10 Forest School Activities I’ve done recently that have gone down well!

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Over the past year or so I have been working regularly in primary schools, mainly with Reception to Year 3. Listed are 10 Lesson Plans for activities that have proved popular.

As always, they are offered on the basis that you carry out your own risk assessments and SNLA is in no way responsible for how material provided by this website might be used by third parties.

1. Story Landscapes – Troll Mazes 

Reception & Year 1

Aim. To encourage narrative construction and storytelling.

In Brief. Children are told a story about nasty trolls. Children use sticks, wool, tiny pebbles and clay to make trolls. Children work together to make a maze to stop the trolls from escaping.

Main ELGs

Understanding. Children follow the sequence of instructions in respect of the activities and seek support in a way that is relevant to the activity.

Speaking. They develop their own narratives and explanations by connecting ideas or events.

Being imaginative: Children use materials in original ways, thinking about uses and purposes. They represent their own ideas, thoughts and feelings through role play and stories.

Preparation. Make a small, three-circuit labyrinth out of pebbles to demonstrate the technique. Children can make a pebble maze to their own design

Activities

a) Children are told a short story about trolls and their habits. Explain how Norse sailors made mazes out of pebbles on the beaches so that the trolls couldn’t follow them onto the boats and make mischief at sea.
b) Each child makes a troll, using clay, small sticks, tiny pebbles and sheeps wool for hair (trolls have very long hair)
c) Make a maze for your troll family out of pebbles that is so confusing they will not be able to escape.
d) Tell the Story. Children take it in turns to contribute to the narrative.
Reflection. What did you like best about making up your story?

Hazards. Ensure all children are adequately clothed for the wet conditions. Remind children about the usual hedgerow hazards of fungi, brambles and nettles. Remind about not putting hands in mouth or eyes after handling clay, raw wool or found materials.

Tools & Materials: Buckets containing pebbles of different sizes. Clay, very thin willow (thin enough to cut with scissors) but pre-cut a bucket of small pieces. Make an exemplar troll figure and pebble maze.

 

2. Stick Towers

Years 3 to 6

Aims. To develop structure building techniques. To develop skills in the use of guy ropes.

NC Themes: Structures, Materials & Forces. Identifying how the wind and weight pressures are transferred to the ground via poles and guy ropes. Opposing forces providing strength.

Activity.

Divide the group into teams of 3 to 4. The challenge is to build a tower with sticks taller than anyone else’s.

Ex. 1. Team-building/ problem solving activity – Tower-building Challenge using sticks, masking tape, twine, and steel tent pegs.

Discuss how we put up structures that are taller than ourselves.
Discuss the TV mast on the Mendips. What stops it falling down?
Share how tall structures may be pre-assembled on the ground before being raised up and supported by guy ropes.
Demonstrate how to make a strong tripod base supported by guy ropes. Demonstrate how to secure guy ropes firmly to steel tent pegs.
Explain and demonstrate safe handling of materials and tools – mallets, twine, tent pegs, pre-cut sticks. Explain hazards and avoiding injury.
Working in teams of 3/4, children construct tall towers, supported by guy ropes.
Ex 2. Take down structures, pack up and leave the field and the materials as you found them.

Reflection. Show and tell – we worked well as a team because…..

Materials: 4 Bundles of 15 one metre long willow sticks , 6 rubber mallets, 40 tent pegs, ball of parcel twine, scissors), 4 rolls of masking tape.

Hazards. Demonstrate safe use of rubber mallets. Advise on tapping action and not swinging mallet above the head. Warn about not running with tools, including steel tent pegs. Warn about safely carrying sticks and poles to avoid injury to face and eyes and demonstrate correct method. Check structures as they are built to avoid collapse that may result in injury.

