The Forest School initiative gives our children a wonderful opportunity to explore the local area, learn about the environment and develop key learning attributes in an informal environment.
Qualified Forest School instructors from Forever Green Forest School deliver engaging sessions during which the children complete a range of tasks that could include; scavenger hunts, working with tools, making dens, solving problems.
Benefits of Forest School
- Development of Learning Attributes - opportunities to build resilience, perseverance, collaboration, creativity
- Personal, Social and Emotional development - work as teams, independently and in small groups, improving communication skills
- Environmental education - learn about the environment and how to take care of it
- Physical Development - opportunities to develop fine and gross motor skills
We had a great day in the sunshine with the different groups.
We started our session with Reception with our song, counting and name game, followed by a mindfulness moment imagining a fire. We closed our eyes and as we took slow mindful breaths, we thought about the colours, smell and sound of the fire. Next, we played our Forest Fire game. Each child pretended to be one of four woodland animals. When their animal was called, they moved as quickly and as quietly as they could to escape the fire and reach the safety of the other side. After this, we discussed the fire triangle and what a fire needs. We also thought through ways to stay safe around the fire. We learnt the position to sit in: the respect position and how to use a fire steel. It was really tricky and took lots of hand strength and resilience. Lots of children kept going and made bigger and bigger sparksFor the rest of the session, some children enjoyed learning to tie a clove hitch knot and using it to make a bow and arrow. Even when it was made, the learning continued as the children had to choose a good stick as an arrow and learn to fire it from the bow. We had to think about how to keep our friends safe as we did it. Children also enjoyed exploring using the sweep nets, finding a variety of minibeasts in the long grass. It is amazing to see how much more wildlife can thrive when the grass is left to grow. We also all had a chance to cook a marshmallow around the fire.
To conclude our session we thought about what our favourite things are about fire.
Today's session with Y2 was all about bees and pollinators. Our first game of the session involved the children learning about some of the different species of bees that we have in England. We found out that not all bees sting and some make their homes underground in the soil. We then explored the site to hunt for pictures of different bees and bring them back to match with those at the base camp. We had to look closely to tell the differences between the different bee species. Our next activity involved all the children becoming bees and using pipettes to collect 'nectar' from various flowers around the site. Children performed a waggle dance to each other to show their fellow bees where to find the flowers with nectar and they enjoyed working together to bring the nectar back to their hive. For the rest of the session, some children really enjoyed exploring the area for minibeasts using the sweep nets in the long grass. They were excited to find a variety of spiders and beetles, which they tried to identify with the ID guides. Some children also got creative making fairy/butterfly wings out of willow and enjoyed flying around the site with them. Our keen diggers used the mud for other purposes this week, learning the art of Dorodango, a Japanese art form that involves making polished mud balls. It was great fun sieving the earth before adding water to make a dough which was then formed into balls. It felt relaxing sitting in the sun, rolling the mud balls in our hands. To finish the session, we shared an interesting thing that we found out.
Year 3 started their session with our chant, counting and name game followed by a mindful moment where we took time to breathe mindfully and Carrie took us through a relaxing, imaginative story. The children have really enjoyed teamwork games and so this week we set them the plank challenge game. Each team had to stand on ski planks (one foot on each) and work out how to move together to go from a start to a finish line. The teams were very motivated and persevered, even when they found it difficult if they got behind other teams. They kept going to complete the challenge. Next, they also enjoyed the bee game, where they collected 'nectar'; from around the site with pipettes before bringing it back to the hive. In our free exploring time, the children really enjoyed using the sweep nets. Every creature that they found together, they brought back to the tarp and were keen to ID and name it. Other children enjoyed having a go at creating dens in the woods using the ropes and tarps, enjoying the cooling shade of the trees. We concluded with something interesting that we discovered today.
Reception started their session with our song, counting and our name game, which the majority of children confidently joined in with. After a quick recap of our rules, we went on a hunt for spiders around the site. We looked for spider webs amongst the long grass and trees and we learned how to do a tree shake by laying a sheet under the branches of a tree and giving it a good shake. When the creatures fall out, they are easy to spot on the sheet. We were amazed to see how many different minibeasts were hiding there including spiders, caterpillars and ladybirds. After this, we gathered back on the tarp to listen to the story, Arghhhh Spider. We talked about why some people are scared of spiders and thought about whether we need to be scared of them. For the rest of the session, some children chose to explore spiders more. We looked at cartoon pictures of spiders and compared them to correctly drawn diagrams of spiders, which showed they have three body parts: a head, an abdomen and a thorax. The children used clay to create anatomically correct spider models and used pipe cleaners as legs, ensuring they had eight. Other children made thaumatropes using the bow saw to cut a wood slice, drilling it and attaching rubber bands to either side to make it spin. They were amazed to see that if they drew a spider on one side and a web on the other, when they span it, it looked as if the spider was on the web. They really enjoyed making something they could play with. To conclude our session, we talked about what we had learned about spiders and thought about whether we need to be frightened of them. By the end of the session, lots of children decided they were not really afraid and were going to encourage their adults not to be afraid either.
Year 2 started their session with our chant, counting and name game. Next, we sent the children on a grass hunt. The grass in the Forest School area has been left uncut and we are starting to see the grass flowers and seeds. We shared with the children that as well as there being many types of trees, there are also many different types of grass. Usually we don't notice, but when they have their flowers, we can tell them apart. We searched the site to see how many different types of grass we could find. Meadow Foxtail was the most common, but we realised that when we took our time and observed more closely, there were patches of other varieties. We gathered back together on the tarp to listen to Emma tell the story of The Boy and the Nettle, which taught us to be bold, have courage and be brave in order to get what we need when we feel worried or scared. For the remainder of the session, some children chose to use the trowels for digging, hunting for treasures. Other children enjoyed using the willow to make crowns to celebrate Beltane (an old, traditional seasonal festival) and the Goddess Flora which they decorated with flowers and ribbons. The children had to work out how to secure the different natural materials. Also on the theme of Beltane, some children chose to use the clay to make green men on trees, which they decorated with different natural materials. We concluded the session with an opportunity to share something that we felt grateful for in that moment.
Year 3s session started with our chant, counting and name game, before the opportunity to share a favourite sound with the group. We really enjoy hearing these contributions and getting to know more about the group. Next, we played a game we call Bird's Nest. This involved the children working in pairs to build nests in safe places around the site near a 'food source'. They had to take it in turns to collect some 'food' from the food source without getting caught by two predatory birds. The first round of the game led to many discussions around the idea of fairness and fun. We realised that although it may be fun for one person to take lots of bits of food at once rather than one at a time, it makes the game not fun for others. We need to be honest and mutually agree on the rules of a game for it to be fun for everyone. We played the game a second time adding in a corvid (a type of bird) that was able to steal the food from the nests. We all enjoyed the game much more the second time with the added challenge. The children were great at working out tactics to make them more successful. For the rest of the session, the children chose to use willow for crowns and some had a go at using a jig to help them weave a willow bird feeder. This was incredibly tricky, but the resilience and patience of the children that had a go, meant that they were really successful and achieved something they were really proud of. Other children enjoyed going into the woods and digging and making shelters. It was lovely to see them embracing their forest school experience.
We concluded the session sharing something we were grateful for and everyone was able to join in.
Our focus in Reception was worms. We read the story Yucky Worms by Vivian French, which talks about the benefit of worms, their structure and their needs. We then looked for evidence of worms around the site and some children dug for worms and found a lot of them in the woods. We had looked at the worm life cycle and the children decided that they had mostly found juveniles and one adult worm. Their search involved lots of discussion about likely places to find worms and how we might tell if the soil is damp. They found ways of putting water on the soil to encourage the worms to come up to the surface, which led to exploring with digging for clay and mixing mud. During free play, the children enjoyed tree climbing and discussed the skills of climbing safely. One group of children set up a game of hide and seek where we noticed their collaborative and leadership skills developing. Another group enjoyed creating worms and bracelets with Elder pieces. We taught a few how to use the secateurs safely so they were able to cut up pieces of Elder themselves. There were some lovely long worms made with clay. At the end we asked the children what they had learned about the worms and were impressed with what they had picked up. They knew that worms breathe through their skin, that they hide when they feel vibrations through the ground and have 10 hearts but no eyes.
