Category Archives: Dalkey School Project

Dalkey School Project/Forest Friday

Session 9

The final session for fourth and sixth.

Fourth Class

The class made all the decisions today and my role was as a time keeper and observer. Continued den building was their choice.They chose the story of “The Boy Who could Understand Birds” to tell each other from memory. So here are the photos and quotes.

The chosen route up to the base camp.

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They are nature detectives all the time. Using the camera and calling me over to record their ideas was part of the whole session.

Nature Detectives


“When you turn it upside down it is kind of purple. It’s like pieces of paper filed together- it’s soft. It’s greenish at the bottom. On the other side it’s brown.”  “It’s edible for someone because there are teeth marks on it. I think it’s a dog.” “Well the teeth marks are really small, maybe they are from a squirrel.” ” The texture is very delicate. It feels like you could just break it.” “It smells like bleach.”  “It’s a kind of mushroomy smell.”


“These are really tall plants with leaves like bananas coming out of them, some are yellow, some are brown and some orange.” “Half of them are crusty.” “I think they used to have flowers. They have seeds in them too.” “They’re taller than most people except my granddad. The leaves are very skinny and long.”


“It’s lichen. I think it’s a kind of moss because I’ve seen it in a fluffy form on a tree bark. It’s a nice green colour. I’ve tried to use it as a dye before. I think it works but you need quite a lot of it. We tried not to use too much water to make a strong dye. We put lichen and water in a pot on the stove for 20 minutes but it burnt. It’s an experiment to be tried again.”


“I photographed this gooey stuff. It’s in our den on a tree. What’s this tree called? A laurel. It’s on the laurel branch, which is bent so we can sit on it like a hammock and it’s my sit spot. It’s real gooey and it’s like clear slime. I think it might be off a snail.” “I saw some on my branch and it was kind of popping. Like air bubbles popping out.” “If you put your finger in it slowly it’s hard to get in but when you put it in fast it’s easy to get to the middle of it. It’s not sticky on your fingers.”


“I was using brambles in my den as barbed wire and I found this bramble root. It looks like a flower but it’s a root. These white things are the roots sticking out of the stalk. This part is pinkish and very pale white, maybe because it’s getting water or because it’s not getting sun.”

Can you see the children? It wasn’t easy as they were hidden in the undergrowth building dens.


In the Den

I was ordered to take this posed photograph of one group of den builders.

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“Our mascot is a robin because he is always in our den.” “This is a tree that grew down, then across the ground and then shot up. It bounces up and down. It’s like a boat simulator, it’s like the rocking of the waves.”

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‘The branch here is really good because it is my sit spot. It gives you a great view of the hill above. You can also see all around the base.”


“I’m the captain of the ship.”

“I don’t care I’m the captain of the enterprise.”



“ I was kind of absorbed in the wilderness because there was loads of grass and those circle plants and a fern. When I listened I could hear the sound moving across the trees. Then the sound was in front of me and it blew a lot and then dissolved – like when a wave breaks, it kind of dissolves in the sand and makes the sound like the sound of the trees. I really like doing Forest School because it was my first time.”

“I’m going to miss Forest School.”

“When I was in my sit spot this bird kept chirruping and chirruping. It was like he was having a conversation with something. He was number 1 of the 5 voices of birds – the happy one.”

“I noticed how the wind can get so rough and the leaves just fall off the trees.”

“I really heard the wind crashing against the trees really hard and you could see all the trees moving together.”

“I noticed how every week I feel like underneath me, under my sit spot got larger and larger and it made me notice more every week and I’m grateful for getting to do this and not having to go to school because learning is boring.”

Me – “ Are you learning here?”

“I’m learning new things here which are more exciting.”

Me – “What did you learn here?”

“How to make arrows, tying knots, fire jumping and it’s amazing that you can build random stuff with bits from the forest.”

“We learnt how to make wild teas.”

“I think it’s more fun than learning at school because you do more and you have a choice what to make and you use a lot of all the subjects when you are doing stuff and it’s really fun.”

Me – “What subjects did you learn here?”

“We learnt nature, art, and science, because throwing the arrows, getting the feathers and holding the rope thing when you let go is science.”

“Measuring – that’s maths!”

“ It is like a giant project because a few weeks in we were making games and you had to use your mind for that.”

“I think geography because I saw most things in a new perspective in the forest. By looking at the forest now I can see how you could build something out of like a bush or a rock.”

“I want you to show this to me when I’m in sixth class.”

“Yea, me too.”

“Me too.”

