Forest Friday/Dalkey School Project N.S.

Session 9


Our final session.

Today we celebrated the Summer Solstice on a beautiful sunny day. We spent most of the time exploring new places above the trees in the sun. We discovered new plants and new views.

Senior Infants

More creativity at our gathering spot.

Bee Watching

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Summer Headdresses.

The Taste of Summer

Wild Elderflower Tea

New places


The Return of the Sun King

Most of the fairy folk, those who tend the flower children in meadows and forests, were left to wander through the winter, seeking warmth and shelter. They sought these in the homes of mortals, hoping to rest beside the fires both in castles and in cottages. Where ever fairy stories were being told at night or where ever Christmas candles were burning, there they were allowed to rest awhile.

This winter, the Fairy Queen and her troupe had been wandering and wandering. The snow blew in great swirling clouds and Old King Winter laughed and crackled. Jack Frost had a jolly time pinching their noses and toes. Worst of all and sad to say, there were not enough resting places for the fairy troupe. Most of the stone castles were dark and deserted and had been so a long time. The houses, great or small, where real fairy stories were still being told were few and far between. And the Christmas Candles burned in but a few windows.

One very dark night, after Yuletide, but long before Spring was due, the Fairy Queen began to grow very sleepy, as mortals do
when they begin to freeze. Not being a mortal, she could not die but she could not wake up either. All of the fairies tried to wake her up. They danced and fluttered around her and sang songs as loudly as they dared. At last, with the help of two white snow-hares they managed to bring the Queen back to the stone circle, which is their palace and dancing place. Without their Queen, the fairies were entirely without direction and purpose. Many also fell asleep and the ones who stayed awake were mournful and very miserable.

Lady Spring finally came back from her palace in the South. She chased old King Winter back to his ice palace in the frozen North. The ice melted and gentle rains fell. Seed babies began to awaken and the first flower children appeared. The fairies grew hopeful and hurried to bring Lady Spring to the bed of her sleeping sister. Lady Spring took the Fairy Queen’s hands and breathed the promise of Spring over her. She sang her magic song of roses and butterflies, of newborn lambs and nightingales.The Queen’s cheeks grew rosier and she seemed to breathe more fully than before. But alas! Her eyes would not open, nor would she speak!

Lady Spring grew sorrowful and this brought a tremendous Spring storm. She had to dry her eyes quickly so as not to bring on a flood. She took leave of the queen’s attendants, saying, “I must continue on to waken all of the seed babies. Guard your Queen well and wait for Summer.”

The fairies promised to do their best, but in truth, the seed babies and flower children were not taken care of as well as they should have been.

Day by day, the fairies could see the ascent of the Sun King on his fiery steed. He was still far away, just over the horizon. Little by little he came closer and the day began to grow longer than the night. Finally, it was Midsummer’s Eve and the Sun King reached the pinnacle of the sky. He was riding very high over the palace of the Fairy Queen. The fairies shouted and, pranced and danced, trying to catch the Sun King’s attention. He was too high up to hear them, but he soon noticed that the Fairy Queen had not come to greet him on this, their meeting day.

The Sun King turned his steed toward the Earth and came as close as he could without harm. Of course, everything grew tremendously hot and the flower children took refuge under the broad leaved trees and bushes.

Still, the Queen did not wake up. Her hands and feet were still icy, although her hair shone golden in the brilliant light. Then the Sun King took off his mantle of fire and climbed down from his sky horse. Without the fire mantle, he would not scorch anything or anyone. Still, he was almost too bright to look at! He came to the Fairy Queen’s couch and he bent down and kissed her. He took her hands in his and felt them grow warmer and warmer. She opened her eyes and drew a long breath. She arose with all of her sleeping companions.

What rejoicing there was! Such a shouting and singing! Each fairy nurse ran to find her poor neglected flower child.

The Queen thanked the Sun King for bringing her back to life. She told him how dark and cold the winter had been. She wondered what to do the next time King Winter’s might was stronger than human love and light.

“Do not fear,” said the Sun King, “For the darkest winter has passed and Winter’s power will someday be totally overcome. Human beings will remember to light their fires again. The Christmas candles will burn brightly in many homes and around the hearths, real fairy stories will be told again. I myself will proclaim this from the skies. For the light of the world has come to birth in human hearts and this can never again be extinguished.”

Then the Sun King mounted his winged charger, put on his fire mantle and rode back to the summit of the sky. The fairy folk waved him on his journey with love and gratitude.

Finding seed babies in the gorse after listening to the story.

The children continued to hunt for seed babies from other plants…..and then someone found seed babies in Seb’s hair. Seb said he thinks they are Sticky Weed babies because he make a crown and they must have stuck to his hair when he was wearing it.

Making Shadows at the top of the hill.