Our focus this week was trees. The children have been learning about flowers-parts in class, so we showed them different tree flowers. We explained that some trees are both male and female, like the Horse Chestnut, whilst others, like the Willow, are male or female. We told them the story of the Hawthorn tree and the leprechaun. The leprechaun had to tell a man where his pot of gold was, but of course, didn’t really want to. He wasn’t allowed to break his promise, so he found an ingenious way to solve his problem. We then played a Kim’s game where the children had to find 5 leaves from different trees. This helps focus their attention and to notice small differences, whilst developing an awareness of our local trees. During the free play, den building was the favourite thing. One group used large sticks to make a debris den and the other group used rope and planned to put a tarp over it. The results were excellent, but their negotiations were where most of the learning took place. There was much discussion, collaboration and problem solving around creating the structure, safety and transporting materials. Other children explored digging for clay and mixing mud, one pair made a ‘poison potion’. Other children chose to use the clay to make some lovely creations including a hedgehog and a ‘Scottish parrot’. Some wanted to cut up sticks to add to their creations, so we taught them how to use the secateurs safely.
This was the first time Year 3 had been to Forest School in a while, so we began by reminding them of the rules of Forest School: the boundaries, how to move with sticks and tools safely, to only pick things that are abundant and the rules around tree climbing. The theme of this session was birds. We played ‘Bird Bingo’ where the children had to work in small teams to find six bird pictures from around the site. We discussed the team skills needed for the game to succeed: working together, listening to each other, involving all the team members and contributing equally. We had a little look at a range of bird nests, demonstrating that nests are not simply a bowl-shaped object built with sticks, up in a tree. Nests come in all different shapes and sizes: some birds live in tree holes or in nests on the ground and that they sometimes use their saliva and soil to build them. We then gave the children a series of activities:
·using a bird-hide and binoculars to watch birds,
·exploring with our soft toy birds, which make the bird song, and try to identify them using books
·making nests from clay
·making bird feeders using apple, raisins and cheese
·the usual free play resources such as ropes, tarps, mallets, trowels and the mud kitchen.
We were really impressed with Year three’s creativity and collaborative skills. One group made a swing which developed into a ‘bird feeding swing’, where they designed beautiful ‘nest/feeders’ which were decorated with the tree flowers we had used with an earlier group. Others explored digging for clay whilst others built a den. By the end of the session, children were beginning to identify the blackbird song and were noticing the birds in the environment.
All the children had a great time at Forest School this week and we cannot wait for our next sessions.
What a different day we had. Sunshine and ice cream last week and snow this week! The children absolutely loved it though.
We started our session with Reception with our usual song, counting and name game and the snow arrived. We enjoyed stretching up to the sky and letting the snow fall on our hands. After this, we played Secret Stone to warm us up. The children enjoyed working with the other children in their teams to conceal an alder cone in their hands and try to get it through the goal of the opposing team without being caught. Next, we thought about the special treasures in our environment and moved around our site collecting natural treasures in a matchbox. The children found buds, small leaves, moss and small sticks and were able to explain to tier partners why they liked them. For the rest of the session, to keep ourselves busy and warm, we got in teams and recapped how to make tarp dens. The children enjoyed tying timber hitch knots to create a ridge line and then worked together to hang a tarp over it, finally pegging it out with sticks and a mallet. They worked together sharing the mallets and some children enjoyed singing together inside their dens. We finished with our goodbye song.
Year 4 and Year 6 started their session with their chant, counting and sharing our names and a special treasure that we have. Some children shared that their treasure was their family, their school and their pets. For our first activity, we played an observation game. We had a good look around the site, closed our eyes and then tried to point to a given place or object such as a tree in blossom or the Silver Birch tree. Sometimes the challenge would be to hold up the number of fingers that corresponded with the number of people wearing red wellies or number of flags on site. It was interesting to learn a little about ourselves and how much notice we take of things around us. Our next game was to move from looking at big things in our environment to focussing on the small things around the site. We each had a small treasure box which we filled with natural items that we liked/meant something. This activity gives the children an opportunity to connect with and closely observe the smaller things in our environment. For the rest of the session, the children spent time making journey sticks using wool and wrapping it around the stick, adding on natural materials to remember their time at Forest School, others enjoyed playing in their woods creating swings, making dens and putting up hammocks. Some children had another go at fire lighting using the fire steels. We then worked together to build a fire in the fire pit and everyone enjoyed toasting a marshmallow. We finished reflecting on what we had achieved or improved on in our time at Forest School this half term. Some students felt that they had got better at listening, better at working in a team and communicating with others.
Have a great holiday.
What beautiful weather we had today. It is delightful to see how the site is coming to life and so many trees now are starting to have their leaves.
Reception started their session today with our song, counting and name game, followed by a mindful moment which involved pressing our fingers together and tapping our thumbs together, then our pointy fingers and so on. It made us really focus and calm our breathing. With our Forest School coming to life in a variety of green hues, we decided to go on a green colour hunt. We each had a piece of card with some double-sided sticky tape on and wandered around Forest School collecting green things. Before we stuck them down, we thought about whether they were light or dark and tried to put them in order from lightest to darkest. There were so many different shades of green. Next, we came back to the tarp to hear Carrie tell the story of How Colour Came Into the World. The children listened attentively and joined in the movements of the butterfly in the story. We really enjoy storytelling with the group without the use of a book as it really engages the children's imaginations. For the rest of the session, the children explored in different ways. Some children had a go at using the hapazone technique to take the colour out of the plants using a mallet and transferring it onto material. Other children enjoyed creating seed paper by tearing up pieces of coloured paper and mixing it with water to create pulp, which was mixed with wildflower seeds and pressed into shapes. It was quite tricky to sculpt the paper pulp and press out the water, but it was lots of fun. Finally, lots of children are really developing in their imaginative play, building structures with sticks in and out of the wooded area. We finished the session sharing something that made us excited today.
Year 4 started today's session with our chant, counting and an opportunity to share a piece of advice for the world. The children gave very thought-provoking comments and it was a great opportunity to listen to each other with respect and kindness. Next, we raised the energy with the pinecone game. The children stood opposite their partner with a pinecone between them. They had to follow commands: heads, shoulders, knees, toes and when they heard cone, they had to be the first to grab it. It was very competitive and lots of fun. We carried on playing until we found the ultimate pine cone champion. After this, we lowered the energy by taking part in a sit spot mindfulness activity. The children all took a piece of paper, a pencil and found a place on their own in Forest School. We sat for five minutes and listened to the sounds around us, focussed on our breathing, and being in the present. Lots of children enjoyed this experience and felt really relaxed and peaceful.
For the rest of the session, some children chose to make seed paper. They loved the sensation of it squashing between their fingers as they formed it into shapes, which they found quite tricky. It took a few attempts to get it the way they wanted, but as always we learnt from our different attempts how to be more successful. Other children enjoyed creating dens and using the hammocks in the woods, working in teams. Finally, some children enjoyed shaping willow into heart shapes and weaving them with coloured material. They needed to support each other by holding the frame, while the other person tied and secured the willow together. A great chance to practice knots and tying. We finished with sharing our energy and levels of positivity on a scale from 1 to 10 at the start of the session and at the end of the session. It was amazing to see how much they had increased and it is great that the students are recognising how being outside can make them feel.
Our Year 6 group started their session with our chant, counting and sharing a piece of advice for the world. Most children were able to give very thought-provoking ideas. Next, we all took part in a sit spot activity like the Year 4s. They had done this before and most really enjoyed returning to this opportunity, even closing their eyes and lying on the ground. Others reported finding it boring and difficult to stay quiet and still. We recognised that it is hard for some people and that it definitely gets easier with practice. For the rest of the session, the children were set a teamwork challenge. This involved using a pulley and creating a structure that would allow the pulley to run freely for as far as possible. The children enjoyed this challenge and got to work in their teams finding the longest log to raise vertically and tie their rope too. It took a lot of thought and problem solving to work out how to keep the sticks upright for the rope to run between. All groups managed to create a structure that worked, but more importantly, they showed great resilience when things went wrong and an increased understanding of how to work successfully with others. Children shared their ideas and all children found a role within their team, in order to work fast and achieve the outcome. At the end of the session, we thought and shared some of our strengths in this task.
It was a much drier week this week and we had moments of glorious sunshine with a real feeling of Spring being on its way. We were even lucky enough to spot the first butterfly of the year today.
Reception began their session with their song, counting and name game, followed by our Mindful Moment which was about love and kindness. We closed our eyes and repeated some words as we breathed softly, thinking about good wishes for ourselves, our families and the rest of the world.
After this peaceful moment, we let the fun commence as the children played Chase the Dragon game. The children started in teams of four, holding each other's shoulders: the front end being the mouth of the dragon and the last person with a dragon tail. The children 'dragons' chased each other, trying to grab the tail of the other dragons. It was lots of fun.
Next we listened to the story The Trouble With Dragons which tells how dragons took over the world , using up all the resources and forcing other animals to leave and causing the plants to die. They didn't want to be alone and so were taught by the other animals how to look after their planet properly.
