It’s been a very busy time, running my Forest Schools sessions. I’ve been trying to get ready for my assessment, but it’s given me such a variety of outdoor experiences and adventures that I never would have predicted. It’s been great!
This week, I had a lovely experience with one of the boys from the group, and I’d love to share it. The activity was ‘Tree Faces’.
For this activity, all the children have is a ball of clay. They have to create a face on one of the trees in the forest. They can use twigs, fallen leaves, stones (etc) to decorate their faces, but we introduce a rule of “no use of living plants or trees” for the activity. This develops the learners’ sense of respecting nature. This is such a lovely activity where children can work with a partner, or on their own, and just take some quiet time to develop their own, individual creative skills.
A selection of our masterpieces!
All the children created wonderful faces on the trees, and I had a lovely time wandering around looking at them and chatting to the children. I asked them about their ideas and influences for their pieces of art.
My favourite part was talking to one particular boy. He’s getting so much out of Forest School. He jumps on the bus, so very excitedly each week, and I can’t believe how his imagination seems to grow with every activity. After taking a photograph of his creation, he came up with a wonderful ‘Tree Faces’ story that was an amazing example of his imagination.
‘Frank is a tree monster that lives at Forest School all the time. When we go home, Frank stays there so that he can watch and protect the forest. When horrible people sneak in at night-time, Frank will make scary noises and shout really loud. His blue eyes light up and frighten the horrible people who leave the litter and don’t tidy up after themselves. When they have gone, Frank turns nice. He talks to the birds and all the animals who live in the forest. He watches them to make sure they are safe and is there in case they can’t find their way home. He loves it when we come to Forest School, because he loves seeing all the children play nicely and he knows he doesn’t have to shout, as we tidy up after ourselves and never mess up the Forest.’
This was the lovely story he told me about his tree face. He was able to create such a wonderful story with just a little bit of clay, some natural resources and some free time.
The difficulty in promoting Forest Schools (and the ethos of the setting) is that some people mistake it for just playing in the woods.
They don’t fully understand the learning that comes when children take part in the sessions. This activity could be used as a tool back in the classroom to develop a childs creative writing. The child that I spoke to had the start of a brilliant story, and he came up with it all by himself. When we returned to the woods for the next session, he went straight over to Frank, asked how he was and was everything ok in the forest. It was amazing to see, in a child that has difficulty in a “traditional” classroom setting.
Clay tree faces…. a simple, but effective, activity that sparked the wonderful imagination of everyone……. and speaks to us all.
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To help me qualify as a Forest Schools Leader, I’m currently running six practical Forest School sessions with the children from a local Primary school. The sessions aim to provide a variety of learning experiences, including outdoor arts and crafts. This week, the activity was to combine woodland crafts with an introduction to the use of tools.
To achieve this, we made individual Forest Schools medals!
To start the medals off, I cut small discs of wood using a bow saw before the session, and the children would use a gimlet (which is a type of hand-held device) to make a hole at the top for the string to be threaded through. This helps to introduce tool use in gradual and manageable steps.
Making sure we wore gloves and that we worked on a secure surface, the children couldn’t believe that such a small tool would go through the wood to make a hole. First, we marked the area with a cross. Then by pushing down and twisting at the same time, we created a cork screw effect and the hole started to appear.
With very little effort and determination the children were able to twist all the way through. They were amazed and really very happy when they had made a neat hole all the way through the piece of wood.
Next came the drawing and design of their own medals. Each would be totally special and uniquely individual.
When we added the string, a brilliant and very individual wood craft medal was created by each child to take home in celebration of their day’s woodland activities!
This was an activity that took only 30 minutes, but seeing all the children going back to school in the mini bus, each proudly showing off their medals hanging from their necks really was a lovely, happy and satisfying sight.
A very simple but effective teaching-activity and, of course, I had to make one as well!
And here it is!!
While on holiday in Cornwall recently, we had an absolutely amazing day out at Eden Project. We were staying at the wonderful Coombe Mill, which is very close to the Eden Project, and so we decided that we would make the most of this opportunity to visit.
The Eden Project offers so much; environmental projects which are hands-on and very child friendly. There are stunning gardens with a variety of plants and trees to see. There are also arts and music events, which are available throughout the year. It has so much to see and to do, all in one place, and everything seems to have been cleverly designed to the last detail.
So we headed off for the day and, as we drove down to the car park, we saw the recognizable domes which, in reality, are absolutely huge. We were all so excited. As we walked through the reception area, it led us on to an amazing sight. A huge, vast area. with so much to take in and to see, it felt like we had a fantastic environment to explore all day long.
To start, we made our way around the outer area, walking through the meandering paths, and taking in the landscape. It was a fantastic mix of natural materials and sculptures; (the hidden man-made trees were my favourite.) Such a delight for the senses, we really didn’t want to rush, just in case we missed something.
With every few steps, there was something new to see. We found that we were all spotting different sights, and you could hear my daughter shouting out ‘come here’, or ‘look, you missed that’. It was such a wonderful start to a journey, and we had only been at the project for about an hour.
One of my favorite things was the area which we called the tea park. You are encouraged to bring your own food, always a “plus” in my book. I always find it slightly distasteful when places only want you to eat their food and pay their prices. We had a great area with a climbing-ship for children, and even the tables were turned into a learning tool. The history of tea was explained on the tables, and this educational and interesting touch was amazing.
