Forest School Fun With The Endeavour School

By Wendy Pike

Pupils in Drake class absolutely love Monday mornings.  It’s Forest School day.  Switching the classroom and formal lessons for structured activities and games in the woods, these Endeavour School pupils start their week, whatever the weather, at Forest School in nearby Thriftwood. Ask any one of them and they’ll tell you it’s enormous fun.

“Forest school is the best. We do fun activities. I like to cook marshmallows. We made a face out of leaves. I made a face sticking their tongue out,” said Chloe in Year 6.

Classmate Morgan said: “I like everything about forest school. I like drinking hot chocolate and when we play a game, Deer and Wolves.”

Among the subjects chosen by pupils for their woodland leaf-art creations were numerous rabbits, a disco ball and an angry man. Star Wars characters Darth Vader and Luke Sywalker made an appearance too.

“They’re learning about team working. We’ve done art without them realising and there’s been lots of conversation and social interaction, which is really nice,” said class teacher Miss Jodie Messenger.

Anthony Hattam, Deputy Headteacher believes Forest School has much to offer.

“The children can run though the woods. They’re not in any danger, they’re completely safe.

“It’s just a great experience for them all rather than sitting at a desk all day long and I think they learn just as much by these experiences.”

Forest School - fun learning through play and exercise

Woodland adventures

Who wouldn’t want to start the week with a walk in the woods, playing games, enjoying the fresh air? But isn’t Forest School just simply playtime?

“They love being outside and just playing. That’s what they see it as. But outside, they don’t realise they are actually learning.

“In the classroom they can feel learning is quite forced whereas at Forest School, Mr Jackson’s here as well and I’m not the teacher, so we get a different relationship,” said Miss Jodie Messenger, Drake class teacher.

Leading Drake class’ Forest School adventure is former primary school teacher of 25 years John Jackson of Billericay Bushcraft.

“It’s more than playing because they’re learning all the time.

“They’re learning about different animals and how to interact with nature but also loads of scientific evidence proves that being outside in green areas like the woods is really good for your mental health,” said John, also known as Grizzly.

Everyone has adopted a Forest School name. On Mondays the Drake class register reads duck, eagle, snake and tiger, to name a few.

Serpent aka Vinnie said: “I kinda like the creatures around here and how we can do stuff in the forest.”

Joyful shouts, chatter and laughter. Rustling leaves and twigs snapping underfoot. These noises contribute to the forest soundtrack of the children playing a game.

“They’re learning hiding and camouflage techniques and teamwork but they’re learning all sorts of stuff about how animals would interact in the wild.

“We link a lot of the games to animals. We play a game like rock paper scissors but it’s called Salmon, Fly, Mosquito, so they learn about what eats what in the food chain. It gives them a bit more of an experience than just playing a game,” said Grizzly (aka John).

“When they first come into the woods, they go off to their own quiet spot and actually listen. They’re properly engaging with their senses – smells, sights sounds, feeling the wood, how different it feels. They all come back and share what they’ve done.

“It helps them to understand the seasons,” said learning support assistant Tansy ‘Tawny Owl’ Cook.

Grizzly added: “As the spring comes we’ll be looking at plants growing up and maybe find some edible plants which we’ll teach them about. As we get into the start of summer we’ll be looking at the bugs and animals that are around.”

Forest School & wonders of the natural world

The great outdoors

As well as learning about the natural world and keeping fit, what do the children get out of Forest School? Well they’re building confidence and resilience, learning teamwork, social skills, communication, co-operation, practical bushcraft skills (the list goes on) … and the children have a great time.

“The biggest thing they’ll get from this is confidence because all the activities are designed to be small, simple, achievable. And they learn resilience.

“Sometimes they’ll find things hard. We need firewood, so we have to go out and find it. It isn’t just given to them like a lot of the stuff in the modern world is.

“So they found sawing the wood quite tricky to start with but then they have to apply themselves and learn it. Nothing’s too difficult but a lot of things won’t be easy to do straight away. If they fail in the forest, what does it matter? Try again next time,” added Grizzly.

“A lot of the children just cannot do this where there live. Some don’t have access to country parks and woods.

“I think it’s great. I think all schools should be able to have the freedom and luxury to be able to do this,” added Mr Hattam.

Chloe ‘caterpillar’ concluded: “This is the best day of my life and there’s hot chocolate!”

For Ride class, Monday afternoons, when it’s their turn to enjoy Forest School, are the best.

© Wendy Pike November 2016

This feature was previously published in The Brentwood Gazette.

The Endeavour School Brentwood www.endeavour.essex.sch.uk

 


A feature by Wendy Pike

Lest We Forget. The familiar message of remembrance emblazoned on the grassy bank outside Zinc Arts Centre, spelled out in bright red, hand-made poppies, for Armistice Day. The art installation was created by pupils from four local primary schools in a series of workshops designed and delivered by Zinc.

“It was about getting the community involved, particularly the young people of Ongar and giving them a sense of community.

“We hope when the children see the final installation they can be proud to say ‘I was part of that,’” said Fran George, Zinc Arts Project Worker.

The workshops dovetailed neatly with the Bombs, Battles and Blitz topic studied in school recently by Mrs Dodd’s Larch Class of Year Sixes from Chipping Ongar Primary School.

Poppies

“We’ve been learning about World War II in the last six weeks, so to be able to link the children’s learning with their local community is a really good idea.

“They’re really enthusiastic about art and history so the two together is wonderful for us. And it’s bringing home some of the learning they’ve already done as well. It’s been a memorable experience for them,” said class teacher Mrs Liz Dodd.

Eleanor Ryan, aged 10, from Larch class said: “We’re making poppies for Remembrance Day and we’re remembering the soldiers that fought for us.

“We got plastic bottles and cut them into wavy poppy shapes and painted them red and put black in the middle.”

Fellow classmate Charlie Portman-Olive said: “I really enjoyed making the poppies and we all got stuck in on that.

“We’re doing this to remember the soldiers who died in the war. It’s important to remember them because they fought and died for us to have a better life in the future.”

Poppies

The project was led by Zinc’s Yasmine Lynch. As well as hands-on cutting and painting poppy making, the children enjoyed a dramatic, sensory prelude to the film they watched about the Blitz in the theatre.

“We wanted to give them a ‘real’ World War II Blitz experience. In the theatre, we flashed the lights on and off and had an air raid siren going off, to give them an experience of what it might have been like at the time,” added Zinc’s Fran George.

Pupils from High Ongar, Ongar and Moreton primary schools also took part in the series of Remembrance workshops, held at Zinc Arts Centre in the week leading up to 11th November.

Participating schools also got the opportunity to take part in an interactive exhibition about the history of Great Stony School from 1903 – 1999. Pupils used a variety of resources and artefacts to research facts for a fun quiz.

“Activities like this and being able to look at all the wonderful resources there are here at Zinc, photographs, texts and practical activities that have been put out, really helps the children to learn,” added teacher Mrs Dodd.

The poppy has been a symbol of remembrance and hope, since the First World War. Delicate yet resilient bright red Flanders poppies grew in drifts in the midst of WWI battle-scarred fields in Western Europe and inspired Lt Col John McCrae to write his famous poem In Flanders Fields.

© Wendy Pike
November 2016
(This feature was previously published in The Brentwood Gazette)

Zinc

Zinc believes in empowerment. The charity works in the local community and nationally, aiming to inspire people through the arts and education, raise aspirations and develop and promote new talent. Zinc believes that providing opportunities for everyone, regardless of background, to discover and fulfil their potential will lead to a more rounded, happy and inclusive society.  www.zincarts.org.uk