They seek them here, they seek them there

Last week's Forest School focus revolved around understanding and appreciating the abundance and individuality of the natural world hidden beneath our feet. Armed with magnifying glasses and trowels, the children were tasked with hunting down and exploring the mini world of bugs. We had focussed on this in previous weeks, giving the children the chance to wander round as part of the mixed activities we arranged for them, and it was noted this was a popular option with all the children, which was probably down to them being able to wander freely and get moving as our Free Rangers don't sit still for long!

As with other weeks, the sessions started with the explorers having to look for Lords and Ladies, the common poisonous plant, so it's important the children know how to identify it, and why they need to avoid it. This identification will change later in the year as the plant changes and produces its fruit, making it much easier to spot. Once found, the children were given books and posters about the insects we expected to find, to generate a general interest but also so the children could jog their memory about what the insects look like and the places they might be found. Then we discussed where they might be found in our Forest School paddock, whether that might be under a log, in the ever increasing grass or cow parsley or lurking at the bottom of the pond. Then the children set to, with eyes peeled. Seeking high and low, there was a real feel of excitement amongst the children as they searched, with each find being squealed with excitement, and a shout of "come and see what I've found!" Even though many of the bugs the explorers found are well known to them, they still fostered the thrill of discovery when the first log is upturned to reveal the creepy crawly treasure beneath.

Woodlice, worms, and various colours, shapes and varieties of snail and slugs all were found with ease and garnered a lot of interest, as the children explored the differences between them. Why doesn't the slug have a hard shell like its friend the snail? How does the worm move without any legs? Why does the woodlice roll up in ball? How do ladybirds fly? were some of the questions the children offered and tried to answer. The pond also saw lots of interesting invertebrate found, especially tadpoles, as our pond is full of them! We also spotted pond skaters, whirligig beetles, back swimmers and water boatmen, pond snails (including a huge empty shell!) water fleas and flatworms. Furthermore, back on dry land, the children found as one boy called them, a variety of "very peculiar" bugs: a Red 'Rumex' Weevil, various ground beetle larvae, earwigs, spider egg nests and tunnels, slug eggs, and bird poo (not a bug I know, but they still poked it with a stick!) all kept their interest alive. On a few occasions, I had to remind the children to respect the creatures they found. Woodlice in particular bore the brunt of some heavy handed exploration as the children attempted to grab them to turn them over to count their appendages. At times I asked the children to explore with just their eyes, but half the fun of bug hunts is in holding them. Especially the slimy ones. I challenged a few to pick up some pretty slimy gruesome specimens and on the whole they obliged!

An enjoyable week overall so I'm looking forward to next weeks adventures!

Red Fox