We made potions, did a blindfolded sensory trail, made patterns using natural objects onto double sided tape, talked about smells and sounds, made a camp fire and cooked marshmallows and whittled our own sticks using vegetable peelers. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and was amazed at how many learning opportunities there are outside covering all of the 7 areas of learning in the Early Years Foundation Stage. One thing that really struck me was that some children who struggle in the conformist regime of a classroom may flourish outside.
The philosophy of Forest Schools is to encourage and inspire all ages through positive outdoor experiences, valuing nature and experiencing learning using all of our senses. Children particularly, are stimulated by the outdoors and typically have an increase in their self esteem, confidence, communication, problem solving skills, learning capacity and enthusiasm through hands-on learning.
One of my amazing mums (Jo) is a Level 3 qualified Forest School teacher and offered to come along to do a session with the children in my garden. We had to thoroughly risk assess the area and make sure that the benefits of learning outweighed the risks involved. I let the parents and children know that we were going to do this the week before to make sure everyone was prepared and could ask questions.
On the day the children couldn’t wait to start. Jo and I talked to them about safety and the importance of listening. J was the youngest at just under 2 years old and G the eldest at 9 years old and they were all excited to get started. We sat on logs in a semi circle once we’d made sure that there were no overhanging branches in the path of the our fire.
Everyone had a chance to whittle sticks using vegetable peelers.
G and M were particularly good at this skill and used a thick glove on the hand that held the stick. H and J needed help and still enjoyed themselves showing off their pointy sticks proudly.
Next we talked about the three things that a fire needs. 1 – fuel (logs), 2 – oxygen (the air) and 3 – Heat. We talked about arranging the logs in a way that would allow the oxygen to get to the flames from all directions and everyone had a go at placing the supporting logs. C decided to put them into a triangular shape, whilst G and M made squares
Jo talked about making a triangular stack for the fire and got everyone to join in making a triangular shape with their fingers. The children placed the supporting logs down first and then the kindling on top in a square jenga pattern. Next Jo got out some cotton wool and dipped it into vaseline and G and M popped it in between the kindling and on the top. Jo used her magic fire starter to create a spark which ignited the cotton wool lighting the fire. The children watched as the kindling slowly began to burn. All of the children loved watching the flames burn further and further into the kindling
We watched the fire burn all the way down and went around the circle telling a story. Jo explained about putting the fire out using the emergency water that we had at the side. Each child chose a bowl and poured water onto the fire. There was lots of steam floating over us as the water hit the fire.
When the fire was totally out Jo made sure that the logs were cooled down and then she showed us the black charcoal that was left behind and told us that we could use this to draw with and even make our own pencils. Perhaps this is a skill for next time?
All of the children really enjoyed this experience and stayed entertained for over an hour just on this one activity in the garden. I am definitely going to incorporate more of this type of learning in my setting from now on.
Using crowns cut out of cardboard we stuck two strips of double sided tape onto the straight edge of the crown, peeled it back to expose the sticky side and hunted around the park for beautiful things to decorate our crowns with. The boys loved finding feathers of every kind, moss, bark, grass and sticks whilst the girls enjoyed finding little flowers, big leaves, moss and feathers. We continued at home in our herb garden adding mint, rosemary and lavendar.
Exploring the woods
Another Forest School session with the lovely Jo. We had some very strong winds recently so when we did a discovery walk through the forest we came across a large tree that had blown over. Jo pointed out the roots of the tree to the children and explained that the thickest roots spread out as wide as the branches of the tree. The children poked and prodded the roots and looked into the big hole.
We collected lots of Y shaped sticks on our forest walk and when we got home we made musical instruments out of them by threading buttons onto wire and ribbon and by stretching loom bands over the Y part of the stick to make a guitar. Very good for fine motor skill development and for using imagination. They actually worked too.