Sixth Class

Due to gale force wind warnings we had to cancel our time at Killiney Hill. We used the time to make memory base camps in cardboard and paper construction.

Classroom Based, Windy Day

Base Camp Memories.

Paper/card Construction

Tearing, cutting, curling, scoring, folding, accordion pleats, cylinders, tabs, spools,fringing, spirals, scrunching, cutting multiple shapes, cutting symmetrical shapes, slotting, tabs.

The children worked in their Forest groups. Using paper construction they made their base camp.









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Dalkey School Project/Forest Friday

“Each time one prematurely teaches a child something he could have discovered himself, that child is kept from inventing it and consequently from understanding it completely.”

Jean Piaget

Fourth Class
Nature Detective Notebook.
There is so much learning in this lovely book by fourth class.

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Dalkey School Project/ Forest Friday

Session 8

Parents day.

This was our first cold and blustery day so we started a warm up game of Zombie tag. It worked everyone was warm and tired after it.

Fourth Class

Parents day is a chance for the children to be the leaders and to share what they’ve learned. The children put a lot of work last week planning what they would like to do with their parents to show them what happens on Fridays in the forest.They showed the parents their Nature Detective book and read out some pages. On the way the parents became detectives with the group.

“We went to the fungus and it’s gone all thin and crispy and brown. So we’re guessing it’s dead.”  “It’s kind of shrivelled up a bit- it has lost moisture. It’s coming into winter and it was probably for summer – yea, it is too cold.” “It was so small when we first found it – it was greenish orangish and it was so small. Since we have been coming here it got bigger and bigger and now it’s dead.”

IMG_4527 copy“There was another fungus, a kind of mushroom here, (beside the tree stump of the greenish orangish fungus) now they have fallen over and they are decaying. The same thing probably happened, it got too cold.”

“It looks like a cyst.”  “It looks like a mushroom except it is hard.” “It looks like it’s covered in wood, it’s so hard.” “It looks like a plaster for a tree. Maybe it got broken in a storm.” “Also it looks like a little fairy house.”  “I saw this on another tree but in a big bunch and it looked like fungus.” “It’s hard, not soft like a mushroom. If you rub it, it goes a dark colour, ugh, it might come alive soon.”

The children told the parents about their wild tea tasting and the plan this week was to make a fusion tea of wood sorrel and pine needle. They knew where the wood sorrel grows so we took that path to our base camp. They noticed that there was a lot less wood sorrel this week and decided that the cold weather was also affecting it’s growth.Then we found a little group of leaves growing in a tree. The children just picked a few of the leaves as they were scarce.

Welcome to Knocktara

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At the camp the children welcome their parents to Knocktara- their base camp.

They made a sun mandala around the tea while it brewing.The Tea master and assistant served tea to the adults and then brought them on a tour of their special places.

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At break time we had more stories of Fionn Mac Cumhaill and how he became leader of the Fianna. We discussed our obstacle course that we would make and do with the parents having listened to Finn’s tests.

As leader of the Fianna, Finn made some changes. The tests that a man had to pass to become one of the Fianna were already difficult, but Finn upped the ante. To join, a man had to be able to jump over a branch held higher than his head, and run under a branch held lower than his knees, without slowing his pace. He had his hair tied into braids, and all the Fianna would chase him through the forest, trying to catch him. If he was caught, of course, he failed, but he also failed if any hairs of his head came undone from the braids, or if he snapped a single twig on the trees as he ran, or if he startled a single bird into flight. Then he would have to stand in a hole up to his waist, with only a stick to fend off the entire Fianna, all armed with their swords, and if they could cut him or undo a single braid in his hair, he would not enter. He had to learn twelve books of poetry, and had to give up his ties to his family, swearing that he would never take revenge for their deaths, and they would not be allowed to avenge his death. He had to swear that he would not take any dowry with a wife, but would marry a woman for her own merits alone.

Here we are, fire jumping, shooting arrows through moving hoops and throwing pine cones through a hoop.

The final one was to eat an apple with your hands behind your back like a deer.

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Finally each child and parent found a space to sit within the boundary where they couldn’t see anyone else and stayed there for 5 minutes looking and listening to the sounds of the forest.

Sixth Class

We warmed up with a few games before going up to our base camp while waiting for parents to arrive.

The parents were welcomed to Clann Puca the base camp with a pine needle tea ceremony,

and then fantastic Halloween stories related to Fionn Mac Cumhaill written by them and read by a Halloween ‘Shape Shifter’.

Their plan was to build a Halloween fairy village. We started with some thinking about who are the fairies.

