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Monday, 13 July 2015

Year 3's Last Woodland Session

Forest School is drawing to a close for this school year and the Year 3 class thought it would be fun for them all to head out to the woods together for the final session.

The weather wasn't quite what we would expect for this time of year, but that wasn't about deter us. Clad in our trusty waterproofs, we headed down to the woods. Subhaan, who came to Forest School in the autumn term noticed how much more shady the woodland was now the trees had all their leaves.

On reaching one of our favourite spots in the woodland, we gathered round to play a few warm up games. We began with a game we hadn't played before that would work particularly well with a larger group. The game was called Head Honcho.

How to play


  • Stand in a circle
  • Choose one person to be the detective who leaves the circle and closes their eyes and covers their ears.
  • Choose one person from the circle to be Head Honcho. When the detective returns to the centre of the circle, the Head Honcho performs an action (such as clapping his hands) and the rest of the circle has to copy. 
  • Each time the Head Honcho changes action, the rest of the circle have to copy.
  • The detective has three guesses to work out who the Head Honcho is. 
  • If the Head Honcho is correctly picked out, they become the detective.
The game could be adapted to include woodland sounds instead of actions and the Head Honcho and detective could perhaps be given a more woodland themed name.

We couldn't possibly play warm up games without at least a few rounds of 1,2,3 where are you, which worked really well with the large group as they all knew the rules from playing before (even though a few of the usual suspects strayed a little past the boundary line - you know who you are guys!)

The children were then free to choose what activities they would like to do. Hafeeza, Mayeda and Anisa chose to continue with the braiding activities from a few weeks ago.

Rhianna decided to create a rope swing, though Saad was somewhat dubious about her choice of tree. Luckily, it held out.

Tayibah and Elaina chose to climb trees and take in the view over the valley.

Neve and Ruby played meet a tree.

Kieran, Charlie and Adrian set to work collecting litter so that we could leave the woodland better than we found it (one of our key Forest School aims).

Sabina, Tatiana and Saad created a shop of woodland treasures.

Ruby used sticks to make a den in the base of a tree.

Marwah and Marwah created a rope den then joined in with some limbo dancing with Minhaz, Hinfzur, Usman, Subhaan and Ausar.

Raynah, Ausar, Charlie and Hifzur tested their balance with a spot of slacklining. Kieran took the challenge a step further and attempted it blindfolded!

Time flies when you are having fun and it was soon time to draw our session to a close with a well earned cup of tea biscuit and a piece of fruit.

It has been so rewarding over the past year watching the children become familiar with the woodland surroundings, following their interests and gradually building on a whole range of valuable skills.

Jul 12th (2) from Fagley Primary Forest School on Vimeo.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Six on Cycles

This term with the help of Ian Cullen from Sustrans, children at Fagley Primary have been learning how to cycle safely.

Today, I was asked to accompany a group of ten Year 6 children on a cycle ride passing through Fagley and Calverley and taking in the beautiful local woodlands.

We began in the morning by checking that all our bikes were in good condition. We then moved on to the playground where we practiced cycling up and down hills, over grass and safely crossing road junctions.

After lunch we slapped on plenty of sunscreen, filled our water bottles and went over the route for the cycle.

Our route began by cycling through the estate and over a meadow that extends along the perimeter of Morrisons Headquarters. The children squealed with delight as they sped through the long grass towards the beck.

The next part of our route took in a gruelling bumpy climb up Woodhall Lane. Ian talked to the children about pacing themselves. He told them to imagine that they had '30 pennies' of energy and they had to think about where to spend these along the route. Abisha, Jack and Reece decided to tackle the hill climb head on  and invest 10 pennies of energy cycling to the top of the hill without a break. Anesu, Karolina and Imtiaz decided they didn't want to go in to hard at the start of the cycle and would take the hill at a more leisurely pace.


At the top of Woodhall Lane after a water break, we negotiated crossing our first major road. Remembering their training from the morning, The children took it in turns to check the road was clear and make their way across the road and on to Priesthorpe Road. We were treated to stunning views  over  as we freewheeled down the lane taking advantage of the cooling breeze.

