Year 6 venture into the woods...
Wow after a break of two weeks, we arrived at the woods and were faced with swooping tendrils of brambles and stinging nettles as tall as some of the children! With all the rain we've had and some lovely sunny days, the plants at our forest school site grew and grew and grew! The dry days also dried up the ditch leaving just a small amount of water in the bottom... the trouble with the drier weather and stagnant mud is that it's a breeding ground for mosquitoes and midges! Although quite prepared for the site to be buzzing with insects, we didn't anticipate the size and quantity of the bitey creatures, BUT our year 6's coped admirably and had a brilliant first session.
Within minutes of being on site, two boys made their own rope swing! We talked about nettles and how to embrace the fact that they are surrounding us at the site, I taught the children to pick and eat nettles, some children had an attempt at making nettle string, others played in the mud kitchen, built a bridge and explored the site.... just before lunch 3 friends decided to erect a shelter and use logs to sit underneath. The logs kept rolling forward whilst they sat, the boys decided they needed something to stop the logs from rolling - I assisted them by showing them how to make stobs/pegs to position beside the logs to keep them in place.
We had a great session - lots of laughter and learning going on!!
Week 2 The new site...
The mosquitoes got the better of us... many of the children were bitten badly during week 1 so the decision was made to move to another location of the woodland. Bek and I worked hard to create a new area for the children to spend the next 5 weeks of their forest school time. The benefit of having a brand new site is that the children have the opportunity to make it their own and put their stamp on their space. The new site has its challenges but less mosquitoes and today's session we lit a very smoky fire, burnt lemonbalm and rosemary to keep the mosquitoes away, burnt citronella candles and covered ourselves in jungle spray!
Bek and I put a swing at the new site, the children absolutely love it and with the addition of extra ropes and a rope ladder, this area provides much enjoyment throughout the day.
After discussing our new boundaries on at the new site the children went off to explore.. it wasn't long before 'Trevor the toad' was found! Trevor was held and looked at by all the children, some of the boys then made a house for Trevor to live in.
The children made use of the tools today, using loppers and shears to clear areas for themselves to play. They dug a mud pit and used spades to play mud cricket, whilst the mud pit was being dug another group of children unearthed lots of metal parts underground, that really sparked the imagination and creativity! Elsewhere some of the boys were on a mission to find Y shaped sticks to make catapults. We don't have enough seating in the woods currently, some of the girls decided they needed a sofa so used saws and knives to whittle willow to make a sofa! The bark from the willow was being woven to make bracelets and cordage! The large puddles of mud on site also prove to be a big hit with the children for either making mud balls or for sensory & explosive play!
We toasted marshmallows and made smores today so welcome our new site and drank hot chocolate to finish the session... what will next week have in store for us!
This week, having seen the enthusiasm the boys showed for making and shaping their catapults, I brought in some catapult elastics and let the boys who were keen, have a go at finishing their catapults. I was hugely impressed with the resilience and perseverance the boys showed with using the elastics to make the catapults work. Three of the boys made their own mud balls and dried them under the fire pit! Whilst some children made their catapults others were keen to make bows and arrows. I taught the children to make one, they then taught each other to tie a clove hitch to make their own bows. #peerledteaching.
B - really wanted to make a quiver for her arrows, she had a clear direction in which she wanted to work, she wanted to find some flat leaves to use to make into a quiver, but she couldn't find these, so, not to be deterred B whittled some sticks and tied them together with willow bark - all she needs to do now is to find something to make the 'bottom' of the quiver.
Today having shown the children how to gather nettles, the children collected nettles and we fried them in a pan - most children tried a bite or too with varying degrees of success!!
Elsewhere, some of the girls were bug hunting and using the swing :) Fabulous session!
Week 4 - Fire & Mud
This week, the children were excited to learn about fire and how to site & light a fire and keep it lit.
Knowing that the children would be in charge of the fire for cooking on week 6 I had intentionally planned for all the children to be able to use fire strikers. Fire week always brings excitement and with many of the children already adept at using fire strikers I knew that I had to bring a challenge!
