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So the new term brings around a five week slot for Hazel class which unfortunately coincides (for the Year 4 children at least) with the swimming lessons they have booked in. This means that only the Year 5 children get the full five weeks but at least those Year 4s get the opportunity to learn some skills which they can then sharpen in their next two years at Laira Green.
This class happens to contain a few of the individuals who were part of the very first test of this new style of Forest School at Laira Green and several could remember elements like the ‘blood bubble’ (Jason having also importantly mentioned this in cookery lessons) and a couple of knot names. As the weeks continue this handful of Year 5 children will go on to take more of a supervisory role as they demonstrate their skills in the final few weeks.
Luckily for Hazel class they had the best weather seen this year for a KS2 class at Forest School, not a raindrop in sight! However, it was still pretty chilly. In preparation for coming weeks in which we may not be quite so blessed the children put up the large group shelter. Splitting into groups to take responsibility they showed admirable perseverance for their first week, throwing the stick-laden rope ends up to try and hook it over their chosen branches. Some groups worked well together and were quick in raising their corner of the tarp and soon joined some other children in the hunt for wood for the fire. Others needed a little more support but sure enough we managed a decent enough shelter before too long, luckily the rain didn’t test it for us!
As a group we had a discussion about fire: the lighting of it, safety, what you need to make it and put it out etc. However there was a lack of foresight on my part in that in the last session of the Year 5 children from before half term we had used up all the fantastic dry cotton wool! Though we managed to get a small fire lit with the thinner sticks some of the children had collected, it was not the impressive first fire which I would have had as their first experience. Next week it will be a main focus of theirs to work in small groups to make their own five minute fires and they will all be able to learn from my mistake.
In addition to the ‘fire fail’ the children were really excited to try out and make some rope swings which many of them had had experience of over last year’s Forest School sessions. Using the double figure of eight and clove hitch knots which they will be taught in due time, the children helped hoist the rope to make two swings on separate sites. One site was fortunate enough to have the super pusher, Mrs Sweeting! The glee which escaped every child’s lips as she launched them into the air was a delight to hear, hold on tight children!
The first session is always a good chance for the children to become familiar with the setting we use in Forest School. To explore in their own ways, make up games, use some skills they know or have learnt, discover and learn in a place they may not have visited many times. Part of the success of Forest School programmes is that a lot of the learning is child led and tailoring the activities to their interests. This exploration always leads to comments like: “Can I make a rope swing there?”, “ Look Sir, we’ve used leaves as a carpet for our den.” and the most popular one is usually, “Can I go over there?”! As the weeks continue the children will be able to use the skills they have learnt to enhance this learning of their own choosing and, in turn, do the same in years to come.
Something I really like to instill in the children is the fact that the green space we use in Efford Valley is (for the majority of the children at least) their local one. The fact that our overriding motto is ‘leave no trace’ and that they are responsible citizens in their own right means that they should help to look after it. Unfortunately there seems to an unending stream of litter which greets us most weeks and although every term we do our best to curb it it always returns over a break. Our good deed this week was to fill two bin bags (two!!) with rubbish to take back and put in the bin in school. The range of litter discovered was disgusting but the children did themselves proud, even going beyond where we were based to clean up a wider area of our valley.
I already can see we have some environmentally minded children in this cohort and I feel that this relationship they have with the valley will stand them in good stead in the coming weeks.