For the rest of the session, the children could choose to make their own sock dragon to ride on and teach about how to look after our environment. We repurposed socks for the dragon heads and filled them with dry leaves. The children had to work out how to attach the m to the sticks and then how to attach tails, ears, fire and eyes. It was hard, but lots of children persevered and enjoyed some independence creating their dragons. Others enjoyed making wild flower seed bombs using clay, soi and wildflower seeds. They rolled them into small balls which they will be able to scatter in order to attract a range of wildlife. We also had some children who enjoyed looking after our baby dragons, making homes for them and exploring the site.
Year 4 began their session by sharing one thing that they loved about themselves. Some children found this a bit of a challenge at first, but all were able to share something, whether it was their kindness or ability to make others laugh.
Next we played a numbers game, where partners worked together to count to 3, taking alternate numbers. Once we got the hang of this, we moved to Level 2 challenge, which involved swapping a number for a sound. This proved a bit trickier but provided lots of laughs when we made mistakes. Finally, Level 3 challenge was to swap a final number for a movement. The children really concentrated hard and were able to laugh and start again if they got it wrong.
For the remainder of the session we gave the children a team challenge which involved working together in groups of four to keep a stick up vertically without it being embedded in the ground. The teams were able to use ropes and pegs to do this as well as anything else that they could find. Many teams worked towards using the ropes as guy ropes pulling the stick from opposing angles and preventing it from toppling over. Although this was a challenging task, the children all really persevered and were able to work through several difficulties on the way with great resilience. Some children struggled with their emotions when they felt they were not heard by the group or that they had not completed the challenge in the way that they wanted, which led to some discussions about the needs and feelings of others and how as well as recognising our own emotions and needs, we also need to consider the feelings and needs of our team mates.
We finished the session reflecting on what we had learnt about ourselves.
Year 6 started their session in a similar way to Year 4 with sharing something they loved about themselves and the numbers game.
We thought about whether it was easier to work in friendship groups or in groups where we don't know everyone really well. For this week's challenge we allowed the children to pick their own groups. Their task was to build a free standing den away from the trees using rope, tarps and sticks. This challenge really stepped up the level of challenge from before. Many groups worked towards hitting the posts into the ground, forgetting that they could use guy ropes as they had in a previous task. Some got frustrated that it wasn't going in the ground easily, but found it challenging to move towards another idea. We had great discussions about not giving up, but also needing to realise when you get to a point of trying for a long time and not making progress. At this point you need to be prepared to try something new.
We will be following up the feelings and needs that arose through this activity in a similar activity in the following sessions.
Have a great week,
Emma and Carrie
We were lucky that it was dry today, but all of the rain recently has meant that the site is very waterlogged. The mud and water was definitely enjoyed by all of the groups today.
Reception started their session with a mindfulness moment called Inhale the Universe. We started practicing our mindful breathing as we raised our arms above our heads and stretched out, before flopping down and letting our arms swing by our sides. As we did this we imagined scooping up the universe and sprinkling the stars and planets over our heads and then flopping down and relaxing. It felt good to stretch and then let our bodies flop and relax. Next, we played a listening and movement game based on the children's theme of space and planets. We ran around pretending to be astronauts, aliens, rockets, spaceships and twinkling stars. We gathered in the woods to listen to the story How To Catch A Star by Oliver Jeffers and used this to inspire our exploration. Some children used bendy willow branches to make willow stars, using twisty pipe cleaners to secure the pieces together. This really showed how well the children's independence and fine motor skills are progressing. They then enjoyed wandering around with them casting spells. Some others enjoyed using their imaginations and working together to build a boat in one of the puddles using fallen logs. They were incredibly creative making steering wheels and a lever to control the speed. We finished the session sharing a wish we would make on a star. Lots of children wished to be fairies, princesses or superman.
Year 4 and 6 started their session with a sharing activity, introducing themselves and sharing their favourite smell. We really enjoy starters like this and it always interests and amazes us at how many different unusual answers we hear. After this, we played a teamwork game, where the team members had to work together to
pass six hoops of willow from one player to the next using sticks instead of hands. The hoop was not allowed to drop or touch a player's hand. After the first round, we asked the students about what went well, who was a good team member and why. They realised they needed to make sure each team player was ready by communicating to them and that everyone responds differently to encouragement and judgements if a player makes a mistake. Although the site was wet today, there are lots of signs of Spring including the buds on the trees which are beginning to open. We seized this opportunity to focus on using the buds to identify the different trees. The children were given a branch from a particular tree and were asked to examine the colour, shape, size and positioning of the buds on the branch with their partner. They then had to go and find the matching tree, shouting, "Found it!" when they identified the matching tree on the site. We were so impressed with how much their children know the site as it did not take them long to find the Willow or Hornbeam trees from their buds. The Oak tree was slightly harder to locate and the Alder tree proved a bit tricky, but they got there in the end. For the rest of each session, some children used the bud branches to be creative, pressing them into clay tiles to create patterns or weaving them in between Y sticks. Some children enjoyed returning to the trees and their interest in building dens with the tarps and using the ropes to make swings in the trees. They worked carefully to identify suitable branches to hang from, testing them and ensuring they were living and not dead. We also had some children that loved digging in the mud, looking for different stones and minerals. We finished both sessions with the children having the opportunity to share the name of their favourite tree with the group. Many Year 4 children shared a tree that they love at their house, or at a loved one's house and Year 6 have a great connection with the site, lots sharing how much they like the Willow tree and its flexible branches.
Thank you for another fantastic half term. I can't believe we are halfway through the year and there are signs of Spring appearing, with the bulbs coming up and our first bit of leaf burst from the hawthorn trees.
We started our session today with our song, counting and name game, followed by a quick game of Forest Fire. The children were able to think of woodland animals that they could be and enjoyed running away from the 'forest fire' and avoiding being caught. Next, we introduced the children to fire building. We showed them the fire triangle and thought of the three things that are needed for fire: fuel, heat and oxygen. The children then heard about how to stay safe around the fire, by checking ourselves for dangly bits, checking we have space around us and sitting in the Respect Position. The children then worked in pairs using the fire steels to create sparks. This is a very tricky task for small hands, but the children worked hard and kept trying, showing great resilience and beautiful sparks were made by most. They were rewarded for their efforts and we all built a fire and learnt how to cook marshmallows on it. They were delicious.
Year 2 started their session with our chant, counting and name game, before thinking and sharing something they love about themselves. Lots of people loved that they had good friends and they were good listeners. Next, we introduced a sit spot activity. This group has shown great interest in the birds and have been practicing mindfulness this half term. This activity involved finding a quiet spot in the Forest School site, sitting down with a piece of card and a pencil and listening and reflecting on our environment around us. We really enjoyed having a peaceful moment, breathing and listening to all of the amazing bird sounds around us. It made us feel calm and happy. After this, we gathered back at the tarp to listen to the story of the Kind King and the Wandering Gnome. This story told of an unkind gnome who wandered into the kingdom of the Kind King and learnt how to show kindness. For the rest of the session, we used the story as a springboard for our exploration. Some children enjoyed returning to whittling, using the peelers to make hazel gnomes, which they decorated with pipe cleaners and pens. Others used the bendy willow to willow hearts and others enjoyed hole punching hearts in bay leaves and collecting them in small pots which they plan to give to someone they love. We also had the ever popular mallets and trowels for those that just love digging. We finished by sharing something that we feel we have got better at this time at Forest School. Lots of children felt they had become more independent and creative.
Our Year 5 joined us for their last session this year. They have made huge progress in their independence, problem solving skills and determination this year and it was great to celebrate this. We started by sharing our one takeaway from Forest School this year. Children shared that they enjoyed being outside, they were better at teamwork and that they know it's ok not to be perfect and that having fun is important. By popular request, we started with a quick game of Secret Stone. This is their favourite game and they enjoyed sharing tactics to improve their game play. For the rest of the session, they enjoyed taking time to explore in their own ways. Some children enjoyed working together to build the ultimate palace using tarps and ropes. They have improved this each week and it was great to see so many children enjoying working together and solving different problems as they came about. Someone enjoyed using the sheath knife to make a guiro. Others used the hole punches to create heart leaf confetti which they collected to give to someone they love. Finally there was a group that helped collect dead wood to build a group fire and we all enjoyed toasting marshmallows. We finished the session with a final grateful moment. The children shared how lucky they felt to have their families a safe home, a beautiful world and forest school.
