Blog Autumn 2020 – Summer 2022

3rd class – Week 8

1st class – Week 8

3rd class -Week 7 – welcoming our parents/siblings/grandparents/ex-pupils!

1st class -Week 7 – welcoming the parents/siblings/grandparents

3rd class – Week 6

1st class – Week 6

3rd class – Week 5

 1st Class – Week 5

3rd class – Week 4

1st Class – Week 4

Week 3 – 3rd class

Week 2 – Third class

The leaf and the flower of ribwort plantain (slánlus)developing observational skills

When everyone gathered, the children were invited to look at Ribwort plantain carefully in pairs, and to pick something that other people wouldn’t notice and discuss their findings. A pair of children noticed that the bottom of the stem was red, and the shape of the flowers looked like oats. Another pair noticed that the stem was hairy and its section formed a star shape. Another pair peeled a leaf and noticed that the veins were strong and coiled up when they were exposed to the air. It was a great activity to encourage the children to look at the plants closely and learn about them with each other. They noticed things, which even the adults didn’t know.  

developing observational skills

After everyone shared their findings, the teacher introduced more about this plant. For example, this was called “Ribwort plantain” perhaps linked with the way the veins of the leaf can look like a human rib.  In Irish it is called “slánlus”, which is translated as ‘health herb’ as it was used as a medicinal plant in the past. It can still be used as a cure for nettle sting. 

Soon after the teacher explained this, one of the children was stung by a nettle, but luckily she knew what to do. She immediately put a plantain leaf on her finger, and felt better. A bad experience like being stung by nettles led to development of knowledge about the properties of Ribwort Plantain, and an understanding that being stung by nettles is not such a fearful thing. These little nuggets the children get from forest school are a form of wisdom that they can pass on to others, and even to the next generations

Having forest school at this time of the year is great as we can see so many changes week by week. More and more leaves are growing, the flowers of some trees have gone, and some berries or seedlings have started to form. On the way to the basecamp, the children were encouraged to pick out something which had changed from the previous week. Under an ash tree, children noticed that more buds were bursting and more leaves were growing. One of the children also noticed that there were more leaves growing on one side. Then the teacher asked them why this could be. They didn’t have a good answer, but when the teacher introduced them to the sun’s movement, they learnt that the side that had more growing leaves was the south facing side. 

Forest School learning is so organic that the content of the sessions is formed by how the group of children act and interact, and how the forest school leaders and other adults react to their questions, actions, curiosities, findings and needs. In this case, without this curiosity coming from the children, and without a teacher who picked up on it, the group of children wouldn’t have learned about the relationship between tree growth and aspect. 

After that, we moved to the cherry tree where we had danced in the previous week. The children noticed that the blossom had almost gone, and the leaves were bigger. The ash tree bore tiny ash keys which will become like helicopters in the autumn. The children then could not help rolling down the hill, which looked so much fun.   

developing a healthy sensory system

Children need to move and play outside on a regular basis in order to develop healthy sensory systems. Rolling down hills is one way to increase our body awareness and sense of space.  Our vestibular or balance system is challenged by moving in all directions while rolling down grassy hills. Rolling also helps provide necessary stimulation to the muscles and ligaments in the body. This helps improve the proprioceptive sense and sensory processing.  

Because there were so many dandelions in the open field, we picked some dandelion flowers from the bottom of their stems, and carried out an experiment. The children peeled the stems of dandelions in a few strips and put them in the water. Then they watched the stems curl up. They discussed why this happened, and learnt that the inside of the stems were “hydrophilic” (water-loving) and the outsides are “hydrophobic” (water-hating), so that the insides absorbed so much water that they swelled, while the outsides remained the same size, which forced the strips into curls. In this way, they learnt about the structure of the dandelion stems and the mechanism of how they absorb the water from the ground. A child put a clover leaf in the water for another experiment, and found that the leaves were waterproof. 

Experimenting together

When we arrived at the basecamp, it was time for free play. Some children built a den, which they wanted to use as a café, and they used a bundle of pine leaves as a duster to clean the floor. Others were trying to find signs of ground trolls.

Some of the children in this group were so curious and knowledgeable about trees and plants. From the previous forest school, they knew the inside of elder tree branches have white soft parts. A child questioned why some of the elder leaves had strange patterns, which the leader had never noticed and didn’t know the answer to. 

Encouraging curiosity where children’s questions are more important than adults having answers

Compared to the younger age group (6-7 year old), this age group of children (9-10 year old) seem to have more desire to know the plants’ names, and why and how certain natural phenomena happen. They enjoy finding out facts, carrying out scientific observations and conducting experiments together.  They absorb knowledge like sponges.  

After the free play, the teacher introduced a “bird game”, in which a team of three people act as parents and a chick, and the parents need to collect food without being caught by predators. It was a great game to understand how hard it is to be a bird and protect chicks as well as collect food for them.  They developed more empathy for our non human friends through play based learning.  

At lunch time, the assistant (i.e. me!) talked about forest bathing. This word came from Japan (“Shinrinyoku”) and it is embedded in Japanese culture. When we walk in the forest and are immersed in nature, our body and mind are so relaxed and refreshed, and the healing effects of nature have been used by medical professionals in some parts. Knowing these effects might give children resilience in their life when they feel stress and have inner problems. Having this in our mind, we went to have our “sit spot” which is a few quiet moments we take in nature each session, and experienced forest bathing.      

Forest bathing – Shinrinyoku

The closing circle is an important part of forest school where we share what we noticed during sit spot and what we were grateful for from today’s forest school. Everyone in the circle has the opportunity to speak out about their feelings and findings. By doing this each session, the children get used to reflecting upon their experiences, thinking about what attracted them, what gave them joy, and sharing these thoughts with the group. 

Forest School is not only a place where the children have a fun time in nature and learn about plants and animals, but they also learn so many life lessons – what it means to be alive, how trees, plants and animals strive to live and why all living things including us die and how we can contribute to other lives. They also learn how to reflect on their feelings and what it means to share our time, space and feelings with others, and many other things besides. These, I think, are important lessons that we as adults can share with our children. 

Other groups learning together in the forest

3rd Class Session 1 – 29 April 2022

It was a warm summery day on the first day of the 3rd class’s forest school. As soon as the children arrived at the meeting point, we could see their excitement and enthusiasm from the sparkle in their eyes. 

The meeting point was an open field so we could make the most of this gorgeous season. We enjoyed seeing the seasonal flowers, such as dandelions, daisies and cowslips which are more likely to be found in sunny open fields than in our base camp within the woods. The forest is very busy in this season – the trees changing day by day with their new green leaves growing, the birds singing loudly and raising their chicks high in the trees. Some migrating birds are returning from the South too. Bees are getting busy visiting flowers and more insects are coming out from the ground. 

Normally, children are allowed to explore the meeting point when they arrive until everyone gathers. So in the beginning, we went around to check the boundary together. It is very important to set a clear boundary in Forest School for children to safely explore within. 

Even though forest school gives children a lot of freedom, there are certain rules that they need to follow in order to avoid serious accidents. We call them the Golden Rules (Keep yourself safe and happy, keep each other safe and happy and keep nature safe and happy) and we remind ourselves every time before starting forest school. In this way, children learn how to act responsibly and respectfully in the natural environment.

Sharing skills like grass whistling with each other

The children in this class had participated in forest school when they were in senior infants and in second class, so that they already seemed to have a good sense of nature. They found a larch tree with new fresh green needles, and first they wanted to know what kind of tree it was. The teacher didn’t tell the name straight away, and let the children observe the tree first. The children noticed the cones on the tree, and asked “Are they acorns?” Then the teacher explained “Acorns are only for oak trees, and pine cones are only for pine trees. But you can call them cones. This is a larch tree.” The next thing the children did was to touch the needles gently and say “Oh wow it is so soft!”.

Nibbling the larch needles like a deer

Then another child asked “Can we eat the needles?” (It is hard to imagine that many other children look at a tree and try to eat its needles!) The teacher first reminded them that “Remember, never eat things from the forest unless adults say it is OK.”, and then, “Yes, you can eat larch needles”. Then the children tasted the fresh larch needles and shared their experience; A child said “It tastes like lemon!” Another child also smelled it and said “It smells like a christmas tree.” In this way, the children got to know the larch tree. 

The next tree they noticed was a hawthorn, and with this tree, some of them already knew the name from previous Forest School sessions. They remembered the tree because they observed, touched, smelled and tasted it – some of them even remembered that it had a bitter taste. 

During Forest school, children are encouraged to use their senses to get to know places and natural objects, and their knowledge about nature accumulates with their senses and their memories. Also, this fun way of getting to know the trees and plants seemed to encourage their curiosity about new trees and unknown plants. 

After walking the boundary of the meeting point, we made a circle, remembered the golden rules and introduced ourselves with animal names and movements. 

Then it was time to move to our basecamp. On the way, we stopped at cherry blossom trees, and picked some flowers and leaves for today’s nature tea. The assistant was from Japan, and the teacher realised that it could be a nice cultural experience for the children. Cherry trees are culturally significant in Japan, as they bloom all at once and scatter in an instant. People in Japan see it as a symbol of the beauty and fragility of life, and make the most of the moment by having picnics, parties, drinking, singing and dancing under the cherry blossom. So of course, that we did. The children and adults enjoyed making noises, singing and dancing under the cherry blossom trees

catching falling blossom

Also, on the way to the basecamp, we picked up some dandelion flowers. In forest school, usually children are not encouraged to pick up the living plants, but the teacher told them that if there were abundant species in Ireland and here, they can pick up only a few. 

Look how tall my leaf and stem is

The children kept finding interesting places and things, and finally arrived at their basecamp.

Remembering and reconnecting with parts of Killiney Hill through observation and discovery

At the basecamp, we first conducted a site risk assessment, which involved the children in naming any risks and how they might keep themselves and each other safe. The children looked at the sites, and shared their opinions. From their previous forest School experiences, they were aware of most of the potential risks such as getting branches in eyes, gorse thorns, falling because of uneven ground, getting hurt by sharp objects like broken glass etc. The teacher also made sure the children understood the potential danger of climbing trees, by asking them how to check if it was safe to climb, and how high they could climb (They have to check if the branch is alive and strong enough, and they can go to the height where they can reach by their hands).  

Learning how to take appropriate risks such as tree climbing helps develop physical skills and confidence

A core principle of forest school is to learn to take appropriate risks. In supporting the children to be aware of hazards and risks and how to approach them in a safer way they learn to build confidence and keep themselves safe. If we don’t give children space to learn to take appropriate risks all through their childhood they will be much more likely to take inappropriate risks in later years.

We confirmed our boundary by walking around it together, and then it was time for free play. As soon as we started the period of free play, everyone dashed away to do whatever they wanted to do. This age group (9-10 year old) of children seemed to play in  groups more than the younger age group (6-7 year old), and more verbal communication was observed within the group, and they seemed to use more cognitive functions during their play. 

For example, a group of children was digging a hole. Some of the children in the younger age group (6-7 year old) also loved digging holes, but they seemed to purly enjoy the action itself, which eventually led to the findings of living roots and dead trees turning to soil. However, the children in this age group (9-10 year old) had a purpose for digging. They wanted to find out why some parts of the ground under pine trees were so soft. They were digging the ground gently so that they wouldn’t harm living roots, and they found out that the roots were acting like hammocks to avoid the soil hardness. The assistant encouraged them to look at the soil more carefully, and they found that the soil was made of decayed pine needles, which were providing their organic matter to the tree as well as protecting the roots.  

Also this group of children were trying to find “ground trolls”, and they were looking for the signs of their existence. For example, the ground trolls turn into rocks when they are dead, and they build their huts. They explained that there were signs everywhere in this basecamp, so they tried finding the signs and communicating with the trolls by giving presents. The imaginary world in this age group seemed much more in detail compared to that of the younger age group, the contents were more complicated like a story, and importantly it was shared between friends. 

Creative, imaginary play

Forest school allows children to escape into their imaginary world. The world they created together might be based on games, books or movies, but they use their full imaginations and physical actions – they run around, shout, discuss the characters, create new story lines, and use natural objects such as stones, sticks, corns as key items for the story. Having free time in nature with their friends seems like something they need in their everyday life, and forest school seems to play an important role for them to enjoy most of their childhood.  

Another group of children was working on making a hut. It was the same hut that the younger children also liked building. However, this time, the construction work was more strategic. First of all, they had a clear aim for the construction work, which was to build a “Green Tea Cafe”. So, they took all the branches away, and tried to build from the beginning. They called it a “Renovation”. They lined up the branches on the ground, and discussed which were the suitable branches for the foundation of the building. One of the children was struggling and frustrated because it was difficult to make the structure as he wanted, so he asked the assistant and the teacher for help. But the teacher said “I think it is much more fun to figure it out by yourself, but I can listen if you want to talk things through.” So he started to think again. 

There are big plans for the renovation of this space to create “The green Tea cafe”

Another group of children loved climbing trees and challenging themselves. A child climbed quite high (up to the height she was allowed), and called her friend to look at her. She managed to come down safely, although it was tricky and she had thought carefully about the safest way to come down. She must be so used to climbing trees with her own trial and error from their previous forest school, so she was confident as well as sensible. Her friend was watching her, and wanted to go up next. So she asked “How did you do?” and the first child told her friend how to safely climb the tree. It was great to see the children teach each other. 

In forest school, we constantly encounter new life and death. It could be trees, plants, insects, and other animals, and the children are able to learn life and death in a gentle way as well as interdependence and the circle of life in the natural world. This week, a child found a dead bird. It was lying at the bottom of the tree, in relatively undisturbed form, as if it was sleeping. Everyone gathered including the teacher. One of the children instantly started to dig a hole to make a grave. They discussed whether it was ok to touch dead animals but decided it could be infected, so they used sticks to move its body into the hole very gently. It was still soft, so the teacher said it would probably have died very recently. Some of the children discussed how it was dead.  One child thought it had bumped into a tree and fallen; another child thought some other animal had attacked him. 

Making a grave for the dead bird

One of the children said “We shouldn’t  bury him because the foxes will eat him anyway.” And the teacher said “That’s okay too, it is a part of life.” We make a grave to respect its death. The children eventually scattered away to go back to what they were doing, and some of the children continued decorating the grave and giving a ceremony. 

