Dalkey School Project Forest Friday

Block 2

Session 1

Today we began our first session of nine sessions on Killiney Hill with senior infants in the morning from 8.30 – 11.00am and second class from 11.30 – 2.00pm.

Yesterday I visited both classes to introduce myself and to prepare them for today. We talked about the practical things they need to know such as clothing and food and also the golden rules – keep yourself safe and happy, keep each other safe and happy and keep the world around you safe and happy.

Senior Infants

This is the first time senior infants will have Forest Friday sessions. Second class had nine sessions two years ago when they were in senior infants.

To prepare senior infants I talked about their arrival and what would happen. In the classroom there are six children to a table, and five tables. Each group has a name, grúpa buí, grúpa gorm, grúpa dearg, grúpa oráiste agus grúpa glas. I let them know that when they arrive at Killiney Hill they will find five picnic mats, in the pine grove beside the car park with a box of interesting things on each mat. Each box will have a disc of wood with a colour on it. Find your colour group and that is your place to play. We will wait here until all the children have arrived.

Then I gave everyone a piece of string so we could all learn an overhand knot. This will be a useful knot for Forest Friday. I also brought in examples of the materials in the boxes.

Second Class

In second class we reminded ourselves of the rules for Forest Friday and what to expect the next day. We had a look at the Birth of a Dragonfly. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxO-kusdV_4. as our story the next day would be ‘How the Dragonfly Came to Be’  The children made some lovely dragonfly drawings with chalk on brown paper.

Forest Friday

Senior Infants; An Introduction to Forest Friday

The Gathering

The sun was shining by 8.15am this morning as children began to arrive. All remembered the plan from yesterday and found their mats.

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While the children were busy making things and playing with the materials this gave the leaders time to meet the parent helpers and go over our plans. When all the children had arrived we divided them into three groups of ten. Each group had a leader – teachers- Jenny and Deborah and me, and each group had a helper, either a special needs assistant from the school and/or a parent.

My group of ten children and Joan a special needs assistant and Margaret, a parent helper. We went over the plan for our day and some reminders and then played a quick game before setting out on our hike to our base camp.

Today was a very much a time to explore our forest using all our senses. We stopped regularly on route to notice interesting things. Children took turns to be the leader and point out something they noticed.

This took a long time, but it didn’t feel long at all. Everyone was so engrossed. We finally arrived at our base camp.  We all decided together where to make our boundaries. We took turns tying ribbons on to trees and bushes to mark them. We placed our sitting mats in the centre in a circle. One child said it was looking lovely and ‘homey’. It was time to wash hands and take a break, I felt everyone was very tired.

We then played a game of Amach, Abhaile. This game helped establish the boundaries. We gathered in the centre circle of our base and when I said Amach the children had to choose a ribbon and run to it. When I said Abhaile they had to run back to the centre. They got used to running safely on the terrain which had lots of rocks, dead wood and brambles. We did this a good few times as everyone really enjoyed the game. Each time they had to choose a different ribbon.

Exploring; Hands, Feet, Woody Friends,Smell, Taste, Eyes and Touch.

Once everyone was familiar with our camp they were free to explore and play. It was very interesting observing how they tested the base camp. The photos above show them trying the water spray bottle on their hands, and a child testing his new boots on the sloping rocks. He was very pleased as he said they stuck to the rocks so well.

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One child, who finds it difficult to run and climb used her two ‘friends’ Woody and Woody to explore the space. The other child is tasting Wild Garlic. We have Wild Garlic and Lords and Ladies on the site. I brought them over to look at the shape of the leaves, and smell them. The Garlic is tasty and good for people and the Lords and Ladies have lovely berries for birds in Autumn and good for birds, but not good for us. Our rule is not to taste anything until they ask me first. Each week we will find a new wild food to taste.

In our site one child found this amazing pattern in the dead wood and another wanted to show us the softness of the new leaves.