It was great to feel a bit of Spring-like weather today and the children certainly enjoyed their sessions today where we were focussing on the Lunar New Year with both the Reception and Year 2 classes. We started our sessions with our song, counting and name game. In Year 2's session, we shared our weekly mindfulness moment which was called 'Open Ears'. We took mindful breaths and listened to the sound made by the singing bowl. We had to listen very carefully to hear when it stopped making a noise and raise our hand. We then listened to all the sounds near and far as we took mindful breaths. This week our focus was on the Lunar New Year. We sent the children on an animal hunt around Forest School. They loved running around finding the animals of the zodiac and once they were all gathered up, we used them to tell and act out the story to the Reception children. The children enjoyed pretending to swim across the river as we told the story The Great Race about how the Lunar New Year was named. Year 2 heard a different story called Saving Spring, which is an old Scandinavian folk tale where Old Man Winter captures and traps Spring and she needs to be rescued by a little boy called Oscar. For the rest of the sessions, the children enjoyed exploring in their own ways. Some children made tiger sticks, twisting pipe cleaners around sticks to make striped tigers. Others enjoyed using charcoal to draw. Finally, there were some children who enjoyed returning to the story and acting it out independently with their peers. We finished the sessions asking the children to share with the group something they were grateful for. Lots of children shared that they were grateful for their family, friends and teachers.
Our Year 5 group started with their chant, counting and sharing their name and something they love about themself. This was a hard question and we all had to think hard about our positive qualities including being a good friend, being someone others can talk to and having a good sense of humour. Next, we played Ninja. This game focussed on our listening skills and awareness of others moving. One player was blindfolded and had to move around inside a rope circle trying to listen and tag the other players when they heard them. When we take away our sense of sight, our other senses are heightened and it can make us feel strange. After this we lit a fire, recapping the fire triangle: heat, oxygen and fuel and how to stay safe. Once the fire was going, we put a tin containing green willow branches on top. We made predictions about what might happen to the green sticks. Some thought they would be burnt and go, others thought they would turn black. It was exciting to see that when the box was taken off the fire, the sticks had turned into black charcoal which the children enjoyed using to draw. They were quite surprised at how easy it is to make this great drawing tool. The children all returned to their fire lighting skills, firstly using the fire steels to create sparks and then using the sparks to light cotton wool. They were amazed at how much easier they found it this year, having struggled in previous years. They have grown in finger strength and resilience and this was truly shown in their achievements. Some children even persevered in their free exploring time, choosing to continue and attempting to light Silver Birch bark. The rest of the children enjoyed building dens in the woods and using the charcoal and hollowed out Elder to make charcoal pencils. To finish the session, the children shared in a mindfulness moment where we tried balanced breathing. Most children were able to focus their mind on their body and the present moment and really fully take part in this activity taking mindful breaths.
It was definitely a bit warmer than recent weeks today and this allowed us to focus on using our observation skills with our first two groups, rather than focussing as much on staying warm.
Reception and Year 2
This weekend sees the launch of Big Garden Bird Watch, an annual event where we are asked to survey the birds that visit our garden and submit the data to help get a picture of what birds are in our country. So in our sessions with our Reception and Year 2 groups we got a bit more familiar with the different birds that we might see. We started with a fast paced game of Ostrich Tag, which the children are now familiar with and thoroughly enjoy (particularly when they catch the adults!) After this we split into two teams, to play a bird bingo game. The children had to run around the site to find bird cards, which they had to bring back to the bingo board and find its matching pair. It involved lots of very careful observation, especially when the birds looked similar in shape or colour. After all the birds were found we gathered back at the circle and heard Emma tell the story of The King of The Birds. This is an old folk tale that teaches us that even when we are small we can achieve great things. The children enjoyed listening to the reasons why the different birds thought they should be king and joined in flapping their wings. For the rest of the session, the children enjoyed using the binoculars and the ID sheets to find different birds. Others sat down and enjoyed using the bird sound books and bird sound toys to hear the calls of the different birds that visit forest school. Nests were made in the woods using different natural materials including sticks and moss, with the hope that a bird might visit later. We used bird seed, cheese and apple to make bird feeders out of pine cones. This task supported the children in their knot skills, using string and a simple reef knot to tie around a pine cone and finally some children enjoyed digging and finding words which they put out by the bird hide that they built, hoping to catch a glimpse of a hungry bird. We finished our session sharing something we learnt about birds today or our favourite bird. The children really enjoyed sharing the reason why different birds were their favourite.
We do hope you will be able to join in with the Big Garden Birdwatch at the weekend. Details can be found here: https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/birdwatch/birdwatch-take-part/ where the cuddly birds were also from.
We started the Year 5 session with our chant and counting the group, before moving on to share our names and something that makes us feel scared. Some of the children really impressed us with their thoughtful answers, which led on to a discussion about how we. can face our fears. Next, we introduced a new game called Bat and Moth. This game involved half of the children being bats and the other half, their prey, the moths. Bats use echolocation to find their food, but today the children who had their eyes closed and were bats had to use call and response to find their prey, calling 'bat' and hearing the response 'moth'. If they listened carefully they could use these sounds to locate and tag the moths. It was very hard to trust ourselves to keep our eyes closed and play safely and fairly. A reflective discussion followed about when we feel someone has cheated in a game and how we can respond in a positive and kind way, rather than it leading to unnecessary frustration and conflict. For the rest of the session, some children had a go at making bird feeders for their gardens. Others enjoyed using the ropes and pulleys in the woods and finally some students enjoyed using the sheath knife to make a guiro and knot skills to make a xylophone. We finished with a discussion on something we will reflect on or take away with us today from Forest School.
It was another cold week at Forest School, but the sunshine was glorious and the frost, ice and mud were great fun to explore.
Our Reception class had their first trip back to Forest School following the holiday break. We started their session with a trail through the woods left by Beegu. Beegu's footprints led the way through the trees where we had to spot objects that were not meant to be in the environment. The children had keen observation skills and spotted all ten items including a sat nav and some headphones. For the rest of the session, the children explored in different ways. Some enjoyed continuing with the Beegu theme and used bendy willow branches to create a head dress with ears just like Beegu. It was tricky bending the branches and securing them to the headband, but great resilience was shown by those who chose to do this. Other children had a go at making rocket launchers using Y sticks and stretchy rubber bands. Once again this was challenging and took a lot of patience and problem solving to work out how to attach the rubber bands to the Y stick. We also had some imaginative adventurers, who went on a hunt for traces of Beegu in the woods and found where her spaceship landed and where she played.
Year 2 started their session today with our chant, counting and names. Continuing with our new year theme, we challenged the children to follow a trail through the woods and use their observation skills to pick out items that should not be there. They showed great care for their environment and some children spent the rest of the session litter picking in the area. Although the trees look like they are sleeping in the Winter, they are all in bud and it is fascinating to see how the buds differ in colour, size and shape just like their leaves. The children were given a branch with buds from three different trees on site which they had to match with the tree that it came from. This was a great activity to warm us up as we ran from tree to tree and identified them. For the rest of the session, some children used the buds to create patterns in clay tiles. Others made winter twig weaving frames using Y sticks and string. Many children enjoyed playing in the mud, digging with the trowels and discovering clay. We also had some keen bird spotters who used the binoculars to spot a robin, magpies and long tailed tits. We finished the session sharing with the group children good ideas that were had in the session. It was lovely to see the children visibly proud when their friends shared their good ideas.
Year 5 started their session sharing the sound that makes them uncomfortable. They really enjoy sharing these thoughts with each other and many of us share the same thoughts. Next, we challenged the children to find a sit spot. Sit Spot is a great activity for finding calm and peace, quieting our mind and slowing down. Everyone found a spot to sit alone in Forest School and got comfortable. As we sat, we listened to the sounds around us and recorded them on some paper, creating a sound map. We used pictures, symbols, mark making and words to record what we could hear and where it was in location to us. It was fun to share what we had heard with each other and compare our sound maps at the end of the activity. Many children really enjoyed having to sit quietly and one lucky member of the group was so quiet that a robin landed on their foot! What a magical experience. For the rest of the session, lots of children enjoyed returning to the woods with tarps and ropes. They have been working on developing their skills with these each week, but today were thrilled to have made a hammock that they could lie in. Other children enjoyed using the woods to play hide and seek, keeping themselves warm on this cold day. We also had students exploring clay, using their knot skills to create xylophones and some using a new technique with a sheath knife to create guiros.
It was great to be back at Kerem today and it was such a beautiful frosty morning, with lots of ice and mud to explore, which the children in all groups thoroughly enjoyed.