Then it was time for lunch break. We always gather in a circle during lunch break, because this gives us a sense of unity by sharing our experience of eating lunch together in nature. The teacher told a dandelion story, and gave a dandelion to the circle to make a wish that they want to come true during forest school. Their wishes were “I want to find out the mystery of ground trolls”, “I want climate change to stop”, “I want to have fun with friends”, “I want to climb high in trees”, “I want to have a new school bag for forest school”, and “I want to finish building the Green Tea Cafe”. 

Chatting about the story and the dandelion flowers

Then we had a Cherry Blossom Tea Ceremony. The children learnt that the Japanese traditional Tea ceremony is the art of serving, receiving and drinking green tea. It developed in the 16th Century when the society was divided by hierarchies, but inside of a tiny Tea Ceremony room, everyone was equal and they could also be apart from real life. The door is small so that guests have to bow to come in (bowing is an important gesture to show respect). So we bowed, and each of the children were given tea one by one. They admired the smell of the tea and then we shared what we are grateful for and drank the tea. 

Cherry Blossom Tea ceremony

After this, we played a quick Eagle Eye game, and it was time for the sit spot. Sit spot is an important element in forest school which gives children a moment to be in nature. Before the sit spot, we gathered in a circle and the teacher asked the children to share what they can see, hear, feel and smell and send them to the quiet spaces and stay still for a few minutes. We shared what we found in the circle after that, and left the basecamp.   

There was so much happening in only two and half hours. Because of the previous forest school experience when they were younger, they already seem to have an attachment with nature and with the place, and  they have receptive antennas to what they can take in from forest school – their senses are awakened, their mind in motion, curiosity drawn out, constantly trying to find something new or different to do, which they always do. Because of the experience they had when they were younger, they don’t miss the opportunities that present themselves to learn from nature, from friends, and from surrounding adults .  

Forest School – Autumn 2021

Session 9

12th November 2021

This week was our last week together for this year. Between games and free play and weaving and clay, we had a great time learning through play.

playing lots of games


Every session we share what we are grateful for from the session. This is a core part of the structure of Forest school for us as gratitude helps us to:

  1. Feel better about our lives overall
  2. Experience higher levels of positive emotions like optimism, enthusiasm, love, and happiness
  3. be kinder and more generous to others
  4. Sleep better
  5. cope with stress more effectively and recover more quickly from stressful situations (resilience) 

Here are some of the things the children said they are grateful for:

  • Being in nature – finding out about plants and what you can do with them
  • All the shops we set up!
  • being on Killiney Hill instead of being in the classroom all day.  You feel the wind blowing and seeing the flowers and it’s really beautiful.
  • sit spots because you get to calm yourself down
  • playing in the forest
  • all the trees – they’re so helpful.  They let me have a shop and help us breathe.
  • nature and the trees in our base camp.  
  • Going on the slide many many many times
  • fresh air 
  • rangoli patterns 
  • seasons – everything changed in the 9 weeks we were here
  • the games we made up and the shops we created and the grave for Mr Popales.
  • making things, the fairy swing we made with the string that we made, 
  • leaves for leaf fights and art and jumping and burying and fun
  • Being able to do Forest school.
  • The mother tree – how it’s a wonderful place to play and how it can also be so soothing
  • Gives us a break from the work in the classroom.
  • to the teachers for making Forest school happen.
  • playing lots of games and having fun together
  • having fun makes me feel happy
  • making things like bracelets 
  • The view from base camp
  • how nice people are on the hill that we get to meet and see 
  • how much there is to explore
buried in leaves

Free play – a core part of Forest school

Tina Bruce, a Froebel thinker, outlines the 12 Elements of Play (2011) – if more than half of these items are present, then it is considered quality play: 

1Using first-hand experiences 

2Making up rules

3Making props 

4Choosing to Play

5Rehearsing the Future


7Playing alone

8Playing together

9Having a personal agenda

10Being deeply involved

11Trying out recent learning

12Coordinating ideas, feelings, and relationships for free flow play

As an example this week I observed one group during their free play and this is what I noticed:

The richness of the play continued this week building on from previous weeks.  Entrepreneurial skills were being developed by one group as they offered a go on the slide.  Payment was in leaves and then you could have a go.  There were differing members of staff as sometimes staff who were minding the shop wanted to get time off to have a go on the slide. For an extra payment there was a photographer available.   As the play progressed, the slide became a jump and roll.  A large branch started out being offered as a fan and then became part of an obstacle course and a limbo pole.  Another branch became a roller coaster.  According to the 12 elements of play outlined above, I see 9 or 10 of the elements were present.

Using first hand experiences

Meanwhile another group were busy building a grave for Mr Popales.  I was told that this was the name for a yard ball that had been lost.  The children had arrived to Killiney Hill with the big story of having seen a dead squirrel on the way up so perhaps this was part of the inspiration.  The grave was very beautiful.  I don’t know what they were processing but I trust that they were getting what they needed at that moment.  We have had funerals in Forest school for a sandwich that got eaten by a dog and for other losses that the children experience.  

grave for a lost yard ball

One children was busy ‘hunting’ blackberries and then joined others who were building a nest or a wall near a big tree.  

Nature play and scientific learning

Like all STEM disciplines, science merges in the early years and will build in complexity throughout a child’s life. In a recent project, educators noticed 9 distinct nature play practices which we also observe within Forest school:

  • Place responsive play
  • Non-human play—deep observation of plants, clouds, natural objects and other species
  • Slow play—giving children the time and freedom for sustained, unhurried, uninterrupted play, including child-directed free play and artmaking
  • Sensorial play—stimulating children’s senses and an awareness of the body through noticing, paying attention, foraging, smelling, feeling, touching and deepening connection
  • Risky play—climbing trees, hanging upside down, balancing, exploring
  • Imaginative play—also known as make-believe play, fantasy play, symbolic play, pretend play and dramatic play. Children often role-play as a way of exploring and making sense of the world
  • Construction/creative play—whittling, building tunnels and bridges, painting, drawing, dancing, singing, drumming, nature journaling, nature collage, weaving, sculpting, and clay work
  • Discovery play— experimenting with natural resources, exploring shadows and light, watching insect and animal behaviour, as a way to think about the world and learn how it works
  • Death play—observing dead animals decomposing over time, role-playing death/dying and learning about life cycles to explore death, dying or grief.

The project uncovered a vast number of key scientific concepts and terms explored through nature play. These were organized under the key areas of earth, ecologies, relations, materials, bodies, time and weathering.

This is not a prescriptive list, nor are these the only scientific concepts nature play enables. Rather, they are starting points to activate discussion and help children learn. When STEM concepts are inspired by the children’s interests, curiosities and questions, learning is more powerful, engaging and enduring.

Session 8

5th November 2021

This week we are celebrating the festival of Diwali in the woods by making mandalas and rangoli patterns.

4th class nature mandalas

Finding north

Mandala – A mandala is a geometric design meant to symbolize the universe and our connection to it. It is an art form that is found in many cultures around the world. The word mandala is rooted in Sanskrit, and means “circular”. You can find mandalas in flowers, tree rings, eyes, snowflakes, spiderwebs, sea shells, seeds, fruits and more.

Rangoli – a Sanskrit word meaning creative expression through color, is the art of drawing beautiful patterns on the floor, typically using colored powder to serve as a welcoming gesture to the gods and bring good luck.

Process and product

In the woods, we gathered our resources and then used the colour and texture of the fallen seeds, sticks, leaves, needles and feathers to create a mandala.

Observing, noticing, discovering, finding, gathering, carrying and sorting our resources for the mandala is as important as creating it. The conversations and questions and learning that happens through the process is much more beneficial than the product at the end. Part of our process is also to let go of the product and just keep the memory and learning with you. And perhaps a photo!

leaf man

2nd class mandalas

Child led learning through freely chosen play

And amidst all of this, an essential part of forest school is continuing – that of child led learning through freely chosen play. The richness of this develops each week as the children use their imagination, their bodies, their communication and collaboration skills to have fun together in a natural environment; each child getting what they need to feel good and learn from and with each other and nature.

2nd class learning through play and the natural world

Learning why leaving pumpkins outdoors isn’t good for hedgehogs

Child led learning and creativity in 4th class

making nettle cordage

Session 7

22nd October 2021

????? Happy Halloween! ?????

The children in second and fourth classes made a huge effort to dress up in some rather scary and spine chilling outfits for our Halloween themed Forest Friday. The focus of this session was to learn and partake in some new Halloween themed games and activities, not forgetting to swap spooky stories from long ago, while also inventing their very own twisted tales that would make your bones rattle and roll.

The children enjoyed bonfire jumping (unlit); making land art of skeletons using sticks; hunting for spooky tree faces; playing zombie tag and making a giant spiders web from string. Thank you to our wonderful PTA for organising the pumpkin patch. The children were delighted to get their very own pumpkin to take home and make pumpkin soup from the flesh, toast pumpkin seeds to nibble on & carve a jack- o’- lantern to display in their spooky homes just in time for Halloween night! Wishing you all a safe and fun filled Hallow’s Eve from the Forest schools zombie squad.

?? Spider’s Web??

This was done by first making a giant spider’s web by weaving cord through trees horizontally and vertically. Next, the children decided whether children to play individually or in teams, and elect a rope buzzer, who makes a buzzing sound signalling the loss of one of the players’ three lives whenever they touch the rope. They took turns to make it through the web without touching it with any part of their bodies If players touched the web, it buzzed and they lost a life and were required to exit and join the end of the line to wait for another go. Once a player made it through the web, the challenge got harder. The first time you go through, you can use all your limbs to help you but second time around, you can use only three parts of your body to help you. Oh, what tangled webs we wove!

The Ghost of The Bloody Finger ?

In a small town not far from here, there was an old forest. No one ever went near it because everyone said that it was haunted.

One day, a bunch of local people were sitting in a coffee shop, chatting about bravery.

One man in particular was bragging loudly. “I’m not afraid of anything!” he boasted.

“Oh yeah?” asked his buddy. “I’ll bet that you aren’t brave enough to spend a night alone in that old forest!” The boaster didn’t want to admit that he was afraid, so he agreed to sleep in the forest that very night.

At dusk, he arrived at the forest alone. He walked past the old oak tree, through the ash grove, under the hazel trees and into a clearing surrounded by holly.  He checked all around him and found nothing unusual. He set up his tent, spread out his sleeping bag, and tried to sleep.

He had just dozed off when he heard a faint noise from somewhere far away. He strained to hear what it was. It sounded like someone moaning these words: 

“I am the ghost of the bloody finger! I am in the forest!”

The man told himself that he was just imagining things. It must be the wind, he thought.

But then he heard, a bit louder, 

“I am the ghost of the bloody finger! I am at old oak tree!”

“My imagination is running wild!” thought the man. “I am just going to go to sleep, and soon it will be morning.”

But then he heard, even louder, 

“I am the ghost of the bloody finger! I am at the ash grove!”

The man dove inside his sleeping bag, but he could still hear the ghost coming closer.

“I am the ghost of the bloody finger! I am under the hazel trees!”

The man hid his head under his pillow, but he could hear the ghost coming even closer.

“I am the ghost of the bloody finger! I am at the clearing of the holly trees.

The man was shaking with terror. The tent flap started to open.

“I am the ghost of the bloody finger! I am in the tent!”

The ghost paused in the tent door lit up by moonlight. 

“I am the ghost of the bloody finger!” (pause) 

“Do you have a plaster?”

Bonfire leaping
pumpkin bowling
Spider’s Web game

Chuffed with our pumpkins!

We caught a fly!
flying zombie
Pumpkin Jesters
bonfire hurdles
How heavy are these?
spooky story telling
Pumpkin stomp, Pumpkin hug
Ooh, will she make it?
Pumpking hunt
Pumpkin headdress
pumpkin extravaganza
Happy Halloween everyone!

Fourth Class

Good job it’s not lit – yikes!
Flying Zombie jump!
Looking for spooky tree faces
Who is going to get caught?
Spider web game
Listening for spooky forest sounds
Taking refuge from the spookiness!
Stoat game
Tree faces
Halloween Theatrics!

Forest School – Autumn 2021

Sessions 5 & 6

October 8th & 15th 2021

The Forest Friday Crew had so much fun searching for some beautiful oak trees on their way to their base camps. Many spherical shaped marble oak galls were found on the ground underneath or near the oak trees. Everyone had fun collecting sticks, pine needles and feathers to use as their calligraphy quills, pens and paintbrushes. The oak galls were crushed using a pestle and mortar until all the black ink came out. The mixture along with some iron sulfate powder and water was placed in jars and left to settle for a week. The children were amazed looking at some beautiful calligraphy from the Book of Kells. The Book of Kells is an ancient manuscript – a book written out by hand long before printing was inventing. It contains the words of the four Gospels of the Bible and is decorated with many beautiful pictures called illumination. It was created by Celtic monks about 800 AD or slightly earlier. The illustrations depict figures of humans, animals, mythical beasts and celtic knots. The monks liked to decorate the initial letters of certain names. Today the manuscript is on display at the library of Trinity College Dublin. Everyone had fun practicing how to draw and write like the monks did when they were creating these outstantding manuscripts. Take a look at all the fun we had!

What are oak galls?

Oak Galls are the result of wasps! Galls form after cynipid wasps deposit their eggs on the tissue of an oak tree. The trees reaction to this creates a gall that serves as a micro environment for the wasp’s offspring and provides food and shelter for the new wasps. When the gall wasps reach adulthood, they chew their way out of the gall. These wasps are tiny and harmless. They are smaller than a housefly! The oak galls are full of tannins that are the essential ingredient to making Oak Gall Ink. We only chose galls with tiny holes in them to make our ink. The holes indicated to us that the gall wasps had flown away and no longer needed their gall homes.

