Hazel Group’s Mannequin Challenge

Hazel Group Mannequin Challenge from Fagley Primary Forest School on Vimeo.

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Sharing Tree Stories with Rowan Group

After a frosty afternoon of spring bulb planting, Rowan group headed inside for a warming up of malted milk. We also took the opportunity to share one of Claire Hewitt’s tree stories. With December just around the corner, Rowan group chose to listen to the ‘Pine and Holly’ story. Claire has compiled an informative and enchanting collection of 12 stories, one for each month of the year, each centering round a particular tree and the folklore attached to it. The stories can be found by following this link: Forestry Commission Tree StoriesBelow is an extract from
the story of the ‘Pine and Holly’

It was mid winter.Snow and ice lay thick upon the earth.It was a hard enough time for the forest creatures, but one wild windy night, a wee robin was carried far from the shelter of his home, and with a broken wing he could not fly back.
He did not know what to do. He looked all round to see if there was any place he could keep warm. “Perhaps one of the trees will shelter me until my wing is mended” he thought.
So he hopped and fluttered with his broken wing towards the forest.
The first tree he came to was a slim silver birch.
“Lady of the Forest,” he said, “will you let me live in your branches until I can fly again?”
“I would of course but I am afraid you might break my slender branches” said the gentle birch as the wee bird shivered and puffed up his feathers to keep warm.
“Why don’t you go and ask my friend the Oak. He is big and strong and I am sure will give you better shelter than I can offer.”
So off the wee bird hopped and fluttered until he came to the Oak.
“Oh King of the Forest,” called Robin, “please will you let me sit amongst your great branches until my wing is mended?”

To read on follow the link above or ask Miss Worthington for a printed copy of the stories to share with your family

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Back to School with a Bang, Whoosh, Crackle and Pop

 After October half term, Forest School has returned with a bang…whoosh and crackle. The woodland is a blaze of autumnal colour and with Guy Fawkes night just around the corner, the children were inspired to create some stunning firework leaf murals. Muhammed Suffyan chose some bright yellow hazel leaves  russet beech leaves surrounded by acorns for his design.

Other designs included acorn Catherine wheels, sycamore starbursts and beech and hazel rainbows and peacocks. The weather conditions for woodland leaf art were near perfect – cool but dry and bright with hardly a whisper of a breeze. A truly magical time to be out in the woods.

Rowan and Willow group took advantage of the piles of dry leaves to bury each other like hibernating hedgehogs and make leaf angels on the forest floor. Taking a closer look a a particularly lovely beech leaf, Libby noticed the outline of what looked like a sword etched into the leaf.

Beech group found it was an especially good time of year to lie in the hammock and gaze up at the kaleidoscope of leaves above illuminated by the gentle autumn sunlight (Also a great spot to enjoy a warming cup of hot chocolate with friends).

On a distinctly chilly Thursday morning, Holly group gathered around the fire circle to share their thoughts on keeping safe this bonfire weekend. We set up our safety area and practiced moving safely around our fire circle before lighting our campfire and enjoying some delicious s’mores. Once the fire was safely extinguished and cooled, the children used the leftover charcoal to create firework designs on the playground.

Woodland murals
The Sword in the Leaf


Guess who is hiding under the leaves?

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Willow Group Exploring the Locality

Over the past term, Willow group have been busy familiarising themselves with the woodlands and the bridleways that cross through and around them.

Ravenscliffe Wood along with the adjoining Bill Wood and Round Wood form part of the West Leeds Country Park & Green Gateway. For more information on West Leeds Country Park please click here to follow the link to their website. There you will find details of walks and places of interest, details of environmental projects, educational resources and a brief history of the locality.

Heading South Towards Thornbury

Greeting the Horses on Fagley Road

Collecting Acorns in Ravenscliffe Wood

Playing I Spy and Enjoying the View Across Lower Fagley

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Too Salty, Too Sweet or Just Right?

In class, Cherry group have been learning the traditional tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. So it seemed only right that at Forest School this week we have porridge for our snack. I am pleased to report that children said the porridge tasted ‘just right’.