We decided to finish off at our base camp to say goodbye, and robin came for a final greeting.

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Second Class

Collecting Elderflowers for tea and stopping at the “Ice Cream Parlour”.

Finding seed babies. I overheard two children making arrangements for play dates for their seed babies.

New Places

Far and Near.

The children pointed out places they knew -Dalkey Island, Bray Head, the “Volcano” the stadium.

Looking closely, they found insects.

As with Senior Infants the Second Class decided to finish up at their base camp. They had a lovely play in their favourite places and spent time with their squirrel friend Rua.

In our final circle we had a very moving time where each child decided to be Rua’s voice and say what Rua noticed during the nine sessions. Each child finished with a hug for Rua.

In our circle we stood very still and observed Robin. He came very close and made a full circle around our circle. How lovely it was to  finish with a “Robin’s Blessing”.


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Forest Friday/ Dalkey School Project N.S.

Session 8

Parents and Children Session

We had a wonderful day with parents. The children chose what wild teas, games and stories to share with their parents.

During the week children continued their research on birds in the classroom.This week they looked at gender difference by appearance during breeding season and how you might be able to tell what different species of bird each by their beak shape.

Gender Differences by Appearance

It is often possible to determine which birds are male or female by appearance.

Many bird species show visible differences between male birds and female birds. In most cases, male birds sport brighter, bolder colours as a way to attract mates. Female birds are usually duller, with less distinctive markings that make it easier for them to blend into the surroundings while they mind a nest or protect young birds.

The physical differences between male and female birds are most apparent during the spring and summer breeding season when brighter colours attract mates more effectively. Bold colours are also less dangerous in the summer months when colourful birds can still blend into bright flowers and foliage.

Senior Infants

At the gathering time the senior infants and their parents chose a woodland bird name for the day. They decorated wood cookies with their names and woodland bird names.

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On the way up to our base camp the children stopped to show them interesting plants. The children made a cocktail of wild teas from elderflower, nettle and cleavers for their parents.They knew exactly where each plant grows.

They stopped on the way to listen to the bird song and taught their parents the 5 voices of birds.

Creativity Activity

Create a Pair of Birds

Materials- Natural foraged materials, clay and string. As a basic structure find two sticks and attach a ball of clay on each to represent the bodies and heads of your pair of birds.Use materials in the woodland to create your birds.

We gathered in a circle to have a look at the birds that had been created and find out about them. Each pair answered questions –

Which is the male and which is the female? Are they different?

What do they eat? What shape are their beaks?

Where do they live? Do they migrate? Are they nocturnal?

We got amazing information on the birds.

Sit Spot

Second Class

Wild tea cocktail.


While we were in our circle telling each other about the birds that we had created, Shay stopped and gently quietened us to point out a tree creeper very close by

The parents said that they were amazed at the children’s interest and knowledge. Many said that they didn’t know about this bird.

Sit Spot

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Forest Friday/Dalkey School Project N.S.

Session 7

Senior Infants

Morning activities while gathering

Creative Boxes on Mats

The children seemed less interested in the box that contained sea stones, slate and white chalk so over the last two sessions I added coloured chalk, water and feathers. They are much more stimulated by the contents now. I listened in. A child was painting using a feather with water on a slate. ” Oh look, it’s like ink!”

Another children painted on a pale grey stone. ” Mine isn’t like ink, look.”

Another child combined water and white chalk. ” This is Maryrose out in the rain.”

This week the idea was to plan for next week when we will be inviting parents up to share the session and experience Forest Friday for themselves.

How will we guide them up to base camp?

What will we show them?

What game will we play?

What story will we tell?

What wild tea will we make?

We played a new game – Bat and Moth

We took a trail through the meadow grass on the way to our base camp. There were lots of new plants and bugs to discover after our two week break.

We picked the red clover stamen and tasted the nectar. We found lots of cuckoo spit in the thistles and bramble.

As we walked up to base camp senior infants stopped because we could hear a lot of bird sounds. They decided that it was the third voice from of five voices of birds – “Keep away.” We looked up and they pointed at two blackbirds using the third voice to a magpie. “No,” someone said, “look it’s a hooded crow.”

I noticed how much knowledge they have built up, and interest in what is happening around them.

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A blackbird using his alarm call.


The weather was sunny and still. I suggested we have our break at the very top of the hill. This was a long climb but the children were excited to explore up higher from our base camp. The environment was different at the top there was more light and therefore new plants and new bugs to discover.

Wild Tea

There was enough gorse flowers left to make wild gorse tea. While foraging for gorse flowers they found a lot of ladybirds and flies.

We made our tea and had our break. It was lovely to spend time in a new environment. There was more light. We could see further.