Oak Marble Gall
Second Class Photos
My salad for lunch!
Inside of a black hole – Space theme
Using pine needles as paintbrushes
Crushing oak galls using a pestle and mortar to make ink
Oak gall hunting
making ink to draw with
Stir and mix!
oak gall and alder berry foraging expedition
Check out my sharp stick. We used potato peelers as sharpeners to whittle down the sticks to form a pointed tip.
Using a stick as a wooden spoon
Wonderful BOOK OF KELLS inspired drawings
Swirls and spirals
Natural blow dry – run like the wind!
Calligraphy using oak and berry inks
gathering like the monks to decorate our manuscripts using calligraphy
Using a feather as a writing tool to do calligraphy
inkly face
Mr. High Five
Jackson Pollack style spatter art using my own ink!
Our duilleoga (leaves) shop is open for business
blackberry ink making time
A brownie burrito!
Our gallery!
pine cone beauty salon
A funky postage stamp (oak ink)
Making our own writing tools using sticks and potato peelers
fox & rabbit
Mr Potato head boxing match (oak ink produced ourselves)

Fourth Class

Dancing silhouettes!
Time for some gorse tea!
Enjoying calligraphy in the forest
Fabulous BOOK OF KELLS inspired decorative letters
Gathering our oak galls and writing tools found in Killiney Hill.
Nature’s fruit bowl!
making the ink!
hide and go seek!

Forest School – Autumn 2021

Session 4

October 1st 2021

We celebrated the beginning of October by hunting for seeds and berries!

Seed Dispersal (spreading/scattering)

Plants can’t move as easily as we do. Dispersal of seeds is when seeds are moved to different places so the plant can grow and survive. Plants disperse their seeds in lots of different ways. Second & Fourth Classes had fantastic fun collecting, sorting and examining various seeds and berries. They also enjoyed acting like seeds and painted beautifully illustrated seed stories – all while enjoying some forest made tea!

Types of seed dispersal we found

Flying: Some seeds are transported by the wind and are shaped to float, glide or spin through the air.

Exploding: Some seed pods are designed to explode and throw the seeds a good distance from the parent plant.

Clinging: Many plants also use animals to carry their seeds. This type of seed may have handy hooks which attach to an animal’s fur.

Being eaten: Alternatively, the plants might make tasty fruit to enclose the seeds, which attract animals to eat them.

Second Class Photos

Harvesting some fresh green wood sorrel for our morning cup of tea!
Sandwich for an ivy leaf!
A leaf skeleton!
Nature’s plaster (ribwort plantain)
A very hands on approach to seed dispersal
helicopter seeds
Playing with ribwort (Lus na Saighdúir)
A lovely hazelnut
Bed, pillow & spaghetti for Mr. Mayor!
A tiny moth larvae nestled in the autumn leaves!
Hog weed seeds in the sunshine
Our stunningly beautiful moth larvae – What a find!
Getting a closer look at the moth larvae
Alder fruit containing seeds
Giant prickly fruit from the horse chestnut tree
Recording our seed stories
Seed story
The amazing life of a seed!

Fourth Class Photos

Wood Avens seeds
Check out my see moustache!
Vetch seeds exploding
Seed dispersal mime!
drawing our seed stories
I`m a helicopter seed!
silk button galls
October leaf explosion!
Finding berries to make paint
nettle seeds
A new route to base camp!
Making berry paint
Soring our seeds
Enjoying our lunch in this secluded spot!
Using mud to insulate our hut!
Forest games!
A blissful sit spot!

Forest School – Autumn 2021

Session 3

24th September 2021

This weeks Forest Friday was all about extending our knowledge and experimenting with cordage and string. We had so much fun making all sorts of wonderful and useful creations from string and rope.

Different children explored how long they could make some string and if they could make some string into rope?  Some tried to use other parts of nature to make string and noticed how it is different to the reeds.

We had lots of creative uses for the string: a mini playground with swings, a handbag strap, jewellery, a sword, bows and arrows, a lead for a pine dog, dog toys, ladders, hair extensions, a mini tree house for the fairies, a raft and so much more. Just some string and lots of creativity and imagination from the children.

Second Class Photos

A sword
A swing
A seesaw
A slingshot
A ladder
A hammer
A face mask for Piney Dog
A slingshot
A burdock smiley face emoji!
Check out my hair extension
Happy hair styling
Opening a gift shop for visitors
Building a fairy house
Making a hide to camouflage ourselves and watch the wildlife
Robin Hood movie extras! Three archers proudly showing their bows and arrows.

Fourth Class Photos

Busy making rope
Getting good at this rope making lark
We gathered sticks to make a raft for the forest fairies. We made rope and used it to hold the sticks together.
Strap for my handbag
Rope for our playground swing – getting thicker!
busy twisting and turning the rushes
A mini tree house for the fairies or a birdhouse! We are proud of our creation – what a team!
Testing the strength of our rope
Playing a game of fox and rabbit
beautiful streams of sunlight at our base camp
We found some snail eggs
Just one more piece of rope and we`ll have a fabulous swing for our fairies, nymphs and gnomes to enjoy
concentrating making rope

Forest School – Autumn 2021

Session 2

17th September 2021

Our second & fourth class students had a wonderful time in the forest this week. The refreshing rainfall made for some fun & muddy adventures. The children foraged for various seeds, nuts and berries, as they squelched their way to their fabulous new base camps. Making Cordage was our main activity today – what a useful skill it is to learn!

Second Class Photos

It’s bendy!

Combining several cords to make rope

My Stick Man

Story/discussion – what do we use string and ropes for?

On its own, a stray thread cannot accomplish much. But when several fibers are twisted into yarn, and yarn into strands, and strands into string or rope, a once feeble thing becomes both strong and flexible—a hybrid material of limitless possibility. A string can cut, choke, and trip; it can also link, bandage, and reel. String makes it possible to sew, to shoot an arrow, to strum a chord. It’s difficult to think of an aspect of human culture that is not laced through with some form of string or rope; it has helped us develop shelter, clothing, agriculture, weaponry, art, mathematics, and oral hygiene.

Wearing a freshly made crown!

It’s getting longer…….

Limbo and laughter with our flexible rushes

Tying a lead onto a pine dog

Mud jumping

Puddle splashing

Getting stuck in!

‘Pineapple ‘scented pith from the inside of the rushes

Splitting the rushes with our thumb nails.

check out my ‘au natural’ choker chain!

Fourth Class Photos

Lunch under our tarp

Reconnecting with ‘The Water Tree’

Creating rope
The spongy texture inside the rushes feels so soft.
A mindful few moment with our cordage at our sit spots.
Cordage concentration
Solving problems with the rope we made
Getting to grips with the technique
Expanding our boundaries

Without string, our ancestors could not have domesticated horses and cattle or efficiently plowed the earth to grow crops. If not for rope, the great stone monuments of the world—Stonehenge, the Pyramids at Giza, the moai of Easter Island—would still be lying flat. In a fiberless world, the age of naval exploration would never have happened; early light bulbs would have lacked suitable filaments; the pendulum would never have inspired advances in physics and timekeeping; and there would be no Golden Gate Bridge, no tennis shoes, no Beethoven’s fifth symphony.

The spongy inside of the rushes
Playing the ‘bat and moth’ game

Forest School – Autumn 2021

Session 1

10th September 2021

We are delighted to be back in the forest with the children from 2nd and 4th class this term. Both these groups have had lots of time already in the forest building connections with their natural world and learning the skills of using what’s around them to play with. Before any input from adults the children were happily playing x’s and o’s with sticks and exploring the area with all their senses.

playing noughts and crosses

We played some games and named lots of places on the way to base camp.

“Just like adults, children need names to refer to places that matter to them. Sometimes they use adult toponyms but there are many reasons why they may need, or choose, to invent their own.

  1. Firstly, they may simply not know the adult name for a particular place.
  2. Secondly, however, different sorts of place interest children than adults, and there may well be no adult names for some of these places. Research by geographers like Roger Hart, Harry Heft and Nicola Rosshas demonstrated that children’s spaces are often minutely differentiated–Ross’s study of children’s journeys to school shows that apparently insignificant features like gaps in hedges, slopes and particular trees and bushes can be invested with meaning for children (Ross, 2007).
  3. Thirdly, children’s toponyms sometimes play a defensive role, serving to keep adults out of children-only spaces of the kind that David Sobel has explored in his illuminating study of dens, forts and special places (Sobel, 2002). At the same time, invented toponyms can facilitate play and strengthen friendship group identity through creating a shared frame of reference. “

4th class naming places in their base camps

The log layer/lair

2nd class naming places

Ivy snap

Forest School – Spring 2021

Session 9

17th & 18th June 2021

It seems like only yesterday that we were starting out on our first session of Forest School at the beginning of the summer term. It was hard to believe that this was our last session for the year. This week’s session was an opportunity for each of the three groups, Junior Infants, First Class and Fourth Class to self-direct their own outdoor learning, which is a powerful and very beneficial learning experience for children. The previous week each group reflected on all the learning opportunities that had taken place over the course of their time in forest school this term and they each chose an element that they would like to expand on for the final session. We had some extremely interesting and varied results. We would like to thank everyone who took part in forest school this year for their incredible enthusiasm and we look forward more learning and fun in the forest next year!

Junior Infants

First Class

Fourth Class

Forest School – Spring 2021

Session 8

10th & 11th June 2021

Junior Infants

Theme: Elder Tree/Elder Flower

It was a hot and sunny day today and we all enjoyed some time outdoors in the beautiful sunshine and also some time in the cooling shade of the forest! This week we learnt all about the Elder tree and it’s flower. We listened and responded to an environmental poem called ‘Have a Ball’. The children passed a stone around as the poem was being read aloud and afterwards we discussed different ways of keeping nature safe and happy and we explored the concept of litter picking.

We had some free play, we played a forest school version of Duck, Duck, Goose. We even sang some forest school songs! Our focus for the learning this week was a choice of either creating a Small World Village in the Forest or to make Faces of the Forest using what we have learnt about the different types of woodland flowers as our inspiration.

Creating homes for our village

First Class

Theme: Leaf Outline Drawing

Our focus for the learning this week was on creating leaf outline drawings using charcoal. In pairs we explored different shaped leaves that we found both within our base camp and on the journey up to base camp. When we found interesting shapes that we wanted to capture, we used charcoal to draw around the outline of the leaves and we used our fingers to smudge the charcoal to create as much detail as we could. It was tricky as the leaves kept moving! We practiced our team work skills by working together to complete the activity – one child held the leaves while the other drew the outline. Then we swapped roles! Some drawings were light and some were darker and we all enjoyed getting our hands dirty with the charcoal!

Fourth Class

Theme: Friendship Weaving

In our opening circle this week we discussed as group what we would like to do for our last week of forest school. We talked about planning and organisation and thought about what resources we might need to bring with us to the session. We then played a new forest school game called Cuckoo Bee. Our focus for the learning this week was on weaving bracelets in pairs. Before beginning we explored what makes a good friendship and any hopes or wishes for a friendship that we would like to weave into the bracelet. Each person then chose two colours of wool the length from shoulder to fingertip that will be woven together with their partners. We tied the four wool lengths together we placed them over a tree branch and tied four weights onto the bottom of each string. Each pair stood facing opposite each other, with two strings of different colours in each hand. We took the string in our left hand and let it swing across and swapped it with the string in our partner’s left hand. Then we did the same with the strings in our right hands and we repeated this: left, right, left, right… allowing the rhythm to build, the strings to swing from one person to the next, sometimes getting faster, or slowing down, stopping completely to untangle and laughing when things went awry! When we had a bracelet long enough for both of our wrists we cut the woven cord in half and tied it onto each other’s wrists.

Forest School – Spring 2021

Session 7

27th & 28th May 2021

Junior Infants

Theme: Buttercup

We began our forest adventures this week by collecting buttercups on the journey up to base camp. At base camp we listened and responded to a beautiful poem called: ‘Buttercup’ by RJ Smith.

We then held buttercups under each other’s chins to see if they would ‘turn the palest yellow!’ We had a choice of learning activity as our focus this week. For Science we gathered one of each of the flowers we’ve learned about so far, we tried the science experiments we’ve looked at previously and compared the results from different flowers. For art we created buttercup land art and for PE we created a ‘Forest Theme Park’, full of nature fun!

Buttercup Land?

First Class

Theme: May flowers & Hapa Zome

This week on our way up to our base camp we had a look at the flowers and leaves that we know. We found new flowers and leaves that are blooming this week and we collected some flowers to use for our focus activity. At base camp we made Hawthorn tea and listened to a lovely story about the Hawthorn tree called: ‘May Bush Wishes’. Our focus for the learning this week was on using the Japanese technique of Hapa Zome to print flowers, leaves and colour onto wishing rags. Hapa zome is the Japanese art of bashing the natural pigment out of leaves and flowers on to fabric to create prints. The name translates from Japanese as ‘Leaf Dye’. After spending time creating our wishing rags and writing our wishes on them, we then gathered together in a circle and shared our wishes with the fairies in the forest.

The drip drop tree

Fourth Class

Theme: Hapa Zome Colour Exploration

It was another wet morning in the forest for fourth class! On our journey up to base camp we collected flowers and leaves to use for this week’s focus activity. As we stopped along the route up to base camp we had a look at the May flowers in bloom. At basecamp we made delicious hawthorn flower tea. Our focus for the learning this week was using Hapa Zome and colour exploration to create May bush (Hawthorn) wish rags. We used the Japanese technique which we had learnt in previous weeks and extended the learning to incorporate what we learnt last week using paint in the rain. We used both natural dyes and colour from the paint to create different patterns on the fabric. We had so much fun creating beautiful colours and just as much fun working together as a team to put up the tarp to keep our works of art dry!

In the jungle …

Forest School – Spring 2021

Session 6

20th & 21st May 2021

Junior Infants

Unfortunately, due to very bad weather the children in Junior Infants were not able to go to Killiney Hill. However, they didn’t let that stop them from enjoying Forest School! Sallyglen which is located right beside the school is a wonderful green space with plenty of trees and hedgerows for the children to explore!

First Class

Theme: Rainy Flowers

It was a wet and wild day in Forest School today. When the children arrived the relaxed with the flowers and examined what was different today, what had changed since last week. On the journey up to base camp we collected flowers for our activity. We tried to gather as many different types of flowers on their stalks and their leaves as we could find. We looked to see if there were any new flowers in bloom this week, if any flowers had started to lose their petals or if we could see any seeds. At base camp we played forest school games, had some much anticipated free play and we listened to a wonderful story called: ‘The Rainbow Story’:

Once upon a time the colours of the world started to quarrel: all claimed that they were the best, the most important, the most useful, the favourite.

