4 weeks of glorious weather and then as soon as we open our doors for our Forest School Holiday Club, the heavens open. Typical! Undeterred, we persevered with our Forest School programme enjoying spells of warm sunshine amongst the drizzle, nipping outside when the rain ceased to pour (and sometimes when it hadn't!) Similarly, week 2 bore witness to a brand new venue for our holiday clubs at All Hallows Preparatory School in Cranmore. Both weeks offered very contrasting days... We've seen a few changes to our Forest School Club this time around. Firstly, as I mentioned earlier, during week 2 we ran our Forest School at a new venue at All Hallows. Otter Brook Wood has served us well as a woodland, and continues to do so as part of our learning environment for the nursery's Forest School sessions. It's a perfect size for the age range, easy to maintain, offers the brook's depths to wallow in as well as a balanced mix of open glade and overgrown thicket to explore. However, despite being private land, it also has permissive access running through it which brings dog walkers (and consequently dog mess from some) and unfortunately unwanted visitors who see fit to vandalise the trees and grounds, and remove wood without permission. This is heartbreaking for both myself and Vince who have put in countless man hours making seating, fire pits and improving access with stairs, not just for the children at Free Rangers but also for those who treat the space with the same degree of respect as we would. This is half the reason for the move. We felt by running sessions at All Hallows, we could provide a better service for your children. More diverse space, and some superb resources (rustic kitchenettes with pump-able rain water and pizza ovens, tree suspended canopies with firepits, a roundhouse, an outdoor classroom and plenty of hidden extras for the children to discover) would make a great experience for them, not to mention our lives easier too. The only downsides being the distance our regulars (we love you lots!) would have to travel and a lack of a river/stream to explore in the woods as it remains one of the most popular activities we offer at Otter Brook.
Free Rangers HQ saw a real mix of weather. What started as a rather wet week, turned into glorious sunshine by the last day. On Monday and Tuesday we opened up our Forest School barn to provide some shelter for the children during the downpours, but for the most part, the children were happy to get stuck into making their own shelters/dens in our paddock. We also figured out a way of utilising the slacklines into rope swings, and the children had lots of laughs swinging on them seeing who could travel the furthest. They then modified them to include a tyre. Genius problem solving by the children. Inside the barn we had plenty of tool work for the children to be getting on with, creating their own wooden dogtags complete with their own Forest School inspired name, sawing and chopping wood for our fires and helping to mix the batter and then cook our (slightly) healthy pancakes. A few children decided to really challenge their leaders wanting to make helicopters! Challenge accepted.
Thursday saw the sun decide to rear it beautiful face again, and we marched down to the woods to enjoy a lovely cool, sun dappled Forest School day in the woods. The usual smorgasbord of activities was on offer, with the children exploring the river, lighting fires and putting up some amazing tarp based shelters. We also completed some tree studies, where the children learnt more about their beautiful surroundings. It's important to us that they learn that the space isn't just there as a playground, but an important part of our landscape, a rich ecosystem and integral to our environment. The children were intrigued as to how we had made our mallets too, so in the afternoon the children put their tool skills to good use and made some of their own. The day was incredibly relaxed, with the children being very settled, very focussed and showing great confidence in their abilities. Great stuff.
All Hallows saw a completely different change to the pace of the two sessions we ran there. The size and scope of the woods, allowed the children a great deal more freedom to create and expand their own games, shelters/dens and in other respects, themselves. We had a real mix of ages, but I was happy to see the older children taking many of the younger children under their wings. There was a definite buzz about the two days we ran at All Hallows, especially the Tuesday. Having all that space allowed the children to run, duck and climb, sating that desire for physical activity for all those kinaesthetic learners! The woods provided endless opportunities for den making, and they relished the chance to pop up some hammocks underneath some strung-up tarps. We also lit fires, and children all learnt an important lesson in dry fire wood! Pancakes were once again cooked and demolished, marshmallows toasted, and then we played various games of hide and seek, and manhunt (with yours truly being the prisoner!) The woods was alive with activity with the noisy throng of childhood excitement. It's great to be a part of.
Both weeks offered varied experiences for the children and staff, and despite being apprehensive about the logistics of how running Forest School at All Hallows would pan out, I think it went incredibly well. The mix of children we had on the days was pretty well balanced and the levels of involvement and concentration were really impressive! Whether we decide to run fully at All Hallows or stay at Otter Brook Wood will have to be decided upon, but what ever we choose we hope to see you all back with us in October.
If you have any questions or feedback about the Forest School clubs, do please leave a comment below. We would love to hear your comments.
See you in the woods,