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Laddingford St Mary's

C of E Primary School

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Forest School Blog

Year 4 & 5 a SPRING in their steps ;)


Year 4's and 5's have had a fabulous start to their Forest school time this term. 

The seasons have changed since Easter, the mud has dried up and the blossom and blooms have arrived in abundance. We are extremely lucky to be situated in the middle of an apple orchard and within a little dell that is covered in bluebells, lesser celandine and hawthorn & wood anemones!! Its a pretty place to be...


Our learning in the wood has covered tool use   - hammers, nails, screws & screwdrivers as well as saws and knife work. Over the few weeks that the children have been in the woods, I have been amazed at the imagination that the children have especially when playing with loose parts - we have had a 'swimming pool' a house made from pallets, some children have had a go at making lap top computers out of wood :) So much fun to watch. The mud kitchen, swing and fallen tree has provided much enjoyment for all of the children.


The guided activities have revolved around the wonderful Dandelion, the children have learnt that a dandelion is not a weed, but a marvellous flower that can not only enrich the soil but can be eaten (every part). Together we have brewed dandelion tea, made dandelion shortbread & dandelion balm! Last week J  & JJ in wanted to make and axe, we made a valiant attempt at finding an axe head, splitting wood to insert the axe head and tying rope around to secure the head. It was a tricky task and one I am sure we will be revisiting this week!

On Thursday we had a very small group of children for a few hours whilst others recovered from a late night at young voices, F had a go and whittling a mushroom with excellent skill, then moved on to make a mallet :) super proud of F!


See you all this week!





Year 4 & 5 Spring Term

Year 1 & 2 

Last week in the woods.. for a while!


Today's session the children were feeling a bit glum, they knew that it would be their last session in the woods for a while so they felt a bit sad. This also meant that the children wanted to do everything!! :) Mrs Swaite told the children an incredible story about how goblins had once lived in the woods at Laddingford, but a dragon had an accident, tripped and slipped on some mud an ended up accidentally destroying the village. Mrs Swaite wondered whether the children could create a new village for the Goblins? The children were enthralled by this idea and set to work straight away coming up with some brilliant ideas to make new houses for the goblins. Some of the children L & E used their DT knowledge from the week to create a staggered brick wall to stop the 'dragon' from slipping into their newly built goblin homes.


The children wanted to have a go at whittling today, every child had a try using a knife today, so proud of them all. E & L lit the main fire so that we could cook sausages.. :) As well as sausages, I was presented with the most delicious sandwich... *see the photos!* To finish the session Mrs Swaite and some of the children had a sing song and made their own musical instruments using wood and elastic bands. We toasted marshmallows and sang songs together & talked about what a wonderful 4 weeks we've had together!


Fabulous, I can't wait for our next adventure :)

Year 5 week 3 in the woods


Today the year 5's were full to bursting with imaginary play! We had ogres rushing about the woodland, cakes and picnics being created in the mud kitchen! The children played amicably with each other using the swing and the hammock. 

Some of the children were keen to have a go at lighting the main fire today, others were keen to have a try at whittling and sawing. 


From time to time this group struggles to allow each other the space to achieve on their own terms, I am working hard to ensure that each child is given the space to do this - there is a strong competitive streak within in the group which can be difficult to work along side - I am always quick to ensure that each child does not feel pressured into allowing their 'turn' to be taken by another child simply due to impatience! 


Group activities such as lighting a Kelly Kettle can be an incredibly useful exercise, not only in boiling water for hot chocolate but for instilling patience within those children that must always have 'their turn first!' 

A group of girls decided they wanted to light the Kelly Kettle so I demonstrated how to do so and the tools they would need to succeed. The girls then all worked together negotiating and turn taking until they succeeded.... without argument! Well done girls, a delicious hot chocolate was made!


We spent some time over at the old forest school site today, the children played in the stream/ditch and enjoyed climbing the fallen tree. I gave the children a task to get two large logs from the old site to the new site, the teams were split into two. The distance covered was about 1km. J rolled and carried his own log the whole way from one site to another - refusing help from B. The girls A, D, P & P tried their best to use a trolley, brut strength and rolling to get the log back to the new site.... they achieved their target but with much annoyance at one another!!


