Our Forest School
Forest School aims to encourage, motivate, engage and inspire children through positive outdoor experiences. These experiences help to support children’s health, development and well-being and a means through which they experiment, develop their abilities, get creative and explore the world around them. Also, it enables children to explore and create rules and understandings, develop resilience, be active, be creative and imaginative, practice new skills, learn about risks, stimulate their senses and build friendships and relationships.
Forest School at St Mark’s was established in 2017 on the school playing field which is leased from the St Mark’s church. A seating area and fire pit were created along with posts being inserted so a canopy can be erected. The site is accessible from the main school through a padlocked gate, which all staff members have a key to.
The Forest School at St Mark’s is run by a qualified Forest School Leader, Miss Amelia Blundell, and supported by other members of staff/volunteers. The Forest School is covered by the school’s Public Liability and Employer’s Liability Insurance Policy:
Insurer: Zurich Municipal
Policy No: QLA-07AA01-0053
Renewal Date: 31 May 2022
Limit of indemnity: £50,000,000
Our Forest School Rules
The children in all classes and year groups help to decide the rules of Forest School. The rules are particularly important as they help us to stay safe, whilst also allowing us to have fun; our favourite rule! We begin with these every session to remind ourselves how we stay safe and how we can best look after each other and our outdoor areas. As the weeks progress, all of the children become more familiar with the things we can do to keep safe and how we can enjoy nature but simultaneously care for it. The children become so confident with the rules, that after just a few weeks of Forest School sessions they can lead the rule reminders each week with little support from adults- This demonstrates a great understanding of their knowledge.
Forest School- Spring 2022
Over the last few weeks in Class One Forest School we have been enjoying lots of our favourite activities. The children have been role playing in the mud kitchen making lots of lovely creations, as well as enjoying water play discovering how the water moves and also watering the plants in our outdoor area. We enjoyed creating trails with the planks, crates and tyres which supported the development of gross motor skills, and then continued to practice these skills by having a go at some tree-climbing on the bigger trees. This required lots of resilience but we did not give up! We enjoyed using the parachute as a class and this helped develop team-work, communication and language skills, along with listening skills- we also had lots of fun and laughter!
We love being creative so we created some twig and wool stars to hang off the tree, whilst we thought about our dreams, while this week we thought about all the things we love and are thankful for, creating a Hapa Zome heart using natural dyes from flowers and leaves.
Over the last few weeks the Year 5s have been using a variety of different tools in order to development new skills and practice existing ones. Firstly we began with learning how to use a billhook and a saw before continuing to practice out whittling skills. Some of the children helped to lead the rules by sharing them in a song which demonstrated a strong understanding of their knowledge of how to keep safe and have fun. We then had a go at making play dough before creating some bug hotels using twigs. This took a lot of resilience as it did not always work the first time. With the left over play dough we created forest faces on the trees, channelling our creativity. Using the saw required a considerable of resilience and although the children found this difficult they did not give up and self-esteem was built. Continuing to practice our skill of whittling, which the children are becoming much more confident with, they have begun to whittle Anglo-Saxon necklaces linked to their next topic. We will continue these next week, engraving their initial from the Anglo-Saxon rune alphabet.
As well as developing skills the children have engaged in lots of their own play including becoming more confident in tree-climbing and partaking in lots of imaginative play. Digging for clay has definitely been a highlight- essential for mindfulness and the building of motor skills.
Over the last few weeks, the year 5s have been learning how to use the flint and steel and using this skill to lit cotton wool. We had an exciting competition to see who could do this in the least amount of strikes and the children were very motivated to perfect this skill. This has supported the development of perseverance and self-esteem.
The children have also been learning how to use a new tool, a billhook, to create a mallet. Although the children were unsure as to whether they could successfully use this tool, they grew in confidence and were proud of their achievements. Many other activities such as digging to find clay and stones, den-building, tree climbing and bird spotting where enjoyed and were good skills to practice supporting fine and gross motor skills, memory and concentration.
Year 3 & 4
Over the last few weeks the Year 3 and 4s have been learning how to use the flint and steel to light fires, how to successfully create and maintain a fire. The children enjoyed toasting on the fire and enjoyed some exciting circle times with their friends. We enjoyed many team games to help improve communication skills and the ability to work as part of a team and learning essential life lessons such as winning and losing and how to deal effectively with those emotions.
The children built many shelters and used them as part of their imaginative play, as well as enjoying time in the mud kitchen using their creativity.
Monday 7th March- Year 5
The weather was kind to us today and allowed us to have a try at some fire lighting. We talked about the three elements need to create a fire; fuel, heat/spark and oxygen before the children went off to collect fire wood and prepare the kindling, using a whittling knife and mallet. Using the flint and steel, the Year 5s practiced creating a spark and then once they mastered the technique had a go at setting a piece of cotton wool on fire. The children were really proud of themselves and this activity was brilliant for building up self-esteem and develop resilience. We then enjoyed toasting marshmallows on the fire and making s'mores.
