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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

Monday, 13 October 2014

Year One's Forest School Journey

This term in class, Year One have been learning about journeys. Their book focus has been Mr. Gumpy's Motor Car. In the story, Mr Gumpy decides to go for a drive in his motor car and his animal friends want to go along for the ride. On first our walk to the woods, the children spotted a few of Mr Gumpy's friends including the chicken, the goat and the dog.

The children have enjoyed discovering hidden treasures on their journey through the woodland. They have used binoculars and magnifying glasses to observe how woodland inhabitants travel through the woods and created natural paint from berries to paint the things they have observed.

They have also been looking at different ways in which seeds can travel away from the parent plant from the explosive Himalayan balsam seed pods to the helicopter like sycamore seeds and the floating dandelion seeds. 

This week, the group began making journey sticks wrapped in hessian strips. As they journey through the woodland, they can attach their forest finds to map their journey.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Wattle we do today?

The children in Class 3 have been learning all about life in the Stone Age. Today in Forest School, our group have been learning about one of the methods used to build roundhouses during the Neolithic Period, namely wattle and daub.

During the Neolithic period and long after, wall of roundhouses would sometimes be created by weaving wood together (the wattle) and covering it in a thick layer of mud mixed with straw and animal hair, inside and out (the daub). Flexible woods such as hazel were often used for this purpose. We are fortunate that our woodland boasts many historically coppiced hazel trees. Coppicing is a form of woodland management which involves cutting hardwood trees (such as hazel and willow) down to their base, causing the tree to grow multiple trunks, or rods, the following years. This provided the woodland owner with a plentiful supply of wood for a variety of uses (from fencing to walking sticks) and extended the lifespan of the trees that had been coppiced.

The children began by using loppers to cut thumb thickness lengths of hazel down to make the vertical pegs for their hazel fence. These were then hammered into the ground at regular intervals using a mallet. Next, they used secateurs to cut thin lengths of hazel to weave in and out of the vertical pegs. Rhianna and Usman began by making a low, straight fence to practice the technique. Next time, they intent to attempt the more technical roundhouse design and perhaps advance to daubing the walls and thatching the roof.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Year 4's Fungi Foray

Earthball Fungi
Over the past few weeks the Year 4 group have noticed an array of fungi springing up all over our woodland. Keen to find out more about them, we ordered a copy of Roger Phillips comprehensive guide to mushrooms. Using the book as our guide, we have been able to identify several of the fungi we have observed in the woodland. They include fly agaric, earthballs, a range of different coloured russula and today we found a stinkhorn growing at the base of a rotting oak tree.

Amethyst Deceiver

Our equine friend enjoying some attention
Picking juicy blackberries on our walk to the woods
Stinkhorn Fungi

Making Woodland Music

Stone circle protecting Ruzena's acorn 

Woodland slide
Mr Jaques' Tree Art
Silvie's Woodland Musical Instrument
Our fungi hunting took us further into the woodland than we had been before. The children had great fun discovering what this new part of the woodland had to offer. Ruzena collected acorns and planted them in a clearing. She and Haroon created a stone circle around them so that they would be able to find them again and check on their progress. Silvie chose to tie string between two trees and hang sticks and stones from them to create a woodland musical instrument. She has plans to rebuild and modify it next time we go to the woods. Hannah and Kai created a den beneath a holly bush and built a mud slide on the embankment adjacent to their den. They said that next week they would like to experiment with using different materials to slide down on.

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!