This week on Forest School the children have been getting to grips with their stamina, and testing their mettle on some slightly more testing walks than they're used to. Up to this point the children have been warming up their Forest School engines, getting to know the rules and routines of our Forest School. Now that they have grasped these ideas, and have explored the immediate Forest School paddock, they have spread their wings and explored the other areas of Free Rangers we use to expand their little minds and exercise their bodies. These walks, (I quite like to call exploratory walks) are left open to the children's imagination and natural curiosity. This could be something as physical as a stream to splash in, exploring the sounds and feel of the action, or spotting the falling leaves and discovering why they change colour (answers on a postcard please).
One location on our list of places to trek to is 'The Mountain'. The children have many different names for it, but the mountain refers to our plantation, where the children can ramble, slip and slide up the muddy hillside to get in a fantastic view from the top of the hill. It's quite a walk up to the top, and I'm sure your little Rangers all dropped off to sleep very quickly once they were at home! The view from the top was magnificent, and the children guessed what each of the buildings were in the distance, what noises they could hear, and also looked at which of the trees had already lost their leaves and which ones hadn't. Once at the top we had our snack and a well deserved hot drink! Then there was the inevitable slipping and sliding on the way back down the hill! Lots of fun, and lots to explore.
Another location was the brook, and although not as long or as steep as the mountain, presents its own challenges. The field we cross to get there is considerably muddy after being churned up by the horses and the rainfall recently. But that's what waterproofs are for right? After helping the the children tog themselves up in waterproofs, wellies, hats and gloves, we set out through the farm and then out cross country. En route, I constantly risk assess with the children asking of anything we should be careful of: What do we do at the top of the path? Should we be running down the slippery stony slope? Watch out for the dog mess! Can we touch this plant? Do you know what this plant is called? The aim of this being that they start to risk assess themselves when they continue their time with us at Free Rangers, but also at home and throughout the rest of their lives. As we walk through the field, the children took the chance to gaze at the horses in the frosty misty setting of the field, to watch the water at the brook wind its way through the Alder and Willow lining its banks, and also splash in the water that trickled down from the plantation. This caused much hilarity amongst the children and soon spawned a game of 'I can make a bigger splash than you!'
Once we arrived at the Weir, we set the children down on a tarp, and had our snack. Unfortunately the horses must have thought they had been granted an invite to the party and we soon had a few taking interest in the delicious contents of the snack box. After the snack had been consumed and hot drinks had warmed up some chilly bodies, the children split into two groups. One group went to explore the roar of the water as it cascaded over the weir, the other to say hello to the horses. The water at the weir made a fantastic sound, and the closer the children got, the louder the roar. We discussed whether the children liked the sound, or how it made them feel as well as where they thought it was flowing (most said 'that way' and pointed!). They all enjoyed it, a few saying it sounded like a dragon's roar. Some decided to throw a few pooh-sticks into the water to see what would happen as they went over the top of the waterfall, but most were lost to the murky depths. The other group had fun meeting the horses, and gave a few of them new names. We talked to them to this about how we needed to behave around the horses, and calm voices, and gentle hands would be best.
A great exploratory week, that will hopefully lead to more exploring next week as we head down to the Otter Brook Woods for some wintery fun, and maybe a few fires too! Which reminds me, as we are now in the full grip of the chilly wintery weather, please make sure your children come to Free Rangers with plenty of changes of warm clothing, especially hats and gloves. We want to enable your children as much as possible, but only have a certain number of spares we can provide! Thanks very much.
Have a great weekend, and see you all on the other side!
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