To round off the session today, the children toasted marshmallows to make smores using the whittled sticks that some of the children whittled. Impressive knife skills shown today!


A good session year 5's lots to learn about working well together still.  

Year 5 week 2


Week 2 in the woods for the year 5's. The children arrived with a sense of knowing what they wanted to do, straight away. Many of the children went straight to the mud pit that they had dug the week before, this pit became a trap! and a bath! whilst others enjoyed climbing the fallen tree. A few of the boys seemed to be interested in collecting dead wood for the dead wood hedge, whilst participating in this activity, I showed the boys some saplings that had been planted by Bek *landowner. I spoke to the boys about needing to protect the saplings from the farmers & tractors so the boys spent time finding large sticks to put next to the saplings to identify that the saplings were growing there.  


Mid morning two girls came to me with flint that they had dug up from the ground, they were keen to start a fire using the flint. I was keen to see what knowledge they had retained from their last forest school sessions with me so allowed them to use the fire circle to lay a fire and watched while they set about trying to use the flint with a piece of found metal from the mud kitchen to try to create sparks. The determination was wonderful to watch! Once the children had had enough of trying I gathered the group and told them a story about Otzi the Iceman - we discussed his tools and I showed the children the items that Otzi was found to have in his knapsack. The children were then given fire strikers to practice getting sparks and lighting pieces of cotton wool, those that were more than able were given the opportunity to light the main fire! This proved to be very exciting - the children maintained the fire for the rest of the session.

Excellent perseverance! After fire striking many of the children went on to use hammers & nails - learning the difference between nails & screws and one or two children made their own beautiful creations. 

Fabulous session Year 5's!

Year 5

Head for the woods Week 1



This term, it's Year 5's turn to explore the new forest school site. Having had a only a few sessions in the old site it was exciting for the year 5's to both enjoy forest school again and experience it at a different location. The children explored the site today, getting used to their surroundings, they enjoyed climbing on the fallen tree, played in the mud kitchen and some (A) really embraced all the mud and rain had to offer!

During their 4 weeks of forest school the children have been asked to begin to create a 'dead wood' hedge boundary and add stakes to the small saplings that have been planted along the forest school boundary. In order to create the deadwood hedge the children dragged timber from around the site to build up a barrier. Once the deadwood had been used, I demonstrated to the children how to use a 'pull saw' so that they could cut unused branches from the fallen tree. This proved a very popular activity with many of the children successfully learning how to use a pull saw.


Well done Year 5's! Great first week.

Year 1 & 2 revisit the woods 


The year 1's and 2's had a long period of time in the woods when they were reception and year 1 - this time however they were playing at a new site so it was very exciting to explore! We started the session with learning our boundaries, where we are allowed to explore and where we must not venture. We talked through our safety boundaries too - How to keep ourselves, each other & our environment safe.

The children were eager to explore & spent a good deal of time roaming the woods, meadow and mud kitchen area as well as climbing the newly fallen tree and using the swing.

At lunchtime Mrs Swaite read the children a story 'Stanley's Stick' which prompted the children to go off and find their own 'Fantastick's' for imaginary play.

After lunch I decided that it would be fun to go to the old forest school site with the children.. they were so so excited and nostalgic to be back in the place that they knew and remembered, the children played in the ditch, on the rope swing and used the planks to build bridges. Mrs Swaite also guided the children in using secateurs to cut pieces of Elder and Hazel for an activity next week.


All in all a wonderful session with some very able and happy children :)




Year 1 & 2 - Week 2


Happy Year 1's and 2's bounced into the woods today, ready for day of play and exploration. The children used the swing, mud kitchen and climbed the fallen tree. Mrs Swaite lead the session today with an option to use fire strikers. All of the children were excited to try this activity again, having had fun doing so last year. The children were brilliant! Excellent perseverance and understanding and superb memory retention from last year. All of the children managed to get a spark from the fire strikers with many of the children then being able to light their piece of cotton wool many times. Two children were most able at this activity, these two were asked to light the main fire :) Next week, it will be the turn of two more children.


