First off, I'd like to thank the excellent Den team for filling in last week whilst I was away, running our Holiday Clubs for (as they are now known by the Nursery children) "The Big Boy and Girls". Whilst I love running these weeks, it always nice to come back to the simplicity of Forest School with the Nursery children.
I was reliably informed the previous week's Forest School (if you haven't read Lucy's super blog on the proceedings then click here!) went down really well with the Den following on from a week of banana pancakes over the fire. So much so, we decided to take the theme of play cooking forward another week, but this time around the fire pit at the cabin. There was plenty of scope during this week for learning, and there were loads of interesting observations to be made. The sessions began with some slightly downhearted children when they realised we weren't making actual pancakes (sorry kids...) but instead we started by discussing what delicious meals we could make. As you can imagine these ranged dramatically, from sweet treats to meaty feasts. Quite a few referred back to the pancakes we made and I was impressed that they could remember the ingredients and processes behind the recipe.
I've learnt through doing these sessions that you need to provide a veritable plethora of pots and pans, utensils and resources for them to really explore on their own terms, whether this be on their own or in a small group. Interestingly, most groups when first approaching the fire pit, adopted a kind of 'communal pot', and added any immediate ingredients that were within arms reach. They would then splinter off into their own little smaller groups or own their own, creating some imaginary delicacies. I find this mirrored adult life quite realistically - I find you can either cook effectively alongside someone, or you need to be on your own. (I'm very much the latter! Too many cooks spoil the broth, as the saying goes!)
It was a week where messiness was fully approved, the clanging and banging of pots and pans was applauded, and high praise awarded for those who could turn the most disgusting concoctions into something delicious.
The aim of the sessions was to explore natural resources that had to be foraged for. There isn't an abundance of ingredients to could be collected, but nether-the-less, we still ventured into the "natural supermarket" to fill up our "trolleys" with sticks, stones, grass, leaves, bark, wood shavings, water, mud, and ash from the fire pit. These were then masterfully formed, shaped, slapped, smashed, stirred, fried, chopped and plopped into various concoctions and culinary delights. Rather unsurprisingly, pancakes were a mainstay, although, not always in the same guise as we would recognise. "Pancakes" were quite often served as a saucepan full of water, grass and wood shavings. But hey, if the kids say they're pancakes, then they're pancakes.
The session could only keep a few entertained for so long and, despite my best efforts to keep them occupied with the cooking tasks at hand, a few wanted to do their own thing. Whether it was going on a little mini adventure with princesses & dragons, a little bit of tree climbing, or simply balancing pieces of wood. And to be honest I don't mind if they do. Very often it's the wandering few that create their own quality of games and interests, which in turns feeds my own ideas for Forest School planning. Kind of a win-win really.
The children were brilliant as always this week. Usually I put out more ingredients for them to use, and the children soon used up the saw dust and water that were available, in the hope that this would spur some foraging. I would have liked to try and focus the foraging side of a little bit more, but what we did do was good. Its served two purposes: the first being to provide a resource for their play, but secondly a learning tool, as we found out which plants are good to use and which should be avoided (stinging nettles/Lords and Ladies). There was a little bit everything within this week: tool use from the supervised knife chopping, hammering, and the use of cooking utensils all served the purpose of aiding in their play, confidence building as well as bolstered motor skills; social skills were developed as they discussed what to make, aided in each others cooking tasks, and shared resources effectively. Furthermore the creative aspect here was very strong with the children turning natural resources into play food (and proud of it they were too!) as well as the different roles we saw played out. A good week.
These few weeks of milder weather has allowed the Daffodils and Snowdrops of spring to pop their sleepy heads up out of ground, but also the return of the Lords and Ladies and dreaded stinging nettles. This, with the cooking aspect as well will tie-in rather nicely with next weeks Forest School too...watch this space!
Enjoy the pictures below, and do have a lovely weekend all!