Category Archives: Dalkey School Project

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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Forest Friday

Session 9

This was our final session with fourth and second class for 2021.

The children choose what they would like to do last week.

Fourth class

Fourth class ask for paper and drawing pencils, oak gall ink and peelers to sharpen sticks. They asked to play lots of games, moth and bat, Eagle Eye, Stoat, and Zombie.

Two children collected some mushrooms last week. They were asking how could they preserve them. They also wanted to do a mushroom hunt on the way to our base.

I did a few tests of mushrooms during the week that would be possible for the children to do at home rather than during Fridays as it needs time. I bought the results to share with the group.

Ink From the Shaggy Ink Cap

The mushroom became a lovely grainy dark ink in two days.

Spore Prints

Having removed the stalks I put a selection of mushrooms, gills facing down, on white and coloured paper and covered them with a bowl. The next day they produced these lovely spore prints.


Looking closer and closer.

Transcripts from recordings of the children.

“Oh, you can find so much stuff. I’m glad you didn’t stand on it by accident.” While parting leaves and finding tiny mushrooms.

“Look at this one. That’s the inside, you can touch it. It’s so cool, do you want to see the other side? We have to be very careful so it doesn’t break”.

What is this?

“It’s kind of like jelly only harder””It’s a tiny bit sticky.”

“It feels nice. It’s a tiny bit sticky, it looks like it melted.”

“If you look very closely there is something beginning to grow on it.”

Pine needle tea and free play.

Second Class

Building pine needle nests.

Looking closely.

Creating with Clay

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Forest Friday

Session 8

Celebrating Diwali

Nature mandala / rangoli pattern

Mandala – A mandala is a geometric design meant to symbolize the universe and our connection to it. It is an art form that is found in many cultures around the world. The word mandala is rooted in Sanskrit, and means “circular” and were often create beauty, traditionally, using sand.

You can find mandalas in flowers, tree rings, eyes, snowflakes, spiderwebs, sea shells, seeds, fruits and more.

Rangoli – a Sanskrit word meaning creative expression through color, is the art of drawing beautiful patterns on the floor, typically using colored powder to serve as a welcoming gesture to the gods and bring good luck.

Finding Mandala patterns in nature

Do you want to  work as a whole group or in two or three smaller groups?

Use the colour and texture of the fallen seeds, sticks, leaves, needles and feathers to create a Mandala.

Fourth Class

Collecting Materials

Second Class

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Forest Friday

Session 7

Celebrating Samhain in the Woods.

Everyone came dressed up for Halloween today.

Fourth Class

Making costumes from the forest.

We focused on lots of games and stories.

Circle time making a web to escape from.

On the way up to our base the children stopped at sites that looked spooky and told scary stories.

Second Class


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Forest Friday

Focus: Ink

Session 7

How are you going to use it?

I sent a powerpoint of calligraphy and drawings from the Book of Kells and other manuscripts to the classes to view and discuss during the week.

Did you know?

The Book of Kells is a masterwork of calligraphy.

Kalli- is a Greek root meaning “beautiful”, and “beautiful” in the case of calligraphy means artistic, stylized, and elegant. Calligraphy has existed in many cultures, including Indian, Persian, and Islamic cultures; Arabic puts a particularly high value on beautiful script, and in East Asia calligraphy has long been considered a major art. Calligraphers in the West use pens with wide nibs, with which they produce strokes of widely differing width within a single letter.

Letters and animals

The illustrations and ornamentation of the Book of Kells are outstanding. The decoration combines ornate swirling motifs, figures of humans, animals and mythical beasts, and Celtic knots and interlacing patterns in vibrant colours.

  • Some have already whittled pens.  Do you want to make more?
  • Collect feathers to make quills and brushes
  • Try moss, grasses and leaves 

What will you do?

  • Write
  • Draw
  • Combination of writing and drawing
  • Explore interesting marks
  • Add more colour; blackberry, rowanberry, elderberry ink
  • Try out the tools you have made and collected. How often do you have to dip it in the ink? Does the colour of the ink change as you write/draw make marks.
  • You could try turning your initials into weird birds or animals?
  • You can find patterns from nature to add to your work.

Fourth Class

Second Class

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Forest Friday

Session 5


I sent a Powerpoint and a David Attenborough film to both classes to view during the week.

