This week as the name suggests has been something of mixed bag of Forest School activities. The children have been offered a variety to get stuck into, the most popular being the erection of our new temporary shelter in the garden, and the basic fire lighting we trialled this week. During the shelter building at the start of the week the children helped in a manner of different ways. Once the hazel poles had been square lashed together, the children enjoyed hoisting the a-frames up into place whilst others had a go making some pegs. A folding saw and axe were used to create them, and the children helped with each peg in turn, and we ended up with a few extras for good measure. (You can never have enough pegs!) This is a great activity for the children to get involved in, and the level of responsibility from even the most boisterous and kinaesthetically driven of children is often quite surprising. Once pegs were made, children then hammered them in with a homemade mallet as well! Instant(ish) shade in the garden for stories and a rest from the rigours of being a child!
Fire lighting is an activity I haven’t done with the children for some time, although they have had the continued experience of being around fires on our Forest School sessions, such as during half term when the children on Friday visited us at Otter Brook Wood to enjoy the dappled sunshine and a few complimentary marshmallows over the fire. For me fire evokes an incredibly strong innate elemental feeling when you light your first fire, however big or small. It provides a huge sense of achievement, as well as empowerment over one of the most destructive elements at our disposal. To begin we discuss any previous knowledge the children have about fire. Many pick up concepts from home, television or books, some of it correct, some of it they interpret as something else, or lack the vernacular to describe it. Most will tell you it’s hot, that they shouldn’t touch it or that’s it’s a complicated exothermic process of combustion involving chemical and heat energy transfers, where a fuel is quickly oxidised resulting in heat, light and smoke byproducts. Ok the last one is a lie, but most children share the same idea. Then we discuss what a fire needs, likening it to us humans in that we need fuel/food and oxygen to work - although most of us don’t need a fire steel! I introduce the aforementioned method of ignition and instantly catch their attention with the resulting shower of 3000 degree (Fahrenheit) sparks they emit when struck. They ready their tinder, which in our case is cotton wool balls which they fluff to an inch of it’s life, before having a few practice strikes always pointing the steel towards the ground. I don’t expect the children to be able to achieve a successful spark as it takes some practice and I will usually assist them, but the instant smile when they first create a spark never gets old. These are then directed onto the cotton wool and hey presto! Fire.
As the weather was so glorious this week, the children have also had plenty of play-hours out in the rapidly growing grass of the paddock to give our nursery garden a break, as well as pitting their balance and courage on the timber assault course. As an adult, I sometimes take for granted how small our children are until they walk into some 4 foot high grass and disappear. This was lovely to witness. Children wandering off into the grass, the only sign of them being their giggles as they create their winding paths and games through the ‘forest’ and pounce on each other from their hiding spots. This was duly noted as an enjoyable activity and one I expect will crop up in a future Forest School plan.
All in all, not a bad week to be Forest School leader, one that has provided lots of ideas for planning, as well as a suitably glowing t-shirt tan. Long may the sun shine.
Enjoy the weekend, and see you all next time.