Category Archives: Dalkey School Project

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.

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. 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.

I gave everyone a piece of string so we could all learn an overhand knot. This will be a useful knot to start 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. 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 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 or a parent.

My group of ten children and Joan our special needs assistant and Margaret, a parent helper, 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’.

We then played a game of Amach, Abhaile. We stared 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 taste.

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 little break and 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.
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We finished our session by doing some starfish breathing. 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 assistant 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 based 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 and for the goosegrass to stick it to themselves.

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.

They know where to look from their previous experience. 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 to the centre of our circle to make a ‘fire’ and walking the log and taking turns to balance on 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 for a food and drink break and 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 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. 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 at 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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Dalkey School Project/Forest Friday

Session 9
This was our last session with Fourth and Sixth Class today.
The children choose their favourite games and where to have their break.IMG_4322 copy

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fourth class

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Sixth Class


Observing Minutiae.
There was a very positive feedback from our day of wandering during session six so today we decided to wander again. This time we chose three different environments; a pine wood, a deciduous wood,and a  rocky place. In each area they looked at the minutiae.

Moving leaves, rocks( carefully and replacing) looking under things they found the tiny details in nature.  Magnifying glasses were used as view finders. These findings were documented through photographs.

All the photos will now be made  into one slideshow to be shown by the teacher to the whole class. The children will respond to the photos remembering where they found the detail and what is fascinating about it and asked is it a fungus, a plant, a lichen, or an insect?

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Dalkey School Project/ Forest Friday

Session 8

Parents Day and Halloween

The children were the leaders for this session on the 27th October. There were a few developments from their plans they made the week before but in general they stuck to them.

Children led their parents to base camp pointing out things on the way.


They taught their parents to play, Bat and Moth and Eagle Eye.

Then brought their parents around the base camp and told them about things they had made during the past 7 weeks, and pointing outtheir special places.

Before break they showed our wonderful washing facilities. IMG_2505

Each child took their parent aside and told Apple Star Story.

The children choose their favourite place up on the rocks with great views to have break. All the parents tasted our Elderberry Tea and there was a great exchange of recipes for the different teas we had made and tasted.


Back at the base camp the children explained  to the parents their plans to make a  Halloween environment. These are the ideas from their planning the week before-

Bonfire, and sparklers.

Obstacles course – jump the bonfire.

Tree Spirits – clay.

Cobwebs – string and sticks

Spiders – pipe cleaners

Headdress – natural materials – wire

Hanging Apples


Ghosts – paper and charcoal.

Off they went and worked in their pairs.






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Dalkey School Project/Forest Friday

Session 7

This week we had to inspect the trees for loose branches on our way up to base camp after hurricane Ophelia on Monday. The children noticed lots more small branches and twigs on the ground and some fallen trees.

We spent this session preparing for our parents session next week which will have a halloween theme. During the week in school they looked at a slide show of work they made in the forest two years ago to inspire them with ideas today.

The children practiced story telling. They recapped from memory the story they were told during session 4 – The Apple Star Story and between them built up the full story. They will each be able to tell their parent this story next week.


The group chose ‘Moth and Bat’ game to play with parents. They tried it out with different sounds and three and four moths.IMG_2297 copy

The parents are going to have a great session next week as the children have planned exciting Halloween ideas. The had some basic materials to try out their ideas; clay, string, paper, charcoal and wire.

Below – Making Sparklers.

Below – Making a Bonfire and a game they have called- Jump the Bonfire.

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Below – Making costumes with nature.

Below – Scary Tree Masks

Below Spiders and Webs

Below – Ghosts

Below – Bodies rising from the earth.

IMG_2318 copySixth class enjoyed rock climbing so much last week that we had our lunch up at the rocks and they had some free play time to explore or sit.




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Dalkey School/Forest Friday

Session 6

Theme – Wandering and MappingIMG_4110

We began with a new game to use our senses and build up trust.

Bat and Moth

  • Form the group in a circle and ask for a volunteer to be the bat and another to be the moth
  • The rest of the group become the cave wall
  • Get the bat and moth each to make up a call for themselves – keep the sounds simple
  • The bat has to catch the moth, using sound rather than sight. Every time the bat calls, the moth must reply immediately.
  • The players forming the cave wall must also make the sound back to the bat, if he/she calls while close to the wall

During the sessions the children have been asking to explore parts of Killiney hill that they haven’t been to, so today are theme was wandering.

The idea is that the children get to  follow their curiosity.  The children chose and agreed on when and where and how to wander.



They used the compass throughout their wandering to orientate themselves.

They worked out which way the wind was coming from. Oliver decided it must be from Spain as he faced the South and felt warm wind on his face.

Map making

The children were asked-

‘To make a map what information do we need?

Perceive the landscape from a bird’s eye view.

Discuss what is permanent in the landscape and what is temporary.

Mark in N.S.E.and W. Mark in big permanent features of Killiney Hill.

Come up with your own names for different places as you do when walking to base camp.”

Children wandered and chose when to stop and where. They stopped regularly to map along the way.

Fourth Class


The children stopped regularly to inspect new things along the way.

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Sixth Class

The children chose to visit Eagle Rock.They took turns leading in groups of 2 and 3. It was very exciting and exhilarating as the rock is up a very steep track and there were gasps of amazement and appreciation of the view.

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The children were grateful to have a quiet time to finish their maps and rest in the sun.

