Forest Friday

Session 3

23rd September

I wasn’t available for our third session, however the staff and I met and planned this session so everyone continued their Friday forest school with the staff and assistants.

Senior Infants

Focus Wood mouse.


The wood mouse is widespread; it is probably most common in woodland, rough grassland and gardens. It is mostly nocturnal and an agile climber. Wood mice will gather food stores of berries and seeds in the autumn, which they keep in underground burrows or sometimes in old birds’ nests. Females have up to six litters a year of between four and eight young, and may even breed over winter if food is abundant.

Make a wood mouse and his food store.


Clay and materials in your base.

Begin by imagining your mouse.

The wood mouse is golden-brown, with whitish underside, large ears and eyes, and a long tail.

Clay is great for pinching out shapes and for pressing in textured objects to create textures in your creation. You might find you can pinch out ears for your mouse in your clay or you might find parts of plants to make his body parts.

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Forest Friday

Session 2

Senior Infants

Looking for Fairy Doors

On the way up to our base the children wondered where the forest fairies live. They found lots of doorways in the base of trees and holes that may be fairy doors. Some they thought may have been used recently and others not so recently as they were blocked with leaves or had webs across them.

At the base during free play the children noticed that Grandmother tree had left apples for them. They were so excited collecting them. Then, someone discovered that she also left a note.

During break we used our apples to make apple tea and read a story about the star fairy who put stars into every apple. We cut our apples and sure enough there was a star in the centre of each.

The children worked together to make gardens for the fairies where they found fairy doors at our base.

Second Class

Focus Elder Tree

We looked closely at the elder tree for any creatures or signs of creatures that might live there.  

In pairs, the children came up with two animals or plants that might be connected with the elder tree.  “What is that connection?  e.g. a blackbird eats the elderberries, a spider has a home on the bark, a leaf miner eats the leaves…..On the paper leaflet, they drew the plant or animal.  

As a whole group they place the leaflets correctly together to make one or two compound elder leaves explaining the connection to the elder tree.


At our base we spent time getting to know our special trees from last week.

The children were asked to stand as close as possible to your tree and to close their eyes and use their hands to feel each part of your tree, the roots, the trunk, the branches, the twigs, the leaves or needles. Also to put their cheeks close to your tree and to breathe in the scents from the tree and listen to the sounds.

Activity – Look up, Look Down.

1. Imagine you’re a woodlouse under the tree. Lie on your back and look at

the woodlouse’s view from the ground looking up through the branches,

twigs and leaves, needles.

2. Imagine you’re a bird or squirrel up on the top branch of the tree looking

down through the branches to the earth.

3. X-ray eyes – imagine you can see through the earth to the roots of the


Choose a pencil or charcoal to show one of these views.

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Forest Friday

A new school year has begun and we are back with our Forest Friday sessions. This term we will begin with Senior Infants in the early session and Second Class for the second session. Our first session aims are to get to know each other in our groups, remember what we have enjoyed and learnt in our previous Forest Fridays and share what we look forward to during this years sessions.

Session 1

Senior Infants

The senior infants had 6 sessions last year. Today they got into their new groups with new leaders and new base camps. On the journey on the way to base they to collected blackberries for tea and to make pigment with, and each collected a gift to give the grandmother tree.

At our base we found our Grandmother Tree standing right in the middle of our base with her arms outstretched. The children gathered around her and placed their gifts on her branches. They used all their senses to explore the tree and found lots of life living on the tree.

While we had our break and drank blackberry tea I read a story about a Grandmother tree. I love watching the intent expressions on the children’s faces when they’re listening to stories.

We played a game of matching. I placed five things on a mat. In a circle, children got one minute to look at them and talk about and touch and smell them etc before the items were covered up.  The children then went off (staying within boundaries)to find as many of them as they could. 

When the children collected blackberries on the way up they noticed how red their hands were. We used extra blackberries to make pigment. Some children wanted to paint their faces and others made cards.

Second Class

On the way up to our base the children collected blackberries for tea and pigment. They were also told that they would be meeting their tree friend and they could collect and put together a present for their tree. They wove beautiful plants together as gifts.