We made our way past stone houses, through Calverley village and towards West Wood. We were greeted by cheery hellos and smiles from the local residents and the children beamed back at them. The dappled shade of the woodland was most welcome as was the biscuit break we took at the halfway point of our route.

Next we headed down Clara Drive with its large executive homes with manicured lawns and gravel driveways. Laiba had a slight chain malfunction, but expertly righted it and was soon on her way again.

Crossing over Carr Bottom Road, we headed along Ravenscliffe Crescent towards Bill Wood (which joins Round Wood and Ravenscliffe Wood)
Legs were beginning to tire, but the familiarity of Forest School base geed us on to keep pedalling.

The final leg of our tour was an uphill climb in the blazing sun up Fagley Road and back to school. Weary and red of face, but not beaten we finally made it back to school, exhilarated by what we had achieved.

It has been a while since I have cycled and I was a bit nervous about riding on the roads, but I can honestly say, I had a wonderful afternoon. The children were fantastic, motivating each other to dig deep and keep going. I was so proud to be a part of their journey and wish them well as they begin their new journey as they leave Fagley and head off towards their high schools.





Monday, 6 July 2015

Summer wildflowers

At this time of year, there is so much to see on our walk to the woods. The children have become very aware of how the flora differs on the fringes of the woodland where the sun reaches down to the field layer, compared to the shaded areas under the dense canopy of the centre of the wood.

Waheed in particular, has taken a keen interest in collecting samples of flora on our walk and combining them into striking floral displays.

Before picking any flowers we are always careful to ensure that we have identified that they are not harmful to us (such a foxgloves or giant hogweed), are not a protected species (such as bluebells) and that they are in plentiful supply so that we do not negatively impact the biodiversity of the area.

Can you identify any of the flowers in Waheed's arrangement?


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


Limbo!

Castle for the squirrel king
Stringing a bow



Thursday, 18 June 2015

Slacklining

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.

S
Social
S1
I can negotiate with others.
S2
I can wait and take turns.
S3
I like making new friends.
S4
I join in with discussions.
S5
I get on well with other people in the group.
S6
I am a good leader.
I
Imaginative/Cognitive
I1
I can use skills and information I have learned before in new situations.
I2
I am good at solving problems.
I3
I understand how things work.
I4
I use my imagination in play and learning.
I5
I am innovative ( I can take an idea and build on it)
I6
I understand how I learn best.
M
Motivation and concentration
M1
I ask questions.
M2
I can concentrate on a task for a long time.
M3
I know when I am feeling frustrated/bored.
M4
I can set myself a goal and work towards it.
M5
I know what to do when I am feeling bored or frustrated.
M6
I find things to do at Forest School that excite and interest me.
P
Physical
P1
I have good gross motor skills.
P2
I have good fine motor skills.
P3
I have a good sense of direction.
P4
I can use my sense of smell, touch, taste, hearing and sight to explore the world around me.
P5
I have good stamina.
P6
I have good spatial awareness.
L
Language and communication
L1
I take turns to speak.
L2
I listen to instructions and when other people are sharing ideas, stories or experiences.
L3
I have learned new vocabulary (new words).
L4
I can describe things I have done.
L5
I look at the person or people I am talking to.
L6
I enjoy listening to stories and talking about them.
E
Emotional
E1
I can say how I am feeling.
E2
I know how to manage my feelings.
E3
I think about the consequences of my actions.

( what will happen if I chose to do something)
E4
I can show empathy (understand how someone else is feeling and see things from their point of view).
E5
I can reflect on emotional events.
E6
I have respect for myself, other people and plants and animals.
C
Self-esteem and confidence
C1
I am keen to learn and join in with the group.
C2
I am happy to take risks.
C3
I speak up for myself.
C4
I am aware of my needs.
C5
I can deal with failure.
C6
I am happy to make decisions.