Oak Class Forest School - Final Week
Oak Class once again had the luck of the weather with a very warm morning! Extra drinks were carried and the children came to school with sun cream applied ready for a busy morning in the heat. We made good time out of the class and managed to harvest some sycamore branches on the way to the valley to use for our activities (some of these returned to school for use in DT in the afternoon).
As it was the children's last session they were given a fair amount of freedom and managed to produce some great dens, some fantastic fires, make their own rope swings and some even helped out with sharpening sticks. The children also helped to make the hot chocolates, hand the biscuits out for s'mores and a couple even managed to help dislodge a partially fallen tree! Wow! What a great effort by them all this morning! Team Ant!
Forest School lends itself superbly to child centred learning and the class were able to use their prior skills picked up in previous weeks and years to help them create their own challenges this week. It was a fitting end to their three week block of sessions and the children should be proud of how they've approached the tasks and how they've behaved.
Next term is the turn of our Year 5/6 classes and they will hopefully have plenty of challenges ahead as they represent the final groups to head to the valley in 2017/2018!
Oak Class Forest School
Despite the threat of showers and few drops of rain, Oak Class were fortunate to have a visit to the woods where they didn't get too wet! It was Mrs Larsen's first session in the woods and the children put on a great example for her of what we do at Forest School and the fun that can be had.
Due to the possibility of incoming rain, the large tarpaulin was raised fairly quickly and, with a little support, the children had it tied off tightly. Unfortunately one of the strong, lower tree boughs had been snapped in the last week by some vandals but we managed to find an alternative solution and got it tied up, and higher too. The children then made their own dens, using some of the skills they had acquired last week and from raising the larger tarp.
Fires followed next and, after the main fire was lit, the children were able to make their own small blazes in their dens. The class are fairly comfortable with fire now and have been lighting them and handling it safely for a few years. They are confident with the fire steels and also at collecting appropriate wood to keep their fires burning for a few minutes. When we were done, they also managed to clear their sites effectively. A cornerstone of our, 'Leave No Trace', policy. Well done Oak Class!
We also had quite an exciting first (for a bit of a foodie!) at Forest School this week. Mrs Cawse let me know that there was some leftover fruit and veg from the Key Stage 1 snack selection and so I took it along to the woods for a little treat. The children had the opportunity to toast mini red and orange peppers and vine tomatoes over the fire on pointed sticks! Some of the children really enjoyed it as an extra little accompaniment to their hot chocolate and biscuits. It will definitely be something that happens again! Yum!
I look forward to next week for Oak class' final visit to the valley. S'mores await!
Ladybirds' Forest School
After a few short showers in the morning before they left, Ladybirds class (led by Mrs Gallagher) were eventually blessed by a warm morning in the woods. With the appropriate clothing donned and the children loaded up with ropes and tarpaulins we set off with a spring in our step. At the top of the hill the children had the opportunity to observe some signs of spring and saw some young hazel buds and leaves; comparing them in size and shape to those of the sycamore tree.
Upon arrival at the valley we spoke about being responsible citizens and how we should work together to collectively look after our local green spaces. The motto of ‘Leave no trace’ was explained to the children and during the session several items of rubbish were collected and, as ever, we left the valley looking better and cleaner than when we arrived.
Ladybirds class were given the chance to explore the valley and soon practiced the “1,2,3 Can you see me?”, call and response that helps the children to be aware if they can see an adult and an adult can see them. They responded really well to this and, with the adults spread out well, the children were able to explore a great deal and really get their hands dirty, literally!
One of the best things about Forest School is the way it lends itself to child initiated experiences. Before too long some of the children had tried to use a low tree branch to help them scale a muddy slope. A couple of children had the idea to use a rope to help them climb said slope and soon this was one of the most popular activities of the morning! Miss Bickford had to tie lots of ropes up so lots of children could have a go!
A rope swing also went up as the children enjoyed this when they visited the woods on the allotment site. In the valley the could swing higher and faster and they loved every minute of it! Thanks for helping with the pushing, Miss Easter!
