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Sunday, 7 December 2014

Deck the Halls

Last week, we collected whilst in the woods lots of naturals materials from which to create Christmas decorations. This week the children were able to put their tool skills into practice to make a whole range of of festive trimmings from whittled ash candles to beech and holly wreaths.
Whittled ash candle with wired flame
Wood cookie snowman with drilled button holes

Making the tree balance

Wreath made from dried beech leaves
Wood cookie robin with twig beak and wire feet

Mini holly tree

Candle made from whittled ash and painted with acrylic
paint. Wick made from painted wire

Wood cookie snowman joined
using a twig dowel

Candle made from whittled ash and painted with
acrylic paint. Wick made from painted birch twig.

Garland made from cinnamon. orange slices and leaves

Snowman made from wood cookies drilled and joined
 together with wire. Mini Christmas tree made from
offcuts from the school Christmas tree
Olaf the snowman made from wood cookies
drilled and joined together with wire

Wood cookies drilled using a hand drill and
decorated using paint pens.
Hawthorn coppiced from our school hedge
cut into wood cookies using a bow saw.
Collage made from pine twigs left over from the school
Christmas tree and a mini holly tree made from holly
coppiced in Ravenscliffe Wood set in a silver birch
wood cookie.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The Popular Pastime of Puddle Jumping

This week, with the recent heavy rainfall, puddle jumping has proved most popular with all the Forest School groups. The bigger and muddier the puddle, the better!

But why is puddle jumping so popular?

Puddle jumping is such a wonderful sensory experience. Firstly, there is the look of the puddle from clear, reflective, rippling and shimmering to murky and mysterious. Next there is sound it makes from splish, splash to squelch. Then there is the feel of a puddle from cool and quivering to boot-suckingly custard thick. Finally there is the smell of the puddle from grassily freshness of falling rain to pungently metallic earthiness.

Puddle splashing fires the imagination evoking tales of snapping crocodiles, wallowing hippos, hopping toads, angry ogres and temperamental trolls.

Puddle jumping draws on a whole range of physical and emotional skills. Children must consider how they can gauge the depth of the puddle, what lies beneath the surface, how they will negotiate their way through the puddle and what the consequences might be were they to become stuck or fall over. 

Puddle jumping is a fantastically social experience, sharing predictions, solving problems, helping each other and laughing together.

So what are you waiting for?

Pull on your waterproofs and wellies and jump in.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

We Will Remember Them

This morning, the Year 4 Forest School children have been making crosses to mark Armistice Day.
At the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the Two Minute Silence is observed on Armistice Day, the day which marks the end of the First World War.

On Remembrance Sunday, it is customary for friends and families of fallen service personnel to place wooden crosses and poppy wreaths on their graves or at a cenotaph (which literally means Empty Tomb in Greek – is a tomb or monument erected to honour a person or group of persons whose remains are elsewhere) or Field of Remembrance. During the period of Remembrance, people also wear red poppies.

 The story of the poppy*

During the First World War (1914–1918) much of the fighting took place in Western Europe. Previously beautiful countryside was blasted, bombed and fought over, again and again. The landscape swiftly turned to fields of mud, bleak and barren scenes where little or nothing could grow.

Bright red Flanders poppies (Papaver rhoeas) however, were delicate but resilient flowers and grew in their thousands, flourishing even in the middle of chaos and destruction. In the spring of 1915, shortly after losing a friend in Ypres, a Canadian doctor, Lt Col John McCrae was inspired by the sight of poppies to write a now famous poem called “In Flanders Fields”.

Poppies for Remembrance

The first poppies came from France. McCrae’s poem in turn inspired an American academic, Moina Michael to make handmade red silk poppies which were then brought to England by a French lady, Anna Guerin. The (Royal) British Legion, formed in 1921, ordered 9 million of the poppies which they sold on 11 November that year. The poppies sold out almost immediately and that first ever ‘Poppy Appeal’ raised over £106,000, a huge amount of money at the time.

The following year, Major George Howson, who had received the Military Cross for his role in the First World War, set up a factory off the Old Kent Road in London where five disabled ex-Servicemen began making poppies. 3 years later the Poppy Factory moved to its current site in Richmond, Surrey and today produces millions of poppies each year.


