Adventures in Nature
How muddy is too muddy? Forest school programmes run all year round and given our British climate we are lucky to be able to experience a wide range of weathers from hot and sunny to damp and rainy, often all in the same day. We’re outside a good chunk of the day so whatever the weather is doing, we feel it first hand and encounter its effects whether its slippy surfaces, a breezy fire or steam rising from your wellies. Last week I ran a session in the snow with some pre-school teachers and we enjoyed exploring the play possibilities it offered, such as making footprints and slides. I love the fact that the drama of the changing seasons mean that sites never look the same from one visit to the next. On our weekly sessions we can observe the tiny changes such as the trees gradually coming into leaf, puddles drying out to dust. Our St Ives and Middleton Woods forest school programmes run in the school holidays so there is 6 or 7 weeks between each one and the children comment on the profound changes to their bit of woodland; the reduced light levels due to leaves on the trees, the leafy woodland floor becoming a carpet of bluebells. (more…)
I’ve been scanning the skies for any sign of aurora borealis, which was predicted to make a rare appearence above the UK this week. I’ve seen some amazing recent pictures taken up in Scotland. However a good helping of cloud and the ambient light pollution in our part Yorkshire are making sure the only northern light we can see is the orange glow of Bradford street lighting. This wasn’t the case when I was down in Herefordshire at the weekend. England’s least populated county has virtually no light pollution making stargazing on a clear night child’s play. (more…)
I love Christmas, but as the big day gets nearer I start to wonder if I love the idea of it rather than the reality. Its such a busy time of year, with a month full of concerts, fairs, Christmas shopping and and trying to tie up work so you can take some time off. The joy of the season just seems to be lost when you’re stuck in a crowd at the overheated shopping centre listening to Slade on an endless loop. It would just be nice to spend some peaceful time with your family instead of rushing around ticking off lists. We had this in mind when we proposed a family Christmas craft session in the woods.
Should we be encouraging children to fight? Both forest school programmes I ran this week slipped happily into war games without any injury or incident and all the kids seemed to relish the opportunity to attack, defend, chase and outwit their enemies in the course of a day playing in the woods. I never advocate people physically hurting each other, but it seems to me that the need to play war is as natural to children as den building and climbing trees and to deny them the opportunity is to deny an instinct that goes back to our evolutionary roots. (more…)
Making things from the resources we find in the woods is a big feature of forest schools and coming from an arts background I like to bring a bit of creativity into the sessions. Last week I was at a holiday club in Bradford and enjoyed working with the kids to make natural pictures, willow sculptures and ‘boggarts’, woodland creatures made of clay. But the session we ran today was in a whole new league and a very exciting new development. At our last forest school in June some of the older boys asked us if we could use the tools more and create things from wood. So when I recently bumped into an old friend who told me he was getting into green woodworking, I told him about our St Ives forest school group in Bingley and he kindly agreed to come along. Jonas and Jim make very fine furniture (www.daedalianfurniture.co.uk) but in their spare time are enjoying getting back to the roots of wood working and discovering the pleasures of making pieces from green (recently cut and unseasoned) wood, without the use of powertools and electrical machinery. (more…)