Other activities the children had the opportunity to try were den building and using the slack line to balance on. Some even tried this with only one hand supported instead of two, very brave! The class also managed to find time to have a quick drink and a snack amongst their busy morning, they deserved the break and the energy boost!
Overall it was a really fun first morning in the woods for these children. They all returned to school muddy and tired but happy! I look forward to them returning in Year 1.
Caterpillars' Forest School - Week 1
Wow! What great weather for the Year 1 children’s first Forest School session! It is also likely to have been the best weather we have had so far this year. Not only that but the children were so well behaved that the morning’s session went like a dream.
We began by looking for signs of spring in the valley. We found some ash and sycamore buds and their young leaves. The children looked closely at the shapes of the buds and how the leaves are formed inside and how they unfurl once opened. We found many leaves at different stages of growth and discussed how the valley will be a lot greener next week, even though it is only in the space of seven days.
Following this, the children learnt about how we put a rope swing up in the valley. We spoke about our motto of ‘Leave no trace’ and how we need to be able to take the swing down and also to leave as minimal an impact as we can on our local green space. The swing was a popular addition and was used throughout the session as the children continued with their other activities.
The main focus for the session was den building and the children took to this with real gusto! They split themselves into groups of various sizes and worked well together to use the tarpaulins and ropes to raise their shelters. Team Ant was definitely in force in the valley this Wednesday!
The creativity on show was fantastic, as the children decorated their dens with leaves of wild garlic and lesser celandine flowers. Some added carpets and tiled floors and one was even deemed to be a hair salon! Rarely have we seen a group of children take to their task quite so eagerly and with such imagination.
As usual the fire was lit and tended and the kettle was boiled for a nice warm hot chocolate to go with our biscuit snack. It wasn’t quite so needed as it was a lovely day but it was still appreciated nonetheless. A few of the children helped the student, Miss Warren, out when making the drinks and they did a brilliant job, they can definitely help next week too if they so wish!
Hopefully the weather next week will be just as lovely and the children have as much fun as they did this time around.
Apple Forest School Week 1
A snowless week this time around and it was Apple class who began their three week block of sessions. It was cold and damp in the valley as we headed out but we began the morning with a real sense of enthusiasm!
The children made some excellent shelters! I have to say, that despite the classes that have come before them, Apple class worked well in their groups and every single child contributed to the dens that went up and went up they all did! Great job!!!
As well as their fantastic den building, the children had fun on the rope swing and used secateurs to harvest some wood for building stick men in later weeks. Whilst doing this we spoke about the rule of 'blood bubble' and to monitor each other's use closely. Vigilant peer risk assessment!
The children also managed to get very muddy! After the snow and rain of the previous week or so the ground under our feet got very churned up by all the wellies and soon there was a big squelchy mess everywhere. The children loved it! The letters that go home say that the pupils are to wear clothes that are allowed to get muddy and boy did they! Great fun!
I look forward to moving on to working with more tools next time with the children. Hopefully a bit warmer, drier and less muddy Wednesday!
Maple Forest School Week 2
There was only a short visit to the woods this week for Maple class because of the snow! We were well prepared for it (most of the children sporting hats, scarves and gloves) and the main reason for the visit was to collect sticks in honour of World Book Day and making our very own Stick Men! We knew that the snow would be upon us while we were up there and sure enough, after a brief sprinkling as we were leaving, we were caught in the first heavy flurries as we crossed the road at the top of Efford Valley. The children marvelled at the sight, pointing out what they should be able to see but couldn't and at just how fast and heavy it was falling.
When we finally found some (but not a lot of!) shelter in the trees, the children were tasked with collecting sticks that would be ideal for making their model of Stick Man. We looked for funny shaped sticks, sticks for legs, sticks for arms, sticks with pine cones on, sticks with needles, in fact if it was a stick of any kind, it generally went in one of the bags! We searched a couple of areas and collected well over the amount that we would need. We were sure to make some fine models back in class with this natural bounty.
Whilst in the seated area of the valley we had a quick warm up activity to make sure everyone was moving and to get the blood flowing. A quick game of, 'Simon says', and lots of running on the spot and reaching up high and down low helped to shake away some of that snow cold.
