Forest Friday

Session 2

The only weather that we cancel Forest Friday in the woods is when there are gales or strong gusts of wind. Being near and under tress is not safe. Last night there was a strong breeze forecast until 11am and then gales after 11. We have to make decisions the night before as parents drop the children off at the woods.

We decided to continue with the senior infants in the woods and take them to the sheltered side of the hill if we needed to. We cancelled second class and prepared some work to introduce a theme in the classroom that we will continue with during our next sessions.

Senior Infants


We woke to a very still but very icy morning. No wind! Rather that have the children sit on the picnic mats as they arrived we made up an active game to keep each group warm as we waited for all the children to gather.

Hungry Squirrel

This is a catch game with a pine cone. The thrower calls the name of the catcher and throws the pine cone to them. If the catcher drops the cone everyone says “Hungry Squirrel” and the catcher runs around the tree. There was a lot of running in the beginning but they got better and kept warm until all the children had gathered.

Journey to the base camp

Last week the children stopped and noticed good dens. This week they looked closer and were very observant of  colours and textures and the small world of bugs.



Wild tea of the Week – Nettle

The children had decided last week that they would like to make and taste nettle tea. I told them that I had put in a half spoon of honey in the water that we had used for bramble leaf tea.They asked for pure water this week as they said they wanted to taste the tea without the taste of honey. What a discerning group.



Observing the children making the tea, I watch how they are learning how to control the  pouring, this is not so easy, they have to adjust the angle to get it just right. One child holds the strainer. When one cup is full they share some of it into the other cups. They are loving this. It’s an extension of of water play.

Free Play

Before they set off exploring I reminded them that this week everything was wet so to test it before climbing as wood and rock could be slippy. They continued from last week developing their climbing skills. There was a problem with two children wanting to climb the same tree and not having space. I asked them all could they suggest another good tree to climb and one of them said no it’s too slippy this week. It’s so lovely to see on the second week that they are taking responsibility themselves.



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All but one child loved nettle tea. Going through the process of making their own drink entices them to taste – maybe the answer to the fussy eater.


When the children arrived at our base last week they noticed that someone had left  a fairy door and a little plastic bicycle and mushroom at the base of the Grandmother tree. This week they noticed that  it had broken in half.

During lunch break I told a story about our big tree – The Grandmother Tree, and how a boy, who had got a fairy door from Santa asked is cousin, who had got a small mushroom and bicycle from Santa if she would like to come up to the woods and leave them for the fairies. The story was about how the Grandmother tree is the central meeting place for the fairies.

I made it up as I went along and left them with the inspiration to make a fairy village near the tree.



The village needed a boundary wall.

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“This is a door so when you go out you open it and close it. At night you can lift up the blanket…..and a bowl where you can get food, and here’s some food, some lettuce.”



“Here’s a king sized bed, there’s a mat here. That’s the kitchen and there’s some food and I don’t know what it is.”







Lots of things were happening. Some children stopped to observe exciting things while collecting and others were organising a team to bring up large branches for the boundaries. Sometimes a child took time out to climb a tree. There is so much space and such a rich environment for each child to find what his/her needs were.

Jenny’s Senior Infant Group

All three groups have been responding to the environment through observation, play and creating.

Here they are using their bodies to explore as they take the difficult route up to their base camp, listen to the “bluebells ringing”, climb and balance, “Who needs a swing when you have a log”, and making a “mud angel”.

Observation of Jelly Ears, strange shaped sticks and a heart hole in Lords and Ladies.

The joy of creating together and alone. A mini den and a zip line.

FS SI W2 creating with friends FS SI W2 mini dens FS SI W2 zip line

Second Class.

We worked in the classroom with the whole of second class. We will be working with a bird theme after Easter so we introduced the bird theme to the children.

We began by collecting the names of birds we see in the woodland.

The children came up with the names of the different birds that they see in the woods. Jenny hung pictures of woodland birds on the wall.IMG_6863 copy

Each child will be taking a woodland bird name so we will develop our information of these birds for our next session.

Feather Necklaces

We began by looking at feathers with magnifying glasses and then drawing from them on card.

We had a look at some Aztec feathers as –

Fact: Archaeologists have discovered that the Aztecs held feathers as one of nature’s most valuable gifts, as birds appeared to be very important in their culture.

So we had a look at some decorative Aztec feathers patterns. The children added decoration to their feathers.







The children cut out the feathers and drew on the other side so it would look like a feather from both sides.

We punched holed in them so they could put a cord through them.

We divided back into our three Forest Friday groups. Each group had to decide on three colours of wool to represent their group. Working in pairs they each made a braid to thread through their feather.





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We have four weeks before we all gather again. We will bring up these necklaces to the woods. The children can add their chosen bird name to them.










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Forest Friday

Session 1 of our 9 week block

This was Senior Infants first experience of Forest Friday

Second Class had a nine week block of Forest Friday two years ago when they were in Senior Infants.

Senior Infants – An Introduction to Forest Friday

Lisa was our assistant.

We have two sessions before the Easter Holidays. The aims for these first two sessions is that the children will get to know their group leaders. They will explore their base camps and recognise the boundaries through play, learn the golden rules (keep yourself safe and happy, keep each other safe and happy, keep the world around you safe and happy).

