Row Your Boat

Forest School this week revolved around the creation of the long awaited boats, and so bore witness to many successful maiden voyages! The children were put to task to create some brook/pond-faring vessels worthy of any captain; Pirate and Fishermen alike. Tools have been the main focus of the sessions, as well as the children building on the understanding of last week's floating and sinking. We began with a recap from the previous Forest School session, and discussed what material and shape the Forest Schoolers thought would be best. Then we briefed the children on what they were going to be doing! I had trouble keeping bottoms on seats at this point. Firstly they had to saw two rounds of homegrown coppiced Hazel from the Free Rangers site for the main body of the boats and the counterweight on the bottom. Next followed the drilling of holes for the kebab stick mast. We found that the kebab stick was half a millimeter too large so we had to pack the holes with twine, but this added to their development of fine motor skills! Once the masts had been pushed through the holes, they found themselves a suitable leaf sail, trimmed the masts (we also found the masts to be too long kept as they were) with the pruning shears, and finally set sail for either the brook or the pond, whichever time allowed. Before sailing, I asked the children to name their boats. After all a boat without a name is bad luck! Most children decided they would name it after themselves (And why not the queen does it all the time!) A few thought outside the box had christened their rafts with some rather lovely and humorous names. A few to note: Sweet Lemon, Dock Leaf, Sail, Hot Dog, Speed Flag, Rainbow Unicorn and my favourite: RedFox. There was no prompting on the latter I might add.


Whenever tools are used on Forest School I ensure the children can name and safely use the tool(s) in question; this week our old trusty full size Bow Saw, a hand drill as well as electric drill, a vice and a pair of pruning shears. I ask if the children can tell me where the dangerous parts are and how we handle and move them safely looking at where our hands and bodies should be - both for the user and onlooker. It's important to promote a respect for the tools whilst they are being used. Yes it's a tool meant to be used and handled, but I want the children to actively think about how and when it is best to use them as this will keep the children safe and teach them about maintaining tools as well. Similarly, it’s also important to gauge an emotional response towards tools. Before starting I ask the if the children are happy to use tools; I don’t want to force a child to participate and create a negative association with it. By promoting a positive working relationship, we can encourage children to further develop and progress themselves not just for their motor skills and dexterity, but also expressively and creatively as well. By reinforcing these procedures and questions each week or whenever tools are used, it starts to become second nature and part of the children’s management of risk. Slowly this behaviour is modelled around the nursery, whether this during Forest School, something the children are saying to each other, or modelled through their play.

At the end of the week, I felt the activity had been very successful, due to the children’s confident and cooperative use of tools, especially in respect to our new arrivals. Similarly their recall from last week was strong, as well as their ability to problem solve after their boats capsized as the brook certainly is a cruel mistress! When boating comes round again, I think giving the children a choice of materials in which to make their boats as opposed to a set design and material would be better so they can experiment with different mediums. It would also be a more natural follow up from last week too. I was reluctant about trying that this week due to the time restraints of the session but in hindsight I feel I was taking too much of the creativity of the session away, and focussed more on the tool use. Something to develop further.


As always, I hope you enjoyed this post, and the photos below. Also should any of our lovely parents want to come along to a Forest School session during the day to find out more about what your children get up to, you are more than welcome

Have a splendid Bank Holiday weekend!


R. Fox

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