Forest Friday

Final sessions of 2020

“It wasn’t a game actually, it was the most scary, most fun opportunity of my life, it is not a game it is real!”

What a year! The school returned in September having been closed for almost 6 months. A lot had changed in the children’s lives. The school decided to run Forest School for two days a week enabling four classes to participate.

We were very grateful to get further funding from Creative Ireland which allowed us to continue with second class for a further four weeks and give sixth class four weeks to explore what they learned from forest school. Sixth class are the first group to participate in Forest School every second year.

Sixth Class

Session 4


Last week had been extremely difficult for the sixth class. It was bitterly cold and many were not dressed for such a cold wind. There were a lot of starts and stops and they did their best to work together to make two films to instruct younger children how to play some forest school games. They got some footage and did well considering the weather. It was still very valuable as they were able to look back on their footage and evaluate it. They learned a lot. On Thursday before our Forest session they got into their groups to plan. As leaders we had to decide how to go ahead this week as it was to be the last. We decided to add another theme that they could chose if they wished as we feared that they might have lost heart on the filming they had already done. Also we thought they would get more done if they worked in pairs or groups of three.

An Eco Friendly Christmas

An Eco Friendly Christmas

Work in pairs or groups of three.

Make a film to show how the woods can provide us with materials to make and decorate a Christmas Tree.

  • Land Art Christmas tree (build the tree shape on the ground)
  • A star from willow
  • Pinecone baubles
  • Leaves and ivy vines to decorate the tree
  • Ivy or willow wreaths
  • Wood cookie decorations

Each pair films where to find their materials and shows how to make each decoration. Finally film each group decorating the tree.

Our group chose the Christmas theme. The weather was warmer, there was no wind, they had learned a lot from the previous weeks on what worked best, they were in smaller groups and it all came together so well. Everybody seems to feel challenged and stimulated. They were so inventive and humorous. There was a lot of craic.

Playing with reflection.

The final scene of the film. Creating a snow cloud over the Christmas tree by blowing flour.

Jenny’s Group

A Natural Christmas


Next Thursday instead of preparing for Forest Friday the children will edit their films and on Friday they are having a Film Festival. I look forward to my invite.

Second Class

Session 13

This session was completely child led. The children arrived with a story of monsters and continued this game at base camp. The ideas developed as they made traps, cameras, weapons. They talked as they worked on ideas and these ideas morphed as they got passed on between children.

Describing the monster and the game through drawing.

Recordings from the children

“We’re weaving a big net to get the Diplo Rat away, and this might be the last time we see each other.”

“I’m picking pine needles to hurt his eyes, maybe make him stop from seeing.” “He’s giant, so he can shape shift. Normally his tail is the size of that tree. He’s a cross from a dinosaur and a rat.”

Child, while drawing

“ I have all the cameras here, and these are the screens”

“ He’s a shape shifter, he changes his size. So if he sees dogman, (a man who has a dog head) he changes to a squirrel, as dogman get easily distracted.”

Me, at the end of the session as I walk down the hill beside a child,

“ That looked like a good game today?”


“It wasn’t a game actually, it was the most scary, most fun opportunity of my life, it is not a game it is real!”

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Forest Friday


Session 3

Sixth Class

Session 12

Second Class

Sixth Class

Continuing filming from last week.

The weather really dictated what we did today. In the morning it was very windy, icy and sunny for sixth class. The children came up with their plan to continue filming games. They worked hard initially but then the cold got to some who weren’t moving around.

Somebody said they felt they had brain freeze. We had a break with hot pine needle tea.

They choose a sunnier area to get some more footage for the second game that they have planned to film.

Choosing a background for Beetle Tag filming.

Warming up by hiking to the quarry. The children stopped to explore areas. Everyone got a little warmer.

Jenny’s Group

Silhouette and Shadow fun


Second Class

It began to sleet by the time second class got to Killiney Hill. They have a natural sense on keeping warm. They decided to build a fire and move logs to sit on.

Gathering sticks and pine cones, and rubbing sticks together to light the fire kept them warm, it didn’t matter that they didn’t get a flame.

They discovered that the robin loves ham and bread. He kept coming back for more and got closer and closer each time.

