Have a look at our latest Forest School News here.......Keep coming back to see regular updates!
Ethos of Forest Schools
“Forest School is based more on the process of learning than it is on the content, more on the 'how' than the 'what'. This means that genuine Forest School practice steps out of the shadow and limitation of 'planned activities' and ventures collaboratively into the realms of the unplanned, unexpected and ultimately unlimited. Learners are given encouragement to direct their own learning - this often requires catalysing on the part of the FS leader either through stimulating play in the outdoors or through 'scaffolding' a child's learning, but mostly through simply observing how children are in the outdoors.”
We talked about appropriate clothing for Forest School in our Health and Safety in the Woods talk back in January.
You need to bring several layers of loose, old clothing every Friday.
Even though there are signs of Spring in the wood, it can still be cold.
You will also need an OLD COAT and some wellies or walking boots. NO TRAINERS PLEASE.
Scarves, hats, gloves are also recommended during the cold weather.
It's cold in them there woods! PLEASE wrap up in sensible, warm, OLD clothes.
YOU WILL BE GETTING MUDDY!
You can always take a layer off if you get too hot..
But if you don't wear enough layers, you will get cold..
This will affect your learning in the woods and you'll not have as much fun, so...
WRAP UP WARM, TOO MUCH IS BETTER THAN NOT ENOUGH!
Plans for Spring time in the Woods - Year 6
This coming term is one of the busiest in the Forest School year. Signs of Spring are showing throughout the woodland.
As Spring truly arrives, we will be concentrating on improving our woodland ecologically by encouraging more wildlife to come and make a home in the trees, in the bushes, in the undergrowth, in the pond and in our newly created boggy area, which should naturally begin to evolve now people are not walking through it. We can help this along by respecting the large areas of untouched woodland by keeping to the proper paths and only playing in the designated areas. We will be starting at the bottom of the woodland food chain by planting wildflower seeds in our meadow area, putting plants in our boggy area and maintaining our pond to encourage insects to come in, eat the plants and provide a food source for the animals and birds that already reside in the wood.
We will also be making bug hotels and wormeries around the main Forest School site, as well as hedgehog starter homes (see wildlife camera write up below).
Our wonderful woodland is beginning to wake up now after a long, dark and very wet winter. We need to nurture it and develop an understanding that it is not simply a playground for us, it was nature's playground long before we arrived and we should respect this at all times and help nature work with us. There is room for us all, we just need to share!
Year 6 - Session 7 - 6th March
Spring time in the Woodland!
What a difference a week makes! It felt like Spring had truly arrived today in the woods! The sun was shining and it was WARM! We tidied the Animal Park and put a bed of straw in the corner of Horace's field so he could sun bathe! When we had done all the jobs, Miss Thompson said she'd got two things to show us.....
1.... Harold, our hedgehog has now come out of hibernation, and because the weather is getting a bit warmer, Miss T woke him up to come and meet us ( she had to wake him up because he's nocturnal!) We were amazed! Most of us had never seen a real live hedgehog before and we found out that he is only really prickly when he's curled up tightly... when he uncurls his prickles lie flat so we could stroke him without it hurting us! He has warm fur under his body to keep him warm when he's curled up tight. He is very tame and we thought he was wonderful. As if that surprise wasn't enough......
2..... Miss Thompson told us that Dilly, the fluffy hen, who has been sitting on eight fertile eggs, has hatched two They hatched last Friday (while it was pouring with rain...) and Dilly is keeping them warm under her lovely soft feathers. Miss T borrowed the chicks for a few minutes so we could have a look at them. They fitted in our hands and they are very fluffy. We could not believe how small they are!
We went into the woodland and decided to move the log circle. It has been where it is for five years (since we constructed it in our very first Forest School session way back in Year 2), so we decided we would move it and make it a bit bigger. We went and fetched some more logs from the top of the woodland and we made a brand new log circle. It looks fantastic! Our team work was really good because the logs were very heavy and we had to work together to get them in place. We also brought down some rockery stones and made a rock circle around some Forget me Not plants that have self seeded in the woods. This is to make sure people don't walk on them. We've made a rock circle around a big Bluebell patch too, for the same reason.
