This week's Forest School has been a real assortment of activities at Free Rangers. Mixed weather, staff and child illness and increased numbers has meant mixed activities and re-planning in order to maintain some focussed outdoor time for the children. The initial plan for this week was to take the children off-site on an exploration walk, based around an “adventure” - the learning intention of this being to learn how to cooperate and help each other over mixed terrain and work on their creativity/storytelling abilities. This was a very enjoyable activity, and one I would like to feed into next week if I can. The walks highlighted how even those children who struggle outdoors or indeed socially can rise to the occasion and show their true colours. There was the ‘Muddy Mile’ to contend with first: a stretch of mud with a trail of planks as a bridge, followed by a good 10-15 minute walk up a quite steep hill through the plantation overlooking Free Rangers HQ.
Horses have been using this field as of late, and during the current wet weather had churned up the ground, leaving round ruts and hoof marks creating a challenging surface to navigate. However, every group we took managed the trek and the views back down towards the brook and Otter Brook Wood were worth it. In fact we spent a good while pointing out features of the landscape. Once there we snacked, and then let the children explore the plantation looking for interesting objects and signs of wildlife (armed with magnifying glasses).
As the week progressed, we were hit with staff illness so low numbers meant I was drawn inside to help out. Nevertheless we still gave the children the opportunity to get involved in some focussed outdoor activities, like improving balance and coordination on our timber trail, as well as partaking in some tool work. Because our wood bender (traditional structure made of bent and lashed hazel poles) had once again taken an almighty hammering over the half term Forest School Club, I decided for a hands-on supervised activity that could be done safely inside the nursery garden, we could do some tool-based wood processing. We sawed up lengths of seasoned wild cherry, willow, ash and fir, reinforcing our tool knowledge, safety and respect beforehand. They then used the axe, with supervision to split some of the small pieces to allow it season quicker.
We then loaded up a trolley and wheeled it out to our new shelter in our on-site Forest School area. We are building the walls up with firewood which is a technique I saw used in Norway in a outdoor shelter. This acts nicely as a windbreak and moveable wall, as well as seasoning your firewood and keeping it dry at the same time. We also used some loppers and pruning shears in an end-of-the-week attempt to build up the open sides of our shelter using another technique called dead hedging, but we didn’t get very far on Friday as we succumbed to the bitter winds!
So although a bitty week, we have achieved a lot on Forest School and I hope your children have come home with stories and information to share! Do comment below with anything you would like to ask or share yourselves.
Enjoy your weekends and see you all next week!