We learned some new games to keep warm, Fox and Rabbit, Eagle Eye and You’re Only Safe if…

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Forest Friday

Session 2

Sixth Class

Sixth Class decided on two forest school games to make a film about to teach younger children in the school.

My group divided into two smaller groups to plan and begin their filming.

Films – keep it simple

  • Decide on a game
  • Decide on the rules of the game
  • What are the 6-8 shots you need to help teach the game?  
  • who is your audience ( Junior Inf/Senior Inf/1st or 2nd /3rd/4th classes)?

Decide on who take on the Roles

  • Director
  • Photographer
  • Referee; person responsible for the rules
  • Editors (for back in school)

Start filming

For the filming you might need to have the whole group involved in each game.  

  • Keep the camera view on landscape throughout.
  • Keep camera still. 
  • Work out 6 – 8 shots – long, medium and close. 

There was a combination of great fun play and then the seriousness of working as a group on how to portray the games on film. The chose Eagle Eye and Beetle Tag. They learned so much. At the end of the session there was a very positive response. During the week they are going to look at the footage and plan what’s needed for next week.

Jenny’s group planning and filming the Food Chain Game and Foxes and Rabbits.

Second Class

Session 11

Story – How to be in the Fianna

Second class continued with stories from the Fianna and making obstacle courses to practice their own skills. This week we practiced target practice. They make their own targets. The created circles of different sizes from ivy, theses were hung on trees. They had to aim pine comes and sticks through the circles.

As we walked up to our base we looked for ivy.

Focus plant – Ivy

  • Ivy plants can climb to at least 30 m above the ground. 
  • Ivies have two leaf types – one for the flowering part of the plant and one for the food producing (photosynthesising) part of the plant.
  • Bees and wasps really need and love ivy because it flowers and gives them food in Autumn when many other plants don’t. Ivy flowers are greenish-yellow, umbrella-shaped forms with five small petals and appear on the adult ivy plant in Autumn and are very rich in nectar.  
  • Birds really need and love ivy in the Springtime because it is full of berries when they need to feed their young babies. The flowers turn to blue-black berries that have a hard, inner seed ripening in late winter to mid-spring. The seeds are dispersed by birds, which eat the berries.

The children found a lovely ivy house. They ivy flowers smelt so sweet. In the ivy house they found a tiny nest woven from dried grass and dried nettle stalks which were strong enough to make shapes from.

Fianna training.

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Forest Friday

Dalkey School Project N.S.

Thanks to Creative Ireland we have extra sessions this year. The feedback, on the past nine sessions, from the children has been very positive. They say they feel free on Forest Days, one child said he loved that there is no Covid on Forest Days. Clearly they are appreciating the space and being outdoors as it is less restrictive than the classroom.

Sixth class will have four Friday mornings and second class will continue with their afternoon sessions for another four.

Session 1

Sixth Class

The children connected with their base camp and to reconnected with the nature based games they’ve played before and of course they had fun together. 

Reading from the Nature Detective book on parents day 2018, and revisiting the tree stump today.

We were asked to move from our base camp as there was a squirrel survey happening in the area so we checked out a few areas to play some of their chosen nature games.

What nature games do you remember?

Eagle Eye

Beetle tag

The children were ask if they could film one to these games to introduce to the younger classes who come to forest school in the future. We had a chat about how we might do this. James drew out a storyboard and Piren took some video footage. They will have a look at these next week in the classroom.

Over the next few weeks they are going to work on this.

Second Class

Obstacle course

Divide into two groups. Each group makes an obstacle course. 

  • Are there already parts of your base with good obstacles? 
  • Can you add more parts to it? 
  • What can you use? 
  • Have places to go under and other places to climb over. 
  • Put signs for the other group to follow. 

These could be arrows on the ground made with twigs. Finish the course with a leafy den to hide in.

Each group take turns to show the other group their course and how to follow it.

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Forest Days

Dalkey School Project N.S.

Session 9

This was our final session for senior infants, 3rd and 5th classes. Our theme was memories.

What would you like to remember?