I told the children a story this week about Otzi the iceman and I showed the children the kind of tools that Otzi would have used to create fire. Flint, steel and dried grasses. Once the children had got the hang of using modern day flint and steel I let them have a go with the traditional flint and steel, some of the children managed to get sparks from the flint, they spent a long time on this activity but in the end, the sharp flint got the better of them and began to hurt their hands. Fantastic effort on all the children's behalf.
As well as being fire week, this week we celebrated International Mud Day - now you may expect that the children enjoy getting covered in mud every time they attend forest school... but this is not always the case. Today I asked the children to try something different - we took our shoes and socks off and felt the cool earth under our feet - we felt how the texture was dry and gritty - then we moved over to the wet muddy puddles and put our feet into the mud - felt the wet mud squelch between our toes and felt the cool sensation. The year 6's absolutely loved this activity and decided to see how long they could stay in the mud! Two children stayed in the mud for nearly an hour just paddling around :) i was surprised to see some of the children take off their shoes and socks and have a good - really proud of their attitude!
During the afternoon some of the children used the swing and hammock, others had a go at making 'dragons eyes' or 'Gods eyes' - this activity was met with a look of disdain by many, but became an absolute hit and lots of the children had a go at making one... its quite an addictive, give it a try at home.
Today we modelled peer led teaching again where I taught one child to make the dragons eye, that child taught a friend, then that child taught a friend and so on. Fantastic!!
Click here to view Week 4 photos
Week 5 Breadmaking and Hapazome
To start the session today I gave the children a mission... to bring a large log round/seat from one area of the forest school, across the field to the new site. It was a warm day... sun beating down.... some of the children embraced the task immediately by grabbing the logs and heading off to the new site. Others said they weren't strong enough, others tried but gave up and left the logs in the field.
Once sat around the fire I talked to the children about resilience, we discussed how the body sometimes wants to give up, but the brain can push you forward. Being mentally tough is a hard, but now is the time to start building on it. Some of the children went back out to the field to pick up and carry their logs, perhaps the little chat about resilience helped!!
Swinging, hammering, den building, hammock swinging, sawing, jumping, singing, laughing and cooking!!
In today's session the children learnt how to make their own flatbreads and cook them over the fire.Using a basic recipe of flour, salt oil and water the children worked in pairs to make their breads, then took turns to cook them. Whilst the flatbread dough was resting, I taught the children how to create patterns with leaves, cloth and hammers (known as Hapazome). Here's a video of my son teaching you how to do it last summer in lockdown why not have a try at home! Click here Hapazome. This activity proved really popular! Before the children were allowed to create their patterns they had to choose and identify 3 leaves with my ID cards.
Once the flatbreads had rested, the teams took their turns to cook and eat their bread!! Delicious. At the end of the session today we discussed the cookout that we wanted to have on the last session, the children decided upon sausage stew and chocolate chip flat breads!
Click here for Week 5 photos!
Week 6 Final week
The big cookout! In order for the year 6's to make their stew and flatbreads, the children had to light a fire, and keep it burning from late morning until the afternoon. They also had to keep a kelly kettle boiling for hot water, for drinks & washing up. The group was split into two teams, those that wanted to be on fire duty and those that wanted to prep the food. In the end once the fire was lit, most of the children had a go at prepping the food.. it was just too enticing!! Some of the children had never prepared food before, so this was a great opportunity to learn how to slice & dice and prepare a meal.
The fire team did a fantastic job lighting and keeping the fire going using the skills that they learnt in week 3 onwards, there was plenty of heat to cook the stew in the dutch oven and lots of hot water for washing up! Really proud of the children's learning and attitude!
We all enjoyed a delicious sausage stew, even the children that didn't want to try it ended up having a taste and one child (A) had seconds!! With a chocolate chip flatbread to finish aswell as their packed lunches, the children were really full up!
During the rest of the session some children had a go at making wooden mallets, others used the swing and hammocks and others made more dragons eyes.
Click here for the last session photos Year 6 cookout
I have loved every single session with the year 6's their learning journey has been a privilege to watch and be part of. Miss Bowerman was with us for our first session and last session - during the last session she commented on the huge change the children had gone through of the 6 weeks not only in their learning, but in their emotional well being and general can do attitude.
Im enormously proud of them all and wish them every success in their future.
Remember year 6 your body gives up before your brain... remember carrying the log seats and remember how you felt when you kept pushing to succeed.
