This month we have been working hard in our Woodland School curriculum area of Rope.
This area includes weaving, knotting, threading and attaching. This type of work is amazing for developing fine motor skills, patience and can be also extremely self-regulating and calming. Using these skills, the children have been able to create beautiful pieces of artwork and functional threaded bird feeders to care for our feathered friends during these winter months when food is scarce.
The second week of December brought us very icy, freezing conditions. However, we were also blessed with some beautiful sunshine that melted the frost lying away from the shade. We played lots of fast, active team games at the bottom of the field where the sunshine had reached to keep us all toasty. The children were also keen to explore the winter wonderland that our grounds had been transformed into. It is always a true privilege to observe and share their awe and wonder for our amazing natural world.
The first day of the month was a beautiful, chilly day. The first thing we noticed as we made our way up to the fire circle were the long rays of golden sunshine shining through the trees. We took a little time to enjoy the moment, but needed to quickly get moving again to keep warm. The session was den building with the challenges of making a group sign, pretend fire and delicious food from the mud kitchen! We finished with a warming real fire and campfire jammy doughnuts cooked in butter...needless to say, these went down a treat!
We have been very excited to get our trees from the Woodland Trust this week. This year we have a selection of Wild Cherry, Silver Birch and Rowan trees to plant around our site and the children have been working really hard to get them into the ground before the frosts arrive.
With the recent inclement weather, all our kindling was very wet ... so it was time to create some batons from our logs. Some of the children were keen to use the billhook machete to chop some thin strips from the logs. They showed a sensible risk awareness and were able to use this tool safely and with a high level of responsibility, both for themselves and their partner. We enjoyed a wonderful, warm fire from all their hard work!
October and November 2022
Glorious Autumn is well underway with the fiery leaves and an abundance of acorns, conkers and beautiful fungi. We have been using all the gifts that nature provides to make some woodland crafts, leaf art and cooking swedish fika (cinnamon and butter tortillas) over the fire to share around the firepit. We also have been using the cooler mornings to study the spiderwebs covered in dew - these little creatures are completely awe-inspiring!
September and October 2022
Autumn term started quite mild and we were lucky enough to have some sunny, dry weather.
Our apple tree produced some beautifully sweet, rosy apples and the children have been enjoying them to the full, both fresh straight from the tree and cooked. We chopped some up and cooked them over the fire with blackberries to make a colourful jam. This was enjoyed on a shortbread or ginger biscuit.
The children have got very good at selecting firewood from the site, choosing the dry, dead wood and sorting it in size order to make feeding the fire easy and practical.
Coming back to school to notice that all the housemartins nests were empty, with no sign of any of the birds which were so busy at the end of the summer term, got us thinking about the migrating birds and the long journeys that they take at this time of the year. We incorporated this learning into running games where we were migrating swifts flying from England to African countries. The birds encountered various dangers along the way such as birds of prey, storms, hunger and exhaustion. Some swifts were caught by these dangers as they made their journey - but much fun and energy was expended and the children warmed up nicely on a cool autumn morning!
Autumn seeds and fruits have been endless sources of fun and creativity. Acorns and conkers were the star of the show this week during our sessions. We had fun making characters from all sorts of natural resources!
Also, a very big WELL DONE to these hard-working boys from Silver Birch Class who cleared a large area of nettles and weeds behind our Mud Kitchen, ready for our new delivery of trees, due to arrive soon from the Woodland Trust.
June and July
With so much sunshine, the final two months of the term have been filled with lots of play in the cool shade of the trees for Blossom Class. We have spent Mondays and Tuesdays up in the Woodland School and have been using some of the colourful wild flowers and herbs in our woodland crafts.We made woven dream catchers threaded with lavender, mint, rosemary and rosebay willowherb - they really did smell divine!
Towards the end of the term the children enjoyed some delicious cakes brought in for a birthday treat by George. Summer in the woodland, there's no better place to be...
Our last sessions before half term were all about fire. The children learnt about the fire triangle and the three key things that a fire needs to burn. The children collected dry, fallen wood from the site, organising it into areas according to the thickness of the branches. They were looking for dry branches and twigs that snapped when broken, especially for the kindling. The children learnt about preparing a fire and the placing of the wood to create as much oxygen at the heart of the fire as possible. Once a good fire was going, the kettle was put on for hot chocolates and a snack around the fire. Some of the older children practised using flint and steels to create sparks. The safety rules of the fire were revisited and also the safe way to extinguish an open fire. It was a great day full of fun and the children shared ideas of what they would like to be included in the sessions after half term.
Our Woodland School is full of life! The plants are growing so quickly and everything looks fresh, green and lush. There are many amazing things to see and the children have enjoyed spotting and studying some of the invertebrates found in the area. They have been very gentle and shown great respect when returning these creatures to their original habitats.
We have noticed lots of bees recently too. The children learnt about how these amazing little creatures fly from flower to flower collecting the nectar and how this helps to pollinate the flowers.The children made pinecone bees and suspended them on sticks; they enjoyed running around the Woodland School pollinating the flowers with their pinecone bees.
Blossom Class have recently been spending Mondays and Tuesdays in the Woodland School and have loved investigating and learning about the natural world.
Last week Beech Class cooked bread rolls over the fire. They used freshly cut hazelwood skewers and wrapped the dough around the wood. They had to ensure they rotated their skewers to allow the bread to cook evenly. They learnt that cooking directly over the flame led to charred bread, whilst holding it near to glowing embers meant the bread was less likely to burn. There were mixed opinions over the taste, although most loved it. (A dollop of raspberry jam certainly helped to make them extra popular!) The children all remembered the safety rules and showed real responsibility around the fire pit.
