This week we met a lovely new group of children and got to start to get to know a beautiful patch of National Trust woodland on Crockham Hill. We made a mandala of Autumn finds as a way of getting to know the trees and woodland space; finding sweet chestnuts, oaks, hawthorn, fragrant ground ivy and some fungi. We talked about the mycelium under the ground and how it helps the woodland to flourish and the trees talk to each other. Armed with gloves, some of the group foraged for fungi, which we set down on paper overnight to capture some spore prints from them.
Forest School enables diverse different interests and child led play. Some children explored the stream, swung on the hammock and played a blindfold game, exploring paths through the trees just using their sense of touch and hearing. Some made bows and arrows and showed patience and resilience in practising how to make them work successfully. They all shared hot apple juice and biscuits and worked brilliantly as a team to collect the equipment we had used, so they could leave the woodland as they had found it. It is always brilliant to hear what a diverse range of interests, joy and fascinations the children have, by having the freedom to safely explore the same space, but with such different outcomes. At the end of our session they shared one word about their experience in the woodland.
Inspired by the mushrooms and fairy rings, the children went on to create some woodland fairies, using hazel with beech nut hats and string to tie on leaf clothing. They then took some of them to live amongst the fairy ring under the holly tree.
There was lots of interest in looking under logs for insects and other creatures. We found centipedes, worms, woodlice, spiders in cosy webs, beetles and even a small toad, which hopped off after being rather surprised by the presence of people!
We found a startled pigeon on the woodland track, which was rescued by one of our crew and taken home for some care. The children were really interested in seeing a bird up so close, and carefully feeling it's feathers, so we hope it has recovered and is ready to fly another day soon.
The children looked at the canopy and noticed the turning of the colours and then rustled through the increasing leaf piles on the woodland floor. Some stuck them to a bowl with pva to create a leaf bowl. Some used knives to whittle the ends of sticks to create leaf pickers and set off towards the stream, collecting fallen leaves. The bridge over the tiny stream had another redesign; each week being deconstructed and rebuilt by the children!
What a brilliant week and in fact whole term in the woods, connecting with the change of summer to Autumn. We are running two holiday sessions during the half term break for children. To find out more info and booking, click the link below.
We look forward to seeing Autumn turn to Winter over the next few weeks and carrying on with more child-led play and exploration.