Year 2 were excited to be back to Forest School after what seemed like such a long time. They were last here in the Autumn Term 2020 and so we felt so proud to hear how much they had remembered about the different trees at Forest School. We started our session by introducing our welcome chant, counting and sharing our names. The children enjoyed learning the new chant as well as the familiarity of the counting and name game. Next, we played a trust game called Find My Tree in which the children paired up with a partner and one of them led their blindfolded partner to a tree. The blindfolded child then needed to feel, smell and explore the tree with their hands before being led away from it. Once they took their blindfold off they had to find the tree that they had met. This game requires lots of good communication between the partner and their blindfolded friend to ensure that the blindfolded player stays safe and feels comfortable. It also helps us to really focus on our senses and descriptive language of the different trees. The children were so caring and supportive to each other and enjoyed this challenge. For the rest of the session, the children chose how to explore, with some choosing to use the trowels to dig in the mud or climb in the trees. We learned how to identify dead branches and climb safely. Some children also had a go at hollowing Elder and using it to write what we are grateful for, tying it on to a class mobile. We finished with sharing our hopes, dreams or goals for this year.
By the time Year 5 arrived in the afternoon the frost had melted and there was lots of mud to enjoy! We began our session with our chant and count, followed by the children sharing a resolution or focus for the year. They have lots of thoughtful, reflective comments including wanting to be kinder to their families and friends, wanting to go outside more and increase the amount of exercise that they do. We took the children into the wooded area of the site and introduced our Meet The Tree Game. They recognised and shared the different skills that they needed to be successful and carefully led their partners through the woods, challenging them with the distance they took them from their tree before removing the blindfold. Many of the trees look the same, as many are coppiced Hornbeam, but the children realized that by feeling them again with their eyes open they could distinguish the trees from each other. Next, we regrouped at base camp and heard the story of The Mother Elder. This story told the children of a time where people had forgotten to be in the woods and how the trees and forest folk reminded them of the wonders of the woods and how to belong in nature. We shared with the children some information about the properties, qualities and folklore of the different trees on the site and then some children chose to use the different types of wood to reflect on these qualities in themselves. They would like to continue exploring this next week. Other children had been interested in creating zip lines before the holiday break and so this week we introduced some pulleys. They were able to work together to tie a rope securely between two trees that would bear their weight. They would also like to continue exploring this and adapting their design next week.
As this term is usually the coldest, please ensure that your children have several layers of clothes that they can put on underneath their warm winter coats. Gloves, scarves and hats are essential as little hands get cold quickly. Two pairs of gloves can even be worn, one on top of the other. For the children's feet, which also can get cold, please ensure that they have several pairs of warm socks that they can wear on top of each other and if you have old trainers, snow boots or walking boots, they may find these warmer than welly boots.
We can't believe how fast this term has flown by! We have had so much fun seeing the changes of the seasons and it is starting to get very soggy and quite muddy at Forest School, which is being thoroughly enjoyed by the children.
Reception started their session with our song and counting as usual. We then got out the shaky eggs and gave ourselves a shaky egg shower to wake our bodies up and get moving. The children then thought of a way to use their shaky eggs to share their name in the group. Everyone took a turn and the group copied back their movements, supporting them in their observation and turn-taking skills. Next, we played a game of Ostrich Tag. The children used one hand for their long neck and beak and one hand for their tail feathers. The game involved everyone chasing each other and tagging someone's tail feathers with their beak. It was lots of fun running about. After this, we introduced the children to the bow saw, talking them through how to use it safely. The children enjoyed cutting 'wood cookies' and then drilling them with a hand drill. They then found a stick that fit snugly in the hole to make a spinning dreidel, which they decorated. As they worked, we got serenaded with some lovely singing! Some children also enjoyed using their gross motor skills and learning to walk and balance along the slack line. It got very wobbly as they walked and they had to take it slow and concentrate.
Year 5 started their session with their chant, counting and this time, they used the shaky eggs to say their names. We then put this together to create an orchestra of names and rhythms, with one child joining in at a time, building up the sound until we were all playing together. It sounded great. We thought about the skills we used in this activity and realised we had to be patient, focusing on ourselves and others. Our next activity involved a bit of partner work. We started with challenge 1: taking it in turns to count to 3, one person saying one number and the next person saying the next etc. This took a lot of focus to allow us to count in order correctly. Challenge two involved the children swapping a number for a sound and challenge three involved switching another number for a movement. It got really tricky and funny, which led to a discussion that when we get things wrong it's okay to laugh about it rather than get cross or frustrated. We can keep going and try again. For the rest of the session, the children also had the option of using the bow saw and drills to make different things. Many chose to make winter snowmen using the wood cookies, connecting them with pipe cleaners and adding scarves and decorations. Others enjoyed working in the woods with the ropes and loose logs. Each week they have been developing their ideas and today they came up with an incredibly creative zipline between the trees. They are looking forward to developing this idea further next half term. We finished our session by sharing one thing that we were going to do today to make the world a better place. Lots of children shared that they would like to be kind and think of others by contacting a loved one they had not seen in a long time.
Year 1 started their session with their chant, numbers and we used the shaky eggs to share our names.
We had a quick game of Ostrich Tag and then made sure that we had lots of time to get creative. The children used the bow saw to cut 'wood cookies' which they used in different ways. Some children enjoyed making necklaces, others made dreidels and some made snowmen. The bow saw is lots of fun to use as we had to work together taking turns to pull it across the logs to cut our slices. Lots of concentration is needed and it is very satisfying cutting through the log. Some children also enjoyed balancing on the slack line. They were very pleased at how much further they were able to get this half term.
After a great term, the children reflected on one thing they had got better at. Children reported that they were more creative, better at knots and better at teamwork.
It was a very cold day today and so it was quite a challenge to keep ourselves busy and warm enough. Lots of the children came out in lots of layers and thick coats which helped them look after themselves in the cold weather. It is essential that we are dressed in suitable clothing to ensure that we can continue to enjoy ourselves and experience all the magic that Winter holds. Emma and Carrie could barely move today due to their five layers of tops, trousers and socks they were wearing but were able to stay warm enough to have fun with the groups.
Wellies can be a cold shoe to wear in the winter and so walking boots with several pairs of warm wooly socks can be better at this time of year.
We tried to keep everyone moving today in their session, so used lots of actions and body movements in our welcome song and name game. We then played our game Forest Fire, where we took on the role of different animals and had to run away from the fire that chased us. The children really love running around in the space and chasing each other. Our next challenge supported us with working together. We asked the children to find sticks on the ground around the site and use them to make a long line of sticks reaching from one flag all the way to another on the other side of the site. We were amazed by how many sticks we could find when we looked carefully and we all worked together to make a long line of them. We had to think about carrying sticks safely and it kept our bodies moving to help us keep warm. For the rest of the session, the children had free play. Lots of children chose to make some jingle sticks using ribbon, pipe cleaners and bells. This was a great fine motor activity. The children learnt how to tie the ribbons onto the stick and the sense of pride was visible on their faces. They threaded the bells onto the pipe cleaners and wound them round their sticks as well. Other children enjoyed trying out the beginnings of fire lighting with Carrie. They used the fire steels to create sparks. This is a real challenge for small fingers and takes a lot of strength to create sparks: a real lesson in resilience. We finished the session with a song about Channukah using our jingle sticks.
The Year 5s were excited to be at Forest School today, especially when they found out we were playing their favourite game Secret Stone, which they had been requesting. They are really taking ownership over their Forest School sessions and it is great to see them challenging themselves each week and being inventive. After this warmed us up, we set the groups a new team challenge. Each team was given a small ring with several pieces of string attached. The team were given the task of working together to balance a ball on the ring and transport it, only holding on to the strings. It was fascinating to watch how each team moved from the ball falling off regularly, to being able to keep the ball on the ring and then finally to moving together as a team without the ball falling off. This provoked a discussion around the phrase, 'comparison is the thief of joy.' We realised that by worrying about how other teams are doing and comparing our progress to theirs, we can lose focus and not enjoy the task at hand and the joy we can get from just doing something for the sake of doing it. For the rest of the session, the children explored in their own way. Several children enjoyed taking the ropes and tarps into the woods, building dens, constructing pillows from piles of leaves and making swings in a variety of ways. Others enjoyed using the peelers and sheath knives to whittle for different purposes and some enjoyed exploring the elder, making beads and using them to create elder people. We finished the session sharing what we were grateful for or how we had been inventive today.