Having collected our sticks, we returned to school a different way only to be challenged by a renewed flurry from above. The children huddled against the wind and snow and were encouraged to move quickly so we could get back into the warmth of the school building sooner. On our journey back we even had to cross a stream (now frozen over but covered with snow) that runs over a path in the valley, it proved a bit of an obstacle but we managed to safely get across with the minimum of slips or falls.
As we neared the steps on the way back to school, the children also had time to enjoy some snowball action although the people that seemed to enjoy it the most were Mrs Mackie and Miss Hanna! More snow fun followed in the playground when we arrived back but the sensible thing to do was to return to class as soon as we could and regroup, warm up and prepare for more excitement in the snow at break time.
When the class filed back in, snowy coats having been hung up, they were greeted by a nice warm cup of hot chocolate to bring some life back to their fingers and their insides. The children watched a short retelling of the story of Stick Man to get some idea of his shape and features and then we began our construction. In addition to the plethora of sticks on offer, there was also some fabric to provide clothes, should they want, and some coloured wool if they felt like adding hair. Some of the models that were produced were fabulous! A real mixture of Stick Men, Stick Ladies, and even a Stick King!
There will be an opportunity for the children to finish their models at some point (for those that haven't) and take them home and I'm sure that there will be photos of them all to see on the website when they are finished.
I look forward to Maple's final session next week when, though the snow may have passed, we are due for a wet one!
Maple Forest School Week 1
This week saw the Year 3 children of Maple class come to the woods to begin their block of forest school sessions. The children had not been to the woods since their last visit in the September of 2016 so they'd waited longer than most for a return to Efford Valley!
Upon retrieving the equipment for the morning we made our way back to the valley for the first time this year after trialling the space at the allotment. They found the site we use in fairly good condition, and the children helped to collect the small amount of litter that we found there. Despite there not being much rubbish near where we were working, the children were saddened to see that some fly tipping is still going on as we entered the valley from top. Large amounts of burnt plastic rubbish were strewn over the bank and it was disgusting to see. The children are being taught to leave no trace and to take care of their local green spaces, and this was some evidence from the complete opposite end of the spectrum.
Litter picked, the children were encouraged to chose their own working groups to do some den building! They did this whilst also thinking about the learning behaviours that have been reinforced through the use of our BLP friends at school. The children also had to think about who they would work well with and how best to use the resources that they were presented with. Sites chosen and ropes hauled up, knots tied and with admirably little help, there were soon five small shelters around our area of the valley. Good job Maple Class!!
The children also had the opportunity to refresh their fire lighting skills and did a valiant job despite the meagre amount of cotton wool left over from the last group to do the same thing. Must restock supplies! Dry leaves were collected, as were dead pine needles and thin sticks and the children go very much into the fire building exercise in preparation for next weeks five minute fires activity. Amidst all of the fun we had also managed to have hot chocolate and biscuits to warm us up a bit on what was a bright yet cold morning.
Whilst other children decided to explore the valley or collect some natural artefacts (we found a lot of pine cones!) some went on the rope swing! As it custom in Forest School, the children devised the rules themselves (e.g. how many swings, who was pushing) and set to it fairly quickly with minimum fuss. A great example to other classes!
Before we knew it it was time to pack down and return to school, leaving the valley a lot tidier than we found it. Next week the children will progress with their use of tools and understanding of fire. I look forward to another day with weather like we had on this visit!
Foundation Forest School
The Foundation children had only their second off site visit this Wednesday as they visited woods at the Allotment. It was a bit of a wild adventure what with the sprawling undergrowth and uneven ground, but the children slowly got into the spirit of things and it was great to see some of them really come out of their shells and embrace the outdoor environment.
The children were challenged to collect some natural artefacts to take back to class to make collages in the future. They began by learning to identify some of the flora that was ever present despite the winter months. We found plenty of ivy and bindweed and also some ferns to add to our collection. The children were soon tasked with finding their own examples and continued to do so throughout the session.
While on the hunt for their leaves, the children were encouraged to explore, all the while being careful of their footing. Giving them this independence really helped them to recognise and manage their own risks in an outside environment, something they have not had the chance to do in school before. The children were encouraged to listen out for the call of, "1,2,3 can you see me!" This was to help them realise that they always needed to be in sight of an adult and if they couldn't see one to move to where they could.
