Ropes

I introduced rope play to my sessions after noticing a couple of children interested in tying things or making assault courses.

I brought along a selection of rope and also set up a slack line to offer the children an opportunity to experiment with balance and other ways of moving off the ground.

It was lovely to see the way the children experimented with ropes, and each week the kinds of things they did evolved.

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One of the girls worked hard completely independently and designed and built a rope walkway. Everyone had fun testing it out and I was impressed at the level of sophistication!

One of the boys who I’ve struggled to “Hook in” has been fascinated with the ropes, this was the first session that he was truly engaged and completely focused on a task. He designed a climbing rope, and again everyone had fun testing it out. This is a massive breakthrough for this child and I’m so happy to see him enjoying what he is doing, engrossed and thinking about his designs.

As the weeks progressed, children began to invent team games, discuss rules, work collaboratively and generally experiment to their hearts content.

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These girls used the wild wind in their play for a couple of weeks in row and created a “Pirate Ship”, they role played for a long time hoisting sails, creating shelter, hanging out washing and sleeping on the ship. The wind added an extra thrilling dimension to their play and the girls tied lovely knots and designed sails.

It was nice to watch these older children (9) thoroughly engrossed in their play.

Whilst observing them I did wonder how much time they actually get in their lives to freely play in this way, with no one directing them and where they make the rules? I guess to a certain extent there may be role play with siblings, probably in doors or parks, and also playtimes at school allow for free play with peers, (but they are short and there are no tarps and ropes there!), but free play on this level, with peers of the same age group and the freedom and props to inspire these scenarios must be quite rare at this age.

 

 

 

Getting tangled in knots 

As my assessment week looms and I’m working through my portfolio I realised that knots are not a strong point! I shy away from them, it’s another of those things I’ve taught myself to believe I can’t do, strange how this happens! In my head they are complicated, too many instructions, too hard I get it wrong. So I made a decision to learn some knots. I decided to break it down into small tasks and my first task is that I can teach all my forest school kids to tie a reef knot this week. So I let everyone choose a length a brightly coloured paracord and as we sat in our circle we all had a go. Right over left left over right. Some children managed easily some struggled and I was able to help and next week we will do it again but I will ask them to attach the ropes to a tarp.
So reef knot ✅!
I think I’ve said before it’s quite surreal that I go along to one of Alan’s sessions with the kids and he seems telepathic! We’ve started going to the Be more outdoors after school bushcraft club and this week, Lashings and knots! Brilliant complete with resident knot expert to the fire service John.

After practicing loads and repeating knots over and over I feel so much more confident. We built a seat using sheer lashing and clove hitches, and I’m sure this will come in handy fro my assessment week. I love the fact that I feel unable to do things, set my mind to doing it, practice and practice and then I can! That sounds silly, but its so easy to just say…”oh I cant do it”, and walk away from some things, practice really does make perfect!

And it’s a big confidence boost to realise that actually I can do it!

 

Next thing to practice, Tool Talks!

 

 

Reflections 

I am just standing cooking tea, having a quiet moment reflecting on the work I’ve done this summer.

I’ve been lucky enough  to have the opportunity to support some of the sessions run by Be More Outdoors, Alan and team, and  what a busy week it’s been this week.

Starting off with two sessions Monday & Tuesday and then a weekly session on a Thursday. I’m not going to go into detail and I don’t have photos, but it’s fair to say the sessions offered were for children from areas of multiple deprivation.

We’ve worked together to make mallets. We’ve worked together to create fire to cook our lunch, we’ve built shelters, played team games, made log dogs, built more shelters, played tour of duty “black ops!.” For real, (without the gory bits), we’ve cooked pizza, dressed in camouflage, face painted, made kazoos cooked snake bread and we’ve had masses of fun.

Things that I’ve been mulling over, how the sessions went, and feeling a little happy with myself, for giving my time to work with these young people, because after the weeks work, I do feel that between us, we made a bit of a difference to these kids lives,  that gave me a big question to consider…..how do I know that?

Did we really?

So thinking about that, I decided to write down my personal observations, maybe we did, maybe we didn’t, and to be perfectly honest we will never ever know that answer to that, but this is what I saw.

A common theme at different sites was how the children’s attitudes and general disposition changed dramatically from arriving to leaving. Kids arrived at both sites uptight, argumentative, guarded defensive and generally closed, stand off ish. I Think about this, these kids are tough, they have a hard exterior, it is how they survive in a dog eat dog world, be tough stand up for yourself, protect yourself. For me, to see the mindset the kids arrived in, and the different mindset and attitude they left with was great. After only a few hours outdoors, in the woodland environment with the opportunity to play freely and participate either individually or as a group, part of a team, be social. Their guard was dropped. Kids could be free to be kids, without worrying about what anyone thinks and in a positive setting. The children were relaxed, tired, open and friendly and well fed!