We went to look at the pond and found even more signs of Spring! The frogs have been busy laying frogspawn right in the middle of the pond. This should take about 10 days to hatch into tadpoles. There were at least three big frogs in the pond and Miss T told us that we should not try to catch them because we could hurt them. It's much better to just watch what they do in the pond.
We had a bit of time on the equipment before we had to come back. Miss T, Laura and Lauren have moved the cargo net because it was damaging some of the trees it was attached to.
Have a look at our photos below. Our woodland is looking absolutely beautiful in the Spring sunshine!
Year 6 - Session 6 - 28th Feb
Crafts in the classroom
It was a very wet Friday afternoon so we decided to make dream catcher crafts in the classroom. We moved all the desks back because the willow whips we were going to use for our crafts were very long and we needed to make sure we all kept safe.
Before we could start using the willow we had to make the branches more supple so they would bend but not break. We pulled the whips back and forth across our knees so the fibres inside them broke, but the branch remained intact. We could then bend them into the shapes we wanted to make our dream catcher crafts.
Some of us made fish, some of us made circles and some of us made frames to weave the wool around. There were some amazing creations and no two were alike!
A couple of us made small bows and arrows and CB even learned how to tie a clove hitch knot to make sure the string on his bow remained good and tight!
Your perseverance and concentration was amazing today Year 6. There were some tricky skills to learn and you were all happy to ask for help if you got stuck. Well done, we will hopefully get another chance to do some crafts like this once the weather bucks up and we can work in the woodland.
Have a look at the photos from our crafty classroom session below.
A few more images from our wildlife camera.
Over half term we have been watching our Vixen on the wildlife camera. She visits the Animal Park every night and appears to be quite content to just sit there and have a look around. She cannot get to any food (ie chickens or guinea pigs!), so has resorted to eating bird food on our bird feeding area. We also have visits from blackbirds, sparrows, robins, blue tits and a couple of squirrels make an appearance most mornings too. You will also see that she visited at 2.45 one afternoon! We are wondering if she's pregnant. Foxes are only pregnant for around 53 days, she may even bring her cubs and if we can confine them to the bird feeding area, they may even leave our livestock alone!
We have also been watched Harold, the hedgehog who was rescued from the school yard last September and who has been hibernating in the chicken coop on the Animal Park over the winter months. He wakes up every night now, at about 7.30 pm ish, has some tasty cat food and a wander round the chicken coop, then goes back to sleep in his safe warm bed at about 5 am. We will be releasing him into the woodland within the next month or so as hedgehogs are ready to breed around April time.
Also - watch this space, we are in touch with Derby Hedgehog Rescue Centre and are hoping to become a hedgehog release site within the next month or so. They have three hedgehogs that were rescued from Alfreton and Clay Cross in the Autumn and they need to be released within the area they were rescued. Hopefully our woodland will be the perfect place for them!
Year 6 - Session 5 - 14/02/20
Creating our boggy area.
After spending some time as usual on the Animal Park cleaning, tidying, feeding and fussing all our fluffy, feathery and hairy animals, we headed down to the wood because we had a lot to do today. Firstly we worked together to take down the high tarp. High winds and rain have been forecast for the weekend so we thought it would be safer if we took it down so it didn't get ripped or damaged in the storm. We talked about why we were taking it down and we also decided it might be dangerous if some of the ropes came loose. It was quite tricky to undo some of the knots, but we worked together and got it sorted. It was like a giant parachute and some of us ran under it as it came down. It was a lot of fun. We worked together to fold it which was quite difficult as it's so big, but we did it and were amazed at how small it was once it was all folded up.
