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Wednesday, 1 July 2015

From wool and string come amazing things

With the dramatic change in the weather over the past week has come a change in pace at Forest School. The warmer weather has enabled us to move away from physically strenuous activities aimed at getting out hearts pumping and keeping us warm and towards more focused tasks that require fine motor control. 

The children have been looking a ways of using wool and string in lots of interesting ways from creating webs, nets and obstacle courses and fairy castles to braid and french knitting friendship bracelets.

How to make a nordic slinging braid

Select four lengths of wool
Loop them round a branch and knot them together
Tie a stick to the bottom end of each length of wool
Working with a partner, stand opposite each other holding one of the sticks in each hand
Throw the stick in your left hand towards your partner and they do the same towards you
Catch your partner's stick in your left hand as they catch yours
Now repeat with your right hand
Continue until the braid is at the length you require
Snip of the sticks and tie a knot the end of the braid
Cut the wool attached to a branch and trim the tassels to the required length
You can use your braid as a friendship bracelet, bookmark or maybe even hair accessory

Our finished bracelets and braids

Building a tree house


Castle for the squirrel king
Stringing a bow

Thursday, 18 June 2015


Slacklining is a brilliant way for children to work on their balance, spatial awareness and core body strength as well as being great fun to do.

The slackline consists of a webbed strap that is looped around two trees and tensioned using a ratchet. There are a few basic safety rules to bear in mind when using a slackline:

  • Check the slackline for signs of wear before using.
  • Select strong healthy trees on level ground that are capable of supporting the tension of the slackline.
  • Tree protectors should be used to cushion the bark from the slackine partcularly when using trees with thinner bark such as beech and birch trees.
  • The fall zone should be free from hazards such as rocks and tree stumps.
  • Position the slackline no higher than the crotch of the shortest person taking part (so they are not hurt if they fall off).
  • Make sure that the ratchet is positioned on the underside of the strap and that the line is not twisted before tightening.
It is worth practicing tightening and releasing the ratchet before attaching it to a tree as it can take a little mastering. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions when using a slackline.

It takes a little while to get the hang of it but there are a few top tips to make it easier.
  • Keep your knees soft to prevent transferring the the tension in your legs to the slackline.
  • Hold your hands out and above you to help find you centre of gravity.
  • Try to look forwards toward a point on the tree in front of you rather than looking down at your feet.
  • Practice finding your balance on the slackline before trying to move forwards.
  • Bare feet make it easier to grip the slackline.

20150617 101218 from Fagley Primary Forest School on Vimeo.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Hop to it

This afternoon on the walk to our base in Welly Wang Valley one of Hazel group spotted something on the grass that they decided to take a closer look at. It was a white frothy substance that often appears in the woodland at this time of year. The children discussed among themselves where the foam may have come from. "Maybe a woodland animal left it there like a squirrel?" "Perhaps it was the Gruffalo?"

On closer inspection, they noticed that inside the foam was a little yellow grub. What the children had discovered was cuckoo spit. This curious foam is produced by froghopper nymphs to protect them from predators. The froghopper nymph produces the foam by forcing air out of their bodies through a liquid excreted from their anus! The adult froghopper can jump up to 70cm high - equivalent to a human jumping over a tower block! 

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Our SIMPLE C Evaluation Programme

Forest School is an incredibly immersive way for participants to gain and build upon a whole range of skills. At Fagley Forest School, we have developed the SIMPLE C evaluation programme to help children to identify the skills they have gained during their Forest School sessions. The skills are divided into seven areas. At the end of a session, the children take time to discuss and reflect on what they have been doing and think about the skills they needed to use in order to carry out these objectives.

So for example, they may have chosen to build a rope swing. In doing this, they may have had to work with others to negotiate (S1) the use of equipment, use gross (P1) and fine motor skills (P2) to construct the swing, problem solve (I2) how to make the swing work efficiently and take turns in using the swing (S2). Using SIMPLE C, the children can identify how these skills fit in to their overall development.

I can negotiate with others.
I can wait and take turns.
I like making new friends.
I join in with discussions.
I get on well with other people in the group.
I am a good leader.
I can use skills and information I have learned before in new situations.
I am good at solving problems.
I understand how things work.
I use my imagination in play and learning.
I am innovative ( I can take an idea and build on it)
I understand how I learn best.
Motivation and concentration
I ask questions.
I can concentrate on a task for a long time.
I know when I am feeling frustrated/bored.
I can set myself a goal and work towards it.
I know what to do when I am feeling bored or frustrated.
I find things to do at Forest School that excite and interest me.
I have good gross motor skills.
I have good fine motor skills.
I have a good sense of direction.
I can use my sense of smell, touch, taste, hearing and sight to explore the world around me.
I have good stamina.
I have good spatial awareness.
Language and communication
I take turns to speak.
I listen to instructions and when other people are sharing ideas, stories or experiences.
I have learned new vocabulary (new words).
I can describe things I have done.
I look at the person or people I am talking to.
I enjoy listening to stories and talking about them.
I can say how I am feeling.
I know how to manage my feelings.
I think about the consequences of my actions.