Reflection circle:

I am grateful for

Going wandering about the hill

I noticed it was really warm

The wind came from the south


I am grateful for

When someone would lead somewhere

You would find something good at that spot


I am grateful

That we were good at staying together

I liked making maps

And leaving base camp


I am grateful for

Going to the eagle

I noticed the cliffs


I am grateful for

the beautiful weather

That we all worked together


I am grateful for

Daragh showing us the eagle eye

Ollie showing everyone the way down


I am grateful for

permission to go right to the top

and the nice views


I am grateful for

The group coming together

Patience showing me where to put my feet


I am grateful

we have been a really good group.


Mr. Doohan’s Group


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Dalkey School Project/ Forest Friday

Session 5

The children were shown a slide show yesterday in school on Land Art, the Spiral Jetta by Robert Smithson, work by Andy Goldsworthy and Land Art they made two years ago on Forest Friday. The slide show then introduced them to the mobiles of Alexander Calder. Mobile c.1932 by Alexander Calder 1898-1976

Today we discussed the work they saw in the slide show and how they might make a mobile from objects in the forest. On our way up to the base camp we took new routes and gathered things for their mobile sculptures.

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During free play time one child made a piece of Land Art.

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Story:  Anxious leaf

Once upon a time a little leaf was heard to sigh and cry, as leaves often do when a gentle wind is about. And the twig said, “What is the matter, little leaf?” And the leaf said, “The wind just told me that one day it would pull me off and throw me down to die on the ground!”

The twig told it to the branch on which it grew, and the branch told it to the tree. And when the tree heard it, it rustled all over, and sent back word to the leaf, “Do not be afraid. Hold on tightly, and you shall not go till you want to.”

And so the leaf stopped sighing, but went on nestling and singing. Every time the tree shook itself and stirred up all its leaves, the branches shook themselves, and the little twig shook itself, and the little leaf danced up and down merrily, as if nothing could ever pull it off. And so it grew all summer long, till October.

And when the bright days of autumn came the little leaf saw all the leaves around becoming very beautiful. Some were yellow and some scarlet, and some striped with both colours. Then it asked the tree what it meant. And the tree said, “All these leaves are getting ready to fly away, and they have put on these beautiful colours because of joy.”

Then the little leaf began to want to go, too, and grew very beautiful in thinking of it, and when it was very gay in colour it saw that the branches of the tree had no bright colour in them, and so the leaf said, “O branches! why are you lead-colour and we golden?”

“We must keep on our work-clothes, for our life is not done – but your clothes are for holiday, because your tasks are over,” said the branches.

Just then a little puff of wind came, and the leaf let go, without thinking of it, and the wind took it up and turned it over and over, and whirled it like a spark of fire in the air, and then it dropped gently down under the edge of the fence, among hundreds of leaves, and fell into a dream, and it never woke up to tell what it dreamed about.


They children were asked to create a piece of land art/mobile inspired from the slide show and to have

–          Something hanging

–          Uses a knot

–          Has some symmetry

The had a look at the tools and materials available to them. String, scissors, wire, pliers and a palm drill.

They noticed that some acorns were beginning to sprout.

Even with a broken arm, beautiful work was made.

Miriam’s group composed a lovely poem together at the end of their session.

I am grateful for

rustling above me, a squirrel

a wind like an earthquake

autumn time, the pretty leaves

looking up, trees swaying in the wind

looking down, smooth leaves, crunchy leaves

branches hanging like a waterfall

how peaceful it was

I heard the wind in the leaves and sticks

I heard the birds whistling

woodlouse crawling on the ground

a dog barking

magpies flying, blue and white and black.

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Dalkey School Project/Forest Friday

Session 4

Continued focus on the Apple.

On the way up to our base camp the children collected fruits/nuts and leaves from the trees.IMG_1892 copy

Matching game: At the base camp everyone laid out their collections.Using their information sheets they matched the leaf with the fruit/nut.

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We went to the top of the hill today for lunch as the weather was lovely and the children were able to get a sense of place. They pointed our to each places the know and where they and their relations live.

Story Telling

In pairs the children read each other last weeks story and then told the story in their own words.

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Focus –Apple life cycle land art & book.

Apple life cycle:

Bare Trees

Winter for an apple tree is very important. This is when the tree stops using its energy to produce leaves, buds and apples. Instead, this leafless tree sleeps, storing all of its energy for when things warm up. The colder it is, the better and deeper the tree sleeps, and the more energy it can save to burst into life in the spring.

First Leaves

Having had a good sleep, all leaves on the trees will begin to wake up in Spring.


Apple blossom in later Spring gives the first indication of how well the apple tree will produce that year. Each blossom represents an apple. The stem of the flower will become the apple stalk and the middle of the flower will become the fluffy bottom of the apple.


Bees play an important role. They go from flower to flower taking the pollen of one tree to the flower of another. If they didn’t do this apples wouldn’t form.

Baby Apples growing

Over the summer, they begin to change colour and the amount of sugar in the apples builds up. The fruit falls off the tree and begins to decay.

Spreading Seeds.

Birds and animals eat the fruit but only the juicy part is digested. The pips pass through the animal’s digestive system and is excreted; this can be far away from the parent plant.

A New Tree

Seedlings grow from the seeds far from the parent plant. The apple tree grows to adult size and on goes the cycle.

Land Art.

In pairs the children worked on an part of the cycle. We had, first leaves. blossom, bees, apples and saplings. Using sticks, leaves, plants, pine cones, they drew the cycle of the apple tree in a circle.

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Telling the apple cycle through illustration.

Each child was given an accordion book. This book can be displayed in a folded out circular form, therefore there is no beginning and no end. The children were asked;

”Notice that there are 6 pages in your book and a cover. Using pen or pencil you are going to make a drawing of the apple tree cycle in your book. Look at your land art and work out what you are going to draw on each page to show the cycle.”

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