Ladybirds class also had the opportunity to go on the rope swing (a first for many of them) and be pushed by Ms Taylor and Mr Blake. Some of the children were giggling the entire time! It was such a new thing for some of them that even getting on and holding on was a challenge.
In addition to the leaf hunt and the swing, the children were shown how to use a rope to help them climb up a slope through a tunnel of vines. It was lovely to hear them chant each other's names as they helped to haul their friends up. Great Team Ant work on show there Foundation!
With the help of Mr Blake, some of the children also decided to make a den using some of the longer sticks that had been collected by the Year 1 children last week. With the help of some clumps of cleared bindweed, some ferns from the woodland floor and a few bits of string and rope, the children soon had a lovely little teepee style lean to. It was a bit tight for space though and the children soon realised that not everyone who wanted to go in could fit!
Overall the children returned to school tired but with smiles on their faces. The next time they come to the woods it will be May and it is likely that we will be using Efford Valley again to make use of a bigger space.
Maple Class will be coming to the woods after half term for their three week block which commences on the 21st March.
Fireflies' Forest School
And so Forest School returns for 2018! As a school, Laira Green are keen to utilise the closer outdoor space of the allotment (and the adjoining wooded area) to facilitate some Forest School activities. That means that at the the end of this half term and into the next the children will be focused on making the best use of this space and preparing it for classes to come.
This week saw the Year 1 children of Fireflies class become the first to try out the new space. It was wild, literally! The children spent a lot of time being young landscapers as they helped to clear a lot of the bindweed that was covering the floor of the wooded area. Before too long we had well trodden paths and a reasonably sized area in which to congregate! I do think however, that it will however require some time well spent with shears to clear it further.
The children’s main focus was on den building and they were soon tasked with collecting long fallen branches, of which there were many. They were split into groups and given a location and a tarpaulin each. Though they were hindered by the ever present bindweed, the children persevered and there were some really well thought out dens. Some groups (with a little adult support) even used the bindweed to help them hold their tarp up!
As the rain closed in the children gathered together and took shelter under hastily constructed cover. Even though they were still able to have their snack in relative dryness, some children still stood out - enjoying the rain!
Following the devouring of apples and the passing of the rain, the children assisted in a short search of the outskirts of the wooded area for more long sticks and a certain shape of tree that would be good to construct a rope swing! Eventually we found one, right back where we had started! Soon the rope swing was up and the children enjoyed swinging out with a lot better view than they are used to on a Forest School swing!
The area up at the allotment still needs a lot of work but it certainly has lots of potential for a great outdoor learning environment. Over the coming weeks and into the new term, the school hope to really embed outdoor learning a little bit closer to home.
Next week is the first chance for Foundation to come up and make their mark in the outdoors. Here’s hoping for better weather by next week!
A 2017 Overview of Allotment News from Jason
This month the children have been incredibly busy on the allotment helping.
They helped sieve the soil and then make up some topsoil to put into the ground all ready for the plants to be planted, they helped prepare the ground for planting tomatoes and got stuck into digging holes and eating some really healthy Courgettes which they helped cook! They can honestly say that the food couldn’t be any fresher as the courgettes were harvested and cooked on the allotment just moments after they were picked.
The poly tunnel is all planted up and everything is starting to take off, we have already had Year 1 munching on the cucumbers this past week and everyone could taste the difference from the ones from the supermarket. The melons and tomatoes are still to come and after last years success of growing Aubergines we are now growing a much bigger batch and will be looking forward to cooking Mousakka like we did last year with year 6.
There will be some food produce for sale in the playground over the next few weeks and the children will be selling some plants for you to grow at home at the school fair on Saturday 8th July.
The Community Hub and Outdoor Classroom is just about finished! It has been a big job to get the ground done and the building up and thanks to some amazing locals of the community we are finally close to completion, the opening will be soon and we will let all the parents know as soon as the date is fixed.
We will keep you updated with the progress of the allotment as we build up to the summer break, it’s going to be an amazing year for food at Laira Green Primary School.