Time spent at The Forest Club and example activities
Time at The Forest Club is divided roughly into four main parts.
THE EXPLORATION & DISCOVERY OF NATURE
Examples - learning about different plants, animals and tree species, guided nature walks through different parts of the forest, learning about wild edible plants, looking at insects under a microscope, looking at animal dens, looking at animal footprints and tracks, listening to birdsong and identifying different birds.
Creative activities - these can be activities using natural materials such as making candles in clay pots with beeswax and decorating them with quartz (chipped from local stone). Making bird feeders, leaf presses, using clay to make forest creatures or fairies decorated with woodland materials i.e a hedgehog with pine needles as his spines and two small seeds for his eyes or a fairy with oak leaves for the wings.
Bushcraft skills and the use of hand tools - with the use of safety gloves, carefully risk assessed and under close supervision children can use hand tools such as a pruning saw, secateurs or special forest school safety knife (blunt tip) to create woodland crafts e.g. whistles, charcoal pencils, mallets, magic wands, bow and arrow and get to take home what they have made.
Fire skills / fire-craft - risk assessed and under close supervision children can learn about flint and create sparks with a ‘flint striker’ (flint and steel) by striking the steel edge off flint sparks are created and a cotton but is lit, children can then at a later stage in the camp create their own small fire using dried kindling and small sticks by lighting the cotton bud with flint and adding dried kindling and sticks. We also offer children the opportunity to learn to cook on an open fire using edible wild plants for example- wild garlic or sorrel fritters.
Other activities can include making bird feeders, leaf presses, clay creatures or fairies decorated with woodland materials i.e a hedgehog with pine needles as spines and two small seeds for eyes or a fairy with oak leaves for the wings.
There is a large number of activities which we run.
GAMES & CREATIVE PLAY
This is very important for a child’s development.
Given the appropriate time and space children can become immersed in their own creative play. At The Forest Club the mud kitchen can become alive with a hive of activity with children making mud pies in old crockery, making pine needle soup, mixing, stirring and splashing in old pots. Part of the mud kitchen becomes a shop where pinecones become the currency and children ‘buy’ mud pies or pine needle soup.
Children also love playing restaurants at the mud kitchen which is great fun! Other materials are gathered, created and traded. There are other games such as hide and seek children getting into groups to build their dens etc…
Den building - children choose a spot they like within the boundaries of the base camp area and become immersed in creating their own little ‘home’ in the forest. This is built with a basic structure of carefully placed larger branches to begin with, followed by smaller and interweaved branches then a layer of leaves or bracken which can waterproof it to a certain degree. Great imagination and care can go into den building, every den ever built is unique often decorated with wildflowers inside or log ‘seating’. Guidance is given at the beginning and help provided along the way but it is mostly a child led activity. During camps and after school club’s children will have some time to work on their dens each day.
Structured games - fun and interactive games in which children can learn about nature, some examples leaf puzzles, fox and rabbit, bat and moth, scavenger hunt.
Activities and the time spent at The Forest Club vary depending on the time of year, availability of materials i.e spring for wild garlic, the age profile of the group and what the children themselves would like to do. All children are actively encouraged to take part in all activities we run however they are free to dip in and out of activities if they choose.
HOT DRINK & TOASTED MARSHMALLOWS
In my childhood of trekking and exploring the Wicklow Mountains I would usually pack a hot drink - usually hot chocolate. There is something very nice and comforting about sipping a hot drink outdoors in nature while listening to the sound of birds singing or the wind blowing, in keeping with this tradition we serve a complimentary hot chocolate to all participants on our camps and after-school clubs. This is also a chance for the group to sit down together, take a rest from the busy activities, have a chat and get to know each other.
Usually at the end of the day we gather in by the camp fire to enjoy a toasted marshmallow or two. This is a great way for children to learn about safety and respect for the fire (no marshmallows are given out unless everyone is settled down and respecting the safety rules of the camp fire area) It is also a great way to bring the group together and re-cap on our learning and activities of the day.