Whilst some of the children were helping with the fire some others continued to practice their den building with the knot we had learnt last session, whilst some other children enjoyed spending time digging, discovering some clay in the soil, supporting their fine and gross motor skills.
Friday 4th March 2022- Year 5
This week the children in Year 5 enjoyed their first Forest School session of this half term. We started off having an explore of the site considering the rules that we might need to remember whilst out at Forest School to keep us safe. Climbing trees and den building were favourites, and the Year 5's had a go at working in teams to create their dens using a knot that they were taught to make their shelter more secure and robust. This activity allowed them to work in teams, improving communication skills and their ability to work well with others. Attempting the knot required them to use their memories and then apply what they had learnt with great concentration. It was discovered that we could use natural resources including sticks as pegs in our shelters. Some of the children's shelters became 'houses', whilst some became 'medical tents' which they then used in their imaginative play.
Wednesday 2nd March- Year 2 & 3
This week in Forest School with the Year 2s and 3s the weather decided to turn dull, however the rain did not dull our spirits and we had lots of fun. We enjoyed some yoga, pretending to be lots of things that we love about nature, such as pretending to be trees and swaying in the wind. This activity helped us to feel calm and allowed us to spend some time resting in nature, relaxing our minds and bodies and being grateful for the beautiful area we get to spend time in. Sometimes in the chaos of life we forget to look up and around at the nature that surrounds us, and the children discovered some new things that they had not noticed before whilst being outside. We found a few bird nests up in the trees and even made some creative observations, which will support creativity in writing, such as suggesting that 'the pine cones attached to the trees look like small, camouflaged birds'. After this activity, some children chose to continue listening and relaxing in nature, fantastic to support mental health and bringing calmness to them, whilst others chose to continue exploring and using imaginative play. The children even tried to create a kite using the tarpaulin sheet that was blowing in the wind, encouraging the children to explore the weather and elements.
Wednesday 9th February- Year 2 & 3
In Forest School this week, we have been talking about fires, what we need to light them and how to do this activity safely. The children enjoyed helping to fuel the fire, talking about what is best to fuel and even created some imaginary fires in their creative, imaginative play. Whilst the fire roared and the chocolate filled bananas toasted away, the children enjoyed time in the mud kitchen, climbing trees and playing games together- helping to improve communication and language skills, the ability to work in a team, creativity which supports curriculum areas and gross and fine motor skills. To finish our session, the Year 2s and 3s enjoyed sitting around the warmth of the fire and demolished their melted chocolate and toasted banana whilst chatting with their friends.
Monday 7th February 2022- Year 6
This week was the final week of Forest School for the Year 6s this half term. Their creativity brought this weeks 'Pine Cone olympics' where the children worked as a team to design and set up the sporting events, created trophies and signs and then took part, some as contestants and some as hosts and judges. All of the children demonstrated fantastic sportsmanship and encouraged their friends. The event ended with a lovely ceremony where trophies and pine cones were presented for different achievements, such as the 'Kindness award' and 'Greatest effort award'.
Wednesday 2nd February 2022- Year 2 & 3
This week the Year 2s and 3s were practicing using a tool safely to create pieces of art; Hapa Zome art. The children placed down flowers and safely used the hammer to hit the flowers. We learnt how the colours transferred from the petals, leaves and stems onto the material. Once we had created these we turned them into some flags, perfect for the windy weather and imaginative play. Meanwhile, some of the children choose to climb trees, make creations in the mud kitchen, search for bugs and create dens.
Monday 31st January 2022- Year 6
This week the Year 6s have been continuing whittling their tent pegs, which is linking with their curriculum topic of 'Survival'. They are becoming much more confident with their whittling skills and are building fantastic levels of resilience, which they can use in other areas of their learning and lives.
Last week, the children took inspiration from one child playing 'pine cone tennis' and have used lots of creativity and communication skills so create trophies, medals, signs and ideas for games for the 'Pine Cone Olympics' which we will enjoy in the last session of Forest School. The children have channelled lots of creativity into their plans and ideas and have worked well as a team.
Friday 28th January 2022- Year 6
Excited to get outside and practice the knot-tying skills that they had learnt last session, the year 6s set to constructing their dens. They worked well in teams and supported each other to successfully build some sturdy dens, perfect to shelter from the elements. Once their shelters were built they used them to relax in, practice yoga and in their imaginative play, ideal for supporting wellbeing and curriculum areas. Some children chose to use the whittling knife to begin creating some tent pegs, which could then be used for their shelters. All of the children are working very confidently with how to use the whittling knife safely and effectively, and demonstrated fantastic determination and resilience, which is a very useful and important skill to develop.