Welcome to the woods Year 3!
What a fabulous start to the Year 3's term at forest school. With just a small group of children, the forest seemed huge. The first week, the children learnt their forest school 'boundaries' to help keep them safe in their new environment. For the rest of the day the children spent most of their time exploring and playing all day long!! The children had a go at using a palm drill to create their own woodland medallions.
The second week, the children knew exactly what to do, they reeled off their boundaries quickly and efficiently then went straight off to play. What fun, some of the children spent most of their time playing in the mud with the kitchen and in the ditch whilst others decided they wanted to build a cabin. A team of children spent time gathering timber and moving it across the woodland floor to create their own cabin. One boy 'H' devised a plan of how to design the cabin whilst 'J' was the construction manager over seeing the beginning construction of the cabin.
Whilst the cabin was under construction i showed a couple of the children how to make charcoal using freshly cut hazel. The children used the charcoal to draw patterns and play noughts and crosses together.
At lunchtime we took the children to the field for a run around in the sunshine... you may have heard this already... whilst looking for wood for the cabin 'J' lifted a board from the grass and spotted a grass snake! 'J' ran away shouting that he had seen a snake, Miss Bowerman and I took a look to see if there was a snake under the board... yes there was! With the class gathered around we watched the snake slither away into the long grass! Amazing.
The rest of the afternoon was spent learning how to saw hazel so that the children could make their own 'spears'. Most of the children if not all had a turn at using a laplander saw a scout knife during the session. :)
Weeks 3 & 4
Grasping the Nettle!
The last two sessions have been about the humble stinging nettle... a small child's nemesis in woodlands, parks and fields. I told the children a story about being bold and brave and showed the children how to 'grasp the nettle' by holding it in a strong firm way between thumb and forefinger.
The children were super keen to have a try! I showed the children how to roll the nettle between thumb and forefinger to break down the 'needles' - the children could then chew the nettles. So many of the children had a go at this, I was really happily surprised! Once we had collected lots more nettles (using gloves) with the help of a couple of children we made Nettle Pakoras click here for the recipe: Nettle Pakora's and more...And all of the children had a try bite of a pakora, bizarrely it was the onions that put them off more than the nettles!
During week two, I showed the children how to boil hot water using a kelly kettle, to make nettle tea. The children learnt how to collect tinder and set and light the fire in the base of the kettle, the children found the kelly kettle to be really fascinating. The children had a go at using fire strikers to light their own pieces of cotton wool! Great perseverance!
Elsewhere over the last two weeks the children have been exploring deeper into the woodland and creating steps into the side of the ditch to assist with climbing out and making their own zipslides. We have spent our lunchtimes at the field running and playing hide and seek in the long grass.
At the end of last week's session some of the boys asked to visit the river, the children were so surprised to see that the river is so close to their woodland.
Pencil making, forest school 2.0 and step digging
Today the children had a chance to put knowledge they have gained in the last few weeks to the test! We talked about how to make charcoal, which types of trees we could use to hollow out to make pencils and how to identify the different types of trees to make either the pencil or the charcoal. Most of the children were keen to make a pencil today, some just wanted to continue their mud and water play. The joy of forest school is that they have the freedom to choose :)
During the session today, the children explored the woodland deeper and further than ever before - we spoke to the children about staying together and how to ensure that they remained safe. The children all know their boundaries to keep safe. The children absolutely relished the chance to wander as a group tunnelling through the stinging nettle patches and finding new paths. The children found an area that they now call Forest School 2.0! They delighted in taking Miss Bowerman and I through their new paths which eventually (after navigating a deep ditch and a rather wonky tree trunk bridge) got us back to the fire circle! Some of the boys in particular have really changed over the weeks with their reluctance to getting muddy... such a fabulous sight to see.
We went to the field at lunch time today, the children played a fabulous game of hide and seek in the long grass called 'camoflauge'.
In order to make the charcoal pencils today the children followed these steps:
1) chose their elder stem
2) cut their stems to size * the children were shouting SQUEEEEZE at the top of their voices to help their friends find the strength to chop the stems*
3) hollowed out their stems (very soft pith) with tent pegs
4) sharpened their stems to make them look like pencils
Whilst this was happening, the hazel twigs (that we had trimmed and finger peeled) were gently turning from green wood to charcoal on the fire.