The fairies are believed to be the Tuatha de Danann, one of the first tribes to arrive in Ireland. They were a magical and secretive people. When the warrior tribe, the Milesians arrived in Ireland they defeated the Tuatha de Danann in battle. They would not be forced to leave. They loved Ireland so much they decided to use their magic to shrink themselves and live underground. The tunnels are believed to travel all over the country to different fairy villages.Each fairy village is marked by a single hawthorn tree located nearby. The fairies are a secretive people who are blamed by locals for many things which cannot be explained. As a result the fairies like to be left alone and it is considered bad luck to disturb a hawthorn tree, but they do love Halloween? Halloween, Samhain, is the last day of the Celtic year. Being ‘between years’ or ‘in transition’, the usually fairly stable boundaries between the Otherworld and the human world became less secure so that puka, banshees, fairies and other spirits could come and go quite freely.

There were also ‘shape shifters’ at large. This is where the dark side of Halloween originated.

The time when the souls of the departed would return to their former homes and when potentially malicious spirits were released from the Otherworld and were visible to mankind.

The fairy most connected with the origin of Halloween is the Puca who is decidedly malicious and capable of assuming any shape.

The Fairy Village of Clann Puca.


Here we have a haunted lake that glows purple, a meeting place of a fairy circles and tree, a pine cone car park – they travel on these like cars and experiences fairies are able to make them fly, a fairy fort, a roofless church with a RIP headstone and a temple where the fairies go to meditate.

We finished up with  ‘Deer eats Apple’ and then some sit spot time.

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Dalkey School Project/Forest Friday

Session 7

Today we made plans for next week when parents/guardians will be invited up to join their child in the forest. The children will be the leaders so we needed to think what we want to share of our Forest Friday experiences with them.

Which way do we want to bring our parents up?  What do they want to show them on the way? This is what we discussed, decided on and practiced –

Wild tea



Obstacle course. ‘Fire Jumping’.

Naming areas/ land art.

Arrow throwing/ make extra arrows for parents from natural materials in the base camp.

Halloween, apple games, other.

Practice your choices.

Ask the children “What do you need to bring next week?” Make a list.




God’s Eve weavings.

Place name signs

At the camp the fourth class decided to take turns to read a page or two each from the 19 pages they have in their Nature Detective book. They were so interested as we haven’t had time to look at all the information we have gathered.The book is very impressive.

We decided to go up higher out of the trees to see if there were blackberries fruiting as they noticed that were finished up fruiting in the wooded area.

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We continued our nature detective work, and found some blackberries.

There are pink flowers with brown dots in the middle. I think there’s a berry on top of it. The petals are pink. It feels fluffy on the top. It is near berries. It’s from the same plant. The spikes on the branch protect them. It’s like the berries are growing on top of the flowers. There is a bit of a berry right there. I see another one that’s blossoming. The berries come from the middle of the flower. The leaves look elderly. These are buds that are growing into the flowers that are growing into the berries.

We are putting blackberry leaves and a few berries into our can to make tea.

I found a few juicy berries and smashed them on my fingers and I got a feather but it didn’t really work to draw with it. Then I dipped the feather into another juicy berry with the feather and it worked. I wrote my initials.

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This looks like it was a foxglove – it was purple and it looks like now it’s dried and it’s all crumply and crispy. It’s growing right beside these lily pads that Piran found. I love the feel of them because they are so soft. It’s like a whole village of lily leaves.

Today’s story

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A story of Fionn and the Fianna

(place names link to last weeks work)

In ancient times Fionn and the Fianna were the army of the high kings of Ireland. They protected the king from invasion, and from anyone who might want to kill him and take the throne. Fionn Mac Cumhaill was the best leader the Fianna ever had.

One of Fionn’s favourite pastimes was hunting in the Glenasmole (Gleann na smól – glen of the burnt embers) in the Upper Dodder Valley. Fionn often hunted with his two favourite dogs, Bran and Sceolan. They mainly hunted the red deer and the Great Irish Deer, which is now extinct.

One of the mountains overlooking Glenasmole is called Seefin (suí finn), which means “the seat of Finn”. Fionn and the Fianna were supposed to have feasted there after the hunt.

Once Fionn and a party of the Fianna were out hunting, in pursuit of a large stag in Glenasmole. They came upon three beautiful women who offered them food and drink. It was a hot day and Fionn and his men were glad to accept the offer. They sat on the soft grass and no sooner had they drank from the cups when a paralysis overcame them, and though they could see and speak, they could not move.

