At Therfield First School we place high importance on outside learning. We recognise that learning does not always need to take place within the four walls of the classroom. It is obvious that we can learn about the outside, in the outside environment, but we can also teach many areas of the curriculum using the outside too.
We aim to provide our children with many opportunities to learn and apply their learning in real-life and practical contexts. An example of this would be when learning about 2-d and 3-d shapes, or similarly measuring and comparing lengths.
Learning makes more sense when children can ‘see it in action’ or understand how it is relevant to their existence. A big part of our creative curriculum provides children with opportunities to experience their learning first-hand. We regularly take children to visit local sites to support this, ie. a trip to the supermarket to explore which countries fruits and vegetables come from; a trip to the local flower fields to see pollination in action, or a walk around our village and into the local town to compare the differences between the two.
In 2017, we launched our Outside School provision with each child working towards our prestigious Countryside Citizenship Award. In 2018, this evolved into weekly forest school sessions, led by our specialist Forest School Practitioner, Mrs Wignall.
The ethos of Forest Schools is to ‘allow children the time and space to develop skills, interest and understanding through a range of activities which provide practical, hands-on experiences in a natural environment’. Forest school helps children with their confidence and can improve their self-esteem, emotional and mental wellbeing.
What does Forest School look like at Therfield First School?
In addition to our emphasis on outside learning, all classes receive a weekly Forest School session. All children keep wellies in school and weather-proof overalls have been specially purchased. Sometimes, our Forest School sessions have been planned to support key areas of the curriculum, ie. Science, Maths, English or Art. Other times the children take part in activities such as singing or cooking around an open fire, using tools with natural materials, climbing trees, making dens, looking at insects, or simply exploring the environment and inventing their own games.
Are we making hot chocolate today?" asked the children as I arrived at school on Thursday.
Some of the older children had recognised the fire equipment I was carrying in.
We began the lessons with some running around games to warm us up.
After a brief reminder of the fire circle rules to keep us safe I made a waffle pattern with some dried sticks
and on top of this added paper, cardboard and wood shavings for fuel. Once the fire was alight
the children all helped to keep it going by adding sticks through the chimney.
Soon the water was boiling and we enjoyed a hot chocolate to warm us up on a cold and windy December Day.
Honeypot were very excited to hear that they were to help with Mrs McGovern’s garden. Brandishing trowels and forks they set about digging out the bedding plants and cutting back the perennials in the pots by the entrance to the school. They used scissors to give the lavender and the Sweet William a quick trim and found some emerging bulbs in the pots, as well as a snail or two.
Max was the first to identify the mint plant, but no one identified the scent of lavender.
Next time they will be planting winter pansies to bring some colour to our Reception area.
The browns, yellows, oranges and reds of the autumn leaves made such an impact on the children this week in Forest School that we made an autumn curtain by threading them onto a string and hanging them up on the willow sculptures.
Children in Rooks Nest created a repeating pattern for their leaf strings, whilst Duckpuddle used their understanding of part-part-whole (ie. 7 and 3, 6 and 4) to make 10.
We were not daunted by the rain at Forest School this week. The children asked to play round after round of ‘123 where are you’, our hide and seek game.
After this we split into groups to create skeletons using sticks. After a quick chat about the names and number of bones in our legs, arms and whole body the children set off to select the sticks they needed. As well as the skeleton, the children invented stories to explain how their skeleton came to be in Therfield. These stories ranged from iron age warriors to mythological beasts.
This week’s Forest School was a team effort with every member of the class helping in some way to make hot chocolate.
Two children in each class measured the chocolate powder into the cups whilst all the children added sticks to the fire to keep it alight.
The picture shows children in Duckpuddle who all helped to move the log circle under the shelter of the sycamore tree when the heavens opened on us.
The only criticism from the children of the session was that we need to make hot chocolate on a fire more often!
For the past two weeks in forest school the children have been learning how to use natural materials to make a dye. First the children crushed the blackberries that Mrs Wignall gathered from the hedgerows, in a jar until they were the consistency of jam. Next they tied an elastic band around their fabric to prevent the dye reaching this part. After that they placed their fabric in their jar and topped up the jar with water to cover the fabric. Lastly, they replaced the lid and gave the jar a good shake.
The jars were left for a week to solar dye, harnessing the light and the heat from the sun. Who knew that 5 blackberries and a jar of water could provide such different results?! The children predicted pink, violet, red, indigo and even magenta, but no one expected blue or the variety of shades this activity produced. We discussed our theories for the differences and plausible suggestions ie. 'more blackberries = darker colour’, ‘more water = lighter colour' which were not proven.
This was our first experience of using natural dye and we were all pleasantly surprised by the results.