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Thursday, 17 July 2014

Year 1 and 2 in the Woods

The Y1 and 2 Forest School groups have had a fun few weeks exploring the woods.

I made a sticky crown decorated with seeds and leaves

We made swings together

I built a castle from rocks and sticks

Look at my fantastic castle

I tied a knot to hold the rope swing

I took lots of photos of my friends and me

I made a leaf crown with my sister

I hugged a tree

I was the seeker in hide and seek

I drew sketches of things I could see in the woods

I made a fishing rod

We made houses for our pebble people

I conducted our woodland orchestra

We looked for froghopper grubs in cuckoo spit

I hid behind a tree and stayed really still

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Hangin' Around

Over the past few weeks the children have particularly enjoyed building rope swings and balance ropes. Our simplest method of constructing a rope swing involves using a thick polypropylene rope (made up of three ropes plaited together and capped with rubber bungs) and a log. The rope is wrapped at least twice round the limb of a suitable tree leaving both ends of the rope dangling down to the desired height of the swing seat. The log is then pushed through the plaits of the log. This method allows the rope to removed easily when we have finished playing. 

The children have also been learning how to tie a range of knots, hitches and bends an finding out about how they can be applied in the woodland. One simple but extremely useful example is the timber hitch. This can be used to secure a rope between to trees that will hold weight well and is easily undone after use.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Digitalis and Dentures!

Today the children decided to walk to the part of the woods they have named 'Summit Camp' as it lies at the top of a steep incline. They were keen to find trees to climb, hang swings from and attach guide ropes to. Whilst exploring the camp for suitable trees, Abby made a toothy discovery. A set of dentures were lurking in the undergrowth! This encouraged the children to do some further investigating of the ground flora and fauna. Laiba and Manhoor discovered that many of the woodland insects had colours which mimicked the leaf litter of the woodland floor making them blend in like magic.

Many of the oak trees in our woodland have diseased lower limbs so the children had to look carefully for suitable trees to climb and tie ropes to. They looked for tell-tale signs of unhealthy limbs such as fungi, bore holes, moss and lack of leaves. Abbas, Abdullah and Harris finally found a suitable tree  from which to tie their guide rope.

Meanwhile, Abby found the crook of a tree in which to make a den. She chose to tie a row of ferns to her rope to create a rather beautiful screen.

I attempted to help the children make a rope swing and managed to get the rope tangled around the branch. Luckily Abdullah was on hand to unhitch the rope for me.
As we made our way out of the wood, we wandered past patch of majestic foxgloves. Abby remarked on the striking spotted pattern on the inside of the flower trumpets. we talked about how these markings serve to advertise the flower's pollen almost like a botanical landing strip to pollinating insects such as bees and hover flies. We also discussed why some plants are highly poisonous, but also that as with the foxglove, can be used in medicine (a species of foxglove - digitalis lantana is used in heart medicines).

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Hawk out for a Walk

The dappled shade of the woodland gave welcome relief from the blazing sunshine this afternoon.

We headed to a favourite spot and the children set about moving logs to create a place to sit and enjoy a cooling drink. Just then, we spotted someone on the path below us. It was large bird of prey that her owner brought to exercise in the wood. The children were eager to find out more. After some keen questioning we discovered that it was a three year old female harris hawk who had a two foot wingspan and fed on chicks. We also discovered, that like owls, hawks eat their prey whole, retaining the indigestible parts (such as the fur, feathers and bones) in their crop (a pouch in their neck). The fur and bones are regurgitated later as a pellet.

Drawing on their experience of sound mapping last week, the children noticed that whilst the harris hawk was present, they could not hear the singing of other birds in the woodland.

On the way to the woods, Bailey had found a leaf that had a soft downy underside. Once we had set up camp, the children decided to take a look in the field guides we had with us to try and identify the leaf. Unfortunately, we did not find any similar leaves in our guides, but the children were able to use the guides to identify other leaves near our camp including silver birch and hazel. They were also able to identify a ladybird nymph.

Some of the children decided that their log circle needed a 'fire'. They knew that we were not able to light a real fire in the wood, but thought it would be nice to create an imaginary fire as a focal point for our circle. The children set about collecting sticks and Alex, Abbie, Dylan and Bailey worked together to create a tipi fire. They used rocks as hammers to hammer their sticks into the soil and provide a more stable structure.

Whilst having our drink and snack, the children were bubbling with ideas about what they would like to do on our next visit to the woods from insect spotting to making hammocks and swings. Bailey made a list of the resources we would need to bring with us to be able to carry out our plans.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Flamingos' Stockings

In class, the Year 5 children have be learning about Argentina. At Forest School today, the children read the story of the Flamingos' Stockings written by Uruguayan writer, Horacio Quiroga. 