“You are going to meet your very own tree friend in our base. You have brought your friend a gift. You are going to get to know your tree over the coming weeks.  The materials here will help you record what you notice and discover about your tree. It might be shapes or holes or signs of other mammals/birds/insects/invertebrates living there.  It might be colours or a feeling or something the tree tells you. 

Focus – Tree box  

Form a circle. In the centre place card boxes, pencils and clay. 

Explain:  You are going to meet your very own friend tree in our base. You have brought your friend a gift. You are going to get to know your tree over the coming weeks.  The materials here will help you record what you notice and discover about your tree. It might be shapes or holes or signs of other mammals/birds/insects/invertebrates living there.  It might be colours or a feeling or something the tree tells you.  The card boxes can be written on, drawn on, coloured with nature’s colours i.e. rubbed leaves, blackberries, flowers, objects from your tree can be placed inside your box. 

The card boxes can be written on, drawn on, coloured with nature’s colours i.e. rubbed leaves, blackberries, flowers, objects from your tree can be placed inside your box. “


Hole in a tree

Ash the tree had grown in the forest all his long life. But there were lots of younger trees there

now. They made Ash feel very old indeed.

‘Nobody cares about an old tree like me,’ he said. ‘I’m no use to anyone any more. I’ve got an

old, knotty trunk, twisted branches and I have an ache in my fork,’ he sighed.

At the fork in his trunk, where two great branches met, rainwater had collected over the years.

It soaked through the bark and made the wood soft and damp.

But some things in the forest liked old, damp wood. Fungus did and it started to grow in Ash’s

old, aching fork. It sent little threads, like roots, down into the damp wood. ‘That tickles!’ said

Ash. But as the fungus got bigger, the wood began to get softer and weaker.

‘Oh!’ said Ash. ‘I’m not sure I like this!’ It was hard to hold his heavy branch up.

Then, one wild and rainy night, there was a loud crack and the branch snapped right off. ‘Oh

dear,’ said Ash. But at least the pain of holding up the heavy branch with soft, old wood was

gone. Now there was just a great scar of bare wood and the beginnings of a hole.

The fungus kept growing and, as it grew, the wood became softer and started to rot. ‘No one

is going to want a rotten old tree like me,’ sighed Ash.

But the beetles did. Beetles like nice, soft wood. ‘Over here!’ cried a beetle. ‘Is it soft? Is it

damp?’ asked another. It was. The crumbling, damp wood was the perfect place to lay their

eggs. When the young beetle grubs hatched, they ate the dead, damp wood, and made little

tunnels as they burrowed through it.

Some birds saw the damp wood too. They knew that meant beetles. Very soon, the birds

were pecking at the wood to get to the lovely, juicy, beetle grubs. ‘Oi!’ said Ash. ‘Stop it!’ But

as the beetle grubs tunnelled and the birds pecked, the hole got bigger.

The beetle grubs turned into adults and flew away. Ash was all alone again. Over the years

the rain fell. Beetles returned. Grubs tunnelled and birds pecked. The hole grew bigger. Ash

got quite used to having a hole. He was never quite sure what would happen to it next.

One year, a female great tit spied the hollow. ‘That’s almost right for a nest,’ she said. She

chipped out a few more bits of wood to make it a little bigger. ‘There. Perfect!’ She lined it with

grass and moss and sheep’s wool and animal hair. Then she laid her seven eggs.

Ash was as excited as a tree could be waiting for the eggs to hatch. When they did, there

were seven cheeping chicks snuggled in his hole. But by the end of the summer, the chicks

had grown up and were gone. The hole was empty again and Ash was all alone once more.

Summer turned to autumn and the nights became colder. Ash felt a little fluttering deep

inside. It was a little wren and it had found the hole. ‘Ooh,’ said the wren. ‘I must tell the

others!’ So it did. That night, five or six wrens all huddled together in the hole. They kept each

other dry and warm through the cold, dark night. And they slept there every night for the

whole winter.

‘Perhaps I’m not so old and useless after all,’ said Ash happily. It was true. An old tree with a

hole was very important in the forest. Think of all the creatures that needed it!

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Forest Friday

Dalkey School Project National School

Third class and first class.

Summer Term

It’s great to be back with the children on Killiney Hill. The third class have so much experience they lead most of the session. One question they’re off working together being curious.

