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.
6 February 2020
This was the warmest day this year at Forest School with clear blue skies, which was brilliant as earlier the ground had been frozen and Jack Frost had covered everywhere in a frosty fog.
Hot chocolate was todays treat made with water heated in a storm kettle from a fire. The children helped collect dry cracking sticks and fed the fire to keep it going. We noticed how the heat from the fire rose out of the chimney and as there was very little wind, any smoke rose straight up. We talked about how wind would change the direction of the smoke.
The picture shows teamwork in Honeypot as we rebuilt the log circle. The children coordinated this transportation between themselves organising enough children to move the pallet.
30 January 2020
There was moreconstruction in Forest School this week when the children were invited to build bridges.
The children shared their own experiences of bridges, which included the following; bridges to castles, glass bridges in Japan, a bridge over a gorge in France, Golden Gate bridge in the U.S. and the Severn Bridge into Wales. The children also remembered walking over a bridge on the way to the Pantomime.
The pictures show some of the children trying out the bridges they built with their team.
Sienna and Harry were super ladybird spotters, finding these sheltering ladybirds during their Forest School session.
23 January 2020
Making dens is always a favourite activity, so after a brief discussion of what a den was the children set off in teams to build one together.
The success criteria was that it had to survive the wobble test and be big enough for all their team to fit in.
The Rooks Nest den had sticks woven together to strengthen it and was big enough for the whole class.
16 January 2020
As usual, the wind and rain did not stop us this week: we just zipped up our coats and pulled up our hoods. We were building obstacle courses and did not want the weather to stop our fun. After a brief chat about what materials we could use, how to transport sticks safely and what the challenge might be, we split into teams.
The challenge was to create three different obstacles with three different challenges and work as a team to complete each obstacle/challenge. The photos show some of the obstacles the groups created in action. Challenges included jumping, balancing, weaving, crawling and stepping.
9 January 2020
In January you might expect brilliant sunshine and blue skies but not a high of 11°. Ladybirds were sighted in many places enjoying the sunshine just like us.
The activity this week was to create a tapestry of colours from plants found on the school grounds. At the end of the year we will have created three of these and be able to compare the colours available each term.
The target in this session was to find the most colours. Looking around we thought that brown and green might be the only ones we would find. The children excelled themselves finding leaves in grey, green, brown, orange, yellow and black. Daisy’s growing on the field ticked yellow and white, but then tiny flowers in blue and purple were also discovered. A section of a red berry meant that by the end of the session the tally of colours was up to 9.
An incidental find was some animal bones that were identified by the children as a small carnivore.
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.