At the start of this week, Year 4 had their residential visit to Hooke Court. Year 3 were lucky enough to have lots of time in the Woodland School during the first two days. The children worked together so co-operatively, making group shelters, cooking popcorn over the fire and using tools and wood to build many different things. Several of the children were keen to have a go at making bow and arrows. They used kestrel and pheasant feathers to decorate their arrows. We concluded this special time that that shared together with toffee apple slices cooked over the fire and lots of discussion about all the things they had enjoyed. So much learning and so much fun; it was a real privilege to work with Year 3 this week!
Last week, Woodland School was all about tools and whittling skills. The children chose greenwood branches to whittle, either using peelers or knives. Without exception, they showed great responsibility and all remembered our safety rules when using these tools. They then used wool and chalk pens to bind and decorate their sticks. In the afternoon, the children in Cherry, Blossom and Beech Classes enjoyed a special treat together around our campfire - campfire popcorn drizzled with a delicious toffee sauce made over the fire!
The children have been extremely busy these last few weeks planting young saplings that have been donated to school from the Woodland Trust. We have planted a selection of young trees including hazel, crab apple, dog wood, dog rose and hawthorn. We have also been busy improving our site, laying wood chippings and digging over the ground in preparation for planting vegetables.
Our fabulous Woodland School sign has now been erected near to the fire circle. The children are really proud of all their hard work. It really does look wonderful!
The week before half term we had had some fun practising our knots and rope-tying skills.The children wanted to be ready for our new den-building tarps which should be arriving soon! We practised simple overhand knots and attaching them to some of the trees around our woodland area. Some of the children had a go at a reef knot.
Amelia perfectly demonstrated what the word perseverance meant (this word is currently linked to our Praise Assembly awards). She spent much of the session practising a reef knot and by the end of the session had cracked it and was able to demonstrate and teach others back in the classroom. What a star!
More work with tools was also carried out this week. The hand drills are always popular and in this session we used them with natural slate. The children practised threading string through the holes, tying and knotting it securely.
Last Friday Silver Birch class had their turn in the Woodland School. We all had a fantastic day that included tool work, fires and fire safety, clay and toasting s'mores over the fire. Ms Reeves and Mrs Tyler were keen to be given the roles of quality controllers!!
It was lovely to see the birds coming to our pinecone feeders- we have a very bold little robin who is a regular visitor.
After finding a little wood mouse that had very recently died, the children decided they wanted to bury it and hold a little service - we buried him at the very back of our woodland area, the children made and decorated crosses and Archie gave him a wonderful send off with the most touching and heartfelt blessing...there were lots of clay tributes to him created on the trees too!
The children in Beech class have been working so hard today making the sign for our Woodland School. We are so proud of all their hard work and can't wait to get it dug into the ground in our Woodland School site.
We have been working on our tool skills in Woodland School recently, in particular using hammers and nails. The children are enjoying taking responsibility for their own and each other's safety and becoming very responsible. There were some beautiful creatures made yesterday in our tool area from wood, beads, nails and fabric - a selection of rabbits, cats, dogs and donkeys and I think even a cow was made by Harry!
This month has been a busy and productive one in our Woodland School. The children have loved digging up all the potatoes that we planted last year. The children in Cherry and Blossom Class washed and chopped them and made Leek, Carrot and Potato soup to share with the children in Beech Class. We had a wonderful session with all three classes sharing bread and soup heated from the fire in our woodland area.
We've also been busy looking after our birds this month and making them some winter treats. The woodland is now full of natural pinecone bird feeders packed full of seeds and nuts. We have been looking out for starlings and the amazing murmurations that they often form at this time of year. After finding some feathers we think may have come from a kestrel, a favourite game has been Starlings and Kestrels where the children try to keep in a murmuration formation whilst the catchers, holding a kestrel feather, try to catch as many as possible...the children soon learned that it was safer for the starlings to be in the middle of the flock!
Today in Woodland School we read one of our festive favourites; Stick Man by Julia Donaldson. The children (and adults!) had great fun making their own stick people and designing their clothes and hair. Some of these stick people had families and little stick children and babies - the children were so absorbed in their project they could have continued all day... Cherry and Blossom classes continued the festive fun in the afternoon with a treasure hunt in the school grounds for xmas-themed wood cookies (see the photo) and more Christmas crafts with clay and pine cones. We do love Christmas in Woodland School!
The last few weeks at Woodland School have been all about Autumn and leaves. We have been creating some wonderful leaf art with mosaics and some stunning leaf mobiles. Leaf weaving and rubbing have been popular too. Our beech tree at the top of the field has been so beautiful with copper-coloured leaves falling every time there is a slight breeze and the children have enjoyed making leaf angels in the thick carpet of leaves. Last week it was the younger children's turn for some campfire cooking - they tried apples cooked over the campfire in a toffee and cinnamon sauce - delicious!
The strong winds have added some recent interest with some of the children wanting to make leaf kites. They experimented with running as fast as they could to keep their kites in the air for as long as possible...we talked about how they could feel their hearts pounding in their chest and how their breathing had changed...nobody complained about being cold though!
We were lucky enough to have had some warm and sunny weather before half-term. As the weather now turns cooler, we have been enjoying some delicious hot chocolates and s'mores around the fire. We have also been practising our knots and have used these during our den building exploration - we even experimented with tripod dens as you can see in the picture!
Tool work has been really popular and the children have become very skilled in using the hand drills. They have enjoyed making things from natural slate and wood.
We have been busy with clay and natural materials too...there have been some very unusual snails sighted around our woodland area recently!