The Gathering.

As the children arrive they go to a mat which has a box of natural materials to play and make things with.

Five picnic mats were laid out with a box of materials for each group (these are the table groups in the classroom) as the arrived at Killiney Hill. This gives the children time to gather at different times as some parents have to take siblings to school first.

Each basket has natural materials for the children to explore and to create with.

The baskets will be moved around the groups each week .


When all the children arrived they were divided into their 3 forest school groups. Ten children in each group will work with the same leader and assistant leader for the 9 sessions.

Map making – Children named significant/interesting markers on route.  Most childern choose areas that made good dens. Here we have the Ivy Den.

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Exploring and reinforcing boundaries

The children helped hang red ribbons to mark boundaries. They couldn’t wait to explore. Most of our session time was free-play. I was able to observe each child. Many were interested in climbing. Some were experienced climbers and others were new to it. It was lovely to see children advising others of how to climb.


While climbing they were also noticing and pointing out interesting things.


In this environment they were learning so much, and totally child led.

Wild Teas

Each week the children will make and taste a wild tea.

Bramble Leaf Tea

The children were encouraged to use all their senses. We felt textures and smelt plants on the way up. I asked the children if they would like to taste some plants.

We collected young bramble leaves for our wild tea tasting. This is a great way to get to know a plant. At the base camp some children discovered that we had lots of bramble leaves and collected more for our tea. At break we settled in by making tea and making a comfortable camp.

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After break I told the story of Mama Earth and as I was telling it I made a creature.

Story – Mama Earth/Mother Earth

Once upon a time Mother Earth 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 Mother Earth. She gazed at them in wonder. One day, Mother Earth 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, Mother Earth 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.

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Here is Fox who I created during the story.

The children went off to collect materials to make more creatures to join fox in his world.



Sometimes the ‘Oops’ in a day makes it.

While I was waking I stood on poor Fox. He was beyond reviving. The children decided he was dead. We must have a funeral someone suggested.

They put out suggestions on how this would happen, what they needed, where Fox has gone now that he was dead. They talked about emotions. One child had lost his grandad recently and he explained how a funeral happened. They asked him how he felt about his grandad.

Someone decided to make a Mrs. Fox. They all had so much empathy for Mrs. Fox and used their creatures to talk to be and be extra friendly and king to her.

Fox’s funeral.

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So much wonderful learning took place during this session. We finished off sitting in a circle with our eyes closed listening to the wind, the birds and other children in the woods and then shared what we noticed and enjoyed during our first session.

I’m looking forward to working with this group, what a great start.

Second Class

Mr. Doohan was our assistant.

Wow! Do they need me? They ran the session. Amazing to observe.

The 10 children in my group except for one were new to me. They clearly weren’t new to Forest Friday and being in the woods. Their confidence and knowledge was noticeable.

On the way up to camp I showed them our tin tea brewer and suggested that we make bramble leaf tea this week. They all new exactly which is the bramble plant and that the new leaves were soft and not thorny.



At our camp I asked where we would make the tea and how would we ensure that it was seen and not knocked over. They decided to place the brewer in the centre of our meeting circle and marked it with a circular pattern using sticks and pine cones.

Lunch Break

They made a lovely tea ceremony. IMG_6721 copy

Child Led Play

I suspect that many of the things they decided to do was a continuation of two years ago. One group decided to make a shop. There was a lot of sweeping and clearing. Leaves were used as currency. Then a group found a branch on the ground that made a great trampoline. The made rules about the trampoline, how many could go on it at a time and how to take turns.

One girl found a comfortable niche between branches in a tree to draw in.


While the children were playing in different areas they were also noticing. This child having finished her drawing had a close look at her surroundings.

IMG_6732 copyOne child called me over to view a bud on a herb robert plant. This was beside the flower but the child noticed the the bud. He pointed out the shape and the hairs on it. Their observation is very deep.


At one point I called everyone together to say I had a story. Would they like like to hear it or carry on. Unanimously they chose to continue what they were doing.

They didn’t need new stimulation.

At one stage a child got out a plastic toy creature from his pocket. Mr. Doohan suggested that he leave it in his pocket and make a better one with natural materials. He said if the woodland one wasn’t as good he could use his plastic one. We never saw his plastic one again. I offered him some clay from my bag that I still had left over from the morning session and he went off and created a wonderful creature to have lot of adventures. The idea grew and more and more creatures were created by more and more children. They created stories around them. This is how children play. Ideas expand and rules are made along the way.


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We finished with our sit spots.

What is the adult role here? Yes of course we need to be there to time keep, to suggest if necessary, to gather the children, to be shown interesting things, to observe and respond to our observations.

I loved how Mr. Doohan encouraged the child to use the resources of the forest.






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Week 8: Junior Infants and 3rd Class, Holy Family N.S – Exhibition Visit to dlr LexIcon

We had a super morning at the gallery at dlr LexIcon. The exhibition was called And the tide was way out by two artists – Paul Hallahan and Lee Welch. Great discussions around how the artworks were created –

First with Lee Welch’s paintings – How was the paint put on? What was it painted on? Was is cardboard or material? Was the pattern on the material or had the artist painted it? Were they stencils? Was it a face? Was it in a museum? Was it a statue?