Skills learnt today: Tree Identification, secateur use, hand eye coordination using tent pegs and force to hollow the pith from the stem, whittling.
Final session in the woods, for now!
Wow what a busy session today (as usual)! The children were keen to have sausages cooked over the fire today, and I had the idea for the children to learn how to make 'stick bread' - or 'damper bread' so the idea was born sausages in handmade buns! YUM.
Some of the children still fascinated by bug collecting and hunting, spent the morning preparing a funeral for one of the woodlice that was mercilessly eaten by either a centipede or a worm *couldn't be sure which of the creatures delivered the fatal bite!* the boys made a statue for the buried woodlouse and created a beautiful small world around the statue, including trees and houses, using found materials on the ground. What wonderful imagination!
Else where, spurred on by the making of elder pencils last week, some of the children wanted to have a go at finding their own Elder to make pea shooters and or necklaces/bracelets. Using seceuteurs the children cut their own beads/shooters to size. Whilst this was happening other children were selecting pieces of Hazel to use for their stick bread. In order to cook the bread on the stick, the stick had to be whittled before use to provide a clean cooking surface.
I was very happy to see that all of the children got involved with today's activities, J and J were most definitely keen to have a go a whittling their sticks to cook damper bread.
I cooked the sausages for the children whilst the children cooked their own bread, this task takes patience... the bread takes quite a while to cook! But the end result was delicious and tried by all of the children.
To finish of the session today the children picked their own nettles to make book marks using the Hapazome technique (leaf bashing) the children thoroughly enjoyed this activity and now have a lasting memory of the nettles that they embraced during their six weeks of forest school.
Thankyou so much Year 3 & 4 what a wonderful 6 weeks
Reception and Year 1 Last day in the woods.... for now!
Our last session in the woods was a fantastic one... we tried and succeeded to fit in as much fun as we could and what a jam packed session. The weather was warm and dry, the children were full of beans, we even managed to have a little easter egg hunt!
It’s been an absolute pleasure teaching the YR & 1’s 😊 I have loved every session.
Most if not all of the children are confident in making sparks with a fire striker and some children are able to light a piece of cotton wool very quickly 😊 All of the children have now had a go at using a fixed blade knife with me learning how to whittle carefully, and effectively using the 'safe position' and their 'blood bubbles'.
At the end of our session I asked the children what their favourite part of forest school had been, obviously at the age of 4 & 5 the children were very much in the 'NOW' but... here are the answers that they gave me!
All of the above gives me a buzz to watch but there is also so much unseen growth happening with their confidence, self esteem, resilience, maturity, dexterity development, negotiating with friends and teachers 😊
I look forward to seeing the children again when they next visit the woods!
Enjoy the photos....
Thursday 10th December
Forest school at school!?
Today's session was run from school, the children were even more excited than usual today, could have been the location of forest school could have been the build up to Christmas, could have been all of those things mixed together!
I set up the fire pit in the fire circle in the front garden & talked the children through the loose plan for the day. The children had a Christmas project to finish, that they had begun in the woods and I had offered the children the opportunity to make Christmas bread!
Using the knowledge that the children have to site and light a fire, we set about gathering the correct type of wood for kindling and talked about how to light our group fire. All of the children had a go at lighting their own piece of cotton wool with a fire striker to add to the group fire. Great perseverance was shown by lots of the children well done! Once the fire was lit, the children were split into two team so make their bread: the ingredients.. flour & water, followed by chocolate chips or raisins.
Once the children had made the dough, by mixing, squishing, bashing and smashing, I cooked the bread in a frying pan over the fire. The children were able to eat their own bread at lunchtime!
After we had eaten our lunch, the children were invited into the fire circle to practice their magic.... together using their loudest voices they were able to turn the flames of the fire blue and green! WOWOW!
The year two's enjoyed us on the field for free play and games after lunch, they all had such fun running, climbing, jumping, sliding and playing together! To finish the session we played a team game of 'caterpillars' with Mrs Swaite & Miss Bowerman... Team Miss B won!