Green said: “Clearly I am the most important. I am the sign of life and of hope. I was chosen for grass, leaves, trees–without me, all animals would die. Look out over the countryside and you will see that I am in the majority.”

Blue interrupted: “You only think about the Earth, but consider the sky and sea. It is the water that is the basis of life and drawn up by the clouds from the deep sea. The sky gives space and peace and serenity. Without my peace, you would all be nothing.”

Yellow chuckled. “You are all so serious. I bring laughter, gaiety, and warmth to the world. The sun is yellow, the moon is yellow and the stars are yellow. Every time you look at a sunflower, the whole world starts to smile. Without me, there would be no fun.”

Orange started next to lose her temper. “I am the colour of health and strength. I may be scarce but I am precious for I serve the needs of human life. I carry the most important vitamins. Think of carrots, pumpkins, oranges, mangos, and pawpaws. I don’t hang around all the time, but when I fill the sky at sunrise or sunset, my beauty is so striking that no one gives another thought to any of you.”

Red could stand it no longer. He shouted out: “I am the ruler of all of you. I am blood! Life’s blood. I am the colour of danger and of bravery. I am willing to fight for a cause. I bring fire to the blood! I am the colour of passion and of love, the red rose, the poppy and the poinsettia. Without me, the earth would be as empty as the moon!”

Purple rose up to his full height. He was very tall and spoke with great pomp: “I am the colour of royalty and power. Kings, chiefs, and bishops have always chosen me for I am a sign of authority and wisdom. People do not question me. They obey.”

Finally, Indigo spoke, much more quietly than all the others but with just as much determination: “think of me. I am the colour of silence. You hardly notice me, but without me, you all become superficial. I represent thought and reflection, twilight and deep water. You need me for balance and contrast, for prayer and inner peace.”

And so all the colours went on boasting and quarrelling, each convinced of their own superiority. Soon, their quarrelling became louder and louder. Suddenly there was a startling flash of bright lightening! Thunder rolled and boomed! Rain started to pour down relentlessly. The colours crouched down in fear drawing close to one another for comfort.

In the midst of the clamour, Rain began to speak: “You foolish colours, fighting amongst yourselves, each trying to dominate the rest. Don’t you know you were each made for a special purpose, unique and different? Join hands with one another and come to me.”

Doing as they were told, the colours united and joined hands. The rain continued: “From now on, when it rains, each of you will stretch across the sky in a great bow of colours as a reminder that you can all live in peace. The rainbow is a sign of hope for tomorrow.”

And so, whenever a good rain washes the world and a rainbow appears in the sky, let us remember to appreciate one another.

Our focus for learning this week was on creating 3D flowers! We each chose a flower that we wanted to create with its stalk still attached and it’s leaves. We then made a large version of our flower. First we chose a stick for the stalk and then we used clay and other materials to make our flower and leaves. The result was very effective and we really enjoyed the challenge of keeping them upright!

Fourth Class

Theme: Weather Exploration and Rain Art

It was a cool, fresh and wet morning in the forest this morning for fourth class! In our opening circle we looked at what was different today and what we would need to help keep us safe and happy in this kind of weather. We played bat and moth, magic stick and the laughing stick game. Which kept us all moving, cooperating… and laughing! On the journey up to base camp we continued to work on our navigation skills using our compasses to give us directions. We used our mental maths skills to calculate how many steps we would take in each direction and as we stopped at different points along the way we took some time to really notice the changes in the forest this week. When we arrived at base camp, we played some more Forest School games such as: eagle eye, ninja, owls and crows, beetle tag, palm tag, animal forms, look up look down and run rabbit run. Our focus for the learning this week was weather painting! Each group used large sheets of paper, water colours and brushes made from materials found in the forest to make beautiful rain paintings. We worked in pairs and found the most sheltered place in our base camp. We then placed each colour of paint with a brush onto the paper in any shape or lines we wanted. We had to be careful not to let our paint mix and then we watched in awe as the rain mixed the paint colours for us!

Forest School – Spring 2021

Session 5

13th & 14th May 2021

Junior Infants

Theme: The Bluebell

Another glorious day for Junior Infants in forest school this week! In our opening circle we practiced our listening skills by playing a game of pass the rhythm where we had to use different parts of our body to make a rhythm that everyone copied. On our journey up to base camp we collected flowers, stems and leaves. Our focus for the learning this week was on investigating the beautiful bluebells that are carpeting the forest at this time of year and furthering our exploration of flowers by experimenting with all the different kinds of flowers that we found along the way. We stopped en route at a patch of bluebells. We listened to them and tried to hear them ring. Then we observed and examined the bluebells. We looked at the different shapes, colours and textures that we could see. We counted how many bells there were on the flowers and we looked into the centre of the bells to see what we could see.  When we arrived at basecamp we listened to a lovely poem called ‘Bluebell Time’ and we learnt that a ‘brownie’ was the name used in Scottish Folklore for a household spirit that was said to come out at night while the owners of the house were asleep and did various chores! Then we performed our flower experiments. We examined what happens if we put different parts of the flowers in water, what happens if we rubbed the flower and leaves onto paper and we tried to see what leaf rubbing patterns we could make.

Junior infant drawings back in the classroom after forest school

First Class

Theme: Flowers of May – Bluebells

Our very artistic first class had a wonderful day of observational drawing in the forest this week. On the way up to base camp we picked flowers and their leaves. Our focus for the learning this week was on playing a game of flower mix and match! We picked as many different types of flower and their matching leaves as we could find. First we laid out all the flowers with their leaves beside them. Everyone took a good look and had to remember the pairs. Then we closed our eyes and the flowers and leaves were all mixed up and then we took turns making a match. The children LOVED playing this game and afterwards we did some beautiful observational drawing of flowers. We were all amazed at the level of detail the children used in their drawings. The children made two drawings of each flower, one of the flower head and one of the leaves. They then laid out all the drawings on the ground and we matched the leaves and flower drawings.

Forest school land art – can you see our circle and the trees?

Fourth Class

Theme: Exploring another direction and working scientifically – observational drawing

Fourth class are really enjoying playing forest school games during their time this term at forest school, so in our opening circle this week we played a game of bat and moth and magic stick (where we needed to balance a long stink on our index finger and then try to lower it to the ground without it falling off!) On our way up to base camp we practiced our maths skills and we challenged each other with some tricky mental maths sums involving multiplication and addition. We also continued to practice using our compass and at each stopping point we took the time to use our senses and really notice all the wonderful nature surrounding us. When we arrived at base camp we played some more games. Some of our favourite games are: eagle eye, ninja, owls and crows, beetle tag, palm tag, animal forms, look up look down and run rabbit run. Then it was time for our explorers to begin their expedition to another area outside of base camp! We loaded up our explorers bags and the Dendrologists, Zoologists, Meteorologists and Wild Teas groups headed off! When we had finished exploring the groups returned to base camp and presented their findings to the rest of the group and enjoyed tasting the tea made by the Wild Teas group.

Dendrologists hard at work

Forest School – Spring 2021

Session 4

6th & 7th May 2021

Junior Infants

Theme: The Dandelion

Another beautiful sunny day in the forest for Junior Infants this week.  We practiced our mapping skills and used our senses on the journey up to base camp. We collected dandelions and made delicious dandelion tea and if we were lucky enough to find a dandelion with a seed head we blew the seeds away and made wishes! We are getting really good at singing our dandelion song: ‘O Dandelion’ by Marlys Swinger. Free play today was packed with balancing, climbing, dragging large tree branches and rolling large logs. It was wonderful to see real life problem solving in action and to watch the children work together as a team to achieve their goals! We played forest school games such as: ‘In and Out the Dusty Dandelions (Bluebells)’, ‘Forest School Kim’s Game’, ‘Owls and Crows’ and ‘You’re only safe if…’. While we had our lunch we listened to a lovely story called: ‘The Tiny Seed’ by Eric Carle. Our focus for the learning this week was on working as scientists, asking questions such as: Does a dandelion stem curl in hot water, cold water or lukewarm water? Does the dandelion curl uncurl when it dries? Do other wild flowers curl in the same way? When we blow on dandelion seeds, where do they go? Where might the dandelions grow? Where do most dandelions in the forest grow? What do they need to grow? Our focus activity was on using natural materials found in the forest to create Dandelion Land Art. In our closing circle we each spoke about what we were grateful for in forest school today which is a lovely way for the children to acknowledge the appreciation they have for the time they get to spend in the forest.

First Class

Theme: Flowers of May

After our walk up from school first class relaxed with the flowers and shared stories about flower experiences they had had since last week and they each made a dandelion wish.  We then celebrated the month of May by making a May Crown with daisy chains or cleavers with dandelions and daisy flowers intertwined. On our journey up to base camp this week we looked at flowers that are edible and non-edible. Some examples are: ‘lords and ladies’ – non-edible; ‘wood sorrel’ – edible; ‘bluebell’ – non-edible. Then with our May crowns on we visited a May bush (Hawthorn Tree) and we looked at whether it has leaves? We even had a taste of the leaves! Has it buds? Has it flowers? Has it thorns? When we arrived at base camp we played a game of ‘Whoopsie Daisy’. As we ate lunch we listened to a beautiful story about the hawthorn tree called: ‘May Fairies’

“Come out and dance,” called the Snow Fairies to the May Fairies.

The May Fairies peeped out of their homes in the hawthorn trees and shivered.

“No, thank you,” they said. “It is too cold out there. Besides, we are busy making our buds.”

They made tiny red-tipped buds and set them on the branches of the trees, two at the foot of each thorn. Then they crept down into their warm homes again to wait for the spring.

With the spring came the merry Sunbeams.

“Come out and dance,” they called.

“Oh! are you there?” called back the May Fairies. “Then we must open our buds, so we have no time to dance.”

They worked hard, blowing out the buds with their dainty breath, till at last the leaves opened and the trees were dressed in fluttering green.

The Spring Fairies came tripping past, waving tasselled catkins in their hands.

“Come out and dance,” they called.

“We have no time. We must make our flower-buds,” replied the May Fairies.

They made their wee round flower-buds and set them on the trees, and blew into them and puffed them out till they looked like tiny snowballs. Harder and harder they blew, until at last the flowers flew open. Then the trees looked as if showers of white stars had fallen on them from the sky in snow-time. How lovely they were! The little flies came from far and near to feast, buzzing out their thankfulness to the fairies for the sweet honey.

The Summer Fairies came with roses and forget-me-nots. “Come out and dance,” they called.

“We have no time,” called back the May Fairies. “We have to make our berries.”

They gently loosened the white petals of the flowers and set them floating on the wind. Then they made the little green seed-balls into berries, blowing them big and round so that the seeds should have room to grow, and polishing the outsides till they turned red and glowed like garnets in the sunshine. What a feast the birds had!

When the fairies had finished it was autumn.

“Come and dance,” called the Leaf Fairies as they fluttered past in their brown and crimson robes.

“We are coming,” called back the May Fairies, “for now our work is done.” They flew down from their tree-homes, free at last to dance through all the golden autumn days.

For our Sit Spot this week we lay on the ground. Stretched out our arms and legs opening our bodies to daylight and we had a flower’s view of the world.

May crown

Fourth Class

Theme: Exploring another direction and working as scientists

It was a beautiful fresh morning this week for fourth class. In our opening circle this week we decided which direction we were going to take today. We worked on our map making skills as we journeyed up to base camp.  We took it in turns to lead each other up to the base camp and each leader had to stop at a certain point that they found interesting. They then started a sentence with: ‘I see/hear/smell/notice….’ We also continued to use our wonderful explorers’ bags to collect things we found interesting along the way. When we arrived at base camp, after some free play we took part in a few forest school games such as: eagle eye, ninja, magic stick, owls and crows, beetle tag, palm tag, animal forms, look up look down and run rabbit run.  Our focus for the learning this week was on working scientifically and observational drawing.  Each group then took on another different expert role this week and we all headed off to explore a new uncharted area of our base camp!  Each group had to complete the following tasks:

  1. Observational drawing – drawing the details, drawing to communicate information and labelling drawings.
  2. Communication – feedback to the group what they observed.
  3. Questioning – ask and answer questions about what has been observed, using who, what, when, where, how and ‘I wonder…’ as prompts.

In addition to all the fascinating and exciting exploratory work taking place in the forest this week, there were also a lot of scientific skills being developed too!

  • Questioning – I wonder…” game
  • Observing – drawing in detail, labelling drawings
  • Predicting – Spot the difference of three habitats.  What will the place be like when we come back next week, what will be the same, what will be different. 
  • Investigating – come up with their own investigation.
  • Experimenting 
  • Estimating – How old is the tree?
  • Measuring – how tall is the tree?  
  • Analysing
  • Recording – making swatches
  • Communicating – answering questions, giving a presentation
Sit spot to the east

Forest School – Spring 2021

Session 3

29th & 30th April 2021

Junior Infants

Theme: The Dandelion

Another glorious day in the forest for Junior Infants this week! We revisited map making on the journey up to base camp taking a few steps and then asking what do we see/hear/notice, naming significant/interesting markers on the route and using our senses. We also collected some dandelions to use in dandelion tea and if they found any with the white seed head they had to blow away the seeds, counting the puff’s (Playing Clocks) or making a wish. They also collected other loose treasures from nature to use in this week’s land art activity! When they arrived at base camp they sang the song: ‘O Dandelion’ by Marlys Swinger.