Next we moved a lot of Leylandii branches from the top of the field down to the boggy area that we have been developing down at the bottom of the woodland. We have been diverting the footpath so that this boggy area can be left alone to become a natural habitat once more. It's too muddy to walk on and there are several natural water springs rising here, so it would be good if nature could take it back so wildlife can move back in. We used the Leylandii branches to make a barricade around this area so hopefully people will use the new footpath instead of wading though the mud. It was warm work dragging these branches down the woodland paths, laying them around the boggy area, then running back up another path (so we didn't have to squeeze past each other going in opposite directions!), fetching more branches and taking them back down to the boggy area! There was a pile of coats and jumpers on the memorial bench at the top of the wood, because we were so warm after all that work! Sam had two small trees that he had been given, so we planted those in the garden area near the memorial bench. We really enjoyed planting, so we will be doing lots more of that next term.
We had some free time on the equipment and we talked about playing safely and being considerate to others. We know that we need to be careful and play responsibly and sensibly to avoid hurting ourselves or others.
We had our photos taken on the newly completed steps down to the bike ramp area too!
Super sensible behaviour again today Year 6. Well done!
Have a look at the photos below to see how hard we've been working!
Year 6 - Session 4 - 07/02/20
A busy session today!
We spent some time with the animals this week, just cuddling, feeding and watching! Even the guinea pigs came for a cuddle, and they kept snuggling into our warm fur lined coats! TS was very happy to cuddle the guinea pig he named 'Turbo' nearly two years ago in Animal Care Club! The chickens were very hungry and they ate lots of goat food out of our hands; they enjoyed lots of feathery cuddles too! Some of the food out of the piggy bucket got spilled on Olive and Norbert climbed on the bench and ate it off her back! We made sure Horace had plenty of food and a fuss too and some of us did some litter picking. We have found crisp packets from 2004! That shows how long they take to biodegrade! We used our new hand washing station when we had finished fussing the animals and then we went down to the woods.
We split into our two groups again and Sam's group took lots of Leylandii cuttings down to the boggy area to build a barricade to encourage people to use the new paths rather than wading through the boggy area. We will take some more of these cuttings down next week and hopefully have enough to make a boundary all around this area both to mark it clearly and also to encourage wildlife to come and shelter here. Who knows what creatures might move in? We intend to add rocks and plants to this area to make a feature of it as we think it is likely to remain permanently boggy because of the amount of fresh water springs that come up out of the ground and flow down to the pool at the bottom. If it is not walked on, it should make another beautiful habitat that we can investigate once it becomes established.
Miss T and Laura's group learned how to use the billhook and mallet to split logs in half lengthwise. CB did a Tool Safety Talk on the bow saw and with a bit of help from the rest of the group, demonstrated that he knew all the elements of using this tool safely. The group worked in pairs to use the bow saw to cut the logs and then Miss T showed us the Tool Safety talk for the bill hook and mallet. We were all excited to have a go at splitting logs and we were all extremely sensible with the tool while having a lot of fun! We communicated well and were considerate towards each other too and we let out a loud cheer when the logs finally split!
When we had enough split logs we went down to the steps and Miss T and Laura demonstrated how to reinforce the steps with planks held in place by the split logs. We had to hammer them in, again being considerate to people around us before we hit the logs with the mallets! We will show you a picture of the finished steps next week, or better still, why not come and visit our wonderful woodland and see for yourselves!
Sam's group came and joined us and they had been having a lot of fun in the mud. They went down to the stream to wash some of the mud off their hands before having some free time on the woodland equipment. We are very sensible on all the equipment and know that only four people at a time are allowed on the cargo net. We share and take turns and encourage less confident members of our group to have a go. We risk assess the equipment and when the log fell out of the swing we checked with an adult that it was safe to use when we had mended it.
Have a look at the photos from another super session in the woods!
Our interesting night time visitor.
We have recently purchased two Infra Red Wildlife cameras with some money that was kindly donated to our Forest School fund.
These cameras have been set up in the Animal Park over several successive nights. Have a look at our regular night time visitor on the photos below.