As the groups met they bonded, became closer to each other and more relaxed with us, happily chatting about this and that, family life, it was a pleasure to get to know them.

Both groups of kids obviously spent quite a lot of time outdoors and were skilled tree climbers and knot tie ers! I was  saddened that when I asked some of the bigger boys if they play out in the woods they said “we used to, when we were little kids”. ( 11yrd old)

Two girls working together so cooperatively, really listening and paying attention to each others instructions whilst using a mallet and frohe to split wood, I commented that they were working well as a team, their response, “we never work together”, “we are sisters, we had a fight this morning!” How amusing.

And me? What have I learnt? Well a whole host of practical skills, probably the one in proudest of is using an axe! Properly! I’ve always had a fear of axes, having had a real coal fire most of my life in not new to splitting wood for kindling, (however when I told Alan of my technique, the old balance the wood and quickly move hand whilst swinging axe and generally wood falls I miss, and feels dangerous!), he gave me an excellent tutorial. I had to find my Zen, slice through the wood and power into the block! Place the wood at the back so my axe sticks into it! (and not me!!), correct stance, hands slide up the handle. Useful tip for chopping smaller wood, hold the wood against the axe and handle and split! Loved it and how therapeutic too. I’ve felt confident in lighting fires and cooking with groups, I know that cooking tortilla pizzas and fruit crumbals in the fire for 35 is bloody hard and my hair still stinks of smoke! (However cooking for 10 in comparison?! Easy!)

I’ve learned some awesome things to cook on a fire, potato wedges are delicious! And I think I’m now a fully qualified hot choc and coffee maker and used the Kelli kettle.

I’ve had the chance to observe different practitioners which had been a pleasure and really useful to see different ways of dealing with conflict or challenging behaviour

I’ve learnt about camouflage and stealth, tracking animals, how native Americans captured Eagles! How to make a kazoo or prey whistle.

I’ve learnt about the team Ive worked with nice to get to know new and interesting people and I’ve seen for real just how much effort goes into each and every session, not to mention the stuff that happens at home, the washing up washing if tarps and camo suits, and have massive respect for everyone I know doing the same things for the benefit of others, I’ve learnt that there’s a lot of kind, decdicatied people out there and that’s a nice place to be.

Shelter building

Seems to be an apt title!
I felt really proud of myself at this weeks session as if was a rainy day and I decided to put up a tarp shelter. The last time I tried this on my own it was a disaster! I hadn’t realised how hard it could be to put up a tarp in my own! And by the time I’d finished faffing about tying the ropes the tarp wasn’t right and I had to keep going round untying and retying…. It took me ages and when I finally got out with the group it had fallen down!!!! So  after that I spoke to John, (the ace fireman & volunteer at Babes in the Wood group), one week, who is a bit of an expert in knots! And he showed me a new knot called a “squirrels fist” or a taut line hitch.



Making a tube

Round the whole rope

Up through middle to finish 

Or quick release version, take a loop up through…
 and I practiced until I got it!

Anyway I decided At this  weeks session I’d give the shelters a go using these knots, that meant I can adjust the length of the ropes to make the shelter hang correctly without untying.

When I got to site I noticed can a long straight branch near a couple of trees and thought it would be a good way to hang a tarp and make a shelter to create a work space under. I balanced one end on a split in the trunk and tied the other end with string to make sure it was secure. Then I hung a tarp over and secured it with ropes and pegs, it worked well and I was thrilled that it looked like a proper shelter!

I then put up another high tarp using the squirrels fist and made sure this one was angled slightly so that the rain could run off, again it went according to plan! And I was impressed to watch the rain run off one corner, the kids liked that too! It’s always fun when it rains!


The session was a little disjointed and didn’t flow well today as I had no one to help me, the children are used to being able to use me to support their ideas and show them things like knot tying, but I couldn’t help everyone.

There were a few little arguments and the boys seemed particularly boisterous, climbing high in trees, setting up bases to guard and making weapons, they made up a game of ninja bases, still with a little more aggression than the normal chilled atmosphere, Id brought a box along as last session they had discovered an old card sign and were hitting it with sticks. ( I borrowed the brilliant idea of making a piñata from the Natures footprints team at Helme school, who did it with some older kids in the holidays and that gave the boys some focus), it didn’t stop the bickering tho As they argued about who’s turn it was to hit/kick the box, but it did give them a problem to solve when they wanted to hang it! And an opportunity to vent their frustrations!