How the dragonfly came to be (Bulgarian folktale)

God had been very busy. She had been making all kinds of creatures for days. She thought it was time that she sat back in her chair in her workshop and had a bit of a rest because her materials were beginning to run out and she was beginning to run out of creativity. Poor thing. So there she was, sitting back, dozing off (sound effects) when …

Ribbit, flop, ribbit, flop, … into her workshop came a frog.

“Uh, God, hello, uh, you’ve given me these really weird eyes. Whenever I look out of them, I see hundreds of things. I’m never sure if I’m looking at one thing or what’s going on. It makes catching dinner very tricky. Is there any chance you could replace them with something that I could just see one thing out of?”

God woke up and looked down and saw that yes indeed the frog had very odd looking eyes.

“Well, yes, you see, I’ve only got one pair of eyes left and they’re still a bit damp. I haven’t quite finished them. You can have those. Is that alright?”

“Oh yes. Anything will do. Thanks God.”

So God reached forward and she pulled out the eyes that were there and popped them on her workbench. And he got the ones that weren’t quite ready yet and popped them into the frog’s eyes.

The frog wiped his eyes a little bit as they were a bit damp. And when he opened them he saw clearly for the first time.

“Thank you so much God. I’m off to get some dinner as I haven’t been able to catch anything.”

Ribbit, ribbit, ribbit.

God was very happy because she had a satisfied customer and dozed off in her armchair when…

Bzzzz, spluh, bzzzz, spluhh….

Closer and closer came a very small, fairy like insect with very large wings. Closer and closer towards the workshop, into the door frame and in onto the workbench came this creature. God opened her eyes and saw a bumble bee with very large wings.

“God, god, em, these wings are terrible. I can’t fly with them. Is there any chance you could take them off and put some smaller ones on because I just can’t control them. “

God looked at the wings and said, “Ah, yes, they do look a little bit big. Um, yes I do have some very small ones. I’m not sure that they’ll be quite big enough but we can try.”

“Oh anything will do. It’s gotta be better than these ones.”

God reached forward and slowly took the four wings out of the bee and there they were. He put them back on the bench and reached into the drawer where there were four little wings and popped them onto the bee.

“Oh, that’s much better. Thank you so much. Thanks God. Bzzzzz, bzzzzz, bzzzzz.”

God was very happy and could hear the happy birds singing outside as well and she thought I do love some of these sounds and she drifted off listening…(snoring). And just then …. Stumble, stumble, trip, stumble, stumble, trip …..

“Oh God. God. Are you awake? Oh bother.”

Closer and closer came a little ball of a body with loads of legs sticking out of it.

“God, wake up. You’ve asked me to go and make webs but I can’t make anything. I’ve got way too many legs. They keep on getting into a tangle. Can you take some of them off?”

God looked down at the floor and climbing up the side of the workbench was a spider and it had loads of legs.

“Oh, sorry”, said God, “em, I can take a few off if you have too many.”

“Oh yes. Definitely. I think I’ve got 14 but I’m not sure. Perhaps, take off 6. That leaves me with 8. I might be able to manage with them.”

God reached down and carefully plucked off 6 legs and put them carefully on the workbench.

“Oh that’s fantastic. Thanks God. I’ll have much more success now.”

And off went spider happy and co-ordinated.

So God leaned back in her armchair and looked out into the world and thought there were so many beautiful things out there and fell back asleep. (snoring) And she was just drifting off when a complainy, whingy voice got closer and closer….

“God, God. It’s just not fair. Everyone keeps on picking on me. Can you give me a different coloured tail. I’ve got this bright blue tail and all the birds keep on coming down and pecking at it and poking at it and I don’t feel good about myself at all. Sometimes the tail just drops off and it just wriggles there and I think oh what’s happening and another grows back but it’s the same colour. Is there any chance you could give me a different colour tail and the birds won’t pick on me?”

God opened her eyes and said, “you poor thing lizard. Yes, I’m sure I’ve got one here. I’ve got a brown one. It’s not very brightly coloured but how about that?”

“Oh that’d be great.”

So God reached forward and plucked out the lizard’s long blue tail and plopped it on the work bench and gave lizard a long brown one and fixed it in and made sure it waggled properly.

Lizard looked around and said, “oh that’s much better. Stripy and brown. Thank you so much.” And off he went into the distance.

God looked around and saw the piles of things on her workbench and thought there was enough there to make another creature. She dug in and picked up the two big googly eyes and stuck them into the ground (cones?) and then added the legs (sticks?) 1,2,3,4,5,6. And then there was the tail. And finally the wings.

And God thought, that looks pretty good and breathed magic breath into it. And there was a dragon fly and off it went out to hunt on the ponds and around the lakes.

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They brought their bugs back to base camp and decided to make bug hotels for them.

The bugs were released into their luxurious hotels, which had stairs, boats, beds.