'Quiroga was born in Salto, Uruguay, in 1878 and died in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1937. Though born and raised in Uruguay, he spent most of his life in Argentina. His short stories are ranked among the best in Latin America.'

The story tells the tale of a rather foolish group of flamingos who are tricked by the tatu bird into wearing snakeskin stockings to the snakes' ball. When the snakes discover that the flamingos are wearing the skins of their sisters as stockings, the attack them, biting their legs until they turn red. The story claims that is why flamingos have red legs to this day and stand in the water to soothe their bitten legs.

The children thought of other tales the story reminded them of. Chelsea said it reminded her of the story of the Princess and the Golden Ball and Michael said it brought to mind the arguing black and white elephants in Tusk,Tusk. We also discussed Rudyard Kipling's Just So stories including How the Leopard got his Spots and How the Rhinoceros got his skin.

Using the plants and animals of the woodland for inspiration, the children split into groups to create their own How the.. stories.

Laiba's Story - How the Oak Tree got its Scales

(Video clip coming, watch this space)
Laiba's story tells the tale of how a crocodile gave the oak tree some of his scaly skin in exchange for the oak tree rescuing him from a trap.

Isheanesu and Chelsea's Story - The Squirrel Princess

Isheanesu and Chelsea's story tells of a princess who loved nothing more than to climb trees and nibble hazelnuts. She admired how agile the squirrels of the woodland and envied how they could spend their days scurrying up and down the tree trunks collecting delicious hazelnuts as they climbed. One day whilst in the wood, perched in her favourite tree, she happened upon a fairy godmother who granted her three wishes... (video clip coming, watch this space)

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Sound Mapping and Stick Orchestras

June 7th and 8th saw the third Bradford Forest Fest, this time based in the stunning grounds of Riddlesden St. Mary's Primary School in Keighley.

The keynote speech was given by the ever inspiring 'Didgeridoo Man' Chris Holland. The theme of the talk was 'A Sense of Place'. This prompted much thoughtful discussion about what gives us that sense of place from environment and architecture to relationships and interactions.  Chris also ran one of the four workshops held over the weekend. His workshop encouraged us to think about how nature can inspire music. He invited us to look for a stick that interested us, consider its properties, what it reminded us of and what sound it may make. Once our sounds had been decided upon and and shared with the circle we then began to build our musical score. The 'conductor' stood at the centre and pointed to members of the circle to prompt them to make their sound.  The musical circle burst into life with a cacophony of wooshes, crackles, boings, oinks, dings and roars. 

Next, our sticks were transformed into nature microphones. We set off, microphones in hand to see what sounds of nature we could capture from blades of grass stretching to the sky, to spiders balancing on quivering webs. Sounds collected, we worked in small groups to combine our recordings into our own little rhythms of nature.

Finally we looked at how we can map our area using a wheel of natural materials collected from our surroundings. We also touched upon how we can use sounds to map our environment.

At Forest School this week, we have been looking at this concept in more detail. The children chose a place in the wood that appealed to them before settling down to record the sounds on the woodland. They marked a dot at the centre of their paper to represent where they were and then used a compass to mark on the compass points. Next they listened to the sounds around them and recorded them on the paper in images, words, sound waves or combination of the three.

After a period of quiet contemplation, we re-grouped to discuss our findings. We talked about why certain sounds such as birdsong, or industrial sounds were grouped in particular area. We shared our thoughts on how the sound of a magpie may look different to a song thrush when written as a sound wave. And we considered why a sound map may be useful. One of the children suggested that for someone with hearing loss, it would help them to build up a picture of the sounds of the woodland. Another child suggested that if you were lost in the woods, a sound map would help to guide you towards civilization.

As well as making sound maps much fun was had creating our own stick orchestras. It is fair to say that the children's sense of rhythm proved to be considerably better than mine!

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Uno, Dos, Tres, ¿Dónde están?

June 24th (6) from Michaela Worthington on Vimeo.

In celebration of the World Cup, each class has been assigned a World Cup team to champion. Year 5 have been learning about Argentina, so we thought it would be fun to play our warm-up game (1,2,3 Where are you?) in Argentine Spanish. 

The call for One, Two, Three, Where are you? is

Uno, Dos, Tres, ¿Dónde están?

and the response is:

Tres, Dos, Uno, Acá estoy

Can you spot where someone is hiding?

June 24th (7) from Michaela Worthington on Vimeo.