After lunch Mrs Swaite talked to the children about options for the afternoon activity, they could either continue with their self directed play or they could take part in making their own bug hotel. This activity proved popular, some fantastic bugs were spotted and many hotels were created - we look forward to seeing who has moved in next week! Some of the girls P in particular seemed to enjoy digging for worms and caring for them.. so wonderful to watch.


What a lovely session Year 1's & 2's  see you next week.

Week 3 in the Woods Year 1 & 2


Year 1's & 2's bounced into forest school today, what a lovely sunny day! Full of the joys of spring the children set off with their own adventures in mind, the children spent the morning digging in the mud pit and tree climbing whilst others used the swing and hammocks. Mrs Swaite asked the children to gather fire wood for the fire, the children gathered fire wood using the 'mummy, daddy, baby bear' sizing that they had learnt last year. Once the fire wood had been collected Mrs Swaite asked 3 children to help her light the main fire. After snack time Mrs Swaite had an activity planned the children were very excited to learn that they would be making Charcoal Pencils. Whilst others played 3 children at a time, were shown how to identify a piece of Elder, use seceteurs to cut the desired length of stick, use a tent peg to push out the pithy core & sharpen the end to look like a pencil. The hole in the end was then filled with a piece of charcoal. The children could then have a go at drawing with their pencils! Super! 


After lunch we had a trip over to the old site, which proved to be a great adventure playing in the ditch and using the rope to hoist themselves up the bank, balancing on planks and trying out another spot of tree ID. We gathered Hazel to peel and use to make charcoal on the fire. 


During the afternoon I explained to the children how to make their own charcoal.... why not ask them how to do it? See if they can remember? :)


We finished the session with hot chocolate and a smore YUM!


The children were exhausted by the end of the day, the sunshine and fresh air had wiped them out! Another fantastic session. See you on Thursday xx

Year 6 end of sessions.



This mornings' sessions started like all the others but with a twist! I split the teams into two - Fire & Cooking. Having been somewhat reticent to take part in some of the more focussed activities I decided to make M team leader for lighting the fire today. He quickly rose to the challenge, which pleased Mrs Norman and I enormously. Today was all about cooking sausages... whatever the children got involved in, the questions soon came back to.. 'when are we cooking sausages!' the children sorted themselves out into teams in order to prepare & light the fire. I was really impressed with the team work and coordination. Once the fire was lit *all the children had a practice with firestrikers* the fire was light and had to be maintained during the whole session.


Also during the session, having been very unhappy with whittling the week before M decided that he wanted to have a go again, which also sparked lots of other children wanting to have a try (again). O and I were busy using the drill making each other some works of art with wood :)


For some of the children this was their first experience of cooking, let alone cooking outdoors. Sausages ALWAYS taste better cooked on the fire. 


Over the moon with today's session, some excellent teamwork, growth and peer to peer knowledge sharing. Next week is the big cookout!!

Week 3 


Another mild sunny day in the woods with the year 6's. Some of the children had a purpose in mind again this week, they knew that they wanted to finish the fire pit! At this point in the term all of the children are well versed in their boundaries and how to set up forest school.  I arrived at Forest School today with a large box of bird houses that I had had donated to me, this sparked quite a bit of excitement from the children as they set about using hammers & nails to take the existing bird houses apart to create their own new ones. O & I worked together to make a bird house together, whilst M had a go at making his own. P & K worked together to make their own teepee style den. 


C, J & L had fun exploring in the 'trench' finding all sorts of treasures - a bike, some old farm machinery and some interesting blue playdoh/clay was unearthed. C put it all together in his den and made a broom to clear the ground where he was 'sleeping' awesome imaginations!!


Elsewhere L, C & J were hard at work finishing the firepit by adding layers of wet mud on top of cut green willow. Each stage of this firepit has been undertaken by the children with verbal guidance from me. I have been so impressed with the hardwork taken on by so many of the group. Today I wanted to ensure that the fire pit became a lasting year 6 legacy so I asked each member of the group to whittle their own 'stob'. A stob is a piece of wood use to stop a log from rolling. The children finished making the square log surround, they then had to ensure that the logs were secured to the spot.


Each child had to saw their own length of wood, then whittle the piece of wood to a point and bevel the top to stop it from splitting when hit with a hammer. A tricky task, and one which some of the children spent a long time mastering. Special mention to C who although his hands hurt and blisters formed, he persevered with the task at hand.