They chose a sit spot that they would like to bring their parent to next week.

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Jenny’s Senior Infant Group

Skills of noticing, observation and curiosity, integrating senses before we even get to base camp!

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Second Class


Bat and Moth

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Wild Tea

They chose to make a cocktail of nettle and ‘sticky weed’/cleaver tea.

Bug Hunt and Land Art Bugs

Jenny’s second class group

Forest Creatures Land Art



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Forest Friday/Dalkey School Project

Session 6

Slideshow sent to teachers to show before the session

What Do Birds Eat?

Woodland Birds

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Woods and trees are packed full of food options for woodland birds, from the insects that hide in dead wood to the seeds growing on trees.

The woodland floor is full of insects such as beetles and spiders.

Blackbirds: These ground-feeding birds scurry along the edge of the forest and the floor of the forest searching for earthworms, insects and snails. When autumn rolls around, they also enjoy taking advantage of the berry harvest.

Robins are often seen on low branches and bramble searching for earthworms on disturbed ground. They eat insects such as beetles and spiders, and will eat berries and seeds they find on shrubs, trees, and vines.

Finches: Chaffinches and goldfinches both have seed-based diets. The bill of a goldfinch allows it to take small seeds from plants such as teasels, thistles and ragwort. Both chaffinches and goldfinches will also take invertebrate prey during the summer.

Treecreepers: Starting at the bottom of a tree and working its way up, the treecreeper will search for insects and spiders. It uses its stiff tail feathers to support itself while doing so. During the winter it will also feed on seeds.

On Friday we will check to see what kind of bird food we can find at our base.

Bring your good eye sight.

Meeting Point Activities.

While the children wait for the whole class to gather they create using material in a box provided for each group.


Hungry Birds

Divide into two teams, the children hunt for worms.


Cut lengths of about 18cm of coloured wool (these are our worms) in reds, yellows, blues as well as browns and greens.

Attach lengths of coloured wool, to match the worms (lengths of 18cm) to one stick per group.

Skill needed, make a square knot – attach wool to a stick


  1. Show the children how to attach a length of wool or string to a stick with a square knot
  2. Divide into two groups.
  3. Give each team a guide stick that displays all the colours that they are looking for as well as another stick that they will use for tying on the worms that they find.
  4. Tell the children that they are young birds and must stick together, to help each other hunt for food. Explain that as long as they find three worms they won’t be hungry – but the more worms the merrier.
  5. Set a time limit


Ask which colours were easier to find, the green ones or the red ones. Was it those that were out in the open, high up low down?Birds eat a lot of different kinds of insects and bugs. How can bugs avoid capture? Camouflaged, tasting disgusting, being poisonous, having a hard shell or a painful sting? Is it important for baby birds to have a parent to teach them what they can and cannot eat?

Senior Infants

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It was lovely to be able to see a robin catch a worm beside us as we discussed our worms and how easy or hard it was to find them.



Bouncy blackbird

Somewhere in the garden, hopping on the ground,

A bouncy little blackbird stopped and looked around.

“I am feeling hungry and want something to eat,

So all I have to do is find a tasty treat.”


He hopped, stopped and hopped again, turning his black head,

Saw a worm, gave a tug, swallowed it and said,

“when I’m feeling hungry, worms are what I eat,

And this is what I do when I find a tasty treat!”


Then he spied another bird hopping on the path,

It was Cheeky Sparrow and Bouncy Blackbird asked,

“when you’re feeling hungry, what do you like to eat?

And what do you do then to find a tasty treat?”


“Ah,” said the sparrow, “I eat anything, I do,

Seeds and nuts and berries, and sometimes insects, too”

When I’m feeling hungry that is what I eat.

There are lots of places to find a tasty treat…”


“Bird tables, feeders and the ground have all that we need.

Eating with my sparrow mates we like lots of seeds.

When I’m feeling hungry, there’s not much I won’t eat

I don’t have to try hard to find a tasty treat.”

So off hopped Bouncy Blackbird until by and by,

He asked busy blue tit, who was sitting way up high.

“when you’re feeling hungry, what do you like to eat?

And what do you do then to find a tasty treat?”

“Well,” said busy blue tit, “I’m a climber, it is true,

I’ll eat the bugs and seeds, that are out of reach for you.

Unlike you, I don’t feel safe eating on the ground,

I like it best way up high, hanging upside down.”

Bouncy blackbird said, “thank you” then he hopped away.

And came across Robin. “Hello” he said “Good day”.

“when you’re feeling hungry, what do you like to eat?

And what do you do then to find a tasty treat?”

“Well,” said Robin, thinking, “insects are fine by me,

But if I can’t find those, it’s berries then for tea.

I find a place high up, where I can sit and search

And when I spy a bug I swoop down from my perch.”