Session 1

The plan for the day was for the children to get to know their new group and bases and to share what they remember from Forest Friday sessions. The third class had the early morning session from 8.30 to 11.00am. This group have have a lot of Forest day experiences. First class session is from 11.30 to 2.00pm.

Third Class.

Focus on Flowers

What flowers do we see?

Go off in pairs.  Discovery game / Beat the adult! – Challenge is to look really closely and notice as many things as you can about the flower, leaf and stalk.  Can you find something that the adults haven’t noticed before?  The children’s powers of observation are so good. Also I noticed how immediately they understood the challenge.

The Dandelion.

“I noticed that there are tiny hairs on the stalk, like my daddy’s arms.” “Look at the inside,the petals are shorter.” “There are brown petals on the outside.” “There are kind of leaves underneath.” ” The leaf has little soft spikes on it.” “This is how the flower changes. There are white fluffy parts where the petals were.”

On the way up a child kicked a small spherical object. He picked it up and everyone was very curious. Was it a seed? There was a lot of speculation about it. Eventually I pointed out the little hole and told them about Oak Galls.

At the Base

We walked around the base as I pointed out the boundaries. They chose a Grandfather and a Grandmother tree. I asked what kind of tree did they think the grandfather tree is. This required a lot of detective work. There were no leaves on the tree yet. The looked underneath at some very crumpled leaves and opened them out. Then when they found more at the base they were delighted. Then when a child found an oak gall on it they were sure it had to be oak. The children wanted to explore their new base, climbing and finding things. They worked as a group calling out to the adults and each other as they found interesting places and things. Lots of questions were asked and and suggestions made. Here you see oak galls.

Two children noticed a few dead bees. “Their bodies are missing!”

Dandelion tea

Story – Dandelion

Long, long ago, the flowers had an argument about which of them was the most special, the most loved by the humans and by the fairies. The argument lasted for weeks, with each flower claiming to be the most special and the most loved. Finally, all of the flowers agreed to let the Flower Fairies decide.
The Flower Fairies decided to test each flower by asking them one question.  Where would you most like to live?
The first flower the Fairies talked to was the Rose. 
“Where would you most like to live?” they asked it.
“I would like to climb the castle wall.” said the Rose. “And then kings and queens and nobles would pass by every day and exclaim over my beauty, my scent and my delicate nature.”
Next the Fairies came to a tulip, standing tall and proud. “Where would you most like to live?” they asked the Tulip. 
“Oh, I want to live in a public garden” said the Tulip. “Where everyday people would come and admire my wonderful colors and see how straight and tall I stand.”
They walked until she came to a forest. There they found some Violets. They asked them “Where would you most like to live, little Violets?” “Oh” said the violets quietly “We like it here hidden in the woods where no one can see us and where the trees keep the sun from dulling our beautiful color.” The fairies thanked the Violets and walked on looking for more flowers to talk to.

The little Fairy came to a field with bright fluffy yellow flowers on long thin stalks. The leaves were long and jagged and very close to the ground. But the flowers….oh how happy and cheerful they looked in the field!
“Little one” said the Flower Fairy “What are you called and where would you like to live?”

“I am a dandelion” said the little flower.  “I’d like to live where ever there are children. I want to live beside the road, and in the meadows, and push up between the sidewalks in the cities, and make everyone feel happier when they see my bright colours.” The Dandelion chattered on happily saying “I want to be the first flower that the children pick in the spring and take to their mothers. And if a child makes a wish and blows my seeds, I could carry that wish on the wind.”

The Flower Fairies smiled brightly and said “Little Dandelion, you are a very special flower and you shall have your wish! You will blossom everywhere from spring till Autumn, and be known as the children’s flower.” 
And this is why the dandelion comes so early and pushes her head up everywhere with such strength and determination. And why she is so loved by children throughout her long life.

Making Dandelion stalk curls.

First Class

What Flowers do you see?


Yuki, from Japan will be our other leader for first class this term. She told the children about Sakura and the ceremony they have to celebrate when the cherry trees blossom. We had a tea ceremony with cherry blossom tea under the cherry tree.

At our base the children explored every corner and some chose to make drawing about what they noticed. I loved the drawing of a tree using found charcoal on bark .

A child wondered why we had no dandelions growing in our base. Two suggestions were made.