Luckily the chickens and guinea pigs are all safely locked away every night, so she hasn't managed to get to them!
Photo no. 6 is my cat, Pumpkin, not a Scottish wild cat!
Year 6 - Session 3 - 31/01/20
Tidying the Animal Park and learning new skills!
Our list of jobs on the Animal Park this week involved sweeping the pallets in the goat paddock, cleaning water tubs in Horace's and Olive's paddocks and the chicken coops, moving more large sticks to the barricade, collecting eggs and cleaning out the guinea pig hutch. We also filled up the hay baskets in the goat shed with lovely fresh hay. We worked well and got these jobs done, then we fussed the goats and Horace, gave all the animals some food and made sure the pigs were safe back in their paddocks before heading down to the woods.
We split into two groups again and Sam and Ben's group headed down to the meadow to finish marking out the new path that diverts walkers away from the boggy area. We needed to make sure the path in the meadow was clearly marked so people don't walk all over this area. We need to minimise human impact in the meadow as we are trying to encourage lots of wildlife here to make sure we keep a balanced eco system in our woodland. This is part of our new Woodland Management Plan. If the paths are clearly marked, people are more likely to keep to these paths rather than walk everywhere, which leaves lots of wild, undisturbed areas in the meadow, which is really important.
Miss T and Laura's group stayed at the log circle to do some bow sawing of logs ready for reinforcing our woodland steps. Miss T showed us a new tool today, the billhook. It's a bit like an axe and is used with a mallet for splitting logs lengthwise. Miss T and Laura said that there has only ever been one other class that has used the billhook because it is so important that we listen to the tool talk to keep us all safe while using this tool. We need to communicate well with our partner making sure we both know what the other is doing and we have to keep our eyes on the tool and concentrate on what we are doing. Miss T and Laura demonstrated how to use the billhook and mallet to split our logs lengthwise and we all cheered when it split! Some of us were a bit unsure about using the billhook but Miss T and Laura talked us through it while we had a go and after a bit of practise we found it was so much fun and such a good feeling when the log split! There were cries of "I did it!" and "Wow! That was amazing!" We ended up with lots of split logs, but we enjoyed this activity so much we didn't get much work done on the steps! We ran out of logs to split so some of us asked it we could bow saw some more! Miss T and Laura said that as we are so sensible with these tools we could go ahead. We worked in groups and supported each other, communicated brilliantly and shared the tools so we all had a go.
We are the only class that has ever used these tools independently in our Forest School!
Sam and Ben's group came to join us and they were very muddy! They went down to the stream near the pond to get a bit of the mud off their hands before we all had some free time on the equipment. Sam said that they had made a super path through the meadow and had then asked if they could get muddy. Sam was just as muddy as the rest of the group, they had all had a lot of fun. (please see "Benefits of Mud Play" on the planning tab above.)
It's amazing how much this group get done during each Forest School session. They are very hard workers and a super team with fantastic communication skills. They are all prepared to 'have a go', they listen to the all important tool talks and then go off and use everything sensibly, maturely and above all, safely. They have fun safely too and they share and use all the equipment properly. What a fantastic attitude to Forest School learning! We are all very impressed!
(Miss T, Laura, Sam and Ben)
Year 6 - Session 2 - 24/01/20
Diverting a woodland path and rebuilding Mrs Kaye's steps.
We went to the Animal Park and there were quite a few jobs that needed doing here today. Miss T and Laura asked us to clear an area of big sticks to create a boundary to try and stop the goats escaping on to the school playing field! Five of us took on this task and we really had to work together to pile up the sticks, some of them were very long and heavy - we were careful not to poke anyone!
Miss T had bought some new brushes for sweeping the goat and pig areas, but they needed putting together so we had to work in pairs to hammer the shaft into the brush head, but we did it, then we went and swept all the pallets in the goat paddock . We did a super job! We swept the roof of the goat shed too and put some fresh shavings on it. We also let Olive out for a run while we tidied up her paddock and put fresh water in her water bucket.