Year 1 started their session with our name game and welcome song. We thought about lots of different ways to move and used these in our song that we learned last week: Inside I Am Wild. This is a great song to explore our voices, using funny and loud voices as well as different movements. After we had warmed up, we gave the children the ball and ring challenge. They found it quite challenging to work with others in their team to carry the ball successfully across the field. Some children found it frustrating when their team was not doing it 'properly' and we talked about how this can make us feel frustrated and sad. We supported the children with strategies to deal with these situations and encouraged them to empathize with those that felt frustrated and think about what we can do to help them. It is really important to support the children through these challenging situations that arise as they learn about relationships and teamwork. The children then had time for free play. Lots of children enjoyed creating jingle sticks with the ribbon and pipe cleaners, once again giving them practice with their knot skills. Others enjoyed creating candle decorations by whittling some Elder with peelers. We finished our session with some breathing mindfulness, which the children tend to request at the end of the session.
It was a very chilly day at Forest School today and it was good to see how well prepared the children were to enjoy the cold weather.
We started our session today with our usual song and counting routine. Since it was very cold, we gave each child two shaky eggs and gave ourselves a shaky egg shower. We shook them over the different parts of our body helping us to wake up and warm up. We thought about different ways to shake our eggs and say our names and then took it in turns to share our ideas with the group who watched and copied. The children were really focused on each other and were able to observe and copy the different movements. Next, we played a game where we had to keep the shaky egg quiet. We chose one detective who stood in the middle of the circle with their eyes closed, whilst the rest of the children passed the shaky egg around, keeping it as still and quiet as possible. The detective had to guess where the shaky egg was, having to really focus on their sense of sound. For the rest of the session, many children chose to use the large fallen logs to create an obstacle course to run and keep themselves warm. Others enjoyed exploring the woods and digging for worms and finally some children used the bendy willow and wet strength tissue paper to create decorations to hang in their windows. We finished the session by sharing something that we found exciting today at Forest School. Many children chose to talk about how exciting it was to build their own obstacle course.
Year 5 started their session today with thinking and sharing their favourite smell. It was fascinating to hear all the different favourites and see how well the children listened and respected each other's contribution. After this we introduced the children to a new game: The Earth Game. This game focuses on understanding and navigating the compass points, seasons and relevant seasonal festivals, supporting the children's connection to the Earth and their place in it as well as their quick-thinking skills. It also helped us to all keep warm on this chilly day. For the rest of the session, we set the children a teamwork challenge, which involved them using the rope and large, fallen logs to build a structure that could transport a member of their team from a starting line to a finish line. All teams managed to create a structure together to transport a team member, but more importantly this activity provided another opportunity to look at success, failure and teamwork. During the activity there were lots of ups and downs, which we were able to reflect on at the end of the session. After recapping on the elements of teamwork, the children shared what element they felt was effective in their team and any challenges they faced. It is so important to learn how to recognise and manage our emotions when we face challenges. We also thought about the bigger picture: we do not have to come first or beat others to 'win', instead it is more rewarding to have fun and learn to work well and communicate effectively in a team. These are the important lessons that the children are really learning to take on board that will support them in all other areas of their lives.
Year 1 started their session with their usual welcome chant and counting. They then shared their name and their favourite sound, which the children really enjoyed. We learnt a new song: Inside I Am Wild, which sang about the different movements of the animals. The children contributed to the song by thinking of different ways we could move and enjoyed using different voices to make the song fun. Next, we played a game called Nest Robbers to warm ourselves up. The children worked with a partner to build a nest. They then had to go one at a time to collect food from the bird feeder, without getting caught by the food protectors. For the rest of the session, some children enjoyed going into the woods to continue building their dens. Many children were keen to investigate animal footprints, using clay to create footprint tiles. Some of us worked in the muddy areas of the site to make footprints in the mud and then we tried to cast them with plaster of Paris. We finished the session with some breathing and mindfulness, which the children were keen to come back to. It is a lovely way to bring our focus back after all being so busy.
We had a great day at Kerem with our groups this week.
We started our session with a new game called Ostrich tag, which the children loved. They had to hold one hand up for their beak and the other as their tail. We had to use our beaks to tag the other ostriches on their tails. When our game was finished we stopped to think about how our bodies felt and recognised that our hearts were beating faster and we felt warmer. Next, we went into the woods and split into teams, learning the timber hitch knot to create a ridge line between two trees and then worked together to hang a tarp over it. The children then used the mallets to tap the pegs into the ground securing the edges of the tarp. Once all of the dens were made, we played a game where we all raced through the dens one after another as fast as we could, crawling on our knees. It was lots of fun trying to beat our time. We finished our session sharing something that was tricky today. It was decided that using the mallets was quite tricky and making sure we had enough space inside our dens was also tricky.
The year 5's started with an observation game where they had to see how well they knew the site. We looked around and then closed our eyes, before being asked to point to the nearest willow tree, silver birch tree etc. They are quite confident with their knowledge of the site, having grown connected to it over the years. We had a discussion about climate change and the importance of having a connection to our environment and looking after it. The children shared a piece of advice or a hope for the world with the group and we thought about the small things we can do to be part of this. For the next part of the session, we focussed on the beauty of the Autumnal changes around us and how it can support our wellbeing and mindfulness. The children gathered some natural materials and using inspiration from some pictures of nature mandalas that we looked at, they got to work on creating their own. The children worked hard, enjoying the focus and teamwork elements of this activity. They produced some beautiful mandalas and were keen to show each other. For the rest of the session, the children enjoyed a variety of different activities. Some enjoyed taking the ropes and tarps into the woods to create dens and swings. Others had a go at whittling pieces of elder to create decorative candles, some enjoyed using the wool to weave and a large group enjoyed playing a game of tug of war. They had to work together to work out the rules and make the game fair, safe and fun for everyone. We thought about how to observe each other's body language and ideas to work together collaboratively to solve disagreements. We finished the session with a brief discussion about people who had good ideas during the session. The children were keen to share who had helped them, being kind, and thinking about how to arrange the leaves in their mandalas or how to make a fair game.
We started our session focussing on our fox this week. We practiced fox walking, slowly picking up our feet and walking by putting our heel down first followed by our toes. We then put this into practice in a game, where the children had to walk silently from a start line to a finish line past someone who was blindfolded, without being heard and pointed at. Next, we listened to the story of The Fox and the Fire told by Emma. The children really love listening to oral storytelling, using their imaginations rather than worrying about focussing on pictures in a book. The story taught us the wonders of fire, but that we need to be respectful, careful and safe around it. For the rest of the session, some of the children returned to their digging in the woods, others had a go at weaving around sticks with wool to create patterns and some used clay to create staffs with heads of their tribal animals. They are really becoming more independent and creative, realising how much they can do for themselves. We finished the session with a reflection on which animal tribe we feel we relate to and why.
Our Reception children started their session today with our song, counting independently and our name game. The children were able to tell us that it was Autumn and share some of the features of Autumn they had spotted e.g. the leaves falling off the trees, the leaves changing colours and that it is getting darker and colder. They then got into pairs and explored the site collecting a variety of interesting natural materials. After some collecting, we found space on the grass and worked in small groups to create patterns inspired by pictures of nature mandalas which we had looked at together. Lots of concentration and discussion was needed to work together and make decisions about what items to use and where they should be placed.
With all of the different festivals and celebrations involving light, we decided to use this as a focus for exploration today. For the rest of the session some children chose to make candle holders using clay. They moulded the clay into balls and pressed out the shapes of our lamps using their thumbs and fingers to squeeze the sides. Other children enjoyed playing with the finger torches underneath a tarp shelter. There was lots of exploration and investigation working out which items the coloured lights would shine through. The children discovered that the lights could shine through leaves. We finished the session by sharing some of our discoveries that were made today.
It was great to be back with the Year 5 children this week. We started our session with a short discussion about the practice of gratitude. We took it in turns to share our names and what we were grateful for at that moment. We heard some really thoughtful reflections including my family, my friends, for my beautiful surroundings, for nature and for being alive. Next, we gave everyone two shaky eggs and asked them to explore the site and use their shaky eggs to represent something they found on the site. It was great to see how much concentration went into this activity, showing how well the children are developing their observation skills and creativity. They shared their ideas and we took turns at guessing each other's mystery natural object. We brought the children back together to introduce them to a teamwork challenge. We recapped the skills and steps that should be used when working in a team and then set the groups off with the challenge to be able to keep a stick upright without having any of it embedded into the ground. They used ropes and other sticks to create guy rope structures and keep the stick standing. It was great to see how much this group's teamwork skills have already come on and we look forward to what they can achieve this half term.