This week we learnt a new Forest School game called ‘In and Out of the Dusty Dandelions’ and we played Forest School Kim’s game again to gather some more materials. Next they listened to a lovely story called: ‘Dandelion’:

Long, long ago, the flowers had an argument about which of them was the most special, the most loved by the humans and by the fairies. The argument lasted for weeks, with each flower claiming to be the most special and the most loved. Finally, all of the flowers agreed to let the Flower Fairies decide. The Flower Fairies decided to test each flower by asking them one question.  Where would you most like to live? The first flower the Fairies talked to was the Rose. 
“Where would you most like to live?” they asked it.
“I would like to climb the castle wall.” said the Rose. “And then kings and queens and nobles would pass by every day and exclaim over my beauty, my scent and my delicate nature.”
Next the Fairies came to a tulip, standing tall and proud. “Where would you most like to live?” they asked the Tulip. 
“Oh, I want to live in a public garden” said the Tulip. “Where everyday people would come and admire my wonderful colours and see how straight and tall I stand.”
They walked until she came to a forest. There they found some Violets. They asked them “Where would you most like to live, little Violets?” “Oh” said the violets quietly “We like it here hidden in the woods where no one can see us and where the trees keep the sun from dulling our beautiful colour.” The fairies thanked the Violets and walked on looking for more flowers to talk to.

The little Fairy came to a field with bright fluffy yellow flowers on long thin stalks. The leaves were long and jagged and very close to the ground. But the flowers….oh how happy and cheerful they looked in the field!
“Little one” said the Flower Fairy “What are you called and where would you like to live?”

“I am a dandelion” said the little flower.  “I’d like to live where ever there are children. I want to live beside the road, and in the meadows, and push up between the sidewalks in the cities, and make everyone feel happier when they see my bright colours.” The Dandelion chattered on happily saying “I want to be the first flower that the children pick in the spring and take to their mothers. And if a child makes a wish and blows my seeds, I could carry that wish on the wind.”

The Flower Fairies smiled brightly and said “Little Dandelion, you are a very special flower and you shall have your wish! You will blossom everywhere from spring till Autumn, and be known as the children’s flower.” 
And this is why the dandelion comes so early and pushes her head up everywhere with such strength and determination. And why she is so loved by children throughout her long life.

Our focus activity for this week was on creating dandelion land art. We looked closely at the dandelion – it’s flower, stalk and leaves. We named all the different parts of the plant and we looked at all the different colours and textures. Then, we used the natural objects that we had collected – sticks, leaves, petals, plants, stones, flowers, moss etc. to create large land art pictures of dandelions. After that we split the stem of some dandelions length ways and dropped them into a dish of cold water to make dandelion curls! We had some truly amazing enquiry based learning happening as the children asked all sorts of really interesting questions such as:

What happens if the whole dandelion gets blown away from the wind?
What happens if you put hot water on the dandelions instead of cold?
What makes the dandelions curl when they’re in the water?
How do flowers even grow?
What happens if you put hot water on dandelion’s teeth (leaves)?
How does the seed turn into a flower?

Lunch time!

First Class

Theme: Daisies

After their long walk, when first class arrived they had some time to relax among the flowers. We listened to each other tell stories about dandelion experiences we had had since last week, we found out if any of us had found some dandelion seed heads and we introduced our new flower for this week – the daisy! We started off learning about the daisy by putting our fine motor skills to work making daisy chains. We also made daisy pictures and we collected daisies to make daisy tea. On our journey up to base camp we looked out to see if there were any other flowers we could see. When we arrived at base camp we played a game of ‘Run Rabbit Run’ and ‘Whoopsie Daisy’, where the children had to come up with different actions for dandelion flower/sun, dandelion seed head/moon, dandelion leaves and dandelion seeds and we practised falling safely on the ground when ‘Whoopsie Daisy’ was called out. After that we listened to a gorgeous story called: ‘Little Golden Heart’

A field-daisy opened her golden heart, and looked up at the blue sky. The warm sun shone on her, and the morning wind blew softly over her; but the daisy was afraid. “The world is so wide, and I am so small,” she sighed. “I cannot be of any use. Perhaps it would be better to fold my petals and hide my head.”

A bee flew down and settled on the daisy. “Dear little Golden Heart, how sweet you are!” she whispered. “How your white petals shine! Their tips are pink, as if the wind had kissed them. Will you give me honey and pollen to make bee bread for the babies in the hive?”  The daisy shook with joy. “Take all I have,” she said. “How glad I am to find that I am loved and needed!”

A blackbird hopped from the bushes, singing a glorious song that told about the beauty of the forest. He saw the daisy.  “Dear little Golden Heart, how sweet you are!” he sang, as he came down. “How your white petals shine! Their tips are pink, as if the wind had kissed them. Will you stay there and bloom so that my babies peeping from their nest may watch you all the day? They love to look at pretty, shining things.”

“Gladly, gladly!” cried the daisy. “How sweet it is to think that they should like to look at me!  A little girl came tripping over the short grass. When she saw the daisy she ran to it and knelt beside it. She touched it lovingly.

“Dear little Golden Heart, how sweet you are!” she said. “How your white petals shine! Their tips are pink, as if the wind had kissed them. Will you stay here and bloom till I may bring the baby out to see you?”  “Oh, how willingly!” whispered the daisy. Now her golden heart was full of joy.

“What a happy, happy world!” she thought. “Although it is so wide, there is a place for me. I can be useful and give pleasure. What could be better than that?”  Thankfully she spread her shining petals to the sun. When night came she folded their tips together, and hung her head, to rest till morning light again brought happiness

Our focus for the learning this week was on creating daisy land art and daisy pictures and for our sit spot this week we lay on the ground. Stretched out our arms and legs opened our body to daylight and had a ‘daisy eye’s’ view of the world!

Being a snail

Fourth Class:

Theme: Explorers – Scientific Questioning, Exploring another Direction and Working as Scientists

This week during fourth class’ opening circle we looked at which way was East, how we knew that it was East and we practiced using our compass. Then we played the ‘Robot Direction’ game. On the way up to base camp we practiced our oral language and questioning skills as each leader stopped and started a sentence with: ‘I wonder…’. We continued to use directions when giving instructions on which way to go and to use our explorer’s bag to collect things we found interesting along the way. When we arrived at base camp we marked out North/South/East/West and North West/ North East/ South West/South East and the children chose a different direction that they would like to explore this week. After some free play and forest school games, it was time for this week’s expedition to begin! Each pair of scientists took on a different role this week so this week’s botanists, dendrologists, zoologists and meteorologists loaded up their explorer’s bag’s with the tools that they would need for their new area of expertise and using the compass for directions we headed off to explore. Our focus for the learning this week was on using scientific questioning so this week each pair added in three observations or three ‘I wonder what would happen if….’ sentences about their subjects.

Sit spot with nature

Forest School – Spring 2021

Session 2

22nd & 23rd April 2021

Junior Infants

Theme: The Daisy

It was another gorgeous day in the forest for Junior Infants. We first played a game in our opening circle where they each had to say their name, say what woodland animal they are and do an action to go with that animal. They continued to work on their mapping skills on the journey up to base camp. Taking a few steps at a time and pointing out different things that they could see or hear or things that they noticed and they revisited the landmarks that they discovered and named in session 1. They also began foraging, collecting some daisies and other natural treasures along the way to use for today’s focus activity. When they arrived at base camp they listened and responded to a lovely poem called ‘The Daisy’.

After some free play they played a game of Forest School Kim’s Game to gather materials. They discussed how creatures in the forest might use these materials to build homes and listened to a wonderful story called ‘The Daisy Fairy’. Our Focus Activity for this week was on building homes for their ‘Blobsters’ that they made last week. They then listened to a reading of the second part of the story of Mama Africa/Mother Earth and had some very engaging discussions about how the forest is a home for so many creatures and that when Mama Africa/Mother Earth made creatures from clay, she filled the plains with nature’s treasures, which the creatures could then use to build homes.

Building a nest for my bird

First Class

Theme: Dandelion Fun

Another beautiful sunny day in the forest and the perfect day to learn and explore everything there is to know about Dandelions! On our Journey up to base camp we picked some dandelions.  If we were lucky and found a dandelion seed head (moon) we made a wish and blew the seeds (stars) away. We also looked to see what other flowers we could find. When we arrived at base camp we played some more forest games and then we listened to a lovely story called ‘The Legend of the Dandelion’. Our outdoor learning focus this week was on using the sap found inside the dandelion stems to write or draw secret little messages! We each chose a dandelion with a strong stem and lots of sap to ‘write’ straight on to a white piece of paper and we watched closely as the sap dried brown and allowed the picture or words to slowly become more visible. After this we made dandelion curls for many of the children this was the highlight! We removed the dandelion flower heads from their stems and used our nails to split the stems into long strips. Then we dropped the strips into some water and after a few minutes they started to curl on their own. The children were mesmerised!

Buggy junior trees

Fourth Class

Theme: Explorers Mapping and Directions

In our opening circlewe examined which way is North and how we knew? One answer was because moss always grows on the north side of trees! We introduced the compass to the group and how it works and we played the Robot Direction game – we had to move like a robot taking a few steps in each of the different directions. On the way up to base camp we worked on our map making skills – noticing significant/interesting points on the route, using directions to give instructions and using our explorer bag to keep interesting things we found along the way. When we arrived at base camp we marked out North/South/East/West, as well as, North West/North East/South West/South East. We played forest school games and we listened to an extract from the story ‘Entangled Life’ which was written about the famous explorer Merlin Sheldrake on an expedition to a tropical island forest in Panama! Then it was time for our own expedition to begin! Each group divided into pairs of ‘experts’ and each pair took on a different area of expertise. We had: Botanists – looking at small plants and flowers. Dendrologist’s – examining trees and shrubs. Zoologists – unearthing and investigating invertebrates. Meteorologists – looking at the weather conditions and creating maps and the Wild Tea group – locating different ingredients and creating recipes. Each group then loaded up their explorer’s bag with the tools and recording equipment they needed, they selected what direction they wanted to explore this week and we headed off!  Each pair of experts then did research of the new area using drawings and notes in their notebooks. When they had made their discoveries they created nature swatches by drawing and writing or cutting out information from their notes and sticking them on.

Nature Swatch
Sit spot

Forest School – Spring 2021

Session 1

15th & 16th April 2021

Junior Infants

Theme: Blobsters

The Junior Infants had a beautiful sunny day for their first experience of Forest School at DSP. They started off their first session by developing their map making skills as they journeyed up to base camp naming significant/interesting markers that they discovered on the route.  Using their senses, while at the same time developing a sense of ownership. When they arrived at base camp they did a welcome circle where they came up with a special animal call and discussed the three Golden Rules: ‘Keep ourselves safe and happy, keep each other safe and happy and keep nature safe and happy’ and we sung our Forest School song to the tune of Frere Jacques:

 ‘In the woods, having fun, looking after me and you, in the woods’

After some free play and exploration of their new base camp they played a game of Eagle Eye and a Forest School version of Kim’s Game where they looked at five natural objects that were found in their base camp, the children then got one minute to look at them, talk about them and to touch and smell them. The items were then covered up and the children had to go and find as many of them as they could. They then listened to a gorgeous story about Mama Africa/Mother Earth. Our focus for the learning this week was on using natural materials to make things and the children had a wonderful time creating ‘Blobsters’ using clay and natural found objects from their base camp which they stuck into the clay. ‘Blobster’ making is an incredibly versatile activity. It’s a chance to make creatures of your wildest imagination and as you can see from our photos we had some extremely imaginative creations!

Birdie blobster with feet!

First Class

Theme: Dandelions

First class had a wonderful first session of Forest School. On their journey up to base camp they looked for flowers. When they arrived at base camp they played some games that they remembered from their last experience of Forest School. Some of the games they played were ‘Bat and Moth’, ‘Food Chain Game’, ‘Eagle Eye’ and they also played a Forest School version of Kim’s Game where they had to look at five natural objects that were found within the base camp, they got one minute to look at them, talk about them and to touch and smell them and then the items were covered up and the children had to go and find as many as they could. 

After some free play and exploration, they listened to a lovely story called ‘Dandelion’. Our focus for the learning this week was on creating Flower Land Art pieces. Each group chose a flower, examined it closely – the shape of the leaves, the textures, the length and shape of the stalk, where the leaves are on the stalk, how the flower is attached to the stalk, how many petals there are, what shape the petals are etc. and what was in the centre of the flower. They then used sticks, plants, stones, moss, bark etc. to make a large Land Art picture of their flower.

Natures playground!

Fourth Class

Theme: Explorers – getting to know basecamp and direction mapping

Fourth class started their first session of Forest School by becoming Forest Explorers on an expedition! Before beginning they identified which direction was north using a compass and as they moved up to their base camp they used their senses to notice significant or interesting points along the route. When they arrived at base camp they each found a stick and placed it in the centre of their welcome circle to mark out the different directions in their base camp – North, South, East and West and Northwest, Northeast, Southeast and Southwest. After some free play and exploration of their basecamp the children chose a game to play that they remembered from previous experiences of Forest School. Some games that they played were ‘Eagle Eye’ and ‘Beetle Tag’. The focus for the learning this week was mapping. Each Explorer received their very own Explorers bag which they will use over the coming weeks to hold their explorer’s toolkit, for collecting samples, foraging and for storing notes and drawings. This year the Explorers will be leaving their base to go and find out more about the area! Each week they will take a different direction to explore. Our focus activity was using a Japanese technique called Hape Zome or leaf bashing. They marked out North, South East and West on their explorer’s bag and using the directions marked on the ground, they collected a soft leaf or flower from each of the points of direction and then used Hape Zome to make a print on their bags from the flowers or leaves that they found at each point.

Hapa Zome is the Japanese art of bashing the natural pigment out of leaves and flowers on to fabric to create prints. The name translates from Japanese as ‘Leaf Dye’. The leaves and flowers that you choose make a difference to the effectiveness. Ones that are full of moisture, such as the first leaves of spring, give the best results. Usually you fold a white cotton cloth in half with the leaf or petal inside. Once the petal is under the cloth then it is a matter of gently pounding it with a mallet, hammer or even smooth rock. When you open it you get a mirror image.

Falling together

In Forest school last term, we focused on resilience and allowing the children to develop their skills of using whatever is around to play and learn with. We hope that you’re seeing the benefits of this as we adjust yet again to new methods and new environments for learning. We hope you find the following tips and ideas for learning outdoors helpful.

Rte recently published an article on some reasons outdoor learsning is good for primary children. It helps create a different learning culture, giving opportunities for child led learning and exploration. It allows children to engage with the environment with their whole being. It connects children to their locality and their community. It provides real contexts for learning to happen. It supports risky play which is essential for us to develop confidence and learn to take appropriate risks in life. And of course – it’s fun so we learn easier through play!

