Students have discovered the bark has many uses
IAM a big fan of encouraging youngsters to gain knowledge of the wilds and learn all about the natural world and the things that can be done using natural materials. I worked at many schools for years before forest schools really caught on.
Forest schools are not like a school lesson, they are designed to stimulate the interest of kids from a young age through outdoor play and experimenting.
Activities include cooking on an open fire, bug hunting, making mud faces and even making their own charcoal pencils on a fire. And of course there is den building.
Hopefully all of this instils excitement in being outdoors and helps to support youngsters who may find socialising difficult.
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Being in a group and by working as teams will hopefully encourage them to become more confident in themselves and amongst others too.
I have the privilege to be teaching at Henleaze junior school helping to develop the forest school activities with years five and six once a week. The pupils carry on with activities after the end of five weeks and continue to develop the forest school further. We are now three weeks in to a five week course.
So far the students have learned how to identify a silver birch tree within the school grounds and discovered the bark has many uses.
It is a paper bark tree, the bark of which was used to write on by the Egyptians.
The bark is packed with oils that can be used to ignite a fire. After a demonstration students learn how to identify the tree, remember its name and talk about its uses.
We walk around Henleaze school which has an amazing amount of wild habitats.
There are lots of bird boxes up in the trees and there are school allotments. Only this week I was watching a pair of blue tits going in and out of a nest box. The year five and six youngsters are always full of excitement. They completed their den and fire pit by collecting natural materials from around the school grounds. We have all had toasted marshmallows and its great to see the change in youngsters from the first session of not knowing what to expect to being full of excitement.
Last week the year six students made a short video of collecting everything they needed to start a fire. After a little bit of practice and learning to be patient students then discuss why the fire does not start first time. Maybe the tinder was too damp or the materials were wrong. In no time at all they had the fire started.
Whilst on a break this week I decided to walk the school grounds to find any wild edibles. I found wild onions, garlic chives and hairy bitter cress. I washed and prepared them in the staff canteen and made a wild salad for the staff to taste. I think they were surprised by how good it tasted.
Steve England is an (RHS) horticulturist, amateur naturalist and chairman of the Stoke Park steering group. He lives in Lockleaze and has spent his whole life at Stoke Park from playing there as a boy to studying its history, wildlife, and pre historic past. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org