The firepit was completed during the session so to celebrate we toasted popcorn to have with our hot chocolate!! :)

Week 2


What a beautiful day! The sun was shining brightly today as the Year 6's walked down to the forest school site. As per last week, they were eager and full of beans ready to start their day. J & C were very keen to continue to make the firepit today  - so much digging continued, as well as a serious amount of mud kitchen play and puddle jumping! I and O worked closely with each other to make a HUGE catapult using a large Y shaped stick that they had found. I didn't have a piece of elastic big enough for them to use, but not to be deterred, they found their own method by stringing elastic bands together :) what a great result and fabulous team work.


I brought my battery powered drill to forest school today, the children loved using it  -especially N who found so many things to drill holes in! :) It was trial and error trying to remember which way the button needed to be pushed in to ensure the drill was spinning the correct way!


During the afternoon, after lunch some of the children discovered that the large ditch behind the fire circle was empty *usually fairly full of swampy water!* the children explored and found that there was treasure galore! old bottles, metal and exciting finds. We also found lots of lovely willow trees that we could coppice to help make our firepit.


I was so impressed with the children today, they are a very happy wonderful group of children, I look forward to working with the children further over the next 4 weeks.  Enjoy the photos :) Laura



 Year 6's 2022

Week 1 

Back in the woods today with the year 6's... big change from the Pippins that I taught last term :) There was so much excitement at drop off this morning as we walked down to the site. The children had been to the old forest school site early last year when the midgies and mosquitoes were dreadful, so the new site was exciting to see!


Once we had discussed our boundaries about how to keep ourselves and each other safe in the woodland, the children were free to play and explore. The photos will tell the story, but safe to say, within minutes of being set free the year 6's found the big puddle! :) 


The children spread out to explore the site, finding the swing, the mud kitchen and the tool area. One of our Y6's J and his brother C were very keen to help me with the project I had up my sleeve to dig out and remove a root and begin to create a fire pit. These boys with a few others helping through the day  - were amazing at digging, sawing and problem solving to remove a very stubborn tricky root! I look forward to the next few weeks  watching the new fire pit develop!


Whilst the boys and girls removed the soil from the fire pit two of the girls decided to keep the bluebell bulbs that had been dug up and replanted them in the meadow :)heart


The children that explored the puddle had all sorts of games and ideas up their sleeves - they were 'sailing the seven seas' using planks, pallets and each other to cross the wide expanse of water! Elsewhere some of the boys were creating a feast in the mud kitchen, repurposing the reception children's chalkboards and turning them into Menu of the Day boards! So inventive. 


N had a brilliant time during the afternoon using the drills to make holes in the chalkboards  - I then showed him how to use a laplander saw, which he loved!


What a great session, can't wait until next Wednesday!





PIPPINS START Forest School!


After a tricky arrival at forest school on the first day our Pippins settled so well in their Forest School home. Both Mrs Swaite and I were super impressed with the maturity in which the children carried their own belongings, took themselves to the toilet and dealt with their packed lunches! Superb!


Week 1 and Week 2 photos can be seen here... week 1 the children settled in their new surroundings and explored the site getting to know their boundaries and their 'rules' to keep them safe. We talked about how to keep safe around the fire in particular and learnt about how to collect firewood for the fire, using the 'mummy, daddy and baby bear' method... ask your child!! Over the summer there had been a pheasant at our site, a few of the children were fascinated by the feathers that had been left behind! Another exciting find was my 'treasure box' lots of little goodies and objects to keep little hands busy!! The swing is proving very popular for all of the children, having one swing and lots of children this has prompted the children to negotiate and talk to one another to allow turn taking! All valuable life skills..


Week 2 the children were well prepared and ready to play! The children were excited to see that I had brought tools along with me this week, hammers & nails, screws and screwdrivers! Some children spent a great amount of time focussing and practising with the screwdrivers and screws.. excellent work.

We also put two hammocks up - these proved VERY popular for gentle swinging and resting in. 

The children decided that they wanted to go blackberry picking, so we did!! YUM. The children were excited to have a fire this week especially as they had helped to collect the fire wood the week before, I placed an orange rope around the fire circle to remind the children not to step inside, they did so so well!! To finish the session today we had hot chocolate and a biscuit and sang songs :) what a wonderful start to the Pippins forest school journey. 