With Paul Hallahans paintings – Was it another world? Was it outer space? Was it a map? Were there borders? Was there a flight path? Were there different animals hidden in the paint? Had the artist used alcohol so the paint separated in some parts and blended in other parts? Had the artist used ink for the black bits along the edge?

Both groups loved the moving projected painting – what could it be? Was it blood inside a body? Was it a close up? Was it another world? Was it the earth from space? Was it the future? Was it a hole that we were looking into?

Lovely morning and gave us inspiration for creating layered artworks using chalk pastels on tracing paper so light could come through. And also using pencils to make more defined marks. We worked on both sides of the tracing paper and then using black sugar paper created a circular frame or lens through which to view the artwork.

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Week 7 – 3rd Class, Holy Family N.S – Self Portraits – Proportion and Colour


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We were continuing on with our explorations into Self Portraits -we began by going back to the mirrors – looking at shapes, size and proportion – measuring where our eyes are, ears, width of mouth, nose etc. Looking at features on the face and how they link up. So we did some blind drawings…..everyone found it really hard not to look and found their faces all mixed up when they looked at their drawings…some forgot to look at their faces in the mirrors while doing the drawing. So we tried this again, really looking at our faces in the mirror and trying to co-ordinate our hand to make the drawing! We focused in on the eye – getting the details of different parts of the eye and the shape – where the eyelids, eye lashes, pupil, iris are and connect.

We spent a bit of time then doing colour studies – using coloured pencils we did a tester piece on blending colours – working two colours together to get a gradation of one colour to another. Then looking really carefully and colour matching we made sheets of colour samples – holding them against our faces to check the colours. Some beautiful palettes created!


We also took some time to look at and discuss two self portraits – Frida Kahlo and Vincent Van Gogh. We looked at what was around the figures, what we could tell about the person looking at their portrait and how artists do not always show themselves at their best!


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Week 7 – Junior Infants – Holy Family N.S – Curved Walls and Towers

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Following on from last week when we had begun to create 3D standing walls from square shapes I wanted to develop this further with more construction techniques. We began by reflecting on last week and what techniques, processes, ways of making we had used to make our buildings stand up. the class had read The 3 Little Pigs since last week so that was great for talking about strong and sturdy walls and if they could be blown over. This was going to be our task – to build a wall that would not blow over!

We experimented with standing the card on its side but remembered from last week that it was too thin – so we looked at folding and also (new for this week) – curving the wall so it balanced – or we could roll it around and join it so it was like a tower. We would need to add some flaps to get it to stick to the base. This was a new technique and it took everyone a bit of time and helping hands to figure this out! Trying and testing and problem solving!

We ended up with a village of beautiful buildings!

After break we had a look at some images of buildings and what shapes are used or joined together to build the building. We looked at the Aviva Stadium and the LexIcon Library where we will be going next week for an exhibition visit.

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Week 6 – 3rd Class, Holy Family N.S – Drawing – Self Portraits


Following on from our explorations of different sorts of drawing we began this week looking at Robert Smithson Spiral Jetty – was it natural or man made? Was it really in water? What was it made of? Were those people real or photo shopped into the picture? Was this really an artwork? Is it still there? Where is it?

We then had q brief look at Egon Schiele’s hand portrait – looking at what we can tell about the person just looking at a drawing of their hands – was it a man? was it a poor man? Look at his old sleeves? Maybe he was poor?

This was a good lead into how much you can tell by the way something is actually drawn – observational drawing but expressing emotional detail – through use of expressive lines. So after a quick mark making warm up with graphite and pencils we were going to try doing a self portrait. Feeling all over our heads to find hard and soft surfaces, textures, hollow and solid spaces, smooth and rough. And then beginning the portraits – this was going to be hard! I reassured the class that drawing faces is the hardest thing to do so just getting the features in and showing some depth through shading.

And indeed the class stuck with it and really tried hard to get the shapes and shading. Here are some of the self portraits!

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Week 6 – Junior Infants, Holy Family N.S – Paper Structures

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We began this week by reflecting on how we had built houses and buildings using clay last week. We talked about the shapes we had used and how we had got the walls to stand. The class had had Lego workshop before I came in so this gave a perfect continuity for us to discuss making a strong structure and putting it on a strong foundation or base and trying and testing different ways of constructing.

So we gathered around and looked and tried and tested ways of getting a rectangle to stand – glue on the edge? Buit the edge was too thin so it fell over. Put it flat and another rectangle on top? Too flat! Like the clay – what if you put two rectangles together side by side so one supported the other? This could work! What if you folded the bottom of the rectangle so there was more to glue onto the base? Well that could work too! And we would need to measure also to make a roof that would fit!

So armed with card, cardboard base, glues and scissors we spent a very busy morning. Everyone tried and tested finding different ways and techniques to get the walls standing – adding card to support the walls. Measuring to make a roof or using long strips to arch across the roof using narrow strips. Great problem solving and great building Junior Infants!


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