We collected the hen eggs and we found 19! We found a nest in the corner of one of the chicken coops that we didn't know was there! We learned that each hen lays one egg every 25 hours. Miss T. sells most of the eggs and this helps to pay for the chicken feed.
We went into the woodland and Laura and Miss T gave us tool talks on using loppers and bow saws safely. We remembered most of the safety rules for both these tools and as soon as we had a practice, Miss T and Laura were so impressed with our tool skills that they let us use the bow saws together. Our communication was fantastic, good eye contact with each other and superb safety, especially with the brand new bow saws! We know that they are very sharp and that we have to be super careful all the time.
We split into two groups, one group went with Sam to the boggy area. We are diverting the woodland path so that dog walkers don't have to wade through the mud, then we are going to develop the boggy area with plants and rocks to attract more wildlife into the wood. We dug down into the mud and found where the natural water springs come up from the ground, then some of us made some mud faces on the trees.
The second group started to rebuild the steps that we made in Year 4 with Mrs Kaye. They have deteriorated and are a bit slippery so we are going to make them more permanent, like the ones down to the school playing field. We talked about the positive and negative ecological impacts we are making on the woodland, and how we can address any issues. We said that by making specific footpaths that are safe and well marked would help to guide people around the woodland so that the areas away from the paths should be left to grow and develop naturally without being disturbed by lots of big feet! So even though we are doing some digging, which initially could be seen as negative, the end result will have a positive effect on the woodland in the long run.
Miss T, Laura and Sam were very impressed with all aspects of our attitude and behaviour in the woodland this week. We got lots done and we are starting to improve our woodland both for the wildlife and the plant life as well as for everyone in our community.
Have a look at the photos from today's session below.
Year 6 - Session 1 - 17/01/20
Exploring our muddy woodland!
It's been raining a lot over the past few days so our Animal Park and Woodland were very muddy today. We all remembered to bring our kit which was great and Miss T and Laura were very pleased with how many layers we wore to keep us warm. It really was cold in the woods, we were very glad of our hats, scarves, warm coats and thick socks in our wellies!
We spent some time on the Animal Park and we started to learn about all the jobs that need doing to make sure the animals are all safe, warm and well fed. Miss T and Laura showed us how to let the chickens out for a run; they can't stay out all the time because Mr and Mrs Fox might want a free dinner, so the chickens just come out for a couple of hours while there are people around, especially noisy ones like us!
We fed our goats, Norris, Norbert and Ned, and Horace and Olive had some fruit out of the piggy bucket. The goats ate apples out of our hands too! The guinea pigs didn't want to come out, they need to get used to us first and it was a bit too cold and rainy today! We filled all the water troughs up with fresh rainwater and put some hay in the goat shed and the guinea pig hutch. Olive came out for a run and some of us swept the boards in her paddock. It was really muddy in there but all that sweeping helped to keep us warm. Sam helped us to dig out a big pile of piggy poo that was really smelly, but we have to help Olive to keep her paddock clean.
We went into the woodland and some of us couldn't believe how much it had changed since the last time we visited. There's a lot more equipment now and we had some free time to explore it at the end of today's session.
We had a walk around the woodland to look at some of the projects we will be tackling over the next few weeks. We went to the meadow, we'll be planting more willow around the living dens to thicken them up; we'll be re filling the tyres with compost from the pig areas and scattering wild flower seeds when the weather gets a bit warmer; we visited a very muddy area where the main footpath goes and we talked about how we could divert the path to avoid this area for members of the public who walk their dogs through the wood; we looked at the steps that we built with Mrs Kaye when we were in Year 4 and we decided it would be good to make them stronger and put a new hand rail in to make them safer.
We had a fabulous first session in the woods, and Miss T, Laura and Sam said they were very pleased with our positive attitude and our wonderful ideas for tackling our big projects.
Have a look at the photos below from our muddy woodland exploration!