This week has seen a continuation to the cooking outside theme. Recent weeks have seen the children's interests develop from fire lighting to play cooking over pretend fires, to foraging for natural ingredients this week to create a revitalising natural tea. It's been great seeing this development of interest, however, once we had cooked the pancakes a few weeks ago, the children wanted them every time! The sessions revolved around reinforcing the children's ability to spot the required ingredient for our Bramble leaf tea, which is a rather revitalising drink. Lots of deeper learning went on throughout, where by the children learnt to spot what this otherwise prickly customer looks like, it's benefits to bees and pollinators, as well as its uses in alternative medicine. Whether you subscribe to the medicinal properties of herbal remedies or not, the results of the sessions were very positive and the children very much enjoyed the foraging part, mostly due to the use of pruning shears and scissors! I've also found that collecting is very high up in many of the children's list of favourite things to do on Forest School! We have a very old lopsided apple tree in the Forest School site, under which is our Apple Tree Den where the children indulge in their snacks/drinks before our Forest School sessions begin. The 'June Drop', whereby many of the immaturely developed fruits will be shed, has been quite severe this year and has been caused mostly by the extended period of dry weather. The children have delighted from this treasure hunt around the base of the tree and there hasn't been a session these past few weeks where the children have brought back pockets or hats full of tiny dwarf sized apples! Interestingly, these little apples turned out to be a key ingredient in many of the children's pretend meals from a last week!
As with the previous weeks Forest School, the children were briefed about the kinds of plants the children can and can't play with or pick. We were aiming for the brambles, a plant the children have been previously warned about for their thorns. It's not a plant I have told the children they cannot play with, like with Lords and Ladies, or Fox Glove, but one that can be touched carefully should they want to, but at there own peril! There is a lot to be said about dispelling myths about plants with children, especially when they can provide us with a deep purple, juicy and sweet snack on Forest School during Autumn! However, this week we were after the newest leafy growth of the long tentacle-like bramble stems. Armed with pruning shears and scissors and freshly briefed about safety with the equipment (Where do the children put their fingers? Do they run with them in their hands?) we marched into the undergrowth of the paddock, eyes peeled for stinging nettles and marsh thistles that might be lurking in the grass ready to nip our ankles. The first day we tried this, many of the brambles had fallen in-league with the stinging nettles (someone must have pre-warned them...) and they didn't go quietly. Then a small brainwave. Whilst the children chopped and hacked the nettles away to get to the prized bramble tips, I thought instead of wasting the leaves of the nettles, they could be added to the tea as well! We have made nettle tea previously so it seemed like a perfect marriage.
Once gathered we brought the freshly collected leaves back to the nursery, with stung legs and scratched hands hoping this brew would be worth the pain! In my planning I had originally wanted to continue the theme of fires here as well, by boiling the water needed in the kelly kettle, but the foraging took up most of our time, and I didn't see the point of pre-boiling the water so it was ready as there would have been little educational benefit or learning to gain from this, so opted for the kettle inside, so I could continue to progress the session. We spread the leaves out and made sure there were no little bugs or unwanted 'bits' that were going to end up in our foraged tea. After a quick rinse, into the jug they went topped up with hot water, a little local honey and some lemon to add a little extra flavour (blackberries and lemon are a superb vitamin C combo. This recipe is one of my favourite ways of marrying the two ingredients from my childhood - you have to try it!) We let it steep for 5 minutes or so, then drained the leaves and lemon out. Letting it cool considerably, we shared our tea with the other Den children. It was a hit! The inclusion of the nettles on the first week however, proved to be a little too strong, so for the rest of the week we opted for plain old bramble tea. It was delicious, and I recommend you try it yourselves.
Enjoy your weekends everyone, and I hope you don't get too soaked now our Summer has finally arrived!
Thanks for reading,