Last week's Forest School saw the children develop their foraging and culinary skills. The previous week's focus on pancakes really inspired some of our little Free Rangers, so I thought what a good idea it would be to allow the children to create some lovely meals for themselves. The recipe for the session? Mix equal quantities of foraging, creativity and imagination and Voilá! you have a rather wonderful forest school inspired culinary creation. Foraging was a key component to the session, and the children were tasked with finding all of the ingredients they needed for their meals. Before I let them explore the grounds for their sundries, we first discussed what the children thought they would like to create, as well as the foods they like to eat at home. Delving a little deeper through the obvious answers of "Cake!" and "Sweets!", some thoughtful and promising options quite often were offered as to their chosen favourites. I also enjoyed how this session tied in with other wider learning. Some of our little alfresco chefs made foods from other cultures, so the session was often extended in doors were we discussed where noodles or curry might come from. The same was said about Mama Panya's Pancakes story from Kenya, despite the pancakes being more western in origin. Once ideas had been generated, we discussed the plants that were safe to gather, ones that might give you a bit of prickly time, and ones to avoid. Off they set to gather the components to their culinary masterpieces.
The foraging part was great to witness. The children ambled through the long grass of the paddock, scouring through the hedges and pacing the ground, looking for interesting things to put into their food. Their use of tools was also reinforced here as they used child friendly scissors to collect certain plants. It was a thoroughly sensory activity, one where the children were encouraged to study the textures of the rye grass seeds, or smell the warm, sweet aroma of the Pineapple Weed (this was a firm favourite). As they collected I asked them whether the ingredient was exactly what they collected or perhaps emulated something else. For example, on one session, some trimmed grass that had been collected represented some noodles for a stir fry. The creative imagination of children will never cease to amaze me.
Once the children had foraged, then it was back to the makeshift kitchen I had created for them. Pots, pans, spoons, kettles, trivets, pestle and mortars, and cups all awaited their return, and the fire pit stood by to await the cooking. Language was expanded here as well: mixing, whisking, frying, flipping, stirring, shaking, sprinkling, hot, cold, pour, and splash, were just some of the words we explored as they cooked. Evidently, a few children opted not to cook anything, which was fine. Some children feel more at home being involved in more direct learning, so they were tasked with keeping an eye on the "fire" and putting more fuel on when needed.
A common occurrence across the week, was the mimicking of recipes. If one child had a good idea, then very often it would be replicated by the majority of the group. Then it would morph into a variant before turning into something completely different. Fickle little chefs! On the subject of change, another interesting observation was the co-operation that played a role throughout the week. I had originally wanted to create a banquet type scenario so that they children could bring up their creations and we could explore what they had made. Fairly frequently, interest would be lost in their own meals and forces were joined with other children. One afternoon saw all 8 children start separate meals and end the session as one homogenous '16 armed cook'. It was lovely to see how accepting the children were to other's ideas and help. For many of the group it was also the final Forest School session with us, as they flew our nursery nest to continue their journeys onto Primary School, so I was glad that it was a successful week for them to end on. There were some delicious sounding concoctions created, some not so, all of which the head chef Red Fox had to sample to check the seasoning...
In conclusion: a good week, with plenty achieved. Thanks for reading.