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Rowan Group Sound Map the Woods

This week, Rowan group have been using their listening skills to sound map the woods. They began by finding themselves a comfortable spot to settle down in. On a piece of paper, they drew a symbol in the middle to represent themselves and the compass points around the edge (each time we put out our boundary markers at the start of the session, we mark out the the compass points, using cues from nature to help us). We had already listened to some of the woodland sounds as a group and discussed the shape of the sound waves we could hear, drawing them in the air with our hands. Each time the children heard a sound, they would record it on their sheet in the direction it was coming from by drawing the sound wave and labelling it. A range of sounds were recorded from the tweeting of birds and blowing of wind through the trees to the east of the wood to the barking of dogs and wailing of sirens to the south-west of the woodland where it meets the urban sprawl beyond. Kaci and Kyrstal chose to make some sounds of their own to see if the other children could map out where they were sat in the woods.

Sound mapping is a good way to encourage children to engage their senses and really focus in on the sounds of nature around them and where these sounds begin to be overtaken by the sounds of people and industry. Leah said she had found it easier to listen in to the sounds and work out where they were coming from when she closed her eyes.

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Playing with Natural Paint

 Cherry group have been taking advantage of the abundance of blackberries adorning the hedgerows at this time of year to make their own natural paint. Picking blackberries is a great way for young children to exercise their fine motor skills. Just the right amount of pressure is required to remove the berries from the bush without squishing them. They also need to take care to avoid the prickles on the brambles and the nettles which like to grow in and amongst the brambles. Only the ripest juiciest berries make good paint and the children were quick to learn that unripe green and red berries were best left on the bushes to mature a little longer. As the children search for berries, they learn to identify the features of the plants on which they grow – the prickly stems and the hairy serrated leaves. It is also an opportunity to introduce learning around poisonous and edible berries and their place in the food chain of insects and animals.
Once the berries were picked, the next step was to mush them up with a stick to create a paste. They were then free to choose what and where to paint. Noah found a branch that had lost its bark and chose the smooth surface to paint on. Brogan used a paintbrush to splodge his paint onto a piece of fabric. Kai demonstrated to Hamza how a block could be used to bash the berries onto the fabric to transfer the colour. Amwiah chose to paint the rough bark of an oak tree as she liked the patterns it created,
Some of the children experimented with mixing mud and leaves into the paint to change its colour and texture. 

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Acorn Abundance

A new school year begins and 80 children begin their term at Forest School. At Fagley Primary, every child from Reception to Year 6 attend Forest School once a week for a term each year. Each class is divided into three groups. Ten children come to Forest School, ten children take part in food technology and ten children work of focused literacy or numeracy activities with their class teacher. We aim to rotate the groups each year so that the children experience a different season at Forest School. The last time many of this term’s children were in the woods was winter time when the trees were bare. Walking into the woods, some of the children were struck by how dark it was with the heavy canopy of oak leaves above obscuring the sky. Oak is the dominant species in our woodland. Autumn is a time to look forward to an abundance of tree nuts from acorns to hazelnuts and beech nuts. Historically our woodland has not appeared to produce an abundance of acorns. Often the acorns we have found have been very small and malformed. This year however, we have found a proliferation of acorns. We pondered why this may be. Suggestions why this may be included:

  • The weather we have had has helped the acorns to grow
  • There have been less diseases or pests attacking the trees so the acorns have grown better
  • There have been less animals and birds eating the acorns
We usually find lots of galls produced by gall wasps on our oak trees, but this year there seems to have been less so perhaps this is contributing to better acorn growth.

The jays are making themselves known in the woods by their unmistakable screeching, so it would seem that there are still plenty of them feasting on the acorns in the wood. The children

have also spotted a number of squirrels busying themselves in the branches above us.

So perhaps it has just been a particularly good summer to promote acorn growth.
Whatever the reason, the children are having tremendous fun hunting out, comparing and decorating the acorns.
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Water we going to find?