After slowly wandering around, we were inticed into the first dome. We chose the to see the tropical dome first, as we were told how hot and humid it would be. They weren’t wrong, and there was a great pre-thought aspect of an area offering us a free a facility where we could hang up our coats and excess baggage.
When I was younger, I spent a month living in a rainforest, and the feeling I got when I stepped into the dome was exactly that same. It was truly amazing! I have never experienced such a sight or felling. I felt like I’d stepped into a movie set and it took us a few minutes to take it all in.
We slowly wandered around, absorbing every sight, noise and smell. There was so much to take interpret. My daughter loved exploring around this area, as she was able to wander and go ahead of us quite freely. It was a real adventure for her. We saw tropical plants, such as banana trees, coffee, rubber and giant bamboo.
Another great part of the rainforest dome was the suspended platform that took us to the very top of the structure. It was 165 feet high! It became hotter with every upward step. It was an expedition in itself, climbing the wobbly steps, and looking in awe at all the plants and waterfalls below. (My husband was a bit worried as before you could make your way up the steps you had to sign a health waiver confirming that one was fit and healthy). Treading slowly up the steps, one at a time, we felt like we were on an action film-set, with every slight wobble of each step. When we got to the top, we enjoyed a brilliant view of the whole dome from all angles.
My daughter’s favourite part of the tropical dome was when one of the staff members explained to her about the variety of spices that were grown in the dome. At a life-sized sculpture of a “Spiceboat”, they spent half an hour filling the little draws with different spices, smelling each one and discussing where they’d come from, as well as the history behind each spice. My daughter was fascinated, and she ran off to different trees and leaves, smelling each of them, and coming up with ever more questions for the staff to answer.
We left the tropical dome and HAD to stop for a locally-made ice-cream to cool ourselves down. Aftrewards, we headed to the Mediterranean dome. This presented us with a completely different temperature and environment. Dry, humid and warm, it reminded us of “holidays”. As the adults were feeling a bit contemplative at this point, a welcome and lovely addition was that we were in time for the story-telling session taking place in the Citrus Grove. Cushions and mats were placed on the floor giving comfort for tired kids…. (ans adults). The story-telling was magical, interactive and captured my daughters imagination from the very beginning.
As the children listened, I was able to take in the environment around us. There were large citrus plants growing in front of us, birds flying around and tweeting their songs and beautiful sculptures dotall around us, simply adding to the stunning ambiance. The story-teller was also so whistfully lovely. She actively included the children and developed the story so that the children could be involved, and they came up with a very unusual story about cauliflower, rock and chocolate soup! At the end, she stayed and talked to my daughter, listening to her explaining where we lived and how she knew about the fabled story of Merlin. The wonderfully crafty story-teller then lovingly gifted my daughter a penny she’d found, as if to pass on the luck of ‘find a penny’. This was a really calming addition to the day.
Time began to run out for us, and so we really had to hurry as we’d not seen everything that the Project had to offer. We wanted to get a closer look at some of the environmental sculptures that were on display around the gardens, and we soon spotted one that was so cleverly put together. It was made from all types of recycled materials imaginable, such as plastic bottles and metal from cars, tyres washing machines and so-on, and so a huge sculpture of a bee could be seen from far away. This incorporated the clever environmental message of ‘message-in-a-bottle’….. my daughter loved looking at the different colours and identifying the different materials that had been used.
Our time was coming to an end, and we truly still hadn’t seen everything that the Project had to offer. One day is simply not enough, and in my opinion, I think you need two days around the Eden Project to make sure you that see and appreciate the full experience. On our way out, we were very lucky to sneak a quick look at the facility offering a curriculum-based educational learning session for children, and my daughter had great fun catapulting seeds across to a target area, and pumping air to burst balloons that were full of little scraps of paper to illustrate the science behind how seeds are pollinated and travel.
These were such simple, yet brilliant, experiments to explain how seeds can be carried through the wind, or be stuck to animals or people, then drop off to be grown in different places, and the staff even explained how seeds can be carried in poo! Of course, my little devilish-daughter absolutely loved hearing that, and it made her day complete!
We wandered slowly back to the car, really not wanting to leave. We truly had such a wonderful day, with so much to see and to do. Everything had been planned out and designed so that every need was addressed, and there was something for everyone to experience.
I also have to say a big thank you to the staff at the Eden Project. Everyone that we met and spoke to were so welcoming, and nothing was too much trouble. The staff were so engaging, especially with my own my daughter, but with the younger people generally. They answered questions, explained the wonderful things that you could see and took time to inspire the little minds with great care and enthusiasm.
I would especially love to say a big thank you to the lady at the Spiceboat, and the wonderful story-teller who really made my daughter feel extra special by spending so much extra time with her; (I’m only sorry that I didn’t get their names).
We will definitely return, and I would highly recommend this utterly fantastic day out for families who love exploring, learning about our planet earth and who enjoy ending the experience feeling like you’ve truly lived through an adventure.
Just some more of the lovely images that I took during our day
And this is my favourite photograph of the day!
I received entry tickets into The Eden Project from Superbreak in order to review the attraction, my opinion is honest and unbiased.