It was time for a story.

Story – Mama Africa/Mother Earth
Once upon a time Mama Africa was sitting all alone in the plains, dreaming and breathing, dreaming and breathing. There were no animals then, no insects buzzing around. No creepies crawling. No lions roaring (this is a good moment to involve your listeners and ask them to suggest animals to which you can add a verb)… As the sun warmed the earth and the rains watered the land all kinds of plants grew up around Mama Africa. She gazed at them in wonder. One day Mama Africa pushed her strong hands down into the friendly earth and felt around. She felt something cool, moist and squidgy. When she pulled her hands back out she had some clay in them. She loved the clay and made all kinds of shapes from it. Into the clay she stuck different shaped parts from the plants around her…seeds, buds, branches and twigs. Onto the clay she pressed all kinds of colours and patterns from the plants and rocks.
After she had finished each creation, she put it in the sun to dry. When they were all dry, Mama Africa gave each of them a name and breathed on them. The clay figures came to life and went off to live amongst the plants, walking on the land, flying through blue skies and digging burrows into the earth. And that’s how it came to be that all the animals and people came to live in Africa and some say, deep in the rainforest she is still there, making new creatures every day.
Creatures of the Forest
The children could be Mama Africa. There is lots of things in the Forest that they could use to make some creatures. We had some clay to put it all together. Off they went to forage for materials they would need for their creature remembering not to pick Lords ans Ladies. Also we talked about looking after nature and only picking plants where there were at least 10 in the area.
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We finished our session by doing some starfish breathing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sh79w9pn9Cg. in our circle.

The time went so quickly.  It was time to share some of our favourite things of the day and gather our  bags and meet everyone at the car park.

Second Class

It’s amazing to see the effect of Forest Friday when second class arrive. There is so much experience gathered from two years ago.

Again the class was divided into three groups of ten, with three leaders, teachers Jenny, Maryrose and me and three assistants.

My helper was Sharon a special needs assistant in the school with so much experience of the children. None of the  children I have are from the group I had two years ago. The children shared the rules of forest school. On our trek up to the base camp the children led the way with very little direction. They took turns leading with confidence and knowledge.

Quickly they found a worm and with confidence gently lifted it up to examine it. They went straight for the nettles with delight and confidence on being able to pick them with out getting stung. They stuck goosegrass to their jumpers and hair.

They also found new things to wonder about.

When we reached the base camp (this is the same one that the senior infants had earlier) they were very quick to point out that the boundary area was a bit small. I had left the ribbons up from senior infants. So we set about moving them and creating a base camp that they were happy with. We played the Amach, Abhaile game to get used to our new base camp.

They continued finding interesting things in the camp like an old piece of wood that looked like a snake coming out from under a rock, and holes in wood which they wondered how they were made.

From their previous experience, they know where to look for minibeasts.  They moved leaves and found a centipede. You can see here that they are very comfortable touching minibeasts.

They choose to have free play – this involved moving lots of fallen branches to make a couch ( they said that next week they intent to add lots of leaves to make it comfy) and moving leaves in a pile in the centre of our circle to make a ‘fire’.

Some set up challenges by climbing rocks.  Two more children took turns balancing and walking the log.

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The day before their teacher had a session to share memories from their Forest Fridays two years ago. This helped as they remembered their favourite games and chose to play Eagle Eye without any adult intervention.

It was time forhand washing, food and a drink break followed by a story.


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 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.
The children played being god. They collected materials in the base camp similar to what god had left on her bench. Two big eyes, four large wings, a long tail, six legs and using clay they made their own dragonflies. Some children decided to work together.
Tow children worked together to make a giant dragonfly.

We finished with a quiet time where the children found their own sit spot.

On the way back to the car park they stopped as they were very excited by the shadows that their dragonflies made.

This has been a wonder first session leaving me with a lot of observations and reflections to think about before planning next weeks sessions.



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