The three women then brought spears and swords and stood in front of the Fianna warriors. “We have heard of Fionn the mighty”, said one of them, “and it is the wish of our queen that he should be her husband”.

But one of the women was taking an interest in Diarmuid, one of the Fianna. He was called “Diarmid of the love spot”, and it was said that no woman could shield her heart from him. She moved closer to him, and as she did, found that she could not resist kissing him. As soon as they kissed, the spell was broken, and the beautiful young women turned into withered old witches. Fionn and the other Fianna fled.

There was as great discussion on things changing, magic in stories and reality. They had a visitor to their class who told them about the aphid parasite, which they told me about. a small parasitic wasp that lays its eggs in aphids. The eggs hatch inside and the larvae spin cocoons which swell the aphid’s body. The adult wasp then exits the aphid body, leaving behind a hard brown shell called an aphid mummy. I’m learning so much on Forest Fridays. We all are.

So it was decided to do an obstacle course for parents including some of the target practice with arrows and pine cones that we have already done. As it will be Halloween we thought of a few seasonal things to add. They tried out bonfire jumping. The bonfire was built higher and higher as the skills got better.

Here they are queuing for the jump.

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Sixth class



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Dalkey School Project/Forest Friday

Session 6

Last night storm Callum hit Ireland. There were still gale force winds this morning and the Dun Laoghaire parks were closed for the day. We continued working in our 3 Forest School groups developing ideas for base camps back at the school.

Fourth Class

God’s Eye (in Spanish, Ojo de Dios) weavings.

Ojo de Dios is a spiritual object made by weaving a design out of yarn on a wooden cross. They are commonly found in Mexico. The spiritual eye of the Ojos de Dios is thought by some believers to have the power to see and understand things unknown to the physical eye.

In Mexico they are placed along tracks to keep people safe. Fourth class will place theirs along the obstacle courses that they are building in their base camps to keep people safe.

Place Names

Each group worked on a name for their base camp. We looked at examples of places around us-

Killiney Cill Iníon Léinín, meaning “Church of the Daughters of Léinín”

Dalkey IslandDelg-inis, meaning Thorn Island

GlenagearyGleann na gCaorach, meaning Glen of the Sheep.

They were given a list  selected from

Irish Place Names by P.W. Joyce.

Useful word to know –

Ait- a place, a site

Ard – a height

Bán- white or fair coloured

Barr – the top

Beag – little

Bearna – a gap

Béal – a mouth

Boireann – a rocky place

Bóthar – a road

Broc – a badger

Bun – the end or bottom of anything

Carraig – a rock

Clann – a tribe

Cloch – a stone

Cnoc – a hill

Coill – a wood

Coínín – a rabbit

Coll – hazel

Craobh – a branch

Crann – a tree

Cu – a hound

Cuillionn – holly

Dair – an oak

Draeighean – blackthorn

Druim – a back, a hill

Fada – long

Fásach – a wilderness

Garbh – rough, rugged

Glas – green

inish – an island

Leaba – a bed

Lon – a blackbird

Moin – a bog

Mór – large

Nead – a nest

Óg – young

Oileán – an island

Poll – a hole

Preachán – a crow

Puca – a ghost

Rath – a circular fort

Sceilig – a rock

Sean – old

Sidheán – a fairy hill

Siol – a seed

Sionnach – a fox

Slighe – a track

Teamhair – an elevated stop with a view. (Tara)

Tobar – a well

Tromm- the elder

Uisce – water.

Working from our Irish Place Names sheet they came up with lots of lovely names for their base camps- Béal na coille, Draighean Druim, Fásach Glas, Knocktara, Clann Puca, Puca Cu, Clann Cuillionn.IMG_4049 copy

We looked at the wood we had collected. The children were asked to think about the wood we have; what wood is hollow, what wood is soft in the middle, what wood is strongest, what wood can be bent? It is amazing what we all now know, including me, about different woods. Their answers were; bamboo, elder, ash, willow and ivy.

They were shown how using natural materials, string and wire they could make letters   and put them together to form a word. They collected natural materials from the school garden to add to the boxes of materials I had brought in.

Sixth Class

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This can be brought to the base camp on the parents session.

Sixth Class

The wind had abated and there was rain and puddles to enjoy outdoors.

We went to the park beside the school to develop our arrows and have an inter group arrow throwing competition. The groups spent time evaluating and improving their arrows by adding weights and sharpening.

Each group had a semi-final competition in arrow throwing and from that put forward two contestants for the final.

And the winner is Benan!