  • A special place at your base?
  • Something you found in your base?
  • The people in your group?
  • A favourite game?
  • Something you made during your Forest Days?
  • grandmother tree
  • recipe for favourite wild tea, recipes for nature paints
  • recipes for natural dyes

Third Class

Break time, eating snacks and drinking hot elderberry juice, while the hooded crows hovered above.

The children chose from a bag of materials to capture their memories. They all chose to make their own pencils from Elder sticks and willow charcoal I had previously made. We talked about the plants, elder and willow, and what else can be made from these. They loved to hear that they had already drank hot elderberry juice that I had made from the same tree as the wood for their pencils. They drew their favourite places in their base.

Last week the children requested that Rua, the red squirrel would visit so they were delighted when Rua appeared. Rua said that he would love to meet other woodland creatures, so they used clay and found materials to make their puppet creatures.

Fifth Class

As we said goodbye to Grandmother tree the children noticed that they could see their images in the pool in the centre of the tree. The all wanted a photograph of themselves reflected in the pool as if Grandmother was holding them forever.

Senior Infants

The children made woodland creatures. Rua was delighted as they chatted together. It was so lovely that Rua and the pals could have a hug.

Look, they found Fifi, the pet slug from the first session!

Second Class

The children used little boxes to collect treasures from their base and made drawings with their charcoal and elder pencils.

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Forest Days

Session 8

Another Way of Seeing


I sent a slideshow to the classes. The first slide was of a map of Killiney Hill. The other slides were of the prints from the artist David Lilburn.

This is a map of Killiney Hill.

Do you think it’s different to how you see Killiney Hill when you are there?

This kind of map is the view from above.

The artist David Lilburn makes maps of places he visits.

They are not like the map of Killiney

As he walks he sees things from different angles and sometimes he imagines that he can view the place from above.

In class the children made memory maps of the journey from the car park or the school to their base each week.

Third Class


We went on a hike to explore the area around our base today.

The children enjoyed having their lunch and free play in new environments.

We discussed the slideshow I sent. Can we explore the area using drawing to observe. There was an immediate response from some – ‘I can’t draw!’

What is drawing?

Why do you draw?

What was David Lilburn drawing?

We discussed this.

We discussed the difference between writing and drawing. The children explored charcoal and looked at the marks they could make using it on the side, on a point and using their fingers to smudge it. The looked at the marks and were asked what textures and marks did they make that looked like the land and sea out there?

Skyline Drawing – looking at the horizon.

This was very interesting as the sea mist kept changing what we could see.

  • Look out at the horizon. 
  • Look at where the land meets the sea, look at where the sky meets the sea, look at where the land meets the sky. What else do you see?
  • Do a drawing in the air e.g. close one eye and trace these lines with your finger in the air.
  • Using charcoal, trace these lines on paper.
  • Using charcoal put in textures you see.
  • Don’t worry about lines in the wrong place, just adjust them. Don’t worry about smudges, that is part of drawing. Don’t worry, full stop, enjoy what you noticed, enjoy the marks you make, only YOU can do this.

Drawings can be made while looking and observing or they can be made after looking and observing. So you may like to find a place out of the wind to do your drawing after observing.

The children relaxed in the area taking in the feel of the air, and the sound around them.

Fifth Class

By the time fifth class arrived the sea mist had come in over the land, so we took a closer look at the landscape.

Second Class

Second class started their memory map of their journey to their base in their classroom. They continued on these maps putting in more memories.

We went further up the hill to view the horizon. Having explored marks with charcoal they looked out at the horizon and land.

Senior Infants


Leaf throwing

Sharing hot elder cordial with the grandmother tree. Each child thanked grandmother tree for different experiences they had over the past 8 weeks as they poured some elderberry cordial on her.

Making sycamore leaf puzzles.

Marking out North, South, East and West. The children created a colourful mandala with leaves, berries and ferns.

One child made his own ‘Whirlpool’.

Other children had free play and some took our their notebooks to draw leaves.

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Forest Days

Dalkey School Project N.S.

Session 7


For our last sessions before Samhain one of the women from our story ‘The Women Who Gather’ visited us and helped make pine needles tea and weave a very large web.

Third Class

We noticed lots strange fungi as we went up to our base. The children felt the slimy textures.