Anyway, I digress! This post is about my shelter building! Because after this session, it happened to be the Colne Valley Bushcraft session at the weekend, so I booked in with my family. Brilliantly timed the session was “shelters!”, so I got an opportunity to learn more about different types of shelter and practice!  We learned about the Rule of threes, and apparently you can Survive 3 mins without air

3 hours in extreme environment- shelter

3 days without water

3 weeks without food

3 months without contact

Alan is a great teacher, and I’m truly grateful for the extra information he gives me, I’m forever asking questions to understand things and learn more! And it’s only through practicing stuff at these sessions I feel I can try new things and master them, (well…….eventually!).

We had a great afternoon constructing different to scale mini shelters Alan used a brilliant way to get us to build the large shelters he had three sticks with little pictures 3 with weather on sun wind water drawn on and each group had to pick 2 sticks then make shelter to protect from those elements

I thought this was a really great idea to use with kids to give a focus ? Probably Could be used for other activities too to give a challenge! Our shelter had to protect us from the wind and the sun. After a discussion we decided stat the shelter needed to be very low to the ground to stop it being blown away and we decided to make ours out of a white sheet to reflect the heat of the sun,

Mini shelters … 
 as you’ve probably noted now, the tool use and practical forest skills bit are my weak areas, working with the kids is second nature, but knot tying and fire lighting are all new to me. Reflecting whilst I write this I realise just how far I’ve come along my journey since Feb this year!

And yesterday at my Forest School session I set up camp, and it really did feel like camp! A proper Forest school camp, that I made all by myself, in about 40 mins! ☺️

Welcome back!

I welcomed my Forest School group back a few weeks ago now and as we had had a holiday, I decided to begin with a review and reflection session.

We chose a sunny spot and I asked the children to go and collect three different big leaves, which they could write on.

We had a new helper this week, who hasn’t been to any sessions and doesn’t have any experience of Forest School sessions, so I thought it would be nice to introduce ourselves, (using our nicknames!). This gave the children an opportunity to speak out loud in the group and share the manes they had chosen complete with actions! It was great to see the development in confidence from everyone.

We looked at the leaves that the children had gathered and talked about them, did anyone know what they were?

This was a lovely discussion. The children chose a range of leaves, Privet, rhododendron, sycamore and field maple, we looked at the shapes and talked about similarities and differences, and the children showed a genuine interest, it’s my intention to drip feed names of trees and plants animals and insects each session, Identifying  as we go along to help them to learn and remember and really focus on whats in our space.

I asked the children to write or draw one thing that they remembered doing at Forest Session from before the holiday or something they really enjoyed.

Then I asked them to write down one word to describe how they feel whilst they are at Forest School sessions, and finally I asked them to tell me one thing they would like to do at Forest Sessions.

Each child brought up their leaves and I had brought along my wild weaving with the intention of doing this at the session if anyone wanted to have a go, but instead it ended up becoming a free hanging frame to decorate with the leaves.

The children really enjoyed bringing their leaves up and telling me and the rest of the group what they had written as I hung them on the frame. What began as a bit of an ad hoc reflection became a really special celebrating and sharing moment for us all, and I took a lot more time than planned to reflect and remember things with them, thanking them for their contributions. It was a lovely share and really nice to find out what they enjoyed. A special moment!

The session had a different kind of energy that day, I think the children are tired in general nearing the end of term and they were happy just going into the woods and having some free play, tree climbing and then some wanted to make necklaces and some wanted to make bows and arrows.

I let the boys use secateurs for the session, I gave a tool talk, and made sure they were supervised at all times, but again I really felt  the sense of ownership of the area, the responsibility and care the children were using to manage their behavior and regulate themselves was brilliant to see. The boys worked hard to create bows and arrows, and I said we can continue this in to the next session as well as the catapults as we refine and develop our ideas to make the perfect weapon!

I’m so glad we are able to keep the same children for another 7 weeks as it is really apparent to me now how much time it takes to actually begin to get to know them, and it is not until this week that I feel I’m really getting to understand them a little better and see their unique traits.

We had some lovely talks amongst ourselves about feelings and the cooperation and bond developing with the group is lovely.

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimension”- Oliver Wendell

HapaZome And Smelly Cocktails 

So, Following on our theme of identifying and investigating different plants and leaves I thought we could have a go at making some smelly cocktails or perfumes really get to feel and smell and explore the plants and flowers and also try some Hapa Zome, (beating up leaves and flowers with hammers!)

Crazy word, was new to me, Hapa Zome is the Japanese art of beating leaves with hammers pounding natural pigment into cloth. I’d already tried this at home and all my kids loved it we made some beautiful images and it’s fun to see which leaves work really well.

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The children enjoyed making the potions and stews and were really careful in selecting the plants and flowers they wanted to use, it gave us plenty of opportunity to talk about what we found and the kids, particularly the older boys enjoyed mixing up the potions.


They were all really keen to take them home and one of the boys said he had made a “love potion”, he wrote a label on the bottle, which was nice.

