3rd /4th / 5th Class – Forest School Blog 2018/2019
Our Forest school sessions began last September/October with 4th class having 6 sessions.
In the springtime 3rd and 4th class enjoyed 8 sessions each.
In the summer months 5th class had 5 sessions.
Róisín Ní Chuanaigh and Áine Kelly were the forest leaders and many thanks to volunteers and parents who came along to assist with the sessions.
Every Friday we went to our site in Union woods, made a circle around the grandmother tree and sang a song. We always asked the Grandmother Tree for permission to go into the forest, as Gaeilge “An bhfuil cead againn dul isteach sa choill?” She always gave us permission!!
The children gathered at the log area and we went through the schedule of the day with our visual timetable. We usually started with Circle time, Nature Name, Fact and Action, followed by a game, then a nature based activity/ skill session before lunch. After lunch the children had the remainder of the session to play. Free play was always their favourite part! This involved lots of playing in the stream, making fishing rods to fish, building dams, making rafts, tree climbing, swinging on the swing and in the hammock, tree climbing, making art and crafts from natural materials and imaginary play.
Forest school went ahead in all kinds of weather, hail, rain or shine. Two forest sessions had to be cancelled to weather warnings in the local area and we ran the forest school sessions at school on those days. Áine Kelly (Forest Leader and Artist) made leaf tiles with us from clay. We really enjoyed rolling out the clay and watching the leaf print come out on the clay tile. Another week, the children drew maps of the forest site in groups in the school hall. They had a variety of materials to choose from and they all produced fantastic maps of the site.
Boundary Flags: Boundary Flags were put up to show the children how far they could go in the forest. At the beginning of every session we played the ‘Boundary Flag’ Game where the children had to run and find a different boundary in different areas of the woods.
Circle Time: Circle Time involved the children getting into smaller groups with their leaders. They revised the Golden Rules: “Keep myself safe and happy. Keep everyone in the group safe and happy. Keep nature safe and happy”. (We always insisted on Leaving No Trace).
Nature Name / Fact and Action: Each week the children had to share another fact about their Nature name. They shared their ‘action’ with the group and the group all copied the action! This was lots of fun.
Nature based Games: We played Palm Tag, Fox and Rabbit, Bettle Tag, Bat and Moth, You’re only safe if…, Nest robbers.
Nature Based Activities: Blindfold recognition, Leaf puzzles, Meet a Tree, Scavenger Hunt, Nest Building, Natural camouflage games
Sensory based activities: Mystery Object, Sense Meditation, Rope Walk, Blindfolded Caterpillar,
Skill session activities: raft building, den building, using bow saws and palm drills, setting up a rope swing, setting up a hammock
Art activities: leaf tiles, making mud faces for trees, small world creations with clay, fairies and clay gnomes, leaf print flags, drama
Family Fun Days: We invited parents, grandparents and siblings to join us for a session in the woods. They always fully participated in all of the activities and the children were keen to show them what to do in the forest. We shared nettle tea with each other at lunch time (after picking our own nettles) and cooked sausages and popcorn on a little camping stove.
Sit Spot: Each session ended with a Sit Spot, which involved everyone finding a quiet place to sit in the forest and after each sit spot everyone would something they heard/ saw when they were meditating.
We often sang a song to finish the session and always said “ Slán agus Go raibh maith agat” to our Grandmother tree.
Testimonials from the students:
“In school you’re usually stuck in a chair all day, but in forest school you are up and about playing and being around nature!”
” My least favourite part was going home”.
” I loved the timetable that told us what we had to do. The boundaries were a bit annoying but I know they were there to keep us safe”.
” I think that forest school was really fun and good for getting people outside”.
“I liked Find My Tree, the sawing, I liked making a nest”.
” The swing was really fun”.
“Everything about it was awesome”.
” I wish it could be parents day every week but that’s what I loved about forest school .. it was amazing, so fun!”
“I liked going in the stream and on the fallen over tree. I liked doing small world. I liked going on the ropes and hammock”.
“I loved sitting on the logs eating our lunch”.
Testimonials from parents:
” It is an excellent programme and gave her an insight into nature and habitats close to her school”.
“The benefits are fantastic from a physical development point and also from a mental health perspective”.
” It was a really good time. I enjoyed it a lot. Great..loved to spend time with my son”.
” It is wonderful that St. John’s make full use of the local amenities. It was lovely to meet other parents on the last day and do some really fun challenges. Well well impressed with everything”.
” I thought it was very practical and educational for the children. They were abllowed to use their imagination and play more than at school. Definitely beneficial”.
” Regardless of the weather she enjoyed spending time with her classmates outdoors in a fun environment”.
“The forest school programme was a fun way to introduce the children to some important ‘life- skills’. It was a way of bringing some creativity and enjoyment into their education in an ‘unconventional/ outside-the- box way. My child certainly thrived in this environment.”