To make their crosses, the children used loppers and secateurs to cut lengths of wood to size. Next, they used a fixed blade knife to whittle the end of one of the sticks to a point. Then they used a clove hitch and square lashing to tie the two sticks together with wool. Finally they attached a poppy to the centre of the cross.

In Flanders’ Fields

In Flanders’ fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders’ fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe;
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high,
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders’ Fields.

John McCrae

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Bonfire Celebrations

Last week, the children shared reasons why we have fire and learned about the fire triangle and fire safety.

Reasons and uses for fire they came up with included:

  • To keep warm
  • To give light
  • To heat water
  • To cook over
  • To warm drinks
  • To keep insects and predators away
  • Signalling
  • Religious festivals
  • To make charcoal
  • Branding
  • To make glass
  • To fire pottery
  • Smoking meat and fish
  • Funeral pyres
  • To dispose of waste
  • Blacksmithing/Smelting metal
  • To sing, dance and tell stories around
  • To sterilize things
  • To join things together
Next we discussed the three elements required for a fire to light and be sustained - Heat, Oxygen, Fuel.

We thought about how these three elements are produced or occur in nature. Examples of ways to generate heat included matches, rubbing sticks together, a lighter, flint and steel, the sun, magnifying glass and electricity. 

Cooking bannock bread on bamboo canes
We moved on to consider types of fuel and their benefits and drawbacks. We talked about how some fuels burn very easily but are difficult to control such as liquid fuels. We thought about what types of fuel we might use at Forest School to build a manageable fire.

Finally we talked about how we can safely light, maintain and extinguish a fire. 
Marshmallow toasted to perfection
We shared ideas about what things we should have in our fire safety kit. We agreed that it should include water for treating burns and extinguishing the fire, a first aid and burns kit, a fire blanket and fire resistant gloves. 

Success at last. The cotton wool ignites.
This week, in celebration of bonfire night the children have been putting their knowledge in to practice. After practicing how to light tinder (we used cotton wool) using a fire steel, we moved on to building a fire to cook over. The children built up the layers of fuel, kindling and tinder in our fire pit. Once the flames had died down a little to glowing embers, we were able to heat our soup and toast bannock bread on our bamboo canes. To accompany our bread we had a go at making butter by putting double cream and salt in jam jars and shaking it until the milk fat separated from the buttermilk. For pudding, we toasted marshmallows and sandwiched them between chocolate digestives to create the American campfire treat, s'mores. 

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Wobble Log

The Year 6 group chose to walk further in to the woodland today to see what they could discover. Just below the bridleway straddling the path down to the beck, we came upon an oak tree that had been brought down by the recent high winds. After close inspection the group determined that it would be safe to use the tree as a balance beam. They began rather tentatively, encouraging each other to edge along the beam. As their confidence grew, they became more adventurous and before long they were challenging each other to see how many could bounce on 'wobble log' together.

Oct 23rd (2) Wobble Log from Fagley Primary on Vimeo.

Oct 23rd (6) from Fagley Primary on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

In Search of the Woolly Mammoth

Inspired by the work they have been doing in class about the Stone Age, the children decided to hunt for the remains of woolly mammoths in the woods. After some careful digging, they were able to excavate some fossilized bones. The children meticulously reassembled the mammoth skeleton and displayed them in their tree museum. Then something magical happened. The mammoth came to life! Marwa managed to quickly fashion a harness and hop on the mammoth's back. She rode the mammoth to the seaside where her and Sabina used the fishing rods they had made to catch some stick and stone fish which they barbequed over their campfire. 
Year 3 have also been learning about stone age tools and crafts.
Growing on the site of an old quarry, our woodland is strewn with sandstone. The children were able to use some of the stone to create hammers and axes by tying the stones to sticks with string. We discussed what materials that cord may have been made from in ancient times. Suggestions included plant vines and animal parts. Our woodland also contains pockets of natural clay. We were able to use some clay to make traditional coil pots. The clay pots have been left to dry and next week, the children plan to experiment with different plants, berries and charcoal to make their own paint for decorating their pots.

Fossil Museum

Riding a Woolly Mammoth

Catching Fish

Making Coil Pots

Working Together

Hunting with a Bow and Arrow