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Sunday, 14 September 2014

Viking Crafts at Forest School

Our Year 6 group have been learning all about the Vikings in class, so we have taken the opportunity to draw on this through Forest School.

The setting for our sessions is the wonderfully biodiverse Ravenscliffe Wood. Ravenscliffe Wood is classed as an Ancient Semi Natural Woodland and is home to a host of fascinating flora and fauna. The dominant tree species are pendunculate oak and silver birch with other species including willow, ash and historically coppiced hazel. Wood was a key resource for the Vikings providing materials for building longboats, long houses and weaponry. The ash tree held particular importance in Viking folklore. Known in old norse as Yggdrasil (an ash tree) was the tree of life. It was believed that its trunk extended to the heavens and its branches spread across the all the countries on earth. Its roots extended down to the underworld and a squirrel ran up and down the trunk carrying messages to and from the serpent in the underworld and the eagle in the canopy.

Over the past few weeks the children have had the opportunity to try out a range of Viking crafts including making bow and arrows and model long boats, writing Viking rune messages in paint made from mud and berries and creating Viking whip cords. They still have some work to do on their longboats and are hoping to sail (and maybe even ceremonially burn) them on the beck when they are completed.

Friday, 12 September 2014

More Forest School than ever before.

A new school year at Fagley Primary School and there is more Forest School on the timetable than ever before. There are now eight sessions per week running for classes 1 to 6 and Nursery and Reception running their sessions once the new Nursery children have had chance to settle in.

Our groups have been making the most of the abundance of elder and blackberries to make their own berry paint. The children have found a multitude of uses for their berry paint from cave painting to Viking and Anglo-Saxon rune messages to Roman sundials and even face paint. 

For some of children, it was their first time in our wood, whereas others were old hands and couldn't wait to show the newbies around, pointing out their favourite trees and hills to climb along the way.
Anglo Saxon Rune Messages

Beware - Haunted Wood
Roman Numerals
Roman Sundial
Just before the children decided it would be better to paint my entire face!

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.