Our first Forest School session and everyone was very excited to begin. Sadly the weather was a little wet, but it did not damper the spirits of Libya class, who were really pleased to take shelter in the quickly erected tarp survival shelters by Mrs Montague. Lots of laughter and giggles were heard as the children rested under them and ate their lunch.
Not long later the rain stopped and the sun came out, which was wonderful. We talked about safety and how we need to ensure we are not wandering off on our own. The children agreed that it was best to always work in groups of at least three, so that if there was an injury, one person would come back to get help and the other person would stay with the injured person. The children practised this with several games of ‘One, two three, where are you?’ We had a few hiccups on the way, where some teams returned without one of their members. So this was a good learning curve for everyone to ensure that they stick together in their teams, all the time. We ended up asking a couple of teams to hold a piece of string between them and not let go, so that they would all return as a group!
We finished our session reflecting on what we had enjoyed or learnt and decided that next week we will practise tying knots so the children can erect their own shelters using knots such as bowline knot and a truckers hitch.
We were lucky with the weather this week as the two days before we went there were torrential downpours, but for out visit today it was dry and bright. We began our session playing 1, 2, 3 Where are you? The children all followed the rules for safety straight away and ensured they kept together in their teams, real progress!
From our task last week of having to erect shelter straight away due to rain, which Mrs Montague did with a series of challenging knots, we wanted to learn how to do it too. After being shown practically how to do this step by step, the children began practising the skills on small pieces of rope, working with their partner to help. It really was challenging, as there was so much to remember.They then moved on to long pieces of rope, which they were attaching to, two trees using the series of knots they had practised. Each group was successful at completing this with lots of patience and support from each other. We all felt quite elated at our achievements and Loraine and some of the children began to limbo under their rope!
Next week we will repeat the skill of making the apex rope for their shelter, but we will work on attaching the tarpaulin and secure it onto the ground with sticks for tent pegs.
Our aim was to continue to practise tying the rope between the two trees to support a tarpaulin sheet for shelter, following the series of complicated knots. We are getting better at this, but still need to practise!
Although it can be fun meeting new dogs, we don’t know any of them in the forest and were concerned that we were putting the children in a potentially risky situation unnecessarily as our camp was close to a footpath where there are several dog walkers who travel close to us. Inevitably the dogs come over to us to say hello. We therefor moved to a new site this week. The trees in this area are truly amazing! They are Canadian Redwood trees, known as Wellingtonias. They were brought over from Canada over 100 years ago to create an avenue of trees that lead up to the Church at Havering-atte-Bower. Next to this church used to stand a Royal Palace. The avenue of trees would be to impress visiting guests arriving by coach who would make their way up to the Royal Palace. Sadly the Palace has since fallen into disrepair, but the fallen stones from the Palace were used by the local villagers to create their homes.
Rope tying to start so that we can be quick and efficient at erecting shelter if the weather is wet. Slowly but surely we are getting better at this!
We then moved on to the day’s activity, which was colour matching. The children were given several paint swatches each from B & Q, which were shades of white, grey, green and brown. They went off in small groups to locate natural artefacts which had to match the colour of the swatch, such as leaves, stones, sticks and leaves. The aim of this activity was to get the children to look closely at nature and appreciate the vast range of colours that are around them. The children really enjoyed this activity and found lots of ‘treasure’ from the forest which they were keen to share when we met back at our camp. William found a tree trunk which was covered in the most amazing fungi. He took us all back to have a look at this as it was so special. This gave us the opportunity to talk about the seriousness of ingesting fungi and that it was best not to even touch them as some are so poisonous.
We completed Forest Schools on the school site this week. This is because we wanted to complete the colour matching activity again to compare the difference with Clockhouse School site and the Forest at Avenue Woods. We believed that we would not find so many interesting, natural objects as we don’t have an established forest; however we found lots of things of interest to share.
Some of the children naturally began to look after the sapling trees on the school Forest School site, which was wonderful. They needed straightening up and the rabbit protector putting back on, or the plastic bottle on the top so people’s eyes were protected from the cane. When we spoke about it later, the children reflected on their day of helping to plant the trees and how they felt a sense of attachment to the site and wanted to take care of it. This was great as we want the children to feel that this is their school, that they are proud of it and want to take care of it.