3. Icarus Challenge – Make a wing that flies like a Kite.

Years 3 to 6 – but popular with older kids

Aim. To allow children to experiment with a range of materials to make a strong structure.3. Kite wing

In Brief. Children make a wing or kite structure to their own design and decorate it. The wing is tested by being pulled /flown across the field. 3. Kite wing

KS1/2 Design & Technology.
Use a range of tools and equipment to perform practical tasks [for example, cutting, shaping, joining and finishing. Evaluate their ideas and products against design criteria. Build structures, exploring how they can be made stronger, stiffer and more stable. n.b. The most straightforward way to make a kite frame is to tape two pieces of willow of 1 metre length together at both ends and then stretch them apart with a third piece of willow (like inserting an arrow between two bows) that is around 40cm in length. This is then strengthened with a cross-member that runs from top to bottom of the kite. Newpapers must be taped at all joins for strength.

 Activities.

Warm Up. Flying Carpet race (3 teams). Children stood together on a tarp or blanket (3 per tarp or blanket) cross the field without stepping off. Various methods can be tried, with everyone hopping forward on the count of 3 and the tarp being pulled by those at the front being on of the more successful.
Icarus’s Wings making activity (4 groups divided into two areas).
Tell the story of Icarus.
Discuss how we might make a pair of wings. To meet the challenge the kite should be about 1 metre tall and 40cms deep. They should look like wings (bird/plane/kite). They should have a covering, such as newspaper, to provide the lift surface (aerofoil). Provide an exemplar.
Challenge to make one set of kite-like wings per group of 3.
Challenge – it must stay in one piece when pulled across the field on a string. It must be big enough. It should take off.
You win if it looks fantastic even if it doesn’t fly.
Materials: Willow sticks of various lengths. String. Masking Tape. Newspapers, strips of fabric to act as a tail.

Decorate the wing. Use grasses, leaves and any other materials of their choice to decorate the wing,

Wing Flying Challenge.
Hold the wing flying challenge with the runners at a safe distance from each other.

Reflection. How well did your teams work today?

Hazards. Fully supervise any cutting activities involving scissors and mini-hacksaw. Ensure children pulling the kites are at least 10 metres apart to present injuries to legs etc.. Warn of the hazards of kite flying and ensure the wind is mild and children are pulling into the wind. Observe kite action and stop activity if flight patterns become unpredictable.

4. Clay Owls

Year 1 to 3 – but popular with older kids

Aim. To develop fine motor skills in manipulating clay through a series of pre-defined stages, 8. Clay Owlswith children working together and supporting each other. To encourage children to listen carefully and follow a precise set of instructions.

KS1 – Design & Technology.
Children gain insight into a basic production process where are series of pre-defined stages are followed to complete a product.

KS1 – Art

Children engage in making a decorative item and engage creatively with the making process.

Activity.

1. Children make a neat ball of clay
2. Children use a rolling pin to flatten the ball into a disk
3. The clay is decorated with a feather pattern, using a pen top.
4. The clay is folded carefully in the required sequence.
5. The detailing is completed, including adding ‘Mum’ to the design.
6. If complete, children can make a second owl – this can be a daddy and a baby owl to make a family group.

Reflection. What is Mothering Sunday for? Why are mums special?

Tools & Materials: Clay, 7 rolling pins, 10 pens with tops, trays to store finished product. Safe plastic knives to finish the fine detailing.

 

 

5. Stick Mobiles

Year 2 to 6

Aims. To improve their skills in applying their knowledge of basic measurement and 2D shapes.18. Stick Mobiles1
To enable children to enjoy their creativity.

In Brief. Children collect natural materials to make a mobile. Using a small number of demonstrated techniques children assemble a stick mobile. Children will be asked to ‘theme’ their mobile and explain the connections between the items used (shape, colour, season, trees etc..)

KS1 – Recognizing and handling 2D shapes.

Design & Technology – use a range of tools and materials to cut their wood to the desired size, and assemble and join their selected components to achieve the product as described.