The trees watched them through scary eyes. They noticed noses and mouths of all shapes and sizes. The children made some drawings of these with charcoal and chalk and added squashed blackberries for blood.

These looked very spooky when they were hung in our base. They tried out some resin from a pine tree to stick the spooky faces up.

Spooky stories while drinking pine needle tea.

Making large and small webs and jumping the bonfire.

Fifth Class

Finding spooky masks and a mushroom with slug slime over it.

Some children prepared spooky stories and they were very scary.

Web Game

Bonfire Jumping

Making webs

Second Class

Senior Infants

Exploring our Senses

The children followed a string trail with their eyes closed. Along the way they got to smell lavender and rosemary, listen to a the song of a blue tit, touch a pine cone and holly berries. They gathered some of these treasure in cones made from sycamore leaves. They finished by tasting pine needle tea.

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Forest Days

Dalkey School Project N.S.

Session 6

Spookiness in the Woods

As we get close to Samhain the woods seem spookier. I sent a slideshow to the classes during the week. This made us look for spookiness in our woods.

On our way up to our base the children found spooky branches and vines that come alive at night, lumps and bumps on trees, strange textures colours of fungi, and they noticed that there were many faces and eyes on trees looking at them. Scary stuff!

Third Class

Fifth Class

Second Class

Third Class

Break time making tea.

This was our story at break time.

How to Live Life like a spider, by A. Spider

1. If you’re a spinner, spin

Not all spiders spin webs; in fact, only half of us do. Web spinners use silk to ensnare prey. Other species of spiders hunt their victims, or lurk and wait for prey to come to them.

Each type of arachnid is uniquely suited for and adapted to its hunting technique. A web weaver will always weave — it will not decide to suddenly chase its prey on multiple spider feet. A trapdoor spider will always trap. In this way, spiders differ from each other, yet remain true to their spidery selves.

Spider takeaway: If you are a web spinner, keep spinning webs.

2. Walk the line

We spin two types of silk. Dragline (or non-sticky) silk is the architectural support for a web. Stiff and dry, it forms the web’s foundation.

Viscid (or sticky) silk is the tacky, wet, flexible silk that creates the spiral shape of many webs. It’s this stickier silk that snares our prey.

We spin both silks, and understand their differences. When walking our webs, we walk on the draglines, avoiding trapping ourselves on the stickier strands of viscid silk. While not exactly walking the straight and narrow, we realize we must travel on the stronger strands, avoiding entrapping ourselves on the sticky parts.

Spider takeaway: Walk the line, or weave a new path. Revisit or re-route when stuck in sticky spots.

3. Build with beauty

We weave ornate and intricate webs that rival — or exceed — human art. In fact, our name, arachnid, originates in Greek mythology.

Arachne in Greek Mythology was a skilled weaver.  Arachne was a mortal woman who challenged Athena to a contest. Her finished tapestries proved superior to the goddess’s, and Arachne was punished, transformed into a spider that could forever weave masterful work.

Spider takeaway: Whenever and however you can, add beauty to the world.

4: Do the work, daily

We are hard workers. We are the world’s most important predator of insects, keeping swarms of pests at bay.

Web-weavers are especially industrious. Most web-building arachnids must build or re-build their webs every day. For us, the larger the web, the greater the energy expenditure. However, the cost-benefit is also high, for the larger the web, the greater the likelihood we will catch large prey — whether in the form of an uncommon insect, a bat, or even a bird!

Though most of us can subsist on two small insects per day, one large catch can provide enough nourishment to allow us to thrive, and even to reproduce. With great spider effort, then, comes great spidery reward.

Spider takeaway: Do your work, daily and you will go far.  

Third Class made their own web and spider game.

One person was the spider and the others were flies. There were two teams one at each side of the web. The idea was to clear your side of all flies. Each fly had to go through the web without touching it. If they touched it the spider said Buzz and they had to go back. They loved the game and kept adding to the rules. They want to do this for next week again.

Usually we invite parents to join us at this time of the year. As it is not possible this year the children weaved a bracelet to bring home. With the skills they could make one for each parent.

They loved this skill and as they got in to the rhythm they began to tell round robin scary stories.

Third Class

Fifth Class