Warden Hill Primary School Cheltenham

Reception Forest School

Our youngest children, RW and RA, have been up to Forest School over the last few weeks for the first of many sessions over their years at Warden Hill I hope. We have had dry days and wet days, but nothing deterred them and they took to forest school like little ducks to water.

Tree climbing is always terribly exciting for the reception children, particularly those who have not climbed trees before. There were some proper monkeys amongst them who shimmied up from branch to branch at great speed, and there were sloths too, who were happy just hanging around at lower levels. Managing risk is all part of the children’s journey at forest school and as with adults, some children are a little more risk averse and some just need to get higher quicker than anyone else. It is really wonderful though to hear them shouting “look at me, look at me” from whatever branch they have decided is high enough for them, and wonderful again half an hour later when they are calling from higher up again.

The mud kitchen is always a winner and certain children gravitate towards it week after week. Whilst some children like to work together gathering soil and pouring in the water to make mud, I am always happy to see the children who are just enjoying a bit of muddy time on their own, figuring out why the funnel isn’t working or watching the water splashing about as they whisk it. I am a very firm believer that there is no right or wrong way to play as long as you are being kind and enjoying yourself.

The brightly coloured pegs have been used for building fabulous dens that I would be pretty happy spending the night in, but also for creating art and even decorating people, as Jack, who was helping out from Bournside discovered when he became the Peg Monster for the afternoon.

There are always snails and woodlice and worms to be played with, as well as the litter pickers which the children soon discovered could be used for picking up lots of different things. This is one of the many ways in which the children learn as they play in forest school, and the determination that some of them show when trying to pick up something tricky is really admirable.

It was great getting to know all the reception children, they were all absolutely delightful and surprisingly good tidier uppers as well!

Have a wonderful summer.
Belinda Chavasse

Forest School: Year 1

1B and 1R have both had four lovely forest school sessions each including an afternoon of clay work when we were threatened with downpours. The children are so good at engaging despite the last minute change of plan and really enjoyed drawing a detailed picture of the creature they wanted to sculpt, and adding exciting adjectives to the drawing to help it come alive for the reader.

They then really took their time to bring it to life in clay, with some really fabulous outcomes that I was incredibly impressed with. Marcellus’ dragon was in a league of its own and showed extraordinary imagination and great skill.

Inevitably with differing dynamics, every class plays in different ways and certain resources become more or less popular. With spring on the march and everything starting to grow quickly, bright green sticky weed has been a really big feature for this year group – who knew that a weed could be so much fun? We made sticky weed crowns and a lot of sticky weed made it into the mud kitchen inspiring some fabulous dishes.

The chalk boards are new this year and proved really popular too, with children variously writing, shape making, doing maths, writing out recipes and drawing in the shade under the trees. The wooden board games were used a lot too in base camp with long running, fiercely competitive noughts and crosses competitions. Seeing that some of the children really appreciated these more quiet, thoughtful pastimes I started to take some picture books and non-fictions books out too for the first time offering some children the opportunity to just take a moment, which was lovely to see.

Den building can be a wonderful solitary activity giving a child the opportunity to take the time to bring something they have envisaged to life, but this year group made big collaborative dens which was great to see. Working in this way on a group project required lots of conversation, team work compromise and adaptability which are such important skills to learn.

For the first time there was lots of building work in this group as well, plastering mud on to the tree branches to make them smooth, painting them with water and chopping thing with the side of the trowels. It is fascinating to see where their imaginations go and always interesting to see who the children chose to play with depending on what they are doing.

As we move into the summer our reception children are having their first taste of spending time in our lovely site, and I look forward to getting to know them and support them as they continue their learning through play.

Mrs Chavasse

Forest School

2T enjoyed 4 sessions in forest school through February and March, busily making the most of our lovely site no matter what the weather.   

Children seem to know innately where creatures hide and sure enough as logs were overturned and bark was peeled back worms, slugs, snails and woodlice were found.  Almost without need for reminders they are carried around gently, homes and hidey places are built, friends and family are found and at the end of the sessions they are carefully put back somewhere safe.    

There are so many learning opportunities in everything they do and we had wonderful conversations about why slugs leave slimy trails (combatting friction) and how long snails can disappear into their shells for (3 months).  Similarly peeling bark off dead wood led to an important conversation around leaving bark on live trees so that water and nutrients can pass up to the leaves. 

Children benefit hugely from time spent in forest school, but I hope it is also a happy opportunity for their teachers and TAs to  step back a little and just observe the children.  Group dynamics can change in different environments and children often chose to play outside immediate friendship groups.  Some find the classroom quite challenging but come into their own in forest school, whilst real team players may take themselves off quietly to work on their own. 

Tree climbing is always a joy and so good for the children as they learn how to keep themselves safe and figure out how they are going to get down once they have got up.  They are always immensely encouraging of each other, whether their partner is being a sloth on one of the lower branches, or has been really brave and pushed themselves to go higher. There is nothing better hearing them shouting proudly for friends and adults to notice what they have achieved. 

The mud kitchen is always popular.  Some children love the mud and the mess and “cook” with great vigour, whilst others are more measured and manage to remain remarkably clean as they pour wonderfully oozey mud from jug to bowl.  As long as they have wellies and an old waterproof coat, along with the waterproof dungarees that we provide, it is a joy to watch them whisking and stirring up their concoctions.  

Next as we move hopefully into the spring, it is the turn of our lovely year 1s.     

Mrs Chavasse  

Forest School

The last few sessions of forest school this academic year have been with our Reception children who have been making the most of our wonderfully jungly site.

Children are naturally inquisitive and forest school affords them such a wonderful opportunity to explore and be part of the natural world on a really close up basis, to touch it, smell it and listen to it. It also affords them a wonderful chance to slow down a little and just “be” for a while (this usually seems to happen up trees) and you can almost feel it doing them good.

Mud and water have inevitably been a big feature whilst it has been so warm, and as a year group they have specialised in squishy squashy mud balls. Watching them create mud baths for the unsuspecting dinosaurs is a delight, and in the children’s imaginations at least, they are clearly all around us and roaring as loud as ever. As adults forest school is a great opportunity to stand back and watch the children learning as they play, such as when they oh-so-carefully pour water from one container to another so as not to waste a drop.

Whilst the snails keep a low profile when it’s hot there are plenty of other insects about and shield bugs, woodlice and hoverflies in particular are everywhere. Stepping back and listening to the children’s interactions with them and about them is fascinating, and watching them pass a ladybird between them shows just how gentle they can be.

Have wonderful summer and if you can make time for your children to just to be outside without laid on activities or adult input. Feeling at home in nature gives children the opportunity to really relax and be themselves. Give them a bucket full of water and a trowel and time to play and they will be much the happier.

We didn’t realise we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun.

Forest School

It has been lovely being up in Forest School with 2T and 1B over recent weeks. It is always such a privilege to observe the different ways in which they learn and play. Some children naturally work together as teams to build camps or make wonderful creations in the mud kitchen, whilst others chose to work by themselves to achieve their own goals. I have been so impressed by their engagement with the idea of land art producing wonderfully creative outcomes, and whilst some children continue to work on their art all afternoon, others are straight up the nearest tree or digging for treasure or worms in the free play part of the session. So often more is less in Forest School and it is fascinating watching them learn so much playing with a few pegs, a trowel, a litter picker or one of our soft toys or dinosaurs.

On that note, if anyone has any dinosaurs their children no longer play with, or soft toys animals (only those specifically found in forest school i.e. deer, fox, rabbit, mouse, rat, badger, owl, robin, mole), I would always be happy to give them a home.

Mrs Chavasse