Week 1 and 2 Forest School

Week 3 in the woods


What a lovely sunny session we had today! The children arrived on site to a bit of a surprise... the handwash station, portaloo and mudkitchen had appeared during the week! Hooray!


We started our session today by counting how many spiderswebs we could find... the spiders had been so busy, and sprinkled with overnight dew the spiderwebs were glistening in the sunlight, quite a sight to behold. We talked about our boundaries introducing our friend J to the fire circle so that he could keep himself safe at forest school.


The children had fun taking it in turns on the swing, the hammocks and used the hammers nails, screws and screwdrivers again. This activity is excellent for developing the fine pincer grip with picking up small objects and gross motor skills using the hammers to develop strong forearm muscles. 

During the afternoon, we decided to go on a blackberry hunt *again but this time we collected one for our tummy and one for the pot so that we could have a go at creating our own blackberry dyed flags with our initials on :)


Lots of messy fun, most children were very happy to get their hands dirty! the children enjoyed the independence of using the handwash station by themselves to clean their hands afterwards. Super!


Lovely session, lots of learning through play! See you on Wednesday.



Week 3

Week 4 


This week, the children were super keen on bug hunting! With the aid of magnifying glasses and bug ID books 4 or 5 of the children spent the morning, searching for bugs and reading through the books to ID what they had found. We hope to do some more bug hunting this week :) Other children spent time being creative together in the mud kitchen, whilst a few amused each other by using the swing and hammocks.


The children are learning about Fire, how to move safely around the fire circle, how to collect tinder to start a fire and how to place wood on the fire. This is all model safely by me. You will see from some of the photographs that the children are learning to separate fire wood in to piles so that they know which size stick to add to the fire for maximum burn rate. Simple steps using 'mummy, daddy and baby bear' sizes :)


At lunch time we sat in the sunshine in the meadow, the children enjoyed collecting the dried grass into piles for the composting toilet, this then lead into a game in itself with the children collecting grass together to make a huge house! Fabulous to see all of the Pippins working together harmoniously and having fun.


For snack time today the children chopped up their own apples and dipped them in sugar to make toffee apples. Although some fo the children didn't seem keen to try, all of the children did try the apples, one child 'C' loved them so much she kept coming back for more. Im very proud that all the children tried a bite :)


Wonderful session Pippins! See you on Wednesday :)

Week 4

Week 5



This week the children had been collecting conkers from the huge Horse Chestnut tree at school. Mrs Swaite brought the conkers along to the session, the children were delighted to feel, touch and play with them. Some of the boys were very keen to try playing a game of conkers, the boys used palm drills to make holes in the conkers then they learnt how to thread the string through the conker. Playing the game was much trickier than it looked!! S was very keen on bug hunting today, she played with lots of the other girls looking under logs and turning over the earth to find worms, she particularly enjoyed reading through the bug hunting book with me to explore facts about the insects that she was looking for.


The drills were a big hit today, not only for making holes in the conkers but to start drilling their own woodland medals, the children were asked to apply downward pressure on the drill handle whilst rotating the drill, a tricky task, but one that many of the children were happy to persevere with. The medal drilling can take a few sessions to complete, it is their own work, and only time and patience will make the hole appear in the wood!! The children enjoyed colouring their wooden discs to personalise them.


Mrs Swaite and I have really noticed that the children are forming lovely close bonds with one another, we particularly notice this at lunchtime when we sit in the sunshine in the meadow and the children collect hay and make hay houses together :) so lovely.


Wonderful session. See you next week :)

Week 5

Week 6


In today's session the children enjoyed the autumn sunshine and played together around the woodland site in the mud kitchen and on the swing and hammocks. We talked about seasons, I talked about the 'fire triangle' and the children gathered firewood and sorted it so that we had ordered piles of firewood to make our fire. We all sat in the sunshine to eat our lunch, once lunch had finished the children played with the long grass cuttings and made little houses. 


During the afternoon part of the session I showed the children how to take a green branch from a tree to make a toasting stick for toasting marshmallows. We had to snip the thin branch from the tree, then remove the thorns. The children learnt to use secateurs to remove the thorns/extra fine branches. 