Activities.

a) Children explore two exemplars. What are mobiles for? How are they put together? Talk about the mobiles in terms of materials used and possible themes (seasons, colours, shapes). Demonstrate how the sticks can be attached to the twine by untwisting a section of twine and inserting the stick into the resultant loop and then re-twisting closed.
b) Children are given plenty of time to collect a bag of ‘treasure’ to make their mobiles.
c) Children are given demonstrations on how to assemble their mobiles.
d) Children assemble the main form of their mobile with string or green sisal – and decorate sticks with colour pens, wools and tapes.
e) additional items, such as feathers, leaves or small, decorative sticks are threaded through the string.
f) Children explain their mobiles to the rest of the group
Reflection . Are you happy with how you cooperated and worked together? Say that you liked about the activity and the product you made.

Hazards. Warn about not running whilst carrying sticks. Remind them to look carefully before picking up ‘found’ objects to make sure there are no hazards. Remind them not to put fingers near mouth or eyes once they have started to collect. Supervise at one adult to 3 mini-hacksaws in use. Issue only as many tools as can be supervised Ensure that the hand holding the stick is gloved when sawing with mini-hacksaw. Give very clear instructions about working away from the body and not towards it.

Materials. Simplified rules to pin to shed. 5 mini-hacksaws and spare blades. Reels of coloured tape. 3 pairs of scissors. 5 grooved blocks. Spools of wool to make hanging loops. Spare ‘found’ sticks. Bale of string. Brace and bit in case children wish to drill holes through thicker sticks. ‘Washing line’ for hanging exemplar mobiles and ‘made’ mobiles.

6. Clay Monsters

Years 1 to 3

Aim. To encourage story-telling based on experiences. To utilize natural materials to suggest form and shape.

In Brief. Children talk about dragons and other monsters as well as creepy-crawlies and other unpleasant creatures. Children make monsters out of clay and found items.

KS1 Spoken Language. Children give well-structured explanations and narratives for different purposes. Use spoken language to express their imagination.

Art & Design. Children develop their ability to use colour, pattern, texture, line, shape, form and space.

Activities.

How many monster and creepy-crawly creatures can we name? Can we describe them?
Explain the purpose of the treasure hunt. Explain that we will be making monsters and creepy-crawlies out of clay and small sticks, bits of moss, wool, shells, small pebbles and any other odd thing we can find to add to the existing collection.
Treasure Hunt. Scour the available spaces (woodland, park or school field) for useful items. Aim to bring back at least five very different items. On return, add your finds to the communal bowls. If there is something very special yo wish to keep you may hang on to a maximum of two items.
Demonstrate making technique – working the clay to make it more malleable, using sticks for limbs, demonstrate using a twig to push wool into the clay to create hair.
Children make one or two monsters, depending on available time. Encourage careful and detailed work and praise outcomes.
Share outcomes. Make up a story about your monster. Where does it live? What does it eat? What is it doing in the wood?
Reflection. What is imagination? How does it help us?

Hazards. Remind children about hedgerow hazards of fungi, brambles and nettles. Remind about not putting hands in mouth.

Materials. Provide a couple of exemplar monsters made out of clay and found materials to demonstrate making techniques. Bowl of exemplar ‘finds’ – odd sticks, bits of moss, small pebbles, raw wool, feathers etc.. Bag of air-drying clay.

7. Easter Garden

Years 1 to 3

Aim. To celebrate Easter with a traditional Easter Activity. 9. Easter Garden

In Brief. Children make an Easter Garden in the side of the mound facing the labyrinth. Children make mini- Easter Gardens to take home.

KS1 – Design & Technology.
Children gain insight into a basic production process where are series of pre-defined stages are followed to complete a product.

KS1 – Art

Children engage in making a decorative item and engage creatively with the making process.

Activities.

The group is split into 2. One group makes the mini – Easter Gardens whilst the second group makes the big Easter Garden. They swap over after the Easter Chocolate break.

Activity Stages for full-size Easter Garden.

1. Children gather the materials to make 3 crosses, stones for the tomb etc.. and flowers.
2. The tomb is made first, including a stone to cover the entrance.
3. Willow is cut with mini-hacksaws and then tied to make 3 crosses.
4. The flowers are planted around the tomb.
5. The crosses are positioned in the ground.