I have loved every session, working with your children, I know they have enjoyed it as much as I have. Have a great Christmas & Happy New Year Laura x
Thursday 3rd December
Rain didn't stop play today!!
Wow what a session we had on Thursday, and WOWWWWW! What amazing children you all have. Having worked in my profession for 9 years with varying age children from 3-12 I can hand on heart say that I haven't met a group of more resilient children than the Laddingford Forest Kids.
I knew that it was due to be wet on Thursday, but hadn't realised that the rain was going to be as relentless. Thank you to all of the parents that have enabled their children to enjoy themselves by providing more than one set of clothing! We ensured that the children were changed as quickly as possible so that they could participate in as much of the day as possible. I love the quote below and feel it is so important to encourage our children to be outside whenever possible, whatever the weather!
As you will see from the photos below, the children enjoyed splashing in the ditch and collecting rain water... 'O' particularly enjoyed watching the drips fall with 'M' this made them chuckle so much. All of the children had a go at creating their own Christmas craft, which they will be bringing home with them on their last week! This craft involved using a sharp scout knife to whittle the face of Father Christmas! Very proud of the children's focus and concentration in this tricky task.
After lunch, some of the children - those that had changed several times - were simply too cold to continue with their session, so they were sent home to warm up.. once the cold sets in it is hard to warm up again - cold hands and feet in particular! Those children that stayed in the woods, we had a go at learning a knot! The 'fishy e on a dishy e' knot - or the clove hitch, the children learnt to tie a knot so that they could make their own Bows and Arrows! This proved to be SUCH an exciting activity and one that the children all wanted to get involved in once one had started! Trying to shoot an arrow from a bow, took time and patience, some achieved it, others didn't, but the children had a fabulous time trying their best!!
Fabulous session! Well done to you all!
Thursday 26th November
Such a busy session!
The children seemed to have a 'purpose' about them today, as a group they all knew what they wanted to do and made themselves busy as soon as our fire circle chat had finished! A group of children wanted to build their own den - instead of the usual 'teepee' format they were cleverly designing a shelter that incorporated different size sticks to fit the gap between the trees.
Whilst exploring the ditch, some of the boys decided it would be good to make a slide... 'W' found and lifted a plank into place to create the slide, it was then up to the rest of the children to slide and slide and slide... the water was chilly, muddy and stinky but the children didn't mind in the slightest!
Elsewhere in the woods, a few children were busy creating their own wood and nail pictures with beads - using hammers & screwdrivers, and a few children had a go at sawing wood for the fire. This is a great activity to warm up little arms & hands when the children get chilly and with the added bonus of sawing wood for our group fire!
Amongst many proud moments during the day, there were a couple of shining moments for the staff today, we saw 'O' climbing a tree for the first time - the joy on his face was immeasurable! And, with great determination and perseverance 'JJ' managed to climb up a very muddy slippery riverbank using a rope. 'E' asked to light the group fire - she selected all the materials needed and prepared herself for the job and had great success. Well done to all!!
What a fabulous session...
Thursday 19th November
What splashy fun we had!
Mud mud mud, from this week until about March its going to be a mud fest at the forest school site. For parents, this can be an unwelcome sight, when they see children waiting to be collected.. But rest assured when you collect your children, and see their faces and clothes covered in mud, they have had a great session. We always talk about mud and dirt in a positive way at Forest School, so that the children can keep an open mind about getting dirty and enjoying themselves. Using positive encouraging language is so important - as parents our voices matter!!
A good tip for collection time is to bring a large bag - like an Ikea bag - stand your child in the bag and strip off the wet/muddy layers, a towel may be a good option too!
Within 10 minutes of being at forest school this week, the ditch with its brown muddy water was far too tempting for lots of the children, I had warned them all that if their feet got cold and wet at the beginning of the session then they would have to change. This proved to be a great challenge for a few of the children and what a great way to foster independence... find your bag, take off your wet muddy clothes and change them! Brilliant! The ditch provides a huge amount of fun for the children as well as providing learning opportunity. The children have built a bridge using different length planks pallets & sticks. The rope swing provides an element of 'risk' and challenge.
Our sessions are always so busy, the children rarely stop moving, today there was an awesome Den being built, number practice, core strength building, running, jumping, balancing, swinging, exploring, investigating... the list goes on!