5 reasons why outdoor learning is a good idea for primary schools (

Learning bird song

This is a child friendly link to learning bird songs. First up is the blackbird that you can hear at the moment.

Signs of Spring

See how many of these sign of early Spring you can find.

Snowdrops are flowering whilst it is still very cold. What other flowers can you find in early Spring?

Identifying trees from their buds

I’ve attached a chart with pictures of common trees and what their leaf buds look like.  It could be a type of treasure hunt.  How many can you find? Take a photograph and identify which type of tree it is. 

 Twig identification for kids – Nature Detectives (

Lots more outdoor activities ideas

Outdoor | Making Learning Fun (

Libraries of Ireland Wildlife page

And if you want to learn more the libraries of Ireland have developed quizzes based on our native plants and animals. See if you can do each level – I found it challenging!

Home | Wildlife – LGMA (


In addition to our blog below of our time together in the Forest in Term 1, there is also a lovely record of some of the learning on Liz’s website.

Winter 2020

December 11th

Second Class, Session 13

Gratitude and Appreciation’

There was lovely mild and sunny weather in the forest today for the last day of forest school for second class. As the children gathered together they played some of their favourite nature games and they did a circle check in of how everyone was feeling about their last day of forest school. On the journey up to base camp the children looked back on their time at forest school this year and shared what they remember with the group. The main event of forest school this week was free play! Free play in forest school is so important because it offers so many opportunities for the children to use their creativity freely, while at the same time, developing their imagination and dexterity and strengthening their social, emotional, physical and cognitive skills. The children also continued to play some of the many nature games that they have learnt such as: Eagle Eye, Beetle Tag, Bat and Moth and Owl and Crows. Our focus activity for this week was creating Christmas stars from willow. At the end of our session this week the children enjoyed their peaceful time of reflection during their sit spot, after which, they reflected on what they noticed during their sit spot, what they were grateful for from this weeks’ session and what they were most grateful for from our time together in forest school since September. Finally, the children were given the opportunity to say thank you and goodbye to any parts of their base camp that they wanted to.

Den for Tim the stone

Sixth Class, Session 4

‘Christmas and Filming!’

It was a bright and fresh morning in the forest for our last forest school session with sixth. This week sixth class played a game of their choice as they gathered together and they did a quick circle check in of how everyone was feeling. The morning was spent having more fun filming in the forest and this week our focus was on creating an eco-friendly Christmas film. The children worked in pairs or groups of three for this activity and the aim was to create a time lapse film showing how the woods can provide us with materials to decorate a Christmas Tree! Some examples of different activities included creating:

  • A land art Christmas tree on the ground
  • A star from willow
  • Pinecone baubles
  • Ivy wreaths
  • Wood cookie decorations

Each pair chose a different activity and filmed how they found the materials and how they made each decoration and then they filmed each group decorating their Christmas tree.


Winter 2020

December 4th

Second Class, Session 12

‘Exploring the 7 Directions on Killiney Hill and Playing Games’

It’s been getting colder up in the forest these last few weeks so this week we chose to do some more forest exploring to keep us moving! The focus for this week was on playing different nature games in different places on Killiney Hill and bringing the four directions North, South, East and West into our wanders. The children choose the route and they were guided by the four directions. Each group brought a compass to help with directions and a map to follow. As they journeyed they had to identify where they could see the best view on Killiney Hill to the North, East, South or West, as well as, what they noticed in each of the four directions. They then played a nature game in each of the four viewpoints that they found.

Here is a list of some of the nature games that the children have played in the forest:

  • Owls and Crows (true/false facts)
  • Food Chain Game (e.g. fox, crow, worm)
  • Beetle Tag
  • Bat & Moth
  • Fox Walking & Deer Stalking
  • Run Rabbit Run
  • Palm Tag
  • Kim’s game – with materials from the forest
  • You’re only safe if….
  • Animal Mimic – with native woodland animals
  • Pine Cone Bowling
  • Meet a Tree

Sixth Class, Session 3

‘Continue having fun filming!’

Sixth Class were very excited to get back into the forest this week and continue filming their chosen nature game! They did a lot of story-boarding, editing, rehearsing, researching and planning back in the classroom in preparation for our session this week and they were all eager to get started! As the children gathered together they played a game of their choice. On their Journey up to base camp they continued to be nature detectives noticing nature along the way and identifying what they might like to record and remembering all the different things about plants and trees. Our learning focus this week was a continuation of last week, the children had to take what they learnt last week and the footage that was taken and then edited and adapt their storyboards and filming accordingly as they continued to work on their nature game films. The children then filmed a short piece about a tree of their choice in pairs. Some examples of the different trees are: oak, ash, horse chestnut, elder, beech and pine. There were a lot of things to think about and lots of decisions to make such as: whether they should swap roles or have one cameraman and one presenter? Would it be an interview style or someone talking to the camera? What would be interesting to know? What could they show in the film? What props would they need? This activity was also a wonderful way for the children to use their senses in the forest as they examined: what their tree looks like? Does it have a smell? Is the bark rough or smooth? Is there a sound they associate with it? The children also documented how their tree changes through the seasons, how it helps woodland animals and other plants, how it can be helpful to humans, if there are any stories about it and any other fascinating facts they could find! Some groups also chose to go on to film some other aspects of forest school such as: different types of fungi, plants, the golden rules of forest school, what needs to be brought to forest school.

Winter 2020

November 27th

Second Class, Session 11

‘Fianna Obstacle Course, Target Practice & Poetry’

It was another beautiful day in the forest! Second class had a focus plant this week – Ivy! The children learnt some really interesting facts about Ivy such as: Ivy plants can climb to at least 30m above the ground, they have two leaf types – one for the flowering part of the plant and one for the food producing (photosynthesising) part of the plant, bees and wasps really need and love Ivy because it flowers and gives them food in Autumn when many other plants don’t etc. On the Journey up to base camp the children foraged for Ivy and pinecones. When the children arrived at base camp they played a game of: fox walking and deer stalking and listened to a story called: ‘How to be in the Fianna.’ Our focus for the learning this week was target practice! The children constructed a few ivy circles of different sizes and hung them from various heights on branches. They then collected as many cones as they could, decided on the safety rules and then they aimed and fired pinecones through the hoops! The learning was extended as they progressed to throwing sticks and marking the distance. The children then incorporated their learning from the previous week as they integrated ideas from their obstacle courses with their targets. At the end of the session there was some beautiful poetry writing. The children composed poems about their bases. The children each wrote a: ‘Poem of Seven Directions’, which was inspired by a lovely book of outdoor education by Chris Holland, called: “I Love my World.” The template for the poem is as follows:

To the east I….

To the south I….

To the west I….

To the north I ….

Above I ….

Below I …

Inside I feel ….

Altogether I am ….

I give thanks for all that is.Chris Holland, “I Love my World.”

We had a special visitor in the forest today!

Sixth ClassSession 2

Filming Games

Sixth class loved being back in the forest again this week! As the children gathered together they played a nature game, had a feelings check in and on the journey up to base camp they were nature detectives exploring what they might like to research about and film. Our focus for the learning this week was on filming nature games. Each group divided into 2 groups, decided on a game, decide on the rules of the game, came up with 6-8 shots they would need to help teach the game and they decided who their audience would be. They then allocated roles of: Director, Photographer, Referee, person responsible for the rules and editors. Then each group set about filming their game! There was lots of excellent footage gathered and lots of imaginative ideas generated which will be taken back to the classroom for editing in advance of next week’s Forest School Session!

Sit spot

Winter 2020

November 20th

Second Class, Session 10

‘Obstacle Course’

It was another lovely afternoon in the forest for 2nd Class. When the children arrived they played a game of ‘Fox Walking and Deer Stalking’. At base camp they listened to a Story called: ‘How to be in the Fianna’. Our focus for the learning this week was on designing and constructing an obstacle course in groups. The children really enjoyed working together and practising their team working skills. There was also lots of problem solving too as the children had to consider: Are there already parts of your base with good obstacles? Can you add more parts to it? What can you use? Does the obstacle course have places to go under and other places to climb over? The children then created arrows and signs along the course for the other groups to follow. At the end of the obstacle course the children built leafy dens to hide in. Each group then took turns to show the other group their course and how to follow it.

Trying to climb this tree 1

Sixth ClassSession 1


It was a very special forest school today as the VERY FIRST group of children to take part in Forest School at DSP returned to the forest and got the opportunity to reconnect with their base camps and activities. As the children gathered together they had an open circle with a reminder of our golden rules: keep yourself, each other and nature safe and happy! They came up with an animal call and had a quick circle check in of how they were feeling in the forest today. Then they had a discussion about what nature games they remember form their time at Forest School and they played a forest game of their choice. On the Journey up to base camp the children became nature detectives, noticing nature along the way and thinking about what they might like to record and exploring what they remember about the plants and trees in the forest. At base camp the boundaries were set up and the children played boundary games such as, Eagle Eye. Our focus for the learning this week was on playing nature games and exploring how we might film them. Each group had to choose a different favourite Forest School game and play it many times, use viewfinders to look at each scene, try out shots using iPads, ensure that that there was a variety of long-shots, mid-shots and closeups etc. this filming project will take place over the next four weeks and the completed films will be shown to children who are new to Forest School or as a tool for teaching children a new game! All the sixth class children are extremely excited about starting this wonderful learning project!

Learning about filming so we can help others enjoy forest school!

Autumn 2020, Session 9

November 12th and 13th

‘What would you like to remember?’

Senior Infants, 2nd, 3rd and 5th Class:

We had a lovely week this week of looking back and remembering all the fun and leaning that took place during our time at forest school. On the Journey up to base camp the children were encouraged to reconnect with all the special places that they had discovered on their way up to base camp over the term. When they arrived at base camp the children played their favourite forest school games and listened to a reading of a lovely story called ‘Earth and Sky’. The focus for the learning this week was on what they would like to remember about forest school, a special place at their base? Something they found in their base? Something they made during their Forest Days? A recipe for their favourite wild tea, nature paint or natural dyes? and also how they could remember it? Taking something with them? Drawing it? Writing it? The children also got the chance to make their own charcoal pencils from Elder tree branches. They could then use these pencils to record their memories. It was lovely to see the children reflecting back on their learning and how far they have all come in their learning during forest school.

Third Class Photo Gallery:

Fifth Class Photo Gallery:

Second Class Photo Gallery:

Senior Infant Photo Gallery:

Autumn 2020, Session 8

November 5th and 6th

‘Journeying and Drawing/Mapping’ 

2nd, 3rd and 5th Class:

This week the children allowed their body wisdom and curiosity to guide them as they went on a journey of forest exploration!  The children also became cartographers working on their mapping skills as they created memories of their journeys by using line drawings and charcoal drawings to create maps. It was a truly child led learning experience as the children decided what route they would take. Along the way the children stopped regularly to share and record what they noticed and tell stories about the places that they had led us to. Our focus for the learning this week was on observational drawing. We discussed how everyone sees things differently and that, as no one else sees the way you do, only you can do your drawing. The children then created beautiful skyline drawing’s while looking at the horizon. At times it was difficult to see where the sky met the sea with the fog, but the children had a wonderful time looking at where the land met the sea and tracing this line with their finger in the air first and then with charcoal on paper and they created some really beautiful artworks.

Things we noticed during sit spot this week:

  • Birds chirping and the sound that bark makes
  • The sound of raindrops falling on leaves
  • The sound of raindrops falling beside me
  • I could see the bumps on leaves as the raindrops fell and it sounded like music

Things we were grateful for this week:

  • Discovering ‘Herb Robert’ flower and line drawings
  • Maps, friends and sticks
  • Drawing maps
  • Sketching
  • Sketching maps and exploring places
  • The ‘Koala Tree’, maps and the journey we had
  • All the different colours I found on my journey
  • All the drawings and my picture ‘Night in the Forest’

Third Class Photo Gallery:

‘Night in the Forest’

Fifth Class Photo Gallery:

Life in a cloud

Second Class Photo Gallery:

Studying Levers in base camp

Senior Infants

‘Leaves and the Wind’

Senior Infants had a wonderful time in the forest this week. As they gathered together they played a game of ‘Owls and Crows’ and they thought about the East and the Fresh Air & Wind. They also looked at which way the wind was blowing by picking up leaves and observing them blowing in the wind. On their Journey up to base camp they collected some special leaves they they had found. When they arrived at base camp they listened to a brilliant story about a Leaf Man who got blown away! Then using this story as their inspiration they created leaf people, animals and mandalas on the ground using their special leaves which they had gathered as well as other foraged natural materials.

Senior Infant Photo Gallery:


Our Inspiration for this Term

The following story ‘The women who gather’ has inspired our sessions this term. Here is the story (From the wonderful book ‘Why the moon travels’ by Oein DeBhairduin) read as part of Wicklow County Council’s Library Service Halloween focus. Enjoy!

Autumn 2020, Session 7

October 22nd and 23rd

‘Spiderweb weaving & Bonfire Jumping”

2nd, 3rd and 5th Class:

It was a spooky, scary fun-filled week at the forest this week! We started with a Zombie chasing game where the children had to run and chase each other with stiff legs and arms outstretched.  We then started our journey to basecamp.  The children were observing their surroundings finding something spooky in nature and creating a story about the spooky thing they found.  They found sticks resembling pitchforks and hands creeping out of holes.  The pine needles looked like werewolves’ hair. A rock became a gravestone. Vampires were buried in bunkers, they hung flesh from trees, there were spooky scary spots where loads of innocent souls were buried! Their imaginations ran wild. Similar to last week the children created another giant spider’s web using string between four trees and they had great fun jumping over the web. There was also lots of skilful jumping over a ‘bonfire’ of autumn leaves! The children then listened to a funny story about vampire bats and the theme of weaving from previous weeks was progressed with the children spinning their very own stick spider webs! Happy Halloween everyone and we hope you have a fantastic autumn break!