Activity Stages for min-Easter Garden

1. Children gather moss, tiny flowers, very small stones for their Easter Garden.
2. They use mini-hacksaws or are supported with secateurs (adult use) to cut two pieces of willow to make a single cross (3 crosses if they are fast and able!). These are tied to make a small cross.
3. A golf ball size piece of clay is flattened on one side to make a small mound.
4. The tomb is carefully made with tiny stones pushed into the clay.
5. Using a thin twig , mosses and tiny flowers are inserted into the mound.
6. The cross is places at the highest point on the clay mound.

Reflection. What is the story behind the Easter Garden?

Hazards. Children supervised at 1:4 for hacksaw use. Warn children to take care when gathering materials.

Tools & Materials. Fine willow. Mini-hacksaws and secateurs to cut. Clay, red or green wool on bobbins to tie the crosses. Scissors. Possibly cup cake holders to make them in or similar. Trays to store finished products. Trowels, box of primroses or similar for full-size Easter Garden.

8. Making a Mini – Worm Farm

Year 2 to 6

Aim. To find out about the functions of earthworms relative to the ecology of soil. To find out about the diet and behaviour of earthworms.

In Brief. Children go on a worm hunt in specific environments and make observations about their findings. Children begin work on a worm farm.

KS1 Science. Children identify that worms live in habitats to which they are suited and describe how the habitats provide for the basic needs. Children can describe how worms obtain their food using the idea of a simple food chain, and identify and name different sources of food.
Main Activities.

Warm Up. Birds and Worms Game – can the birds pull the worm out of the whole (birds versus worms tug-of-war)
Stages for Worm Hunt.
Children are given a selected area within the Forest School Area to search for worms.
They are instructed to work with care in their worm hunt, turning over stones, logs, vegetation and careful digging, safeguarding worms. Found worms are stored in the containers provided.
Worms from each area are counted and checked for size.
Sharing information and conclusions based on finds.
Parts of the worm – describe what they see.

Make a Worm Farm. Working in teams of two or three Children cut the top off a large plastic bottle with scissors and tape the edge . Pour in 2 inches gravel or stones for drainage. Alternate 5cm layers of sand and earth. Lightly spray with water to provide moisture Put a few small pieces of semi-decomposed vegetable waste in the middle for worm food. Continue with soil layers till bottle is full. Add worms. Tape the top back on or cover top with plastic wrap and tape. Put drain holes into base. Take worm farms to the classroom to observe. Store in a dark place.

Reflection. How important are worms to us? What would happen if there were no worms?

Hazards. Ensure children dig far enough away from each other not to cause accidental injury with any digging process. Warn about not moving any stone or log stump that are too heavy to move safely. Warn about placing soil in the bucket and not flicking or throwing such as to risk injury to eyes.

Tools & Materials. Peg out worm find areas for 4 small groups – string, pegs, rubber mallets. Two buckets per group and trowel per child. 1 large plastic coke bottle per group, insulating tape. Bag of fine gravel. Bag of sand (B & Q). Small quantity rotten vegetable food waste or other garden waste.

9. Making a Bird’s Nest and Eggs out of Clay

Reception to Year 2

Aims. Children learn about aspects of the life of birds – the dangers they face and how that affects where they build their nests. Children make a nest and eggs.

Main ELGs

Children work cooperatively and with consideration in the making activities. They are prepared to take turns and play with consideration.

Children move confidently and are able to make simple nest and clay eggs. They negotiate the spaces safely.

Children are able to identify aspects of the environment that might be important to birds and their safety. They are able to identify the environmental factors that will influence bird behaviour in selecting a nest site.

Starter . Hawks and Birds Game. Create a small number of ‘safe’ places or nests on the school field. These are marked with tyres. Children pretend to be baby birds. They ‘fly’ freely on the lower half of the field looking for food until the ‘hawks’ appear (2 children flying a red piece of fabric). When the hawks appear the children must return to the nest and be very still. If they are tagged by a hawk they are ‘dead’ until the round is over.

Activities .

Gathering Material to make a Nest. What do birds make their nests out of? What can a bird carry? Talk about the different materials used by small birds to build their nests.
Children are given a collecting back and collect long dry grasses, very thin twigs, moss for making a nest.