  1. They didn’t like to grow on ground with a slope
  2. It was too high up the hill for them.

On our way back at the end of the session we went to the top of the hill to check out if there were dandelions growing and yes there were lots. Some growing on slopes and some on the top of the hill. We decided to go up nest week to inspect and find our more about dandelions.

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Clay Heads and Animals – Senior/ First Class, Holy Family – Week 4+5

Meanwhile over in Senior and First Class we had two very busy weeks of making and sculpting. We have been looking at making clay heads. We began by first feeling our own heads working out the shapes and forms and whether the features on our heads stick out or go in and whether they are hard and soft. So using our hands we explored our head top of the crown to bottom of the chin. This helped us figure out the shape in clay. We were just going to use the different techniques of poking, pinching, squeezing, stretching, rolling and moulding using our hands with the clay. And then using the skewer sticks for adding smaller details like eye balls, hair, nostrils, ear holes. Everyone took their time working our their heads and adding details. We had to make sure that any parts we added on would stay on and not break off when the clay dries. So we did a lot of smoothing and joining over cracks where we added the clay.

Then each person made a stand or plinth – thinking back to the ones we had looked at in the museum online. So to make the plinth we got a ball of clay and tap tapped on all sides on the board to create a flat surface – like a cube. We then used a stick to join the two parts. They look so funny! Like ancient museum artifacts from Greece! We are looking forward to painting all the clay we have made over the last few weeks.

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The Print Studio – 2nd Class, Holy Family – Week 4&5

Then this week we were going into full flight with using different coloured inks – red, blue and yellow. We had a really busy morning trying out different colours and different patterns and blocks and using two colours on one plate. We then tried cutting the plate into a shape to print from. Some of our plates got cut into tiny bits that were nearly too small to use. So we realised that one simple shape worked well and worked in sequence to create a repeat pattern on fabric. Fabulous prints!

We’re still printing over with 2nd Class over at Holy Family! What a busy two workshops we have had with the printing studio producing reams of block prints. We began by looking at a history of block printing – from the cylinder prints and qanats of Mesopotania (which we had been looking at with Senior Infants linking in with their clay work). We also looked at Japanese woodblock printing noticing the use of colour. And we looked at some wallpaper patterns noticing how the pattern was made from one design repeated and layered in different colours. So over two weeks we worked on block printing – using stryofoam panels which we could draw into using pencil. We spent a bit of time making sure the design was “carved” in deep enough to come out. In week one we used two blocks and began alternating looking at different ways of sequencing the pattern – still just using black ink on different colour papers. The class created prints in pairs with their own blocks on long yellow strips.

Well done 2nd Class on all your printing! Great work!

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Good Cups and Qanats with Senior/ First Class, Holy Family N.S, Monkstown

Great excitement as we unveiled our air dried cups and pots from last week. We checked to see were they in one piece – had they survived and were they strong enough to be a good cup! One or two handles fell off when we went to use them so we started this week by relearning how to join two pieces of clay so they are strong and stay together when they dry. So we launched straight in to making good strong cups with handles and today we would have more time to develop the design and decoration. We learned how to stretch the clay outwards and upwards but not to thin that it splits. So all the time checking the base and the sides are the same thickness. Busy bust making session!

In looking at the image of the ancient pots from Mesopotamia we also looked at images of clay slabs or tiles that were used for writing. As these ancient people did not have paper or books they would write their symbols into wet mud using reeds and dry the slab like a tile – called Qanats. So it was the first form of writing in the world.

Introducing the rollers, wooden baton to check the thickness and clay tools to make marks. Everyone began making clay tiles devising their own symbols and patterns. Stunning qanats from Senior Infants and First Class! Looking forward to seeing how they dry out during the week.

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Rolling Rolling! Monoprinting with 2nd Class, Holy Family N.S, Monkstown

We continued with monoprinting this week as we had only begin to get the hang of the system last week!

There was lots more to explore with monoprinting in terms of shapes, marks and textures. So quick refresh on the rollers wet and dry, ink, plates, rolling ink and editions. And now we were going to use cut or torn shapes directly on to the printing plate – take a print, remove the shapes and take a print. We began to notice the ink gathered at the edges of the shapes and created interesting lines and marks. We also noticed that the pressure we rolled made it darker and lighter. Lots of experimenting began and looking at the ink fade with each edition until there is barely a trace but still visible!