Wednesday 19th January 2022- Year 3 & 4
This week the children had the opportunity to learn a knot to help make their dens more sturdy. We talked about some of the things that made a good den and the things we might need to use a den for. The children could explain that it is essential to site their dens in an appropriate space. They checked for hazards such as brambles and anything above that could harm such as rotting branches and bird nests. Some of the children then chose to go and create their dens which they then used as part of their imaginative play. The children had to use their problem-solving skills to build their shelter successfully.
Many of the children chose to practice their tree-climbing which is helping with the continuing development of their fine and gross-motor skills which will help with other areas of Forest School such as tool-use. Finally, many of the children chose to play some team-games which is helping the development of communication skills and teaching them how to work in teams and with their peers.
Monday 17th January 2022- Year 6
This week in Year 6 we were inspired to create our own dens. The children used three knots; the timber hitch, tarp hitch and slip knot, which we learnt some rhymes for today to help make our shelters more robust and sturdy. Once being taught the knot the children then went ahead and practice this, creating their den in an appropriate area which had been thought about and prepared by themselves. The children are very excited to continue practicing these knots and will practice these over the next few weeks when they wish to create more dens, particularly for their imaginative play. These knots required concentration and fine motor skills. Additionally, the children worked well in their groups, using fantastic teamwork and communication skills to successful construct their shelters, which on the topic of survival (termly topic) were very substantial with the appropriate knots used.
The children also enjoyed their favourite activities such as using the mud kitchen, going on bug hunts and climbing the trees building strength, resilience and gross/fine motor skills. Finally, to keep ourselves warm and to give us some energy we enjoyed some delicious hot chocolate!
Wednesday 12th January 2022- Year 3 & 4
This week in Year 3 and 4 Forest School we enjoyed helping to light and fuel the fire and learnt how to do this safely. We learnt also how to persevere when the fire would not light and were proud of our achievements when the fire took hold, ready for cooking on! Once the fire was established, we enjoyed creating our chocolate chip banana splits and preparing them in tinfoil to place safely on the fire to cook. We enjoyed sharing together and discussing all the exciting games we were playing.
Some children enjoyed imaginative play where they were pretending to fish in the pond with long sticks; helping their imaginations flourish which can be used in areas of the curriculum such as English. Other imaginative play such as the creation of mud pies and mud hot chocolates helped to build on language and communication skills.
Some children enjoyed climbing the trees, building strength, co-ordination, balance, gross and fine motor skills, along with self-esteem building, all of which help in holistic development. The children are certainly becoming more confident in tree-climbing and wanting to challenge themselves more each week.
Monday 10th January 2022- Year 6
This week Year 6 have enjoyed exploring the Forest School area for their first session- there was an abundance of excitement! This term the children will be looking at the topic of survival and therefore many opportunities in Forest School will support this. To start, the children were challenged to create 'Damper bread' from simply being given some ingredients and the amounts of ingredients needed. They were told to ensure that they considered hygiene but where also challenged to work as a team effectively to create the dough; this worked very successfully. Once the children had created the dough we toasted our dough on the fire until it was crispy. The children enjoyed their hard work and shared some time enjoying their creation.
Additionally, many of the children chose to use the mud kitchen in their creative and imaginative play to create cement to build a den whilst some dug to find items such as pottery.
Forest School- Autumn 2021
Many of the children have been enjoying taking part in Forest School this term. Despite many days of rain and some sunshine scattered in between, we have taken full advantage of the lovely green spaces we have at school. In an abundance of exciting opportunities, the children in many year groups have been enjoying building dens, being creative in the mud kitchen, gardening, fire lighting and toasting, taking part in bug hunts, learning new tool skills such as whittling and using a screwdriver, engaging with stories linking to life cycles and supporting our natural world, nature art and design such as weaving poppies for Remembrance Day, creating wands and broomsticks and using conkers in their own creation and imaginative play. Forest School has offered the children a fantastic and enriching space to learn new skills, learn how to take safe, managed risks, work with peers in teams and explore and learn about the natural environment, including how we can play a vital role in saving and caring for our world.
See below some of the exciting opportunities and child-led experiences the children have been engaging in...
Thursday 9th December 2021- Class One
This week we have been finishing our whittling and using the sandpaper to smooth the surface of the wood. We have learnt lots of skills and have increased in confidence with whittling. The children then designed their Santas; using lots of imagination. This has really helped to build fine and gross motor skills important for other areas of school and development.
We also continued to building courses for the water and even did some building work! Over in the den area, the children also built a den and made it lovely and cosy inside. We worked well in teams to create these structures and used good communication skills, ensuring that we care for each other and use kind words.
Finally, some of the children chose to be creative and make leaf flags, make mud potions and work as a team to find some of the bugs that live in our outdoor area. Creativity is an essential part of holistic development, helping the children to grew in other areas of the curriculum also.