The Vampire Bat Story:

‘A vampire bat came flapping in from the night covered in fresh blood and parked himself on the roof of the cave to get some sleep.  Pretty soon all the other bats smelled the blood and began hassling him about where he got it. He told them to knock it off and let him get some sleep but they persisted until finally he gave in. “OK, follow me,” he said and flew out of the cave with hundreds of bats behind him. Down through a valley they went, across a river and into a forest full of trees. Finally, he slowed down and all the other bats excitedly milled around him. “Now, do you see that tree over there?” he asked. “Yes, yes, yes!” the bats all screamed in a frenzy. “Good,” said the first bat, “Because I DIDN’T!”’

Facts about Vampire Bats:

  • While much of the world sleeps, vampire bats emerge from dark caves, mines, tree hollows, and abandoned buildings in Mexico and Central and South America.
  • Vampire bats generally fly about one metre off the ground. Like the legendary monster from which they get their name, these small mammals drink the blood of other animals for survival. They feed on blood from sleeping cows, pigs, horses, and birds. Though uncommon, vampire bats occasionally bite humans for blood.
  • Rather than sucking blood like a vampire, these bats make a small cut with their teeth, then lap up the flowing blood with their tongues. The animals are so light and graceful that they can sometimes drink blood from an animal for more than 30 minutes without waking it up. The blood-sucking doesn’t even hurt their prey. 
  • Vampire bats have special adaptations to help them with the special way they feed. For instance, researchers discovered that the flying mammals can locate prey by sensing the sound of an animal breathing. These bats can even recognize the breathing patterns of one animal, like a cow, and return to feed from it night after night.

What did you notice during your sit spot? 

The following are some of the responses:

  • It was so quiet
  • Lots of sticks were smooth
  • All the gorse and everyone is afraid it’s going to hurt them but it’s so nice
  • I could hear the waves
  • I could hear rustling noises in the gorse and there may have been an animal in there like a rat
  • Light breeze and it felt really nice
  • Lovely black and purple bird flying over the coast 
  • Bumpiness of the bark on my back
  • All the roots, they were smooth and overlapping

What are you grateful for?

The following are some of the responses:

  • Grateful for being up here – grateful to be able to go to school
  • Grateful for not having to be at home where we would be sitting doing absolutely nothing. Also grateful for free play, spider web and zombie game
  • Enjoyed that we had more time with everyone playing together
  • Grateful for free play, enjoyed being here and not being in quarantine!
  • Grateful to be able to come here and play games
  • Grateful that we are actually allowed in forest school and better than being online – it’s nice to be in the forest
  • Grateful for more free play and for all the trees because it makes you happy
  • Grateful for more free play
  • Grateful for learning how to make a spider’s web and grateful for the game we played and for the mushrooms.

Third Class Photo Gallery:

Making spider webs

Fifth Class Photo Gallery:

Hole for vampire dynamite?

Second Class Photo Gallery:

Senior Infants

Halloween Sensory Trail and Bats’

On our Journey to base camp we looked for spooky Halloween images in the woods and watched for things lurking in the shadows, spooky mushrooms and we looked to see if any of the trees had eyes and if they were watching us! When we arrived at our base camp we listened to a lovely story about bats called ‘Nightsong’. Our focus for the learning this week was a wonderful sensory treasure trail! The children made treasure cones from sycamore leaves and used them to collect different treasures. Using their sense of touch, the children had to follow a string blindfolded to collect some holly berries. Using their sense of sound, they had to follow the sound of a bird call to collect a spruce cone. Using their sense of smell, the children had to follow a lavender scent trail and collect a sprig of lavender and lastly, using their sense of taste the children had to have a sip of tea or gift some tea to a tree and collect an acorn. It was a wonderful sensory experience which the children thoroughly enjoyed.

Autumn 2020, Session 6

October 15th and 16th

‘Giant Spider Webs and Loom Weaving’ 

2nd, 3rd and 5th Class:

We all got into the Halloween spirit this week at Forest School! The children also got the chance to really use their imaginations! On the journey up to base camp they looked out for things that were spooky in the woods… or things that were lurking in the shadows and the children created scary stories about the different things that they noticed on the way up. One group also noticed ‘Bracket Fungus’ on one of the tree’s and how it made a lovely drumming sound when it was tapped with a stick. At base camp the children listened to a fabulous story called: ‘How to live life – Advice from a spider’ after listening to the story the children came up with other pieces of advice that the spider (or other animals) may have given on how to live life! Our learning focus for this week was very much an extension of the learning from last week. This week the children learnt another way to weave a friendship bracelet, this time, using a cardboard loom. The objective for this activity was to weave a bracelet for someone at home as a way of bringing a little piece of the forest home to a loved one. The children were so engaged and focused on this activity and it was very clear to see the calming and relaxing effect the weaving had on the children. As the children wove they discussed who their bracelet was being made for and also, similarly to last week, the children wove blessings/wishes into the bracelet. One child from 2nd class decided that he was weaving his thoughts into his bracelet. In addition to this activity the children’s gross motor, team work and problem solving skills were activated by escaping a giant spider web! The children worked together to create or get through a giant spider’s web by weaving cord through trees horizontally and vertically and then they worked in teams or individually to make it through the web without touching it! Once each player made it through the web, the challenge was increased as more strings were added.  The children also came up with their own games for the web. 

At the end of each forest school session the children take part in a short period of quiet reflection in nature at their ‘sit spot’ and then a circle time where they tell each other one thing that they noticed during their sit spot and something that they were grateful for from that day’s forest school session.

Here are some of the things that the children noticed this week:

  • ‘Weaving in my sit spot felt magical’
  • ‘How simple string could be made into such a nice bracelet’
  • ‘I felt really calm in my sit spot’
  • ‘How calm and quiet the forest is during sit spot’
  • ‘The leaves in my tree were rustling and crunching’

And here are some of the things that the children were grateful for this week:

  • ‘Playing the game ‘This is not a Stick’ at the start and weaving’
  • ‘I am grateful for weaving because it is so calm and relaxing’
  • ‘Being able to learn a different way to weave and actually being able to do it even though it looked difficult’
  • ‘Weaving in the tree with my friends’
  • ‘I am grateful for my sit spot, weaving and being able to look back at all the things I have done in my forest school notebook’
  • ‘The shapes of trees – you can climb them and you can make things with them’

3rd Class Photo Gallery:

Weaving in trees

5th Class Photo Gallery:

2nd Class Photo Gallery:

Making it through the spider web

Senior Infants


Senior Infants had a fabulous time at forest school this week. On the journey up to base camp they looked to see if they could spot any animal tracks! At base camp the children listened to a gorgeous Story called ‘The Busy Little Squirrel’ by Nancy Tafuri. We learnt all about different kinds of tracks and how to spot them, for example, Deer hooves are splayed, meaning they leave two long imprints in the snow with a gap in between; Rabbits’ hind feet are much larger than their fore feet, meaning their tracks are comprised of a pair of long, thin prints and a pair of shorter prints; Badger tracks have five toes positioned ahead of a broad rear pad and claw marks may also be visible. Fox tracks have four toes – two at the front and one at each side and a roughly oval-shaped pad at the rear. Claw marks may be visible at the end of each toe; Bird tracks are long and thin and often look a little like arrowheads. Our Focus for the learning this week was creating animal tracks in groups with stencil cut-outs, flour and sieves. At the end of the trail the children created a ‘Treasure’ of conkers, pine cones or acorns.

Senior Infant Photo Gallery:

Making deer tracks on the ground with flour and stencils.

Autumn 2020, Session 5

October 8th and 9th


Second, Third and Fifth Class:

We enjoyed another wonderful week at forest school this week! On the way up to base camp the children noticed the leaves turning, the colder weather and the slippier, muddy conditions in the forest.  The children listened to a story about a Grandmother spider and the web of life. Our focus for learning this week was to weave friendship bracelets in pairs using the strings that we dyed during last weeks’ session. It was lovely to see the children so engrossed and weaving in pairs, concentrating on getting the weaving correct and developing a rhythm. They chanted their friendship blessings to each other as they wove.  In the story the women wove blessings into the bracelets they made for their children. Our children wove friendship into each other’s bracelets. Some examples of the blessings that they wove were: fun and excitement, happiness and everlasting friendship, honesty and kindness, and dreams come true.  It was a great lesson on friendship, weaving, development of fine motor skills, concentration, and co-operative learning all from nature. They used conkers as weights to keep the strings separated and they hung their strings from the branches of a tree. All the children were delighted to be going home with a friendship bracelet that they had made together with a friend.

3rd Class Photo Gallery:

5th Class Photo Gallery:

2nd Class Photo Gallery:

Senior Infants:

‘Being Ourselves’

On the journey up to base camp there were lots of opportunities for oral language as the children discussed where the sun is when we walk? Are all the trees around us still green? Perhaps some are more brown now? Which trees have lost the most leaves this week? When the children arrived at base camp each group discovered that their animal who had left letters and maps in previous weeks had actually paid them a visit! The animals were very happy and excited to meet the children. The children learnt that their animal is quite young and has been watching all of the other woodland animals getting ready for winter and was wondering why he/she couldn’t be like them. The children identified all sorts of wonderful facts about the animals for example, squirrels can climb and jump and store nuts, hedgehogs are so good at finding bugs and they can roll into a ball and badgers can dig deep underneath the ground to make themselves homes and the children were excellent at encouraging their animal to celebrate its own talents and to be itself. The children also listened to a wonderful story about a hedgehog called ‘Winter Worries.’ Our learning focus for this week was making miniature hedgehogs using clay, teasle heads and pinecones. The children loved creating their little hedgehogs and when they were finished they extended their learning to include creating little nests and gathering food for them to eat.

Senior Infant Photo Gallery:

Forest School, Autumn 2020 – Session 4

October 1st and 2nd

‘Colour and Natural Dyes’

Second, Third and Fifth Class:

This week’s learning was deeply engaging for the children, they all took so much from it and each child’s creativity was really given a chance to shine! Our focus was on creating and experimenting with natural dyes. On the journey up to base camp the children collected any materials they could find for making natural dyes, as well as, small, strong sticks for crushing and mixing. They gathered lots of materials such as, blackberries, rowanberries, elderberries, leaves and earth and we also used some other natural materials such as, charcoal, tumeric, paprika and beetroot. To make the dye, the children added the dye material to a jar and then crushed it to release the colour. Next, they added a little hot water and mixed it well. When the dye was ready the children added string, cotton fabric or wool to the dye and observed the huge array of colours and colour patterns that they had created. When the children were finished they hung their strings on branches to dry. Last week we read a story from Oein DeBhairduin’s book Why the Moon Travels. This story has a great connection to nature and tells of the Mincéirí tradition of making red cords to tie around newborns’ wrists to protect them. We have taken inspiration from this for next week’s session and are really excited to use these dyed strings for weaving!

3rd Class Photo Gallery:

Noticing changes in the jelly ear fungus.

5th Class Photo Gallery:

Experimenting with how to Make green dye.

2nd Class Photo Gallery:

Testing helicopters to see if they are flight ready!

Senior Infants:

‘Map Reading’

The focus for the learning with Senior Infants this week was on map reading skills and making maps. On our journey up to base camp we discussed what adventures might our base camp animal friend have been on this week. At base camp we discovered that beneath the grandmother tree was a note in an envelope with a map of the animal’s home and a treasure map! We followed the map and uncovered the treasure apples! We also hid some treasure for the animals and we listened to a lovely story about apples.

Senior Infant Photo Gallery:

Seesaw. Figuring out levers and balances.

Forest School, Autumn 2020 – Session 3

September 24th and 25th

Bird Hides and Camouflage

Second, Third and Fifth Class:

We had another glorious two days in the forest this week. Our learning focus was camouflage and constructing bird hides using natural materials. On the journey up to base camp the children gathered materials which they identified as being useful for building bird hides. As part of this week’s activities the children learnt that a bird hide is a structure that’s used to help camouflage you while you watch wildlife. When designing the bird hides the children needed to think about being hidden from the birds and animals in the forest while at the same time having a window or viewing area for observation. They also needed to think carefully about the structure – foundation, frame, strength, waterproof layer, beauty & finishing touches to make the hides attractive to wildlife. The children also experimented with adding camouflage to their bird hides and to themselves!

3rd Class Photo Gallery:

Documenting Important moments in our notebooks!

5th Class Photo Gallery:

Using nature as a plaster to heal us.

2nd Class Photo Gallery:

Building together!

Senior Infants:

For this week’s session with Senior Infants a photograph of an animal friend with a message on the back was hidden in the grandmother tree in base camp. An animal that is preparing for winter. During free play one of the children found the envelope. There was a lot of excitement and discussion and the children used their prediction skills to try and work out who could have written the note. The discovery of the letter sparked the children’s imaginations and they came up with some fantastic stories about how the letter came to be in the forest. The idea of writing and meaning became very exciting for the children. That ideas could come from a tree! The children listened to a reading of the Poem: ‘September’ By Elsa Beckstow. Some of the children then wrote and drew their ideas in their notebooks. It was an amazing morning of discovery and detective skills!

Senior Infants Photo Gallery:

Finding treasures as we go!!

Forest School, Autumn 2020 – Session 2

September 17th and 18th

Nature’s Colours

Second, Third and Fifth Class:

The children had a wonderful time at forest school this week. Our learning focus was on Nature’s Colours. On the journey up to base camp the children looked at what colours they could see and they were encouraged to gather things that would make natural colours. When we arrived at base camp the children identified natural items that they could use as paint. Blackberries were a firm favourite! They found different containers to mix paint in such as, conker shells, rocks, pieces of bark and tree trunks. They then experimented with different surfaces that they could paint onto such as: tree’s, rocks and even themselves! They also found and created different tools for painting with such as: pine needle paintbrushes, moss, sticks etc. Each forest school session has designated time for free play and this week the children’s free play was very much focused on furthering their colour exploration of natural paint and colour. Free play is so important because when children are engaged in free play they make their own decisions, they are intrinsically motivated and become immersed in the moment and their play is spontaneous and enjoyable. In addition to these activities the children also made delicious blackberry tea and they really enjoyed listening to the story ‘The first Autumn’.