We carried on our theme of animal tribes with the Year 1 children, moving on to learning about badgers today and their sense of smell. We started with secret smell bags, which contained different items to smell. The children enjoyed using just their noses to smell and guess the mystery objects. Next, we played a game which involved the children moving in darkness. They got in teams and played a game called Blind Fetch. Each child took a turn at wearing the blindfold and had to be directed by their team to move across the site and collect and bring back different objects to their team. The children had to move slowly to avoid tripping over and had to tune into the voices of their friends directing them. For the rest of the session, the children enjoyed exploring their tribes. Some children enjoyed continuing with their fox hole, taking turns to use the spade. Others had a go at whittling hazel wood and then decorating it with their tribal animal. This took a lot of concentration and persistence to whittle the bark off the stick, whilst keeping safe with the peeler. Other children enjoyed returning to creating their own dyes. This week they used pestle and mortars to grind up grass to create green dyes for their bandanas and flags. During the session, one of the children asked to finish with a mindfulness activity and so we came back to the tarp, closed our eyes and shared a mindful breathing story. The children really enjoy these calming breathing activities and recognise how this activity can calm them down and provide peace.
We had a great day with all groups despite the unexpected showers at times, but the children were happy to put their hoods up and carry on with the fun at Forest School.
We started today's session with our usual song, counting and names and then we introduced a new game called Forest Fire. We thought about all the lovely things we can use fire for including cooking, keeping warm and giving us light, but also talked about how it can be dangerous, particularly for animals. The children enjoyed the game, which involved them choosing to be a woodland creature and having to run away from the fire (one of the Forever Green staff) to get to the safety of the other side without being caught. If they were caught, the fire had spread and it was harder for the woodland animals to run past. This game was really needed on a cold morning to warm us all up. Next, we sat down together to listen to the story of Fox and Fire. The children enjoyed listening to this oral retelling of the story which taught the children to not be scared of fire, but to respect it and keep a safe distance: an important lesson to know this time of year, when many of our celebrations involve light and the use of fire. After this, the children had some free choice. Many enjoyed using the wood from the Elder tree to hollow with the palm drills before adding material tails and sparkly pipe cleaners to create their own rockets, which they enjoyed throwing through the air. Other children enjoyed flicking paint using sticks onto cards to create paint fireworks and finally there was some great fungus growing. The children moved around the woods carefully to not destroy the fungus, but enjoyed looking carefully at it and discovering all the different colours and shapes that fungus can come in.
We met Year 1 at the school gates and enjoyed our walk to Forest School, watching the tree surgeons working in the park to cut down parts of the oak trees. It was amazing to see the ropes and pulleys they were using to get really high and lift things up and down safely. When we arrived at Forest School, we did our welcome chant, counted and played our name game. This half term we are focussing on tribes and three woodland animals: the fox, the owl and the badger and thinking about their traits and which ones we can relate to. Today we focussed on the owl, with our first game testing out our owl eyes. We all put our fingers in front of our eyes and then moved them out to the side to see how far our peripheral vision stretched. We then played an observation game. The children looked around and then closed their eyes before being asked a question about the things in their environment e.g. point to the closest oak tree, how many people are wearing red waterproofs etc. This game made us think about our observation skills and whether we were as observant as an owl. We listened to an oral retelling of the story How Owls Became Wise before setting off on our own explorations. Some children chose to use the trowels to see if they could dig an underground den, just like the fox. Others enjoyed using earth pigments and paint to decorate flags and bandanas to represent their tribe. There was lots of opportunity for problem-solving as the children worked out how to attach the flags to sticks and which stick to use. They are really developing these independent thinking skills and enjoy working things out for themselves. We finished our session by sharing what animal tribe we feel we are in at the moment and why. The children gave some thoughtful responses saying they were like the fox because they enjoy digging, or they are very clever and can move quietly. Others thought they were like an owl because they enjoy watching and observing.
The children enjoyed splashing in the puddles on the way to Forest School this morning; their boots and waterproofs really did their work. Luckily the sun came out and we had another fun session. We began with our usual song and name actions; most can shout out their name with an action confidently now. The children are now confident in telling us the Forest School rules. Today our focus was owls. We learned about what they like to eat through a game. We set a challenge to find as many pieces of ‘food’ (wool) for our homemade owl nest. This teaches the children observation skills, especially as some of the ‘food’ was well camouflaged. We then acted out the story of The Owl Babies which they all loved.
During independent choice time, children had a choice of activities designed to strengthen their fine motor control. There was an opportunity to make owls from clay, using sticks to roll and make patterns with and Alder flowers for eyes. Some children chose to make bird feeders for the school garden. They had to thread apple, cheese, and raisins onto a wire and then hang it in the trees. They could also act out the story independently and/or build their own nests, which supports their developing storytelling skills. Some of the children enjoyed being in the woods and playing hide and seek. At the end of the session, we reflected on what we had found exciting today and sung our Grey Squirrel song to finish.
Our first challenge for Year 4 today was to think of a word that they thought summed up their experiences in Forest School and then represent this using natural objects. They came up with some lovely words including: ‘creative’, ‘nature’, ‘exhilarating’ and ‘fun’. Next, they learned about the fire triangle: heat, oxygen, and fuel and how to use a fire steel. We learned the necessary rules to keep us safe when managing fire lighting, for instance using the Respect Position, finding a suitable space, and moving in ways that ensure that we won’t get burned. Unfortunately, the wind blew up, so we did not get a chance to light fuel with it, but the children all got the chance to learn the safety rules and had a go at making sparks. In their independent time the children had a choice of activities: one group worked hard to make a den and learned how difficult it is to make the roof stay up; they devised some interesting ways of making it stay above their heads. Several children wanted to continue the work they had done last week to create objects with conkers wool and elder, whilst others spent time creating all sorts of things with clay and natural objects.
We ended the session by having kosher marshmallows which the children loved cooking over the fire.
As we walked from school to Forest School, we asked the children to notice the trees. There is a lovely selection in the park of English and Red Oaks, Maples, Alder and some more exotic trees. We asked them to collect different coloured leaves from the ground. This was to encourage the children to notice the differences in their shapes and colours and discover that not all the trees have started their autumn change whilst others had already lost most of their leaves. One child found some Spangle Galls which were created by a tiny wasp. We noticed that this group of children are particularly fascinated by nature and were really excited by these tiny galls and by some fungi that they found in the woods. When we arrived in Forest School, we did our usual welcome song and name actions. The children have got very slick at counting round the circle. We then did a mindfulness exercise to help them focus on the present. In this exercise they had to imagine being in a beautiful field of wildflowers. At the end they had to breathe whilst imagining the flowers opening and closing. This is only the second time that we have done this type of activity. We were pleased with how many were able to engage fully as we know that many children find stillness difficult to manage. It created a lovely peaceful beginning to our work. The children then had a choice of activities designed to improve their fine motor control. Some made bird feeders to hang up in the woods, others made creations with clay and natural objects, some made leaf and conker mobiles which they made by sewing the leaves together on a string. The children also had the opportunity to make dens, always a favourite, and others practiced their knot skills whilst making “booby traps”!
We ended by reflecting on one thing that the children felt grateful for. There were some lovely ideas including: the opportunity to make things, the fresh air, their friends, the sunshine, and the earth.
Reception children had a squirrel-themed session. We played the squirrel game to start, where they had to listen carefully to and follow instructions. We spoke about what squirrels eat and that they need to collect and store food for the winter. Each child was given a conker to hide. Next, we heard the story The Squirrels That Squabbled, which teaches the value of working together and sharing. We reflected on how good we are at sharing with our friends. Afterwards the children had to go back to find their hidden conker; just like the squirrels, they had to remember where they were hidden. We learned that it was quite hard to be a squirrel as it can be tricky to re-find your nuts. We then went into choosing time. Lots of children were creative and wanted to make their own squirrels with clay and natural objects including Teasels. Others developed their hand strength and coordination as they learned how to use a palm drill safely. They made holes in conkers and used them to make bracelets and necklaces. Others enjoyed playing in the woodland and being under the trees. We closed the session by reflecting on how being in Forest School had made us feel. Several children said they were proud of what they had done. Some children thought hard about their answers and said things like they felt happy because their friend had worked with them.
We had a musical theme this week and began the session by creating a sound pattern for our name, using the egg shakers. We were impressed that everybody joined in and designed their own unique pattern. We then worked on team building. We talked about the 'collective needs' of a group and how there are some times when it is necessary to prioritise the group's needs over our individual needs; as we had to in lockdown. We set a team task to create a musical 'code' using sounds and natural objects. Each team managed successfully to put together a short performance of their code. Afterwards we reflected on what things made the exercise work well and noticed that the groups that had been able to focus on the 'team objective' found it easier and even more fun. We also noticed that sometimes this is a bit of a challenge. We then moved into free choice activities. Some children returned to den making in the woodland, where they practiced their den-making skills. Others learned how to use a palm drill to pierce conkers to create necklaces, bracelets and 'conker spider webs'. They made some beautiful creations. At the end, we reflected on what we were grateful for.