I had brought in some natural materials from the garden – mix of leaves, twigs, grass, weeds, ivy, ferns and dried hydrangea heads all to experiment with and create patterns. Beautifully textured prints emerged! We discovered that the second print – where the leaves/ flowers have been removed works better and creates very lovely prints!

And we are still just working with black ink on white paper!

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Ancient Clay Pots, Bowls and Cups – Senior/ First Class – Holy Family NS, Monkstown

Well we began this week by talking about the cups we had made last week and how people in ancient times – cups and pots were the first things that people made out of clay because they needed them. And they needed them to function or work as a cup or pot or something to carry water or other things. And how the shape was designed for whatever it was used for. Calvin told us about an episode of Peppa Pig where she finds a cup buried in the ground and digs it up and brings it to the museum because she thinks it is very old. In the museum they put it in a glass box and on a cushion. So it must be an important cup! We began looking at some photographs of ancient pots from the country Greece.

What did we notice about the pots? The shapes, different features, different designs, different sizes.

Milly said No.2 was very big and tall and different shape and size to the cups we made.

Seán notice the second one had two handles – so it could be a Date Cup! The two people on the date could hold one handle each! What a lovely thought!

We had a long chat about the horse/ unicorn/ winged horse/ dead horse design on No.5. Was it unicorn? Was it a horse with artificial wings? Was it a dead horse with angel wings? Was there a plant growing from his head that would grow above the ground after he was buried? Was it a ghost of a horse?

Oh an we also remembered the word spout to describe “the poury thing on the jug” in No.3

We noticed in some there was a base so it would not fall over – which is a good idea on a pot!

So what vessels would we make today? We began with a demo on how to join two pieces of clay – first making two flat surfaces to join by tapping on the board. Then drawing in X’s (or like Tic Tac Toe like Rebecca suggested) – to make the surface textured and added a little water to make it a bit sticky then joined the two pieces of clay and smoothed the edges. So it won’t come apart. We will need this to join on the handles or base.

After all that we did not have much time to actually get making our pots but we still tried to make a good shape that will stand and a round shape, smooth sides. With sides and base not too thick, not too thin and if possible the same thickness. Some managed to get a handle made and attached. And we even had one or two square sided Minecraft inspired cups! Busy making session with Senior and First Class! Look forward to seeing how they dry and testing there use as cups!

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Busy Printing Studio with 2nd Class – Holy Family NS, Monkstown

So today we transformed the classroom into a very busy printing studio for the morning! It took a little bit of time to set up and explain the set up and the monoprinting process. We had a quick chat about what we know about printing. Most students just know that you press print on the computer and it comes out of the printer or in the school secretary’s office there is the photocopier and Ms.Cooke presses the button and lots of photocopies or identical prints come out of the machine. We looked at the newspapers we had covered the tables in and realised they are printed too and all our books – so it can be writing or pictures or both and can be black and white or all the colours.

But before printers existed how did writers make copies of their books? They might have a team of writers to copy it? But what if you were JK Rowling who wrote Harry Potter???? She has millions of books. The printing we are doing today is like the beginning of printing – like the magic carbon paper we used last week. We will be transferring ink onto paper using a pencil to make an edition of a print.

So we talked through the process and the tools – dry roller, wet roller, plate, printing ink, taking a print, making a second edition, making a third edition. I gave quick demo of the process –

First Edition: rolling the ink flat on my individual plate (acetate over card), laying down sheet of paper, drawing onto back of paper, lifting the paper to reveal print.

Second edition: Lay down sheet of paper, using dry roller, lifting sheet – print is reversed.

Third Edition: Repeat second stage – lay down sheet of paper, using dry roller, lifting sheet – print is more faded as less ink, less definition in the lines.

The class experimented with this process and multiple prints began to emerge. As they experimented they began to realise what would work, what would not appear, how much ink, how flat the ink should be, and how much pressure to use with pencil and how they could create different effects by leaning heavy or light and using different sorts of lines. After break we tried one more process which was to lay wool and textured wool directly on to the ink to make the lines on the print. Very different effect. And the first and second edition were very different with the second edition picking up all the thread patterns of the wool texture.

Very busy morning printing! So busy we did not have a chance to look at what everyone had created and to select the print they liked best and worked best for them.

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