Monthly Archives: April 2016

Forest School at KS1 – Stories, Games and Activities

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IMG_6286 IMG_6291For the past two years and more I have been working for two days a week in very different Key Stage 1 settings. This has provided me with a unique opportunity to develop both new materials and new approaches to working with children outdoors.

Typically, the sessions are between an hour and an hour and a half long. They take place in the school grounds or nearby park spaces – so the approaches are designed for cost-effective delivery without the problems of transporting children or hiring off-site Forest School spaces.

Working with a volunteer assistant or TA I typically see between 12 and 15 children at a time. This means in a morning or afternoon session I  work with the entire class in half groups.

The winning formula combines story, games, making activities and engaging with the environment. Over time a body of new lessons has emerged that should offer new ways of embedding Forest School with the broader curriculum. I am currently working with an illustrator to develop the materials. I anticipate publication Spring 2017.


Labyrinth Construction Week, Holy Trinity School, Yeovil

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Labyrinth Week at Holy Trinity C of E Primary School, Yeovil

Children Digging Wall

Children Digging the Wall Trench

A total of 400 children participated in the construction of our latest labyrinth in a large primary school in Yeovil, Somerset. Starting first thing on Monday morning with Year 6 on the digging, it concluded on Friday morning with Reception finishing the infill of the wall with Cotswold Stone chippings.

We were incredibly fortunate with the weather, with no rain all week and a generally mild temperature. The children all worked incredibly hard and without any complaint. In statistics terms they dug out 6 cubic metres of soil and turf, put back 4 cubic yards of Cotswold Stone, laid 100 metres of weed barrier, secured with more than 1000 steel pegs.

The school had selected a simple 5 circuit design with a wide path and a simple design that allows for children to pass each other and even for a wheelchair user to get round. The only complication was incorporating a rowan tree (looks great!) and a manhole cover that will need overpainting with a non-slip surface (not so great).

6. Painted White Lines

The Fence and painted White Lines

Beginnings. Work began in the last week of the summer holidays with the erection of the fence and pergola. This has become a recommended feature for me in ‘public’ spaces to allow for the creation of ‘special’ or sacred space, to create an opportunity to plant trees and shrubs and, most importantly, to stop games of football etc.. from spilling over into the labyrinth. The fence, as you can see, also allows for decoration, prayer flags, bunting and so on.

The second stage was painting the design on the grass. This I did myself in the week prior. With hindsight, I should have asked for a small team of Year 5s or 6s to support this. Being a circular labyrinth it is relatively straightforward to mark out the concentric paths using a cord marked out with tape and fixed to a central pivot.

The skip is full and it's only Tuesday!

The skip is full and it’s only Tuesday!

The Big Dig Begins…   I had anticipated 4 cubic metres coming out but six did. The children were so enthusiastic that we ended up having to put the best part of a cubic metre back as the wall trench had been dug to deep. The soil (heavy clay) came out very quickly and the skip was full by Tuesday afternoon. The turf was lifted by Year 5 (this is heavy work), followed by earlier years getting to grips with the clay

11. Filling the wall with gravelThe Weed Barrier is the trickiest job, requiring a lot of patience and some skill. The barrier is cut to twice the width of the trench, turned under at the edges and pegged down. On the tighter bends the pieces are cut especially to fit. Year 6 were utilised for this work. Despite the difficulty virtually all this difficult work was done by the children. Study the pictures closely and see what the adults are up too…

10. Walking Rope Labyrinth

Walking the Rope Labyrinth

Labyrinth Familiarisation. Each class came out for a little over an hour. They were split into two groups, with half doing labyrinth activities with a rope labyrinth and then swapping over half way through. The programme was managed by Gwyn Harwood, who has been supporting our labyrinth work for several years now. Activities including laying the rope labyrinth and decorating the labyrinth fence in the traditional manner.

7. Children Loading Gravel

Children filling their buckets with Cotswold Stone

Laying in the Wall. The Wall is made of a Cotswold Stone infill. I recommend Cotswold Stone because of its soft edges and the way it gradually breaks down and consolidates over time. It also provides a great visual contrast with the turf. The younger children were employed to this task and exhibited great enthusiasm – so much so that their teacher intends to buy several bags of Cotswold Stone in for Reception class to work with elsewhere.

On the safety front, we work with soft buckets and stress the importance of only carrying a comfortable load. Plastic, soft edged trowels reduce the likelihood of injury.

At the Finish. It took the full week to construct the labyrinth with the children. We adults had a great time, with no tears, no tantrums and only the highest standards of behaviour, attention to detail, hard work and enthusiasm.

n.b. All photographs featuring children are the copyright of Holy Trinity C. of E. Primary School, Yeovil. For safeguarding and copyright reasons consent to use must be sought from the school.

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A grandparent helper walks the labyrinth after the children have finished their work.