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With only 2 weeks left of Forest School for this group it was a perfect time to try out their new skills. The children formed 2 groups and we had a competition to see who could build the best den. Mrs Gowshall was looking for a sturdy ridge line, safe use of the mallet, 45 degree angles and well tied knots. The children worked brilliantly in their teams and even better they didn't let the competition come between their community, with compliments and support offered between the teams. 

As the session came to a close the children dismantled their dens making sure to leave no trace.

 

The offering of new habitat is paying off on our site and we are finding that animals are choosing to make their homes in and around our Forest School. We have found 3 clusters of spiderlings, we believe from our identification knowledge that they are garden spiders. We have wood pigeons nesting in a tree that sits just over the fence and in our most recent session we were lucky that some freshly fledged blue tits had come to explore with us. Management of the site is a skill that the children will learn so it is important they know what uses our site and when, so we can manage and protect the area accordingly. 

Earlier on it our sessions we noted the beautiful apple blossom, this has been cross- pollinated and has transformed into tiny apples. We are looking forward to harvesting these later on in the year.

We have spent much time perfecting our den building skills, over the recent sessions we have been looking at natural den building using the sticks and logs available to us. 

 

 

Forest school sessions are planned week by week. At the end of every session we come together and talk about what we have enjoyed and what we would like in the following session. Acting on the feedback from the children and being child led is a key Forest School principle. 

After building confidence with knots last week, the children put their new skills to use and made their first successful den. There was some superb team work and the den provide some welcome shade from the sunshine. 

Our mud kitchen and potion making station arrived and were soon put to use, the children made potions for feeling calm. They told me how the scent of the flowers and watching it swirl around made them feel calm. They showed respect to our site and only picked flowers that we have in abundance (daisy's and forget me knots). 

The most exciting part of session, was the eagerly awaited arrival of Pepper and Patch our Forest School guinea pigs. The children listened carefully about how to care for them and were quiet and gentle around them to help them settle. 

We have a vision of making a sweet pea den, we have put together the frame and the plan for next weeks session is to sow some sweet peas. 

 

Following on from last week we researched and discussed ways to help hedgehogs. We checked our site to make sure it was hedgehog friendly, looking for gaps under the fence (hedgehog highways), log piles, thick growth for hiding and that our pond had a bank for an escape route. We know our site is rich in invertebrates from our mini beast hunts and we do not use slug pellets which can poison wildlife. 

We made posters to raise awareness and to promote Hedgehog awareness week which is from the 5th - 11th May.

One of our objectives was to perfect the clove hitch, the children decided to take on an extra challenge of some different knots, unaided two of the children accomplished the two half hitches knot and the figure of eight knot. 

 

We begin each Forest School session with a game (I'm not a stick and Forest School hide and seek are favourites), or 5 minutes finds. Five minute finds is just that, what can we find and identify in 5 minutes. This week we were thrilled to find some hedgehog poo, Mrs Gowshall explained how these wonderful mammals are endangered in the UK and that to have them on our site is a real treat. Next week we will research how we can make our site hedgehog friendly and encourage them to stay. 

Our older children supported the younger ones with some missed activities, showing them how to make a clay hedgehog. 

One of our Forest School group members made a miniature natural shelter for wildlife.

As the weeks roll by the children are learning what weekly jobs need doing and are taking care of our site by watering, weeding and litter picking. 

In our first Forest School session back we looked at how our site had changed over the Easter Holidays. The children noticed subtle changes, like the newly germinated meadow seeds and more noticeable ones like the beautiful apple blossom. 

Our pond has already has encouraged new species, with a sighting of a water boatman, who was too quick to photograph! Our flowering rush has crept up over the water line and Mrs Liley has kindly given us some pond weed, which will really enhance the pond habitat. 

For the creative element of the session we gathered sticks to make clay hedgehogs, all children took this opportunity.

We revisited the clove hitch, an essential den building knot. We showed great resilience in giving it a go but more practice is needed to perfect the skill. 

Other opportunities on offer for the children were natural den building, the reading cove, hammocks and identification equipment, these opportunities are child led, with gentle encouragement from the Forest School lead in making the most of each opportunity.

In the Spring term at Forest School, we have been busy exploring and getting to know our site. Through exploration we have been able to identify what we share our site with and how we can improve our habitats to encourage more wildlife. 

We have also started to gain basic knot tying skills ready for den building.

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