We also had time for some practising of knots and to practise folding up the tarpaulin sheets. We made this into a fun competition where the children got points for speed and tidiness. So if you need help in folding up your sheets at home, then you can now ask the children and they should be pretty good at it too!
What a fabulous weather this week, it was absolutely glorious! We stayed on the school site, as we were using glass jars for a craft activity to make lanterns and wanted to reduce the risk of moving these too far with the children.
The children began by collecting leaves around the school grounds, which was good fun. Autumn is moving on and this was clearly noted with the wonderful colour change of the foliage. The children were amazed at what they had found! They then began securing string around the glass jar to create a handle. This was really tricky and required the children to work in pairs to help each other. Many had to use resilience and perseverance as they had to try several times to secure it. These are skills we are really working at in Libya class back in the classroom. PVA glue was pasted on the outside of the jar and the leaves secured in place. The rustic jars look stunning, but are quite dangerous due to being made of glass and of course when a candle is used inside are a fire risk. This was discussed with the children to ensure they are clear with this message and understand the lanterns should only be used with an adult.
Small groups worked with Mrs Montegue to continue practising knots, while the rest of the class played two different games around the fire circle. We had a wonderful afternoon.
Thank goodness the children are brilliant at putting up shelters, as we really needed it this week to keep our things dry. We explored the forest today and found a fallen tree that other people had created into a den. Amongst this we saw lots of amazing fungi, growing on the rotten wood. This fascinated the children. Others found snails with stripes that really camouflaged them amongst the leaves on the ground. However, the highlight for the children was to play with the huge puddles. Sometimes it is the simple things that can be so much fun!
There were so many leaves on the ground at the local forest today that were golden, dry and crispy that when the children saw them, they ran towards them squealing and laughing with amazement. The children had great fun wading through them and discussed the rustling and crunching sounds they made. Some children began dragging their feet through them, making it look as though they had monsters feet! Above us the trees still had some leaves on, which fell like snow each time the wind blew. The children loved it each time this happened and kept trying to catch them.
To help the children enjoy the awe and wonder of the forest further, they were asked to choose a place to sit quietly amongst the trees to just listen, look, think or reflect. After a five minutes they were called back to discuss this experience. The children were really enthusiastic about how amazing it was to listen to the wind, the leaves rustling and spend time looking closely at the things around them. They explained how relaxed they felt and were really keen to complete the task again.
The children loved role playing in their mud kitchens/restaurants so much last week, that they asked if they could repeat the activity. We did this on the school site with a whole box of pans, spoons, plates and cups to help with their play. While they got on with their activity, I got our very first fire going of the academic year and put on a kettle of water to make the children a drink of hot chocolate. The children were having such fun, but eventually we had to stop, come together around the fire and chat about their activity. The children were very animated about the things they had made such as wedding cakes and spaghetti and meat balls. Some were even going into role of being an Italian chef with an accent! They were keen to show each other the little restaurants, kitchens or food they had created. It was a lot of fun.
Benefits of this free type of play with mud;
Mud kitchens allow children to develop real skills using real life instruments, working in a real kitchen, working with real resources - this leads to learning real consequences and learning through exploration. Whether they are role playing being a chef, making a mud pie or just enjoying splatting mud like an erupting volcano they are utilizing natural materials.
Open ended mud play leads to creativity. After all Mud is an art medium. Through the freedom of open ended play a child's imagination develops as they role play, story tell, chat away in their own fantasy world, create things and make things and pretend real life scenarios.
Teddy bear shelters were the focus of today. This was an idea that one of the children had thought up. The children worked in small groups to create shelters and really used their imagination in creating doorbells out of fir cones and blankets for the bears out of ferns. A lot of fun was had by all, even the bears!
From our bear shelters last week, the children decided that they would like to build human shelters. They had to work in teams to lift long pieces of wood to create the frame of their shelter which began with a ‘Y’ shape piece of wood as the backbone of the structure. They added to this, shorter pieces, until finally they were able to duck inside. If the children had longer they would have continued to add leaves and other foliage to provide a more sheltered habitat. The day ended with us taking a different route home and we had to move down a large, grassy hill. One of the children had a brilliant idea of rolling down the hill. So with waterproof jackets done up and back packs off, all of the children had a wonderful time rolling down the hill!!!