“Well,” said Bouncy Blackbird, “ with all this talk of food

I’m getting rather peckish and don’t wish to be rude,

But now I’m feeling hungry and need something to eat.”

So off he hopped across the grass to find a tasty treat


Focus – Want do Birds Eat?

What food do we have in our base for the birds?

Work in pairs and go on a bird food hunt.

Rotting logs provide an excellent habitat for a bug hunt. Some beetles need rotting wood to provide food for young grubs as soon as they are hatched. Both slugs and snails like the moist conditions in the damp ground beneath a log. Leaf litter – rotting vegetation and leaves shed the previous autumn. Many creatures are to be found at this layer including slugs, snails and worms and invertebrates such as spiders, centipedes, and millipedes. Lift moss on rotting logs to look for tiny spiders and larvae. Look for signs of bugs too, sometimes cobwebs and cocoons and snail trails are just as interesting as the creatures themselves. Notice their natural habitat so they can be returned there. Gently put a selection of bugs in the bug containers.

Encourage closer examination by asking questions such as:


  • What colour is it?
  • Are there patterns on it?
  • How many legs does it have?
  • How big is it compared to a five-cent coin?
  • Does it have wings?
  • Where did you find it?
  • How does it move?
  • Is it eating anything?


Give drawing materials, (pencils, and paper)

Ask the pairs to draw things they notice about their bug. They will need to discuss and decide what and who

draws each observation. They don’t have to draw the whole bug. For example one could do a pattern that

they notice on the back of a beetle and the other could do the shape of the legs. Ask that they draw as much

information as they can find.

Let them know that the point of drawing is to remember and notice details about their bug.

Senior Infants

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Jenny’s Senior Infant Group

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Finishing with a sit spot

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Neither group got to draw or make land art from their bugs. They were so involved in finding them and discussing them that the time went quickly. We will continue this for session 7

Some of the second class had a lovely time time with Rua our squirrel. Lovely to explore emotion intelligence.

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Jenny’s Second Class Group

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Forest Friday/Dalkey School Project

Session 5

“Mysterious and little-known organisms live within walking distance of where you sit. Splendour awaits . . ”

EO Wilson, who first published the term “biodiversity”, is a rigorous scientist, but he always insists that both the search for knowledge and the passion for conservation begin with a simple thing – with a sense of wonder at the infinite variety of the natural world.

We only value what we know, and we are much more likely to develop a mutually beneficial relationship with the natural world when get more intimate with its particular inhabitants, with what Wilson calls “the wondrous diversity of life that still surrounds us”.

Explore Biodiversity – All Week Long. The Irish Times May 18th Paddy Woodworth

The aim of Forest Friday sessions is to develop a strong and deep relationship with the natural world.

There are many layers to this.  Research in class, noticing changes, observation, free play, wild teas, poem/story, games, creativity.



Teachers were emailed a powerpoint of some factual information, about birds and sight, to inspire the children before Forest Friday.

Slideshow – Birds Eye View

What Do Birds See?





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Robins, must be able to distinguish fine seeds on the ground, while a Peregrine Falcon must be able to see small prey from far above the ground.

Compared with us and other mammals, birds have very large eyes relative to the rest of their bodies. A bigger eye means better vision, and excellent vision is essential for avoiding collisions in flight or for capturing fast-moving or camouflaged prey. The eye of a Starling is fifteen times larger than ours, relative to the head. They can see clearly at least two or three times better than ours and, in the case of a Peregrine, as much as five times better.

When the Starling is probing the ground with its bill, it can rotate its eyes forward and look along the length of the bill to look for prey.

Birds’ eyes, are bigger than they look. Outwardly they appear small, because they are wholly covered with skin and feathers, except the pupils. So we only see a small part of them.

The size of eyes is important because the larger the eye, the larger the image. Imagine watching a 12-inch television screen compared with a 36-inch screen. Bigger eyes have more light receptors in the same way that larger TV screens have more pixels, so you get a better image.

The birds that we first hear during the dawn chorus have larger eyes than other daylight birds.

So you will often hear the blackbird and robin first in the morning.

Birds have eyes at the front or on the sides of their heads. All birds can still see straight ahead. But that doesn’t mean all birds see things in the same way. Where a bird’s eyes are on its head can tell us a lot about how it sees the world.

This short-eared owl can swivel its head 270 degrees to keep an eye on prey

Birds cannot move their eyes as much as us in their sockets. Birds of prey like owls have to move their head when looking at something. Having different kinds of vision helps different kinds of birds survive in the wild.

Pigeons and other birds with eyes on the sides of their heads have a much bigger field of vision, of about 300 degrees. Amazingly, this means that they can see in front and a long way to the side, at the same

Forest Friday

Senior Infants

Before going up to our base we played a game – Hawk and Wren

Hawk & wren (peripheral & foveal vision game).

