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.
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.
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.
Senior Infants; An Introduction to Forest Friday
The sun was shining by 8.15am this morning as children began to arrive. All remembered the plan from yesterday and found their mats.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.