Powerpoint information

Here’s an oak gall, a common growth on oak trees around the world, and a source of basic dark ink from medieval times right up to the 19th century. Many of the monks who created Ireland’s ancient manuscripts used iron gall ink.

Oak galls are formed when a gall wasp lays her eggs on the tip of an oak branch, and the tree begins to secrete a fluid that ends up enveloping the egg, and ultimately becomes a food source for the developing wasp larva.

Monks and other ink-makers would gather oak galls, and devise an ink using this ancient recipe, taken from a Booke of Secrets:

Killiney Hill

On the way to your base look out for oak trees.

Can you find any galls? Look under the tree and on the tree. Where are they on the tree? What shape are they?

Check that there is a hole in each one before you collect it. That means the wasp has flown.

How can we break the galls?

When we break the galls we need to soak them in water. Did you see any pools of rain water?

Oak gall ink takes time to soak so we will prepare ink to use next week.

Other Inks

What other inks could we make? Blackberry, elder, rowan?


What would be good to write and draw with using our inks?

Try sticks, feathers, grasses, leaves and moss.

What else can you find?

Fourth Class

Second Class

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Forest Friday

Session 4

Journey to Base

What seeds can we find on Killiney Hill? Take a long way up to your base through a variety of environments to collect seeds from plants.

Fourth Class


“Look at the light through the trees it looks like a fire.” The children go into the spot light.

Arrival at the Base

On arrival have a look at the variety. Match seeds. How many varieties have we collected? Beech, burdock, cleavers, pine cones, gorse, blackberries, conkers, dandelion, helicopters, nettle seeds, fir cones etc. Don’t worry about the names – it’s more about exploration and curiosity and asking questions. 

Story –  The Tiny Seed By Eric Carle


Seed dispersal game – seed gym

This activity looks at the varying methods of how seeds are dispersed and transported. Give each pair one of the following seed dispersal methods and ask them to practice the action described (Exploding, flying, being eaten, bouncing). Each group in turn acts out their seed dispersal method and the other groups have to guess what method they are demonstrating.


Seeds dispersed by the wind:

• Dandelions – mime blowing a dandelion

• Sycamore tree seeds spin in the wind like helicopters – spin with arms out at right angles

Bouncing: Horse chestnut tree seeds (conkers) drop, bounce and roll – mime the action

Seeds dispersed by animals:

• Squirrels collect nuts and bury them in the ground, birds eat berries and excrete the seed out again – mime being squirrels and birds

• Sticky seeds such as burrs stick to feathers, fur and human clothes and are dispersed this way – one learner attaches to another by locking arms

Seeds catapulted from exploding seed pods:

• Big star jumps in air clapping hands above head and shouting ‘bang!

 Focus – story of a seed

Look at our seeds. How do you think these  seeds are dispersed?

Will they all survive to germinate?

Will they survive to grow to full maturity and produce their own seeds?

Discuss as a group. Create stories about the seeds.

 Illustration – Seed stories

Noticing on the way to the Base

Pale Tussock Moth

The females are much larger than the males, but both rest with distinctive forward-facing furry legs. The markings are usually darker and more extensive in the males, which also have feathered orange-brown antennae. The males often come to light in larger numbers than the females.

The larvae are a bright greenish-yellow, with four tufts of golden yellow hairs. They grow slowly between late June and early October, then overwinter as pupae.

Caterpillar Food Plants

A wide variety of broadleaved trees and shrubs including hawthorns, blackthorn, crab Apple, oaks, birches, Hazel, limes and elms.

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Forest Friday

Session 3

Fourth Class

What can we find on the way up to our base?

I wonder where this wool comes from? Are there seeds in these rowan berries? I call these helicopters because they fall like a helicopter. When you touch this yellow fungus it turns brown.

Free Play.

Looking after baby pine cones. Exploring paint and colour. Playing a game of Imposter.

Focus – extending skills and ideas, making and using string and rope

  • How long can you make some string?
  • Can you make some string into rope?  Make it thicker
  • What else can you use to make string?  How is it different to the reeds?
  • How strong is my string? How can I test it?
  • What could you use the string for?  A mini playground?
  • game of conkers?

Second Class

Finding seeds

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