Make a Nest. Working in pairs, children make a simple nest.
Find a Safe Place for the Nest. Where would birds build their nests? They must be out of sight from humans, cats and hawks. Children now find a suitable place to put their nests. When this is done they share their nest location with other groups.
Make small speckled eggs for the Nest. Working in two colours of air-drying clay, make speckled eggs and position them in the nest. Do the nests hold the eggs safely.
Treasure Hunt. Find the chocolate eggs in the Forest School area.

Reflection . Did I work well with my friends? Did we help each other? What will happen if a bird does not hide its nest carefully. Crows and Rooks don’t hide their nests. How do they keep them safe.

Materials. Provide extra grass and moss in case of shortage on the ground. Provide terracotta and stone coloured clay for egg-making. 4 red streamers for the hawks. Green twine or garden twists and safety scissors to help children in tying the nests to shape. Chocolate Eggs!!

10. Making Free-standing Shelters

Years 3 to 6

Aims. To provide an opportunity to utilize learnt skills in a creative task. To develop structure 20. Shelter Framebuilding and knot-tying skills. To discuss the role of shelters in moderating the environment to facilitate human activity.

In Brief.  Working in teams, children build shelters hazel poles, guy ropes, tarpaulins, with an emphasis on using the skills acquiring during the course to date.

Science – Structures & Materials – Identifying the suitability of materials to carry out particular functions.
Forces – understanding how structures work – Identifying how the wind and weight pressures are transferred to the ground via poles and guy ropes. Opposing forces providing strength.

A demonstration shelter is set up in advance. Children can examine, evaluate and copy or make a design of their own. It will be stressed that the activity is time limited. The demonstration shelter frame consists of a 3 metre hazel pole supported by two ‘A’ frames made with 1.2 metre poles. The structure is braced by two guy ropes at either end. The tarpaulin is placed over the hazel pole and pegged down with steel tent pegs (picture to follow).

Activity. To make a free-standing shelter per group of 4 that is wind and rain proof…

a) Divide into four groups and provide identical materials to each group (see below).
b) Discuss the functions of temporary shelters and their characteristics if they are to work properly – ability to shed rain, withstand wind forces, provide sufficient covered space. Discuss peoples and parts of the world where portable shelters are still used as primary living space.
c) Set the challenge – to build a free-standing rain and windproof shelter capable of sheltering the group building it.
d) Groups visit each others’ shelters and peer evaluate each others’ work.
Reflection. Have they worked successfully as teams with everyone having a function and the group having a mechanism for making decisions? Were the shelters successful? If there were aspects of the work that could have been done better, what were they?

Hazards. Ensure that children are briefed on safety first in carrying poles. Provide guidance on the use of mallets and steel tent pegs. Ensure that all steel pegs are collected in at the end of the activity.

Materials. (for 4 groups) 4 x 3 metre poles, 8 x 1.2 metre poles, 4 rubber mallets and 40 steel tent pegs, 2 balls of twine, 4 pairs safety scissors.

4 thoughts on “10 Forest School Activities I’ve done recently that have gone down well!

  1. Vanessa

    Wow! What lovely ideas and the photos really help to understand the activities.
    Very creative and very simple instructions to follow and amend if needed.
    A big thank you.

    Reply
  2. B Mun

    Have you had any experience of working bwith. Small mixed age group? I’m wondering how to manage a reception to y6 group?

    Reply
    1. Chris Trwoga Post author

      My apologies for taking so long to post this.

      The only experience I have worked with this amount of ‘spread’ is our ‘3 Schools Project’, where a group of children from the town secondary, primary and infant schools were brought together once a week. In a word, the older children were coached in delivering activities to the younger children.

      I also run an after school Forest School Club, with this spread. I plan a mix of activities so that children can gravitate towards the appropriate activity. Last week the older children were doing independent fire-building and lighting with a fire-steel, a younger group were working on their ‘fairy house’ and the youngest were making hedgehogs with clay and foraged twigs.

      One size does not fit all…

      Chris

      Reply

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