The group formed a circle. One child played the hawk with very focused vision.  They covered one eye with their hand and looked through a toilet roll with the other.  They have to try to find their dinner! Another child, the wren, had to keep out of their vision but within the boundary.

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Wild Tea

The elder tree had her first while blossoms this week so the children decided on elder tea. We collected the flowers before going up to our base.

What and how to input into the sessions?


Play is essential for the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children. The children enter free play as soon as we set our boundaries at our base.



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So, I have to keep in mind the importance of free play, yet adding inspiration and skills which will enhanced free play. I involve the children in creating ideas.

Here is an example –

When we first met I had 10 lengths of willow to bring up to the base.

As we gathered the children were curious – “What are they?”

I picked up a stick to compare the willow to, and asked what they notice.

“They are bendy”

I ask what could we do with them.

“We could make nests with them.”

“We could weave with them.”

I pointed to our basket. “Yes, that’s what I used to make the basket.”

They examined the basket and compared it to the lengths of willow.


Willow basket

I told them that I thought that we might weave circles with them and asked what other plants could we use that are bendy. Their knowledge of plants is impressive. Their answer was ivy and goosegrass. We collected goosegrass and ivy on the way up to our base.

At the Base

Their play follows on from the previous week. This is so rich. They went straight to the ‘Nest’ from last week and continued to add to it, and then  set about making tea.

Wild Tea

The children love foraging and making wild teas. One of the first questions they ask when we meet is “What tea will we make this week?” I always ask them what we have made so far. Partially because I can’t remember. I’m amazed at their memories and how they describe the teas.

They are learning so much about plants using many senses through this.


They have already figured that stories are often connected to a theme for the day.

They have their tea and break during story time.

This weeks story-

The King of the Birds

Many years ago, all the birds of the world gathered to decide which of them would be the king of the birds. After many days of debate, they decided that they would hold a contest. Whichever bird could fly the highest would be the king of the birds.

On the day of the competition, all the birds took off into the air. The small song birds quickly tired, their fragile wings unable to carry them far. They were soon joined by the ducks, crows, and many others. In short order, only the strongest of the eagles still climbed into the sky.

This eagle climbed higher and higher, until the last of his competition gave up and returned to earth. He smugly congratulated himself, and began his descent. He was exhausted from the competition, and needed to recover. As he was falling, he heard a small bright voice above him calling “I am king! I am king!” It was the little brown wren, fluttering above him. She had carefully, quietly, hidden among his feathers, and ridden his back into the sky.

The eagle was furious, but he was too exhausted from the competition to fly higher.

When the wren landed the small birds cried in joy and surprise. They were sure that one of the larger birds would win the competition, but had been too afraid to complain. The large birds were furious. “You only won through trickery and cunning, and that’s not fair,” they complained.

“Eagle would have won through strength and brawn. Why is that better than cunning? If you have your doubts name another challenge and I will win once more,” the wren replied.

The large birds chatted among themselves, and came up with a solution. “We have a new competition. Whichever bird can swoop the lowest will be the king of the birds.”

The birds began the new competition, diving down to glide along the ground. Wren saw a small mouse-hole in the earth and climbed into it. She called out “I am king! I am king! I am the lowest!”

The large birds were furious, and decided that the wren could be the king, but she would never rule them. They each took turns standing guard at the hole, waiting to kill the wren if she tried to climb out.

Days passed, and wren stubbornly remained in her hole. One night, the owl was guarding the hole, watching the wren with large yellow eyes. When the morning sunlight peeked over the horizon, it momentarily blinded the owl. The wren saw this as her chance, and quickly escaped from the hole.

The little brown wren is still the king of the birds, but she is so afraid of the eagles and hawks that she stays hidden in hedges and bushes. They will kill her if given the chance, as they are ashamed that she won their competitions. All the other birds visit her for advice, as she is so clever and cunning.

There was a great discussion on the story. Was this fair? How do you judge a winner?

Weaving Circles

What can we do with them?

“We can make frames.” “We can make crowns.”


Having used them for beautiful crowns and portrait picture frames, I said that we could explore how birds like blackbirds find food closely on the ground.

We could explore an area in the frame on the ground.

We are going use our eyes to look very closely in a small area using our viewfinder frames. Choose an area with interesting plants and maybe creatures.
What can you see?
What is the smallest thing you can see?

What patterns can you see?
Are there creatures in your area?

Our eyes are not as good as birds. Try using a magnifying glass to help you see closer.





I brought a book – Collins Complete Guide to Irish Wildlife. The children looked up some of the fauna they found.

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The children have got used to having a quiet time in a sit spot at the end and are really enjoying it.

Second Class



They made nests, headdresses and frames with their circles.






Elderflower Tea.

