny branches.
During the session, they played a game called '1, 2, 3 Base Camp', went on a treasure hunt and listened for bird calls whilst eating their snack. The highlight was collecting sticks and beginning to build a fire for Base Camp. At the end, we learnt a song before walking back and counting everyone back into the classroom.
During our second session on Wednesday 12th June, the children were grateful to be wearing their wellies and waterproof clothing due to the damp weather. For the first activity, the children laid down on the grass and began by looking at the shapes of clouds in the sky. We then carefully listenned and identified the noises around us, as well as feeling and describing the texture of the grass. The highlight of the session was when the children were asked to work with a partner to build a home for fairies or pixies. The children went foraging for suitable materials before carefully designing and constructing their homes. The children then went round to look at each other's homes. The children were very inventive with the natural materials available and demonstrated good communication skills and team work.
During our third session on Wednesday 19th June, for the first activity, the children stood in a circle with their eyes closed and held their hands behind their back. They were each given a natural object which they had to feel and describe. It was very tempting to look but they all tried their best to describe their item with words such as rough, smooth, hard, soft, mushy, spikey, fluffy, bumpy or crunchy. The children sorted themselves by texture and then by object. The objects included smooth and rough stones, feathers, pine cones and leaves. Our tree of the week was the Ash tree. The children found out about the tree from looking at an information book and by searching for the tree on the field. They looked closely and counted the leaves on a small branch and they learnt that the seeds are called 'keys' because they hang like a bunch of keys. The children then got into groups of three or four and went on a minibeast hunt. They used an information sheet to check off what they had seen and were also able to capture some insects in a bug pot for further inspection with a magnifying glass. The children searched on trees, plants and leaves, on the ground, under logs and by digging holes with a small shovel. This activity really captured the children's interest and we were amazed by how many minibeasts they were able to find, such as caterpillar, ant, woodlouse, bee, fly, millipede, slug, worm, snail, spider and shield bug. We were very lucky again with the weather as the sun shone throughout the morning.
The sun shone again, all throughout our fourth session on Wednesday 26th June. The first activity involved the children being split into two groups. One group were given trowels, spades and bug pots to find and collect minibeasts, whilst the rest of the children walked the boundary doing the safety sweep. Once everyone had returned back to base camp, we looked at and talked about the different minibeasts that were found. The children were taught that the minibeasts are invertebrates. To help their understanding, they each ran a finger down the back of the person to their left to feel their spine. They thought about some insects having a shell, like a snail or a skeleton like a spider and those insects which are soft and squidgy, like a worm. For the next activity, the children passed around smelling pots, describing and trying to guess each one. The various scents included rosemary, thyme, lavender and lemon verbena. Our tree of the week was the Maple tree. The children made the association with maple syrup. They also decided to make up a song about the tree of the week. For the final activities, the children engaged in mud painting and gathering natural treasures to stick on their own book marks.
The rain just about held off for our fifth session on Wednesday 3rd July. For the first activity, the children had to find a partner and collect a magnifying glass and cardboard roll to use to look on the ground, up at the trees and all around them. They were encouraged to think about how things look through a magnifying glass and to compare it to the cardboard roll. Ruby managed to spot a frog hopping in the grass and the children were eager to have a closer inspection. There were also two trails of interesting items for the children to follow. The children then searched for our tree of the day, which was the European Beech tree. They described the leaves as wavy, soft and smooth. Of course we had to sing our tree of the week song, led by Keelin! The children were then split into two groups and participated in tree rubbing and colour matching activities. They had a turn at each activity. For the final activity, the children were given containers to fill with natural objects to create musical instruments, such as leaves and stones. Some of the children described the sounds made by their instrument.
Georgia - "This makes a train sound"
Bethan - "Mine sounds like a thunder storm"
Stephanie - "Mine sounds like a giant"
Amelie - "Mine sounds like a pony"
The children then used their instruments to accompany our final song.
We had our last forest school session on Wednesday 10th July and we were blessed with glorious sunshine. This meant we had to do many of the activities in the shaded areas of the field. The children are now really confident with the rules and routines which they can all relay them to the group. We revisted some of our favourite activities from the last few weeks and there were lots to choose from! We began by going on a treasure hunt. The children found and placed items which were special to them in their basket and then brought them back to the group to share. Luka chose a big leaf and a branch of dried leaves which he liked the sound of when he shook them. Ilia chose some flowers because he likes giving them to his Mum. Imogen found 'something sparkly' and a 'soft and fluffy' feather. Joel found some 'crunchy leaves' which he thought sounded 'like an instrument'. If any of the other children had chosen something similar, they could hold up their object and shout 'SNAP!'. After that, we went on a hunt to find each of our previous 'trees of the week'. The children then shared what they had found and recalled facts about each tree. The children were then organised into small groups and worked together to build a den. They used some large branches and other natural resources they could find. The children then visited each other's houses as every group explained what they had done and why. Some of the groups had a bed, a sofa,a roof, a door, some food and hat hangers. The children demonstrated skills in team work, negotiation and problem solving. We finished with our Forest School song, along with musical accompaniment.
The children have thoroughly enjoyed their Forest School experience and we are very grateful to Sian McAulay and Nina Arbuckle for providing this opprtunity.
The photographs from the first session are on the last page. The most recent week's photographs can be found on the first page.