Running through the lower edge of Ravenscliffe Wood is Fagley Beck (beck is a commonly used word for a stream in Northern England)As we enter the woods, the children often comment on how high or low the water is running and where the water comes from and flows to. Looking at maps of the area, we have found that the beck flows out of Ravenscliffe Wood towards West Wood where it then becomes known as Carr Beck after which point, the beck disappears underground. The nearest river is the River Aire, so the children said they believe that the water perhaps makes its way there underground.We have often wondered what may live in the water, so today Birch group armed with nets, decided to investigate. Before heading down to the beck, we discussed how to be safe around water. At its deepest point, the beck is knee high, but even relatively shallow water can pose risks. There is also the added concern that the locality is subject to fly tipping which can lead to rubbish making its way into the water. As the woodland is home to a range of wildlife we thought about animals which may drink from the water and that they may also leave animal waste in the water. The children agree to the following rules to keep us safe:

1) Cover any cuts or grazes with waterproof tape (to prevent the risk of infection from waterborne disease – see the ROSPA website for more information).
2) Only enter water where we can see to the bottom (in case there are sharp or dangerous objects under the water.
3) Test the depth of the water and the firmness of the riverbed with the end of our nets before stepping in it.
4) Only enter water below welly boot height.
5) Always stay where another member of the group can see you.

We made our way along the riverbank keeping our eyes peeled for signs of life in the water. Akasha spotted some small creatures moving around and managed to fish them out. We believe they may be some form of freshwater shrimp. For more information on freshwater habitats, visit the Freshwater Habitats Trust website. As we continued to walk, Aroona recognised wild garlic growing with its unmistakably pungent aroma. We were also able to see tracks in the soft mud of animals that had visited the water.

On this occasion, we did not find any fish in the water so we considered why this may be. Perhaps the water wasn’t deep enough for them to survive, perhaps they were hiding from us or maybe the water quality wasn’t good enough. Birch group are due to visit Yorkshire Water in a few weeks time with their class, so maybe they will be able to find out more about water quality and water habitats during their visit.

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Introducing The Mud Monsters

Birch Group A.K.A The Mud Monsters

The new term means new groups at Forest School and it would appear that this term’s group have one thing in common – They really really LOVE mud!!

Mud play offers a vast array of benefits to the participant. Mud play is wonderfully sensory experience – soft, slippy, squelchy and cool. Mud play is genuinely good for you. Check out these facts on the benefits of mud play from Nature Play QLD:


New research has shown that exposure to friendly soil bacteria (Mycobacterium Vaccae) stimulates the immune system causing the brain to release serotonin, the endorphin used to regulate mood.


Given the link of the friendly bacteria in mud and its ability to make you happy, scientists say that regular exposure to mud will reduce a child’s vulnerability to depression.


There is increasing evidence that today’s society is “too clean”, and that this is a contributor to increased levels of childhood illnesses, including immune disorders and allergies.


 The open-ended nature of mud play is perfect for the developing brain. There is no end to the creations, ideas and games children will invent. During this type of unstructured, outdoor play, children are not only exercising but are building their ability to form ideas, problem solve, and think critically, as well being innovative and inventive.


As children grow through their formative years, mud play will help them achieve many key developmental milestones, such as fine and gross motor skills, sensory awareness, balance and coordination.  Mud play will also create opportunities to practice social skills and help children to make sense of the world.


While playing with mud, children are learning and testing theories, as well as developing foundational understanding of maths and literacy.


 There is now scientific evidence linking the restorative effects of outdoor play, which can reduce levels of anxiety and stress in children.


 Positive childhood experiences while playing outdoors will help to create and strengthen kids’ concept of the outdoors, and reinforce the intrinsic benefits and interest in playing outdoors and being active.


While kids are braving the mud, sloshing and squelching around, they are challenging themselves, expanding their experiences and in turn, their world. Instilling and nurturing this constructive foundational style of critical thinking and risk assessment in children builds and strengthens their values and attitudes toward adventure, and develops important skills that can be carried through to adulthood.


Playing with mud is a foundational activity that could lead to children further developing a strong and empathetic connection with the natural environment.


For most children, mud play is intrinsically fun, plain and simple.  While adults like to understand the full sphere of why mud play is so good for our children, kids will just instinctively play in it.  Especially when their parents encourage them to!  Children don’t need to understand why this type of play is important to their development.  What’s important is that we provide opportunities for them to do it – and give them permission to get dirty!







Thank you to Nature Play QLD for this article on the benefits of mud play.


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