( what will happen if I chose to do something)
I can show empathy (understand how someone else is feeling and see things from their point of view).
I can reflect on emotional events.
I have respect for myself, other people and plants and animals.
Self-esteem and confidence
I am keen to learn and join in with the group.
I am happy to take risks.
I speak up for myself.
I am aware of my needs.
I can deal with failure.
I am happy to make decisions.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Red Clover Lemonade

Whilst autumn is a great time for making beverages from berries, at this time of year it's all about the flowers. Our groups are becoming really tuned in to the potential of wild flowers as a food source. Over the past few weeks we have been able to enjoy the savoury delights of garlic mustard and ransoms, but this week we were in search of something a little sweeter.

On our walk to the woods, we pass sweeping verges dotted with a wide array of flora from nettles, vetch and forget-me-knots to sorrel and red clover.

The patchwork of red clover is looking particularly resplendent right now and is providing a valuable source of nectar for bees.

Red clover is prized in natural medicine for its reputed benefits including improving blood circulation and reducing clots to lowering cholesterol. It is also a source of nutrients including calcium, potassium  and vitamin C. 

The leaves and the flowers of the clover are edible and are a great addition to salads. As with all foraged ingredients, ensure you collect them from an area that is not polluted by car fumes or industry, be sure to leave some for the bees and always wash them well before using.

As the weather warms, our minds have been turning away from hot chocolate and towards cooling alternatives. With this in mind, Friday's group decided they would collect some red clover blossoms to have a go at making red clover lemonade. The recipe is very simple so why not try it yourself.

Red Clover Lemonade

You will need:

  • A few handfuls of red clover blossoms
  • The juice of 2 or 3 lemons
  • 3 teaspoons of honey
  • A cup of water
  • Sparkling water to dilute
To Make:

Rinse the blossoms then place them in a small saucepan
Cover the blossoms with water
Bring to the boil and boil for around 5 minutes
Strain the boiling liquor in to a bowl
Mix in the honey and lemon juice (taste the mixture and add more lemon or honey to suit your preference) and allow to cool. 
The concentrate can be stored like this and diluted with still or sparkling water later or you can dilute it and bottle it now in a sterilized bottle. I added sparkling water to mine.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Fagley Primary visit Countryside Learning Live.

Anesu and Jack trying their hand at pole lathe turning
Year 5 Making Kites
Yesterday, 170 pupils from classes 1 to 6 visited the Countryside Learning Live event in the beautiful grounds of Ledston Estate, South Milford. The country fair exclusively for children is being held in Yorkshire for the 10th time, with over 4000 children expected to attend over the two days.

Munib and Abbas Studying a Honeycomb
Fagley students had the opportunity to learn about products and produce from the countryside and understand how they form part of the daily lives of city, town and country people alike. They were enthralled by the fantastic displays in the main arena from birds of prey to dog and duck shows. They also took part in a host of hands on activities including felting, corn dolly making and willow weaving.
The beautiful setting
There children also gained an insight into rural careers from keeping bees to becoming a jockey or vet. Year 6 really enjoyed finding out all about how bees make honey, taking part in the honey taste and trying out the protective clothing worn by bee keepers.

The dancing sheep show was a particular highlight with many of the children including Aroona and Callum from Year 4 saying it was one of their most memorable moments.
Aneesa's Grass Head Troll

Muskaan's Willow Ring

Sanaa Modelling a Beekeeping Suit

Year 2 Dissecting Owl Pellets

Looking for Bones in Owl Pellets

Year 2 Learning How to Felt

Year 6 Tasting Honey

Year 6 Modelling Beekeeping Suits

Monday, 11 May 2015

Tadpole Rescue

May 11th (1) from Fagley Primary Forest School on Vimeo.

Over the past few weeks, the children have been watching the development of tadpoles in a small pond we pass on our way to the woods. They first noticed the frogspawn at the beginning of April  and have subsequently seen the tadpoles emerge and wriggle around the pond.
This week we have had some heavy rainfall causing the pond to overflow and some of the unlucky tadpoles to be washed down the lane into puddles.

The children decided to launch a rescue mission and using any discarded cups, packets and cartons they could find, set about scooping up the tadpoles and returning them to the pond.

Some of the children were also keen to take some of the hapless tadpoles back to school. We decided that we would have to do some research about how to care for tadpoles if we were going to take some with us.

This is what we have been able to find out:

The water:

Tadpoles, like fish, breathe through gills and therefore need clean water. Tap water contains chlorine which can be harmful to tadpoles and fish so is best no used unless the water has been left in sunlight for a day to allow the chlorine to evaporate. Rainwater or bottled water is a better option. Our tadpoles had been rescued from a murky puddle, so once safely back at school, we transferred them to a container of rainwater (collected in one of our waterbutts). The water will need to be changed regularly to keep it clean.

The tadpoles' container needs to be in a shady place and contain some rocks to provide them with cover.


In their natural habitat, tadpoles eat algae. Manhoor found out from her research that tadpoles raised in a tank can be fed on boiled minced lettuce or spinach.

The children are very excited about being able to watch them grow and develop over the coming weeks.