Some enjoyed hammering the leaves and flowers to make lovely wall hangings and they all had a go at using the hammers.

We found this little fellow on a dock leaf whilst collecting things and I put him into a pot to show the others. I was massively impressed with one of my guys who informed us it a “Sheild bug”.


Some of the group have been studying mini beasts and that’s brilliant as we continue to explore the woods my plan is to have mini beast sessions for he next couple of weeks. It’s something all of the children enjoy and it looks like I’ve got some skilled teachers!

At the end of session we sat together and everyone shared what they had been doing, as everyone had done different things. It was Mrs McNaes last day today and we were all sad to say goodbye we all signed one of the Hapa Zome sheets for her to take home and keep as a momento of her Forest School sessions. Over the weeks she’s been a great support and really embraced the Forest School ethos, we will all miss her input.

Lets think about what you could have seen!

So, were all set for the school trip, 60 kids ready to go and excited as can be,

Oh, the bus is nearly an hour late, spirits are still high, we will still get there in time, (except now everyone needs a wee again!).

Bus arrives…..looks a bit suspect, let’s say, “tired”!

and then its decided, (when weve gone 500 yds uphill at 2mph), the bus really may not be up to the job!

The call is made to abandon the trip…(I should add here much to the distress and disappointment of the teacher, who with tears in her eyes told 60 children), a moving moment, a tough decision, but keeping the children safe is her priority…lets not get stuck on a hard shoulder of the motorway between here and Doncaster with 60 children, that would not be good.

Bus turns round, back to school…what to do?

I said if they want I can have a little think, would the teachers like me to go “get my gear?”, (which is funny now that i think about it,  say it quite a lot and I’ve turned into this weird, (er!), bag lady, that arrives at school with rucksacs and shopping bags full of stuff!!)

I take it most places nowadays, because its all we need! I have tarps, ropes, scissors, string, box of pens, box of assorted beads, tape, secateurs and gloves, thats it! But everywhere we go it seems to come in handy!

So I’m thinking, hmmmm, 60 kids (!) but lots of support staff! what the heck can we do that so many can enjoy?

What have they been thinking about?

We were supposed to be going to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park…..what would they have been excited about seeing?

The children had been enthusiastically telling me about what animals they hoped to see or had seen, so could we use that……wild stick creatures???? I’m thinking Wilderbeast, Tigers, Giraffes….?!


I had some pics in my trusty stick book….(I can highly recommend!)


All we need is clay, (enough for a small ball each!) We are really lucky to have amazing school grounds so all the other resources we need are there.

I went home and got “my gear!”, quickly pinched our mud kitchen things!

(Maybe some of you don’t know I have a mud kitchen in the garden which I built for the kids a couple of years ago), we adore it and come rain or shine, winter or summer the mud kitchen is used and enjoyed!  It’s loved by kids of all ages, I think the bigger ones just find more creative ways of using it and bake even more elaborate cakes and pies, soups and stews!


I was thinking of using a pop up mud kitchen later in the week with my Forest school group in y3/4 to see what they create, so two birds!

There is a log seating area at school, so i chucked a couple of old planks into the boot, to make work tops and we are sorted!

I had a quick talk with the kids, they were going to be running about in the woods, I gave them some boundaries, then got them to tell me what they need to be careful of, nettles, brambles, why?

The list goes on until we’ve covered it all!   (I love them to tell me these things, get them to ID the plants, and i always, without fail get some random answers!),  today’s random answer….Poisonous frogs…yes, watch out for them! definately dont touch them, and only look with your eyes!


Something I’ve started doing on my safety talks is saying the children need to use their brains! (which may sound daft, but its true!), developing common sense, self awareness, spatial awareness, look where you are putting your feet, think about how you climb the trees, what’s underneath? what could you fall onto? its all complicated stuff when you’re 6 (or more or less, even!), but I really big it up, tell them they are in charge of themselves, they need to be careful and really use their brains to think about what they are doing and it works.

We have only had one minor nettle sting in all the sessions and the boy who did it told me he hid in the bushes and didn’t see them, but in general the kids are amazinly good at self regulating and using their brains!

The kids got stuck in, I said, if they want to, they can make a creature, if they want to make something else, they can, and if they want to make a home for their animal in the woods, they can, or if they prefer they can play in the mud kitchen, maybe they would like to make their animal some food? or better still…make me some food?!

  
  

We had a great time, with some awesome creations, including a couple of trolls, hedgehogs and some very scary monsters. Everyone walked to the park for a picnic lunch, followed by Zombie Tig and parachute games!

The sun shone, I don’t think anyone even thought about the trip they missed! We took some very tired children back to school  and the trip was rearranged for the following week! Awesome 👍🏻😊