They decided not to strain the tea as the flowers were so beautiful.



During free play they incorporated their circles into their play. I went and asked what each child was using them for.

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“I’m using mine for hanging things in our hut.”

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“I’m using mine as a necklace.”

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“Mine is a fresh flower crown.”

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“There are three of us making flower crowns, but they are all different because we are all different.”


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“We’re selling them in our shop.”



“I bought one in the shop for five sticks.”

“I’m using mine to decorate our den.”





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Forest Friday/ Dalkey School Project

Session 4

Inspire/ Stimulus.

Senior Infants

We have been giving the class teachers to show slide shows and videos to excite the children during the weeks. This has really worked well as they come fired up with ideas.

This week they were shown a video of Jayson Fann who makes human sized nests.

They arrived with great excitement and talk about the human sized nests they would build.

It’s so interesting observing what is happening. A lot of my work now, is observing as the children are now so familiar with how the 2 1/2 hours are arranged and are making their own plans. I am also the time planner.

Journey to Base Camp


What has changed?Everyone noticed the change in the trees this week.

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Repetition and Extension


The children repeat and add on from each session. They immediately went to the beach tree to taste the leaves and looked for the ‘shamrock leaves’ wood sorrel to snack on as they climbed the hill. New discoveries were also made. They found flowers on a holly tree and a very black fly landed on Siofra. It was a St. Mark’s Fly as the adult usually appears around St.Mark’s day 25th April, so this guy was a bit late.

On the way up they were talking about the human sized nests they were going to build so they started to collect large branches. They had to work our how to fit through narrow spaces, how to keep themselves and each other safe as they did this.IMG_0651 copy

“Why is rotten wood so heavy.” I overheard Kate say. I asked “Why do you think Kate?” “Because there are so many animals in it.”

Tea Making

Pine Needle Tea



While the children had their break and tea we learnt the five voices of birds and listened to the birds around us to decide which of the voices they were using.



Five voices of birds

Companion calling (call and response rhythm between flocks, mates, families) – all ok – thumbs up

Alarm (wren loudly indignant, sticks tail up, or when birds mobbing an owl or cat it’s harsh and buzzy) – watch out

Male-to-male aggression (natures soap opera, get away from here, I’m the boss, other birds won’t be affected) – middle finger

Song (baseline, calm, peaceful, territorial, mating)– ring finger

Juvenile begging (baby bird asks for food) – wrapped around the little finger

Nest Building

The children decided to draw their plans. They worked in groups and pairs. This all happened seamlessly and was organised by themselves.



“So what do we want the nest to look like.” I heard Fionn ask Seb as they leaned over their paper.



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They gathered together to share their ideas and decide who would work together, how to begin the structure and what materials they needed.





It’s so interesting to observe. Children changed groups when they decided the other group’s nest looked better. Nobody had any problems with this. At various times children took breaks and recapped on things they made during other sessions, creatures, little homes, little nests.

When we finished off with a sit spot. They were so aware of the bird song.

Second Class



Last week we checked out white blossom as one of the children thought it might be Elder flower but it turned out to be Rowan. This week we found more white blossom. We tried the smell test. Yes, it was Elder beginning to flower, so we will be keeping an eye on it for the next few weeks.






Someone found a shark’s egg up at our base camp. There was great detective work from the children creating ideas on how it might have got there.

Second class also viewed the human sized nest building video. They got to work on their nests dividing themselves into two groups. One group started with a good structure using caves in the rocks so this really helped them the other group spent most of their time collecting large branches and didn’t get much structure built.They weren’t bothered about this – they had a good time. Creating a product is not important to any of them.

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Beautifully woven ‘Taser’








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Forest Friday

Session 3

Senior Infants.

Gathering activities – Creative boxes on mats



“People used to take pictures by drawing with muck on their finger. This is my picture of this tree but I didn’t put in the branches.”


Birds Nests

During the week in school,the class looked at videos and pictures of birds building nests.


On our way up to Base Camp we noted what had changed since we were last here?

There were a lot of new leaves. We stopped under a Beech tree to feel the softness of the new leaves and the children noticed that there were little hairs on the edges of the leaves. I had a taste and the children wanted to know could they also have a taste. It turned into a game of baby birds tweeting for food, as I picked the leaves which were up too high for the children to reach, and fed them. Already the bird theme was emerging.

They decided to make beech leaf tea this week.


Wild cherry blossom made summer snow flakes. Lots of feathers were found and worn in hats and in hair.

A very old bottle, found in the undergrowth, had it’s own miniature garden growing inside.


Free play



The high horizontal branch had fallen during our four week break. It was now easier to climb and made a great bench, so the children made a new challenge for themselves by walking it. The base camp has endless possibilities.

At break we had a story.

How Do Birds Know How to Build Nests?