Year 1 were very well behaved this week. They listened attentively and settled well to doing the activities. We began with a technique to focus attention onto our bodies by using shaker eggs to give ourselves a 'sound shower'. We talked about what season it was and the changes we had noticed in the trees. This led into an 'Autumn Leaves' guided mindfulness exercise, where we had to close our eyes and imagine we were trees. This was the first time the children had tried this kind of exercise with us. We were very pleased with the way they responded. One said "I felt like a real tree"; several said that it made them feel "calm and nice". We then went into free choice activities. Some children built fantastic dens and were really proud of their team work. They practiced their knots and used the mallet with control. Lots of children made 'Spider Conker Webs'. They developed their hand strength and coordination whilst learning to use the palm drill safely and weaving the threads. We were impressed with what they accomplished. Some children used the conkers to make their own creations to take home because they learned that putting conkers in your house discourages spiders! Two children worked on making an amazing bug hotel with beds, play equipment and sumptuous food. At the end of the session we reflected on how we were feeling. Many children told us that they felt proud, calm and happy.
Reception children came out and were very puzzled to see that the grass in the Forest School area had been cut and left on the ground. It was lovely seeing all of the little tunnels made in the grass by the small mammals that live there. We started our session with a new game of Eagle Eyes. This involved the children hiding in the woods when Eagle Eyes were open and trying to move closer back to base camp when Eagle Eyes were closed until they reached base camp. They are really confident at moving around the site and using much more of the space now. After this fun game, we thought about what season it was and noticed some of the other Autumnal changes at Forest School. The Hornbeam leaves are turning bright yellow and look beautiful. We shared the story of Leaf Man and had to look carefully at the pictures to spot the shapes of plants and animals made by the leaves. We used this idea to do our next activity which involved drawing around a child on a piece of paper to create an outline of their body. Next, we worked in teams to decorate the shape. One group used some of the grass to make hair and shoes, we had to find eyes and a nose, stick trousers and leaves to make a top for our person to wear. We finished the session thinking about who had been helpful on our team today.
Year 4 started their session today with a quick 'feeling weather forecast'. The children used the weather to help explore how they were feeling. It is so important to be able to express our feelings to support one another. Next, we all held on to a circle of rope. We had a discussion about what good communication involves and looks like and realised that we use visual cues and auditory cues to help know when it is our turn to talk. We asked the children to challenge themselves by closing their eyes, taking away the visual element of communication. They then had to move together to form a triangle shape with the rope. This was incredibly difficult to ensure that we took it in turns to speak and listen to hear when it was our turn, instead of relying on visual cues such as putting our hands up or eye contact. After one go, we thought about how we could get better as a team and be more successful at achieving the outcome. It was agreed that a real focus has to be on listening and turn taking. The children were able to take on board some of these ideas and put them into practice to get close to creating the shape on the second try. The children were then keen to return to their den building they started last week. We briefly recapped the breakdown of steps and skills that are needed when completing a team challenge and the children got to work. They all managed to get the tarps in the trees and everyone had a role in their teams. Our next steps will be to make the dens allow water to run off them, rather than pooling in certain areas. Something we as Forest School leaders quite often have to deal with!
Year 1 started their session with a mindfulness breathing exercise using our imaginations to visualise a pond and the creatures in it while focussing on our breathing. This is such an important thing to do in our busy lives and everyone can benefit from taking time to focus on one thing such as our breath. Next, we played the game Creeping Commanche. We practiced the fox walking technique where we lifted our foot up slowly before shifting our weight and carefully placing it down. The children were then able to use this technique to walk slowly and not get detected moving. The children then moved into the Forest area and we recapped on how to use the rope and the timber hitch knot to create a ridgeline to hang a tarp over. The children then split into groups to have a go at constructing a den/shelter. There is a lot of problem-solving and teamwork skills involved in putting up a den. The children had to ask each other for help and share their ideas. Two groups managed to make dens so their whole team could fit in and enjoyed jumping out to 'boo' the adults when they thought they weren't looking. It was lots of fun.
We can't believe how well the Reception children are settling into the rules and routines of Forest School with it only being their third week coming. They are so confident exploring the site and moving about in the woods.This week we had our tarp shelter up in the trees to give us protection from the occasional drizzle. It felt really cosy and relaxing sitting under it, singing our welcome song, counting all the children and then playing our name game. We practiced our 1,2,3 Where Are You calls in amongst the trees and had to listen to Emma shouting, "1,2,3 come back to me!" The children had to locate Emma who kept on moving to different places each time and get back to her as quickly as possible. Next, we thought about the animals that might live in the woods and how they might be feeling in the rain. We sang a song about the woodland animals and then were given one of the Forest Friends to take into the woods and make a home for them. The children used sticks and leaves to make dens at the bottom of the trees to give their Forest Friend shelter. They had to carry the sticks through the woods correctly and then balance them against the trees to create their homes. It also worked on their collaborative skills.
Year 4 started their session with our welcome chant, a recap on the rules and our name game. We quickly moved on to learning the 'Humpty Dumpty' knot and were each given a small rope to practice it on a nearby tree. It took lots of resilience to not give up when it got tricky, but the children supported each other and some were able to master this tricky knot. Next, we split into teams and were given the challenge to put up a tarp den. Previously the children had been given a set way to achieve this, but this time the children had to use their initiative to work out how to put their tarp up, using the different types of knots. There was lots of discussion and problem solving required and the children took their first steps working towards this challenge. All groups managed to tie the corners of their tarps out to the surrounding trees but noticed that the middle of the tarps were not high enough. They want to come back to this task again next week and will be reflecting on the ways they might be able to develop the success of their dens over the week.
Year 1 started their session with a game of Secret Conker. The children enjoyed this hiding and chasing game and it warmed us all up. Next we thought about what part of the tree the conker was and realised it was a seed. This inspired us to go on a seed hunt. We looked all around the site and found some grass seeds, some burrs, some hornbeam seeds and some lime tree seeds. We read a story about Christopher Nibble who learnt about seeds and how to grow new plants from them. For the rest of the session, the children explored in different ways. They were keen to have the Forest Friends out and make homes for them. Other children enjoyed using the seeds and clay to make woodland creatures such as hedgehogs and squirrels. Some children planted some bulbs amongst the trees which we hope will come out in the Spring next year.
It was great to finally get our first session with the reception children. We were so impressed with how much they remembered from the Summer term in Nursery. They were confident with the rules and routines at the start of the session and were good at coming back when they heard the call of '1,2,3 where are you?' We started our session with an Autumn leaf hunt for leaves of different colours. We found yellow, brown and green leaves, which the children were able to sort into piles. We then used the leaves and some sticks gathered from the woods to make faces. After this, we gave the children some time to independently explore. Many of the children chose to create elder beads using the palm drills and threaded them onto pipe cleaners. They were very patient waiting to use the tools and sharing with each other and were good at using the palm drills safely. At the end of the session, we thought about what made us happy today.
We started our Year 4 session today by introducing the weather forecast feelings to the children. We thought about how we feel and that sometimes we don't always think carefully or respond honestly when someone asks us if we are okay. We thought about the different weathers and how they might describe how we are feeling e.g. feeling foggy in the morning and then brightening up later might indicate that we were feeling tired in the morning but we know we will feel better later. The children all took it in turns to share their weather forecast and gave very thoughtful answers and listened respectfully to one another. Next, we played an observation team game. The children got into two teams and were challenged to find as much dead wood as possible and use it to make the longest line. It got very competitive and the children worked hard together to source and safely carry the logs into place. It was amazing how much they were able to find when they looked carefully. There are so many resources available. Finally, we had a quick go at learning a timber hitch, which the children will use next week to design and put up some dens of their own.
Year 1 came out in the afternoon and after a recap on rules and our name game, we played the Secret Stone game with an Alder cone. This is a favourite of the group as they enjoy being sneaky and running as fast as they can. Next, we got our breath back sitting at Base Camp listening to the story It Could Have Been Worse. It told the story of a mouse that thought he was unlucky and felt that bad things always happened to him, but he learnt to be thankful for what he had because worse things could have happened. The children enjoyed the story and used the pictures to work out what could have happened to the mouse. For the rest of the session, the children chose to explore in different ways. There are a large group of children who thoroughly enjoy creating in the woods with the ropes and tarps. Different mazes and dens were put up and the children are really developing their communication and teamwork skills, supporting each other with their creative ideas. Other children enjoyed using the clay to create mice and other creatures and some had a go at felting and making dreamcatchers by bending willow branches and using different knotting techniques. We saw so much persistence as this really was a challenging task, but they kept on going and didn't give up. We finished by thinking about what we were grateful for, following on from our story and our experiences in the session.