I am delighted to be back with Silver Birch Group. They were the first group I ever took to the woods and it will be lovely to re-join them for their Forest School journey.
The children entered the woods under their cloaks of silence. They remembered the boundaries for keeping themselves, each other and their environment safe and were able to explain why we had these agreements.
We were also delighted to be joined by 3 parent volunteers. Catkin (Abi & Emily's mummy) was back although she had left her voice behind!! We were also joined in the woods for the first time by Ladybird (Charlie & Ellie's mummy) and Bumblebee (Henry G's mummy).
Despite the damp weather we were not disheartened and made the most of our final session in the woods.
Waiting for us on the Message Stump was a heart made from tree cookies together with some willow hoops. We then spotted a beautiful dream catcher hanging from a nearby tree.
On behalf of everyone in Silver Birch group, I would like to say a huge THANK YOU to our wonderful parent helpers, Catkin and Frosty. It has also been a real pleasure to work with Silver Birch group. I have been very impressed with your listening skills and how you work so well together. I am now looking forward to you being in Class 4 in September! Thanks must also go to Splatty Batty who managed to smile through the rain and survive the 9 sessions with only minor injuries!
Thank you all for a very special time in the woods.
The first task for the morning was to gather fuel so that we could get a good fire going for cooking our dampers and marshmallows.
Next week will be our final session in the wood until next year.
Remember your packed lunch and sandwich wrapped in foil (if you would like to toast it over the fire).
On entering the woods we noticed that everything looked much greener since our last session. The trees were coming into leaf and pretty woodland flowers carpeted the floor.
We considered the many different uses of the woodland trees in Degg's Wood. The large multi-stemmed sweet chestnut trees show that in the past this area was managed by coppicing. This wood was used for a variety of different purposes including firewood, charcoal and fencing materials. We will be using sweet chestnut for some of our fire wood needs over the coming weeks. This week we tried using some charcoal to draw pictures with.
What a busy morning! On arrival at Sweet Chestnut camp we were greeted by a letter from our Little Friends informing us that the Sneezy Dragon had been playing tricks and hidden all the Easter eggs that had been left for us! However, the good news was that if we completed his Treasure Trail and challenges he would return the eggs to us.
Around the wood, we found questions that we had to answer but in addition to this each team had to put up a shelter using the tarps. We quickly split into groups of 4 and learnt how to do a timber hitch and quick release tension knot before setting off in search of the Treasure Trail questions.
After working very hard in our teams we all managed to complete the Sneezy Dragon's Treasure Trail and challenge and were eventually rewarded by the return of the Easter Eggs.
HAPPY EASTER EVERYONE!
We started the morning with, 'The Rope Challenge', in which the children had to move the circle of rope around the whole group without anybody unlinking their hands. Birch group remembered their technique from last year and showed great team work enabling them to complete this challenge in record time.
Knot tying skills proved to be a challenge at the start of the session but the children all showed great perseverance in setting up their individual fire circles, or squares, and lighting 'fairy fires,' inside a clam shell, using the flint and steels.
This week started with the children 'Beating the Bounds' of our woodland site to ensure that they were able to recognise the extent of our area. The children learnt that in the past, when maps were rare, the whole community would walk around the boundaries of the parish. This would usually take place during Rogationtide - the fifth week after Easter- when the villagers, led by the rector and other local dignitaries, would walk the parish bounds. The children would carry birch or willow wands to beat the boundary markers with, and in some cases, the children would be whipped with these to help them remember! We spared the children from this part of the tradition!
3rd March 2017
Birch Group were excited to return to the woods. This year they are based in Sweet Chestnut Camp with Bracken, Batty Brown, Catkin and Frosty.
The children enjoyed exploring their new woodland environment as they looked out for the boundary bows and searched for the rule cards that were hidden around the woods.
Whilst there was a slight undercurrent of sadness that this would be Silver Birch's last Forest School session for this academic year there was also a bubbling excitement of being able to show their achievements to their families...and Hannah the caterpillar!!
The children showed them their creations, made larch pendant mementos of their time here, played "1,2,3 Where are you" and toasted s'mores.
Thank you Silver Birch Group. I are so immensely proud of you - your creativity,community spirit and playfulness has been a joy to behold. Thank you Karen, Katy & Woodpecker for supporting their journey - your support, input & sense of fun has been invaluable. Thank you parents, Mrs Hacker (Bluebell) and Mrs McKenzie (Moley) for joining us - the look on the children's faces as they shared their experiences with you was really, rather special!
Despite the rain Degg's wood was brightened by laughter and camaraderie. An experiment of prodding a large puddle on top of the tarp with a stick resulted in a 'refreshing' shower for one of our group. Nevertheless, it was greeted with good humour and a quick costume change in the tree bog!!
Our Little Larch Friends had left a bag of clay that was suggested made mud face portraits. The children's creativity then led to a who new range of uses: mini pots, beads, a variety of animals including 'Hoppity the Rabbit' and......face paints. They oozed it, squelched it, modelled it and adorned it!
We discussed what we wanted to share, play and eat with our parents the following week - unsurprisingly, there was a resounding vote for s'mores!
"It's funny Foxglove. I didn't think we'd have as much fun today because of the rain. I was wrong"
What a day to be in the woods! It started with 'The Rope Challenge' - to move the circle of rope around the whole of our group WITHOUT un-linking our hands. It was a slow start as we offered advice, trialed various techniques and then came across a great strategy. We became quicker and quicker by watching, listening, communicating. Team problem solving Silver Birch style!!
Silver Birch Group couldn't wait to get back in to the woods to see if our Little Larch friends had left us any messages. We ran straight to the homes we had made.We couldn't believe what we found:
Head prints on pillows, footprints on the staircases, missing food, nibbles in larch cones and a message of gratitude on the tree stump - We couldn't wait to improve on the kingdom we were creating.
There was a supermarket, a factory, a range of luxury accommodation, underground caverns, hotels, a university complete with cafeteria and then we developed our own special places.
There was a genuine sense of confidence, creativity and camaraderie.
Our little larch friends had left us some toasting sticks in the fire circle. Foxglove had brought some marshmallows. What we needed now was FIRE!
So we set about collecting wood: the 'snap test' helped us work out if it was nice and dry or not. We collected different thicknesses. Matchsticks, finger sticks and thumb sticks.
We made sure we had a bucket of water and a fire blanket close by then....
We learnt about how to light a fire with a little help from the Sneezy Dragon and his dragon's breath & dragon's drool...Aitchoo!
It was hard work but we persevered and were not down-hearted if we didn't quite manage...after all there's always next time and there's nothing like toasting a marshmallow to bring a smile to your face.
Finally, we took it in turns to help extinguish the fire and share our best bits from the session.
"My best was toasting the marshmallows"
"My best bit was lighting the fire with the sneezy dragon"
"My best bit was finding a bird's nest"
"My best bit was building a shelter for our little larch friends"
"My best bit was building a shelter with my friends"
"My best bit was watching the group working together and solving problems in order to create a big shelter"
"My best bit was watching everybody have a go with the fire tools, persevering and not being upset if they didn't manage it....this time"
"My best bit was EVERYTHING"