The great sausage sizzle
The children had been waiting patiently for me to cook sausages for them and today was the day, the sausages didn't disappoint!! YUM!
And finally ...
Here's a link to a fantastic 'how to dress warm' video on facebook if you have access! If not the office will be sending out a information sheet on the clothes required to ensure that your children are warm and happy at forest school.
Reception & Year 1
It has been an absolute pleasure and a delight to start Laddingford School's full day sessions with the Reception and Year 1 children!
I thought I would share with you a day in the life of a 'Forest Kid' - being a parent myself I know it can be hard to prise information out of a child at the end of a long school day (let alone a long forest school day!) This 'day in the life' is hugely flexible
9am arrival... Our journey begins, the children and I wander down to our magical forest school site where we stow our bags and belongings and gather together around the fire circle to talk about our 'boundaries'. Boundaries are a little like rules, however at Forest school we tend not to enforce rules.. Boundaries are put in place so that the children know how to keep 3 things safe and to be able to manage their own risks through knowledge of these boundaries.
Look after ourselves
Look after each other
Look after the environment
Your child will know all about these boundaries and under each section we use key words, that a child can talk about to keep safe - an example would be - Tree climbing, how to you look after yourself, your friends and the environment when you are thinking about climbing a tree.
As well as verbal boundaries we have physical boundary ribbon, that the children have helped to tie around trees. These ribbons ensure that we can see the children at all times, but the children still have plenty of space to roam.
9.30 the children are free to play - our site has an abundance of things to do - we have a mud kitchen, a den building area, hammocks and slack-line ropes, a ditch with a rope swing and bridge building area a tool area and activity area and huge field to play games.
The children tend to run off and play for an hour or so until tummies start to rumble..
11am we break for a snack and a drink and sometimes a story!
By this point in the day, the children's creativity and imagination has really begun to flow and they are in their deep learning zones, whether that is through self play, playing with others or working with me to create something that they have in mind.
Midday - lunch we gather around the fire circle, eat our lunch together, chat & tell each other stories. Sitting together in this way really helps the children with their social interaction and encourages those children that may be slightly quieter than the rest to participate.. its a really lovely time of day. After we have eaten, we wander through the woodland to the field where the children can run and play freely - sometimes we play a leader led game but more often than not the children find things to do in this space to amuse themselves.
1pm - 3pm
During this time the children may get involved in an activity if they would like to or they can play with their friends and engage with the varied physical activities onsite. The photos below show the children getting involved with making 'woolly acorns' - here I showed the children what an Oak tree is, we identified an oak leaf and an acorn - then made our own to keep. Since this session the children have been fascinated by collecting and sharing acorns with each other!
Just before home time, we sit around the fire circle and talk about our day, what we have learned, what we have enjoyed and what we are grateful for.
Our day together really encompasses so many elements that are unseen, that a photo cannot capture, the moments where children help each other, individually they make decisions and take risks for themselves, (that they may not normally have the chance to make). Your children have the opportunity learn about the woodland environment, mathematical skills, strengthen their muscles and hone their fine and gross motor skills, develop their language, build their resilience, face challenges presented to them by the environment or situation that they find themselves in...
What a fabulous experience!
I hope you enjoy seeing the photos of your child's Forest School journey so far. For more information about the benefits of Forest School for your child please click here: https://www.forestschoolassociation.org/what-is-forest-school/
If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact me through the school.
Thanks Laura - Wild Wood Kids Forest School
In September 2019 we started our forest school provision.
We are thrilled to be working alongside qualified forest school teacher Laura from Wildwood Kids. Our own Miss Bowerman has also undertaken level one forest school training, as has our volunteer, Mrs Brain.
Laddingford's forest school has been established in an area of private woodland on Darman lane, with the overwhelmingly kind permission of a local family with a long association with the school. This amazing provision would not be possible without their support and generosity and for this with thank them enormously.
From January 2020, we will have forest school running all day on a Thursday, in the morning a year group will be going along for a session, starting with year 3, and in the afternoon nurture group, plus a few invited guests will be heading down for their normal session. Children in nurture group who are also in year 3 will get to spend a whole day in the forest.
Watch this space for more photos and information about forest school as our provision develops.