All the birds of the air came to the magpie and asked her to teach them how to build nests. For the magpie is the cleverest bird of all at building nests. So she put all the birds round her and began to show them how to do it. First of all she took some mud and made a sort of round cake with it.

“Oh, that’s how it’s done,” said the thrush; and away it flew, and so that’s how thrushes build their nests.

Then the magpie took some twigs and arranged them round in the mud.

“Now I know all about it,” says the blackbird, and off he flew; and that’s how the blackbirds make their nests to this very day.

Then the magpie put another layer of mud over the twigs.

“Oh that’s quite obvious,” said the wise owl, and away it flew; and owls have never made better nests since.

After this the magpie took some twigs and twined them round the outside.

“The very thing!” said the sparrow, and off he went; so sparrows make nests with twigs around them to this day.

Well, then Magpie took some soft things like feathers and other soft things like (ask the children what other things  would she find) and lined the nest very comfortably with it.

“That suits me,” cried the starling, and off it flew; and very comfortable nests have starlings.

So it went on, every bird taking away some knowledge of how to build nests, but, none of  them waited to the end.

And that is why different birds build their nests differently.


A child brought in a beautiful old nest for us to examine closely.

After break focus

Nest building –

Create a basic nest that will hold 3-4 pine cones. You can do so individually or as partners.

  1. Gather natural materials that you think would be good for nest building. Try using a tweezers or only allow one hand to see what it would be like with a beak.
  1. Explore these materials for a while to consider some of the difficulties of the task ahead.
  • Will the nest structure require framework?
  • How do you keep the nest from falling apart? How would birds do it? (mud and saliva, spider webs, weaving grasses etc.
  • What kinds of materials would work best for the main nest? For example, what length and thickness of twigs and/or grasses might be best? Should items be flexible or sturdy?
  • How do you keep the inner shape of the nest relatively round?
  • Should you add a lining for the eggs and baby birds? What might birds use? (soft plant fibers, dog fur, downy feathers, leaves, etc.)
  • Is there anything unique about the nest that you’d like to build? Would you add a roof of sorts or create more of a cavity style?

Once they had identified questions and thought out some answers, they figured out their basic plan.

What size twigs seem to best, or can they vary? What materials are flexible enough to help weave through back and forth to “lock” other materials in place? At what point should you switch to softer lining materials? How can you keep the open bowl shape for the nest? Some children tried this with tweezers to imagine that they were birds at work!

They put in  pine cone ‘eggs’ in their nests to test the strength and space.

Making mud to help stick the nests together.


Jenny’s Senior Infants

Finding gold and silver in a rock, playing with friends, making a slingshot and climbing trees.


Second Class

During the week second class looked at photographs of the different woodland birds that they came up with during their last session. Each decided on a woodland bird name to take for Forest School.


Before we went up to base camp one of the children pointed across the field to a white flowering tree and suggested that we make Elder flower tea this week. So our first direction was to the tree to check it out. We had a look, feel and smell. Was it Elder? Did the flowers smell like Elder? They decided the they didn’t smell as lovely as Elder. The leaves were serrated. No it was a Rowan/Mountain Ash. We will have to wait a few weeks for the Elder to flower. So the plan for the tea changed to nettle tea. It was amazing to see the some children pick the nettles by hand with confidence. Others watched for a while before taking the plunge. There was a few stings but no panic or worry as they said they just needed some dock leaves. “These are natures bandages.”

Then they began to collect dock leaves to bring up to base camp in case they were needed.

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Free Play

Additional Tools and Materials

The children are so confident in directing the sessions.  I have put together a box of materials and  tools that I will bring up each week. During break I showed them what we have – string, scissors, clay, magnifying glasses, bug boxes, drawing paper and pencils.

The idea of the dock leaves developed during free play into creating a first-aid area. They gathered more leaves of beech and wood sorrel.  One child needed an bowl for some beech leaves so she made it from clay.


Another group of children continued with their shop from the past few weeks.

One child took me on a tour of  the rocks to show me the white, and silver in them.

Two children prepared the nettle tea.

A child was attempting to look high in the trees with the magnifying glass. I showed him how it was for looking at things closely and gave him my binoculars to look at distance.

There are so many themes developing during free play. Looking at the minute and distance,(binoculars/magnifying glasses) geology of the base camp, (colours and textures of the rocks) medicinal plants,(first-aid) value and worth(shop), volume,(tea making and pouring).


We continued on our identity necklaces from the last session. The children wrote their names with their woodland bird names on wooden disk. One child counted the rings on her disk and found that they were the same age.


There was a lot of alliteration and rhyming in the bird names they chose.

During our final circle one child remarked how wonderful nature is – that where nettles grow you can find dock leaves growing close to ease a sting.

Jenny’s Second Class









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