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Dalkey School Project/ Forest Friday

Session 5

Nature detective work on the way up to our base  for our notebook –

Beech Tree

The trunk goes straight up and the branches go straight out and then down. These are beech leaves I found them on the ground. The leaves are shaded a lot. There is a line in the middle and then lines going upwards. This is brown and the other one is green. The bark is not like a normal tree, the bark on a normal tree is kind of wrinkly and this one is very smooth, but then there are little bumps on it. There are textured lines going across. They kind of stand out a bit. Could you make beech nut tea?

Sweet Chestnut

This is what I found a few weeks ago and I didn’t know what it was from. It’s from that tree. The bark is very bumpy and wrinkly – it’s more rough than the beech bark. The leaves are longer than the beech and have kind of spikes on the sides. There are seeds with white at the bottom and then brown. The outside is very spiky and it really hurts.


IMG_3697 copyLook at the spider, look at the size of his legs. He has a very small body and very long legs. He moved very fast when I blew gently on him.

At this stage our sessions are being led by the children. They decided on fusion tea of nettle pine needle and blackberry. This was their observation when collecting nettles –

” Nettles can’t grow without lots of light. We had to go out to the sunlight to find them, there were none under the trees.”IMG_3706 copy

A structure of sticks. leaves and pine needles was built up around the tea container to insulate it while the tea was brewing. Today’s tea was a fusion of nettle, pine needle and 3 blackberries. The verdict was that the pine needle flavour was dominate.

The fourth class requested to make dens. They divided into two groups. Both areas had already a natural structure to be added to. They brought me on a tour. Their sharing with each other of imagination and creativity  is amazing to experience.

“We have a shower,when you stand under it and shake the branch the water falls on you.”

“Here is the play room with a branch to swing on and another to balance on.”

“We have a wash basin.”

Every week children share what they notice- ” I was climbing in circles around the tree with the pool and I noticed the different reflections as I moved around.”

Sixth class continued with their arrows. They tested the quality of each arrow and adapted them to make them better.

“I started with a bigger shaft but I changed because it was too difficult to sharpen.”

“My arrow flew wonky and I put a conker on it and it flew straight. When it flew wonky it looked liked it was dancing then I thought it might be a bet sad when it didn’t dance anymore with the conker, but you can just take the conker off and it will dance again.”

“Mine didn’t fly very good but we made a course – you had to try and get it through the hoop. Then I realised mine wasn’t sharp enough and then I sharpened it. It didn’t make a difference. I think I need a thicker stick.”

“I sharpened mine and then threw it and it started to go straighter.”

“We put our arrows in a potion – it gave them a ‘harming’, so that they would kill everybody. It was a poison potion. You have to dip the arrow in the potion for a few minutes.”

‘I added a pine cone to the tip. It flew straighter and longer.”

“I started one today and tested it, it doesn’t go very far but that could be because I’m throwing it very high.I think it might be too light. It needs more weight.”

“Mine’s good, flies far.”

Reuben’s flew the farthest. It was the magic potion.”







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Dalkey School Project/ Forest Friday

Session 4

Fourth Class

Before going to our base camp I let the group know of a plan to make arrows to develop our target practice skills. I suggested that we collected feathers as they would be useful for our arrows. There weren’t that many but I had collected some extra ones during the week.

Wild Tea

Choose a wild tea for the week.


Blackberry leaf?


Pine needle?

They decided on pine needle so to decorate around the tea container they used pine branches and cone fallen from the gale last week and the willow circles that they made last week.They continued developing the tea ceremony with a new tea master and assistant.

This was our discussion on creating a tea ceremony

Aim is to create a feeling of calm with each other and harmony with the natural world.

Elements you might want to consider:

–       What are host’s responsibilities and tasks?

–       What are the participants’ responsibilities and tasks?

–       How is the space prepared in advance – perhaps a central nature    mandala?

–       Who and how are people welcomed?

–       How is gratitude shown?

–       Is there a particular way of pouring?

–       How does it end?



Continuing developing target practice and games, pine cones and willow circles and this week we made arrows.

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Binding feathers to secure to the bamboo.







Using coloured wool to design an identifying marker for each arrow.

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It took the whole session to get out arrows made and try out quick flights. One flew so far we never found it again. Next week we will have time to try our flying skills and create a rules for a game.

Sixth Class

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As they missed their session in the forest last week they worked hard and made both willow circles and arrows. Next week they will have time to develop their target skills and arrow throwing skills.

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Leon noticed that he could create different shadows with his body. He made himself into a wild animal.



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