Each child was given the opportunity to toast their own marshmallow over the fire, making sure that they were sitting in the 'respect' position at the fire (one knee up one knee down). Most if not all of the children enjoyed a 'Smore' toasted marshmallow between two chocolate biscuits :) Yum

Great session Pippins!!

Last session before half term

Week 7


What a glorious sunny morning to meet all the Pippins again after our two week break! Refreshed and raring to go we wandered to the woodland for our 7th session. The children really know their routine now, and happily and independently got themselves ready for me to talk them through their day.

All of the children noticed immediately that the swing had disappeared! Oh no! Mrs Swaite and I decided between us that it would be a good idea to remove the swing to encourage more natural play and nature play amongst the children, at first this seemed to be quite hard for the children that 'depended' upon the swing for their activity and enjoyment but soon enough those children realised that there is plenty more to see and do in the woods!


The children played lots of imaginary games during the morning and used the various loose parts and resources that are available to them. At circle time we discussed that it would be firework night on the 5th! Some of the children chose to draw fireworks on the chalk boards :) Some of the children took it upon themselves to learn how to climb trees today, Mrs Swaite and I were so proud of the children as they persevered with pushing and pulling their own weight off of the ground, for some this is easier than for others. Well done!


After our lunch in the meadow, I asked the children to find themselves a stick that they could make/turn into a magic wand. The children were given the opportunity to take part in the activity (as always) or to continue free play. Most of the children had a go at making a magic wand. Using wool, the children wound the wool around the stick to make a coloured pattern/handle.


At the end of the session the children shouted their favourite magic words out as loud as they could and they made the fire change colour, just like fireworks!! 


We finished the session with hot chocolate and a biscuit! 


Lovely session Pippins :)

Week 7



A drizzly day in the woods to start the day today... but the children didn't mind at all! It's really important to be mindful of the language used around weather with children.. if we say, 'ooh its a rainy day, that'll be fun' the children are more likely to enjoy their time, rather than 'oh no its raining again today' :)


The session today started with 'Silent Spot' we have been practising 'Silent Spot' around the fire circle on and off since we start forest school. Today we moved on a step further and I asked the children to choose a tree to sit next too. The rules of 'Silent Spot' are to sit Silent, Separate & Still, until I bang on the table to call the children in. This is a mindfulness tool and and allows children to settle and listen to their surroundings. Its amazing to find that children feel like they have been sitting for 10 minutes or even an hour, when in reality its been just 2 or 3 minutes!

The children were brilliant at this :)


Once off and playing the children all (minus M & C who were absent today) engaged in imaginary game playing, which was wonderful to watch. This game playing continued all throughout the day.


C, B and To played beautifully together pretending they had bows and arrows, elsewhere Th M & S were having a fabulous game trying to creep up upon the teachers, very stealthy indeed!


As it was firework night on Friday, I showed the children how to make their own crate paper fireworks with conkers, this proved to be a harder task than I had first thought, but once made, the children enjoyed throwing the 'fireworks' into the air and catching them. Some of the 'fireworks' got stuck, so the children had to engage in some problem solving to get the 'fireworks' down from the trees.


M, S, To and B all finished their woodland medals today - this meant that they had to use a palm drill to drill a hole through a circular disc of wood. The children started this project at the beginning of term, their perseverance 8 weeks ago was very weak... today! Wow! they pushed on and finished drilling their holes with a fabulous can do attitude.


B came to me this afternoon and asked to make a spear for his daddy. This was a fabulous opportunity to show the children how to use a knife. After a thorough demonstration and safety talk S, To, C & B had a go at using a scout knife to whittle the bark from the end of a stick. Before we whittled, the children came with me to choose their branch and identified the tree with ID cards. Today we chose a Rowan tree.


Some of the children asked if they could go into the meadow today - as long as the children can see the fire circle I am happy for them to wander in groups. The went on a BIG adventure, and further than they have been before. Mrs Swaite and I are always watching from afar, it was wonderful to see that the children felt confident and independent enough to move away from us both today :)


What a special session, so many busy things happened today but so much solo child led play too, marvellous.


See you next week :)