3rd Class Photo Gallery:

5th Class Photo Gallery:

2nd Class Photo Gallery:

Senior Infants:

The focus for the learning with Senior Infants this week was on designing and creating mini shelters or fairy houses. The children planned who their shelter was for and where it was going to be located. They then gathered up all the materials that they would need to build their mini shelter or fairy house. The children learnt how to make a tepee shelter by creating a tripod with sticks by sticking the end of the sticks into the earth. This would be a strong structure to begin with and they discussed other ways they could make a strong structure. They also decided where they would put doors and what materials they would need to make their structure waterproof and they needed to think about what else the mini creatures/fairies/bugs might need both inside and outside their structure. They children came up with some very imaginative ideas including a pet slug!

Senior Infants Photo Gallery:

Forest School, Autumn 2020 – Session 1

September 10th and 11th

‘Mo Chrann’

Outdoor learning got off to a great start this week!  The children in Senior Infants, 2nd, 3rd and 5th Class were so excited to be back in the forest together. Some came equipped with notebooks ready to record new findings and do some sketching. On the way to base camp they noticed bird sounds, pine needles, fungus, animal paths to mention a few. 

Some children made up their own art activity. They were planning on sketching gorse but ended up experimenting with the different colours they could make with the grass, dandelions, and some wild flowers they found.

The children came up with an idea to write a book called ‘Everything Good about Trees’ and the first line could be ‘The best things about trees is they listen and don’t give mean comments.’ ‘Trees can be anyone’s friend’, hopefully they will start the book next week in class.

The children loved getting to know their own tree, naming them and creating tree faces for their tree.

5th Class – Creating tree faces
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5th Class – Creating tree faces
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2nd Class – The Pirate Tree
2nd Class – Exploring on the way up the ‘root path’
Heading to the j tree
Getting to know our trees

Outdoor Learning ideas Spring/Summer 2019

Summer term week 10

Rock Pool Exploration

This week we continue our investigation of the rock pool with a focus on two commonly found species. On our explorations at Scoil Farraige these are two of our favourite creatures to come across as they can be really fun to interact with.

The Common Prawn will be familiar to most regular rock pool explorers but in particular you might recognise them from the way they dart quickly away and out of sight when you try to catch them with your net.

They can be difficult to see as they are a bit like an “invisible man”. They have a see through body which allows them to blend in or camouflage in with their environment. This can make it difficult for predators to see them but by staying still and looking carefully you should be able to spot them.

Their quick darting away that makes them so recognisable is another special ability or adaptation of theirs. It has a special ability to move backwards from its predators by flicking its tail which causes it to shoot backwards.

The next species we are going to focus on today is the Beadlet Anemone. Often the first time that you spot a beadlet anemone you might not realise that this is a creature and not a plant. It has lots of long poisonous tentacles around the top of its body. The tentacles are retractable and can be difficult to recognise that it’s the same species when the tentacles are retracted. It retracts the tentacles and has a slimey surface to help keep the moisture in when the tide is out.

Anemones are able to move but they move very slowly and sometimes they might get a cooperative relationship with another animal to get moved about to help them get more food like in the story Sharing a Shell.

Or like how some tropical anemones have symbiotic (cooperative) relationships with crabs, to protect the crabs from predators and to help the anemones find more food. A good example of this is the Boxer Crab.

Anemones are related to jellyfish and in fact look a bit like an upside down jellyfish. Their poisonous stinging tentacles can be dangerous/painful to touch with many other species but the beadlet anemone sting is so mild that it is not painful to touch.

Marine Mammals

We have been putting particular focus on the creatures that are found in the rock pools however the beach area is full of creatures not just in the rock pools but also in the sea and sky.

So many different creatures interact with the sea, it provides an important habitat or home and source of food.

Harbour Seals are one of the marine mammals that are spotted most often along the coast.

A seal’s body is shaped like a torpedo rounded from head to feet.They have no ear flaps, the ears are a tiny hole on the side of their heads. They have closable ears and nostrils so that no water can fill their ears and nose when they are under water. Their hands and feet are called fore and hind flippers.

June and July is the best time for seal spotting in Ireland as it is the pupping and breeding season.

There are some fantastic organisations in Ireland that work to protect and rescue seals as there are many seals that get injured often as a result of pollution and marine plastics. If you would like to learn more about seals check out

Sea Birds

Beaches are important feeding sites for birds like curlews and oystercatchers. When the tide goes out, wet sand is exposed. It’s full of tasty critters like lugworms which are perfect for these shorebirds to pluck out. Yummy!   

The sea provides food with lots of fish for birds like cormorants and gulls.

One of the best things to do at the beach is to take time for mindfulness and to be still. This would be an excellent opportunity to listen to the birds. There is a wide variety of coastal birds in Ireland each with a distinct call.

This website is an excellent resource for learning the bird calls of different species. Although it is a Spanish site the majority of these birds are found in Ireland too and in fact the page also shows the migratory patterns of the birds. The website displays the English and Latin names for each bird and provides their call.
A good way to prepare for a visit to the beach could be to learn some of the bird names and calls before going. One of the curriculum principles is that assessment is an integral part of teaching and learning. When learning the calls you could test your friends to remember the names and recognise the calls of the birds. The child’s existing knowledge and experience form a base for learning so do look at some of the garden birds and their calls first also as you may be more familiar with them and use this to build and expand your knowledge.

As we have been looking closer at some of our coastal birds this weeks story will be about a Baby Guillemot. This story was found .

This story is a very appropriate one for the week that is in it. This week the 6th class are getting ready to spread their wings and go on a big adventure. They should be proud of everything they have achieved in all their time here in DSP. We are all feeling very proud of them and excited for the adventures they will have and cannot wait to hear about all of the great things they get up to.

At Scoil Farraige this September
Ready to do great things DSP 6th Class 2020

Summer term week 9

Plant Adaptations

This week we are continuing our focus on adaptations.  Last week we looked at some particular examples of animals, such as when they work together in symbiotic relationships or when they have shells to protect themselves.

This week we are going to focus more on plants. Plants are a vital part of the world that we live in and as you probably know produce the oxygen that we need to breathe.

When most people think about the plants that produce this oxygen a lot of the time people imagine rainforests such as the Amazon. It is true that roughly one third of the earths oxygen is produced by rainforests (28%) but actually a far larger number comes from the oceans and marine plants. In fact 70% of our oxygen is produced by phytoplankton and marine plants.

So we really should learn more about and appreciate the importance of our seaweeds.

Many types of seaweed have air bladders and or midribs to hold their fronds upright in the water so that they can catch the light and still are flexible enough not to be smashed by the waves.

If you pick up some seaweed you might notice that it feels very slimey, this is as seaweeds also produce a gelatinous substance that minimizes water loss – particularly when the tide is out.

Seaweed has lots of commercial uses and is used in a lot of Irish cooking but also in biotechnology, medicine and healthcare.


Last week we learnt all about rock pooling and the safe ways to explore our seashore. If you are able to visit the rock pools again safely, please do. The more you visit the more you can learn. Repeated visits to the seashore give you opportunities to notice change and growth. It is really interesting to see how the small communities are affected by the weather and temperature changes.

One of the most interesting species you are likely to find at the seashore is the crosóg mhara, or starfish.  

Have you ever been told your eye is bigger than your stomach? This isn’t that much of a problem for starfish who actually digest by pushing their stomach outside of their body and eating from the outside in.

One of their favourite foods are mussels which are very hard to prize open so they wrap themselves around them and start digesting.

Due to their love of mussels the fishermen or mussel farmers used to get really annoyed if they found them eating their mussels. They used to try cut them up to get rid of them but little did they know that the starfish have the ability to regrow their arms.

Even more than that once they have a small part of their central disc they were not only able to regrow lost arms but any arm with central disc could form a whole new starfish.

Humans and the Coast

One of the things that we enjoy so much about Scoil Farraige is not only all the fun that we have rock pooling but also noticing the other things going on along the coast. The sea is such an important environment for not just plants and creatures but humans too.

The sea is very important as a source of food with fishing being a major industry here in Ireland. The sea also provides an excellent mode of transport for both goods and people and our coasts are populated with lots of busy harbours and ports.

Our local harbour in Dun Laoghaire was built in the 19th century for sheltering ships and to facilitate the mailboat from Dun Laoghaire to Hollyhead. There are so many interesting monuments and memorials along the harbour and pier that a fun activity with older students for discovering more about the history of Dun Laoghaire could be to follow a trail.
East Pier

By participating in this trail you will be fulfilling some of the core prinicpals of the curriculum. Learning is most effective when integrated and this gives opportunity for History, Geography, Science and PE integration. Also here the child’s immediate environment provides the context for learning

The sea is also important source of leisure and recreation activity.

Scuba Divers

In the past the coast also provided vital protections against attacks.

The Martello Tower’s were originally built during Napoleonic times to communicate and warn of attack. The Sandycove Tower though is now best known as a place where Irish author James Joyce lived for a short period of time and it is here where his famous novel Ulysses begins.

This Tuesday June 16th is Bloomsday the day in which Dubliners celebrate the odyssey, or long journey, taken by the protagonist of the novel Leopold Bloom. This Bloomsday why don’t you write your own story, undertake your own odyssey or complete some of the activities that Bloom did that June 16th.  

Maybe you could go for a swim like Buck Mulligan or have Scoil Farraige at Sandycove beach. Or complete more Bloomsday themed activities here:

More Resources

Take part in a photography competition

Watch a short cartoon about plastic waste and do something about it yourself whether another beach clean or like the boy in the video can you make a poster to promote reducing, reusing and recycling?

Summer term week 8


This week we are focussing on adaptations.  Last week we looked at different habitats and learnt that this was the home of a plant or an animal. An adaptation is the way in which an animal or plant can be specially suited to live in their particular home or habitat. Sometimes this can be a way that they behave that makes them succeed in their homes and other times it can be something about their body that physically helps them.

A good example of a behavioural adaptation would be how some creatures work together to help each other. A lovely example of this is seen in the Julia Donaldson story “Sharing a Shell”.

An example of a physical adaptation would be the hard shell or exoskeleton that crabs have to protect them and keep them moist when moving out of the sea and rock pools where they live.

As you can see from the examples above we are firmly moving our focus towards the beach this week! Many of you might be interested in going to the beach and exploring some rock pools so here are some top tips to do so safely while getting the most out of your visit.

Rock pooling

5 Steps to a Safe and Fun Scoil Farraige.

  1. Plan your visit.

    Make sure you know where you are visiting. The rock pools by Sandycove beach are excellent to explore. Make sure wherever you are exploring that it is safe and clean.
  2. Check the tides.

    The best time to go is close to low tide, normally the hour before low tide till the hour after. Remember to keep a close eye on the sea though as it can come in very fast. Here are the tides times for the rest of June to help you plan!

3. Have you got the right stuff?

Sun cream, hats , raingear and waterproofs.

Proper footwear, a towel in case you get wet!

Nets, buckets, magnifying glasses, ID books.

A First Aid Kit.

Of course most importantly a sense of wonder!

4. Follow the Conservation Code

This is their home, not yours. Please be kind to the creatures and plants that you find. Do take creatures out to look at them a little closer but remember that animals live in specific zones so put them back where you found them.

Don’t take them home but do take lots of pictures.

5. Explore, examine, enjoy!

At the Seashore

Now that you are at the seashore what can you notice?

There are so many amazing creatures to be found all over the place and not just in the rockpools.

Before you even get to the rock pool you might notice that some of the rocks are covered in different creatures.

One of the ones that you might notice and want to get a closer look at is a limpet.

Limpets are recognisable by their cone shaped shells. The hard shell is like a safety helmet which protects them from drying out and predators (e.g. crab attacks).

Underneath this hard protective shell or “helmet” is a soft body that looks like it has a giant foot. If a predator tries to attack it the limpet will clamp down harder onto the rock. So remember not to try disturb it, they’re very strong!

Limpets are sometimes also known as the seashore version of cows on the beach. They move slowly around the surface of the rocks they live on grazing on green seaweed, algae and other microscopic organisms. Scraping seaweed off the rocks with a tongue like a file, after feeding they return to their own spot where they have carved a little groove that they fit into keeping them extra safe.

Identify other shellfish on seashore using these helpful keys from Coastwatch Ireland.

Curriculum Principles

As you can see from above there’s so much to do at the seashore. One of the core principles of the curriculum is that the child is an active agent in their own learning. Use this environment and the child’s natural sense of wonder allow them to take an active role in their own learning and point you towards some additional activites you could do at the seashore.

Some other ideas for at the beach…

Beach Art- design your own sea creature at the beach.

Designing your own sea creature is fantastic art work but also gives a great opportunity for story telling. What is your creatures name, where is it from and how did it end up here?
Older students might think what adaptations they have and what are they helpful for?
Younger students might decide they want to show how the creature moves.

Take an interest in pollution and do your bit by organising a beach clean.

Have a mindful moment…

and finally….

Celebrate World Oceans Day

Today the 8th of June is World Oceans Day.

On World Oceans Day, people around our blue planet celebrate and honour the ocean, which connects us all.

RTÉ Homeschool Hub will have lots of extra activities for you to explore about our beautiful oceans this week.

We can also continue watching Scoil na Mara

Listen to music about the oceans.

Or even nicer go for a swim if it’s safe to do so.

Just remember the story of Sharing a Shell and work with those around you to make a kinder and better world for everyone.

Summer term week 7


This week we’re focussing on habitats.  A habitat is the home of a plant or an animal. We’re looking at finding evidence of where creatures live, what they eat and any other tracks or traces we can find.  We’re moving some of our focus towards the seaside though nearly all of the activities are designed to be possible to do anywhere.  

Well done to Amelie and Katie for their wonderful beach art featured on RTE.  Start watching at 7 minutes in on episode 43 of Home school Extra.é-home-school-extra/SI0000006855?epguid=IP000066104

Curriculum principles

We have already touched upon two core principles of the primary school curriculum – environment based learning and the child’s sense of wonder and natural curiosity in previous weeks.  

5 reasons to learn outside with Ken Robinson

  1. nature is the world’s most powerful resource for learning
  2. learning through doing, active engagement with the world
  3. stimulates curiosity
  4. social time together
  5. having fun and enjoyment and enhances quality of life

This week we’d like to draw your attention to the principle of the child being an active