We are very lucky at Akaal Primary School to have beautiful surroundings, including a Forest School, meadow area, well-being wood and Polytunnel, as well as 3 playgrounds, a large field area and plenty of nooks and crannies for children to explore and use in a safe environment.
Our Forest School is on-site so easily accessible to the classes who use it. Currently, Reception and Year 1 have weekly sessions as part of enrichment provision.
Reception are exploring the basics of learning about nature and discovering the great outdoors in a stimulating and safe environment. Children are given the tools they need to find out what they need to know and are part of planning where their learning is going next.
Principles of Forest School
Areas they are encouraged to participate in are:
Bug Hunting & Identification
Children are given bug collecting boxes and magnifying glasses and shown how to collect the bugs carefully. They then enjoy showing their friends what they have caught and try to identify them using charts, magazines and books.
We have a permanent mud kitchen site where children can experiment with mixing whatever they find on the forest floor. They relate this learning to cooking at home or making potions. They serve each other food and help each other with their recipes.
The children are encouraged to see everything on the forest floor as treasure and we have a range of boxes, cartons and trays for them to create their own collections. They are encouraged to talk to their friends in the log circle about what they have collected and why it is so precious.
Den & Shelter Building
We have a range of tarps, drapes and shower curtains for the children to make dens and shelters. We also encourage use of sticks, cartons and plastics to make bug hotels and use these alongside the brick and slab bug hotels to create good habitats.
This is, by far, the favourite with all the children. They use the skills and opportunities they have been given in a free way with the only instruction to ‘keep safe’. They are very skilled at self-regulating these sessions and we observe them developing their conversation and PSHE skills with little or no intervention.
We have planted a number of different plants including bulbs and free trees and hedging from ‘The Woodland Trust’. We discuss the different kinds of plants and how and where they grow. We are able to monitor their growth and life cycle throughout the year through regular visits to the forest site. Some 200 trees and hedging plants were planted on site by the children earlier this year.
Art Work & Recording
We always have clipboards and a range of papers and drawing materials available for children to use as they please.
Wet Day Activities
On wet days we dress for the weather and have fun in the puddles, as well as experimenting with changing our art work in the rain.
At Christmas we sang Christmas songs and decorated a tree to be a Christmas tree. We then sang to it. We removed the decorations in the New Year and chopped the school Christmas tree to use in our forest school activities.
Windy Day Activities
Due to health and safety, we are not allowed in the forest when it is windy. On these days we take out our wind tubes and look at, smell, taste, touch , listen to and pretend to be the wind.
Every session includes a snack time where children are offered hot chocolate, a biscuit and a piece of fruit. This is often quoted as the children’s favourite part of the session!
Year 1 Rabbit Problem
Year 1 Forest School is based on "The Rabbit Problem" by Emily Gravett. Whatever the rabbit’s problem is for that month, we base our work on for that month.
Too many carrots = too many leaves. We carried out transient art, leaf bashing, observational drawings, collecting and comparing leaves.
Overweight rabbits = how can we exercise in the forest? We developed obstacle courses, practised meditation and made dumbbells.
Overcrowded rabbits = making bug houses, shelters.
All the rabbits left = Christmas celebrations.
Lonely rabbits = working with partners, groups.
Cold rabbits = how do we keep warm in the forest?
How to look after a baby = how to look after the creatures that might be living in the forest.
Soggy rabbits = what to do on a rainy day.
The rabbits did not have any carrots = planting in the well-being wood.
The crows keep stealing the carrots = looking after the well-being wood and the school grounds.
The rabbits are bored/ too hot = how to keep ourselves entertained in the forest.
Once a year we hold an ‘Outdoor learning day’. In the past, this has been a carousel of activities provided by members of staff. In the new school, this will be using the whole range of opportunities our school grounds have to offer.
Sikh Environment Day
(See also key calendar dates under Sikh Faith in Our Story). We spend a day remembering Guru Har Rai Ji and his teachings around looking after our environment and animals.