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.
10 December 2020
As it is almost the end of term, we marked the occasion with a fire to toast marshmallows. Before we lit the main fire, the children were invited to make their own fires. They worked in teams gathering dry sticks and stems and creating a waffle structure before attempting to light their fire with a flint and steel. Despite their best attempts at lighting the fires, no team succeeded this time. Luckily Mrs Wignall’s fire burned well and we were able to toast our marshmallows and warm our hands on a cold day.
3 December 2020
In Forest School we have continued with the theme of animal homes. Firstly we passed around two birds nests. One was a lot heavier than the other which we decided was because the bird had used mud in its construction. We considered how ingenious the birds were to carry all the materials to the nest and create these with just a beak and two feet. We wondered how we could produce anything with just these body parts used. The other nest was smaller and much softer due to the feathers and moss that the birds had used to keep the chicks snuggly.
We learnt how it is illegal to disturb birds at the nest and that these nests were from trees and bushes that had been cut down in the winter when the birds were not using them.
The children then went on to make shelters with just a plastic sheet from a gazebo. They had to work as a team and problem solve to find what to attach their sheet to and how to keep it up. They used a combination of knots, long sticks and ideas learnt from camping trips.
Rooks Nest children went on to add furniture for themselves and their guests and invited these to a meal of meatballs. The guests meanwhile prepared pizza for a return visit!
12 November 2020
In Forest School this half term we will be looking at homes and shelters.
I shared with the children two very special nests. One belongs to a very small bird called a Willow Warbler. We Googled this in Honeypot to see what it looked like and found pictures of a nest full of tiny eggs. The other nest is of a harvest mouse which only weighs the same as a pull ring. It is so tiny it can climb up a buttercup or ear of wheat.
The children this week have been making their own dens using the materials in forest school. Their den had to be big enough to fit their whole group, which was not easy.
5 November 2020
The trees have given us plenty of material to work with in a variety of rich autumnal colours. The Sycamore is a mixture of amber, crimson and copper. The beech hedge is a mix of gold and bronze and the tiny leaves of the birches are a deep amber.
It never ceases to amaze me how creative the children of Therfield school are. With just a brief suggestion of what they might create, they organised themselves into friendship groups and set about creating an art installation in a matter of minutes.
The children of Duckpuddle and Rooks Nest showed good communication skills and excellent teamwork, including some very inventive methods for collecting and transporting leaves.
Honeypot have been choosing leaves to show at least five different colours and then they ordered their leaves by size.
15 October 2020
It was great to see the huge enthusiasm and creativity from the children in forest school this week. The task was to create a large art installation using natural materials with a skeleton theme. Before we started, we talked about the different names and functions of our bones. Honeypot also listened to the story of 'Funny Bones' by Janet and Allan Ahlberg.
The children displayed excellent teamwork and remained fully focused on what they wanted to achieve. Undeterred by the rain, the children’s only criticism was that they wanted longer to work on this project!
The pictures show the children working on their natural sculptures.
8 October 2020
Only Honeypot class came to Forest School this week as the other classes were busy with harvest celebrations. It was very blustery out on the field and we could see the wind moving the trees and the branches dancing. As we looked up into the branches of the veteran sycamore tree we could see so many colours. On the ground we noticed that some leaves had more than one colour on them, and some had a spotty pattern. Other leaves had so many colours "It was like a rainbow" said Dejhan.
Look at the fabulous rainbow of leaves we created.
1 October 2020
Red, orange, green, brown, purple and yellow are just some of the colours we noticed on the leaves this week. We spent time looking up through the branches of the sycamore tree whilst sat around the log circle. We also noticed some of the leaves had fallen off the tree and were making a tapestry carpet below.
I brought in some Autumn treasures from my walks this week and we talked about what the conkers and their cases felt like. We compared the conkers with acorns and learnt the names of the trees they come from. We also used feely cards to feel and compare the textures of natural things on the field.
Honeypot used the acorns and conkers for some painting, with the conkers rolling around to mix the paint.
Rooks Nest used tools to make a hole in the elder and wire as thread to make elder bracelets.
24 September 2020
Forest school activities this half term will be focusing on our five senses. We have used our eyes to see what we can find as well as using magnifying glasses.
We usually start each session with a game. The picture shows the two seekers counting up to 30 whilst their friends hide in a game of '123 where are you?'
Honeypot this week were using their sense of touch. They expanded their vocabulary using words to describe what they could feel. Smooth, bumpy, fluffy, hard, cold, rough and spiky were some of their favourites.
Rooks Nest and Duckpuddle have been exploring their sense of hearing. Here are some photographs of them creating rhythms on their natural drums.
17 September 2020
The children have been so excited to be back having Forest School sessions again.
Honeypot - We had a special visit from Mr Brock (soft toy Badger) today who explained that he had brought some of his wild friends with him to meet the class. His native wildlife friends were all hiding so the children needed to look very carefully to find them.
Duckpuddle - Nature Dectectives. We talked about what wildlife might visit the school and we searched for clues using a magnifying glass. Next we searched for bugs and beasties which included a spider, ant, ladybird and shieldbug.
Rooks Nest are reading Hodgeheg by Dick-King Smith. We talked about making a home for a hedgehog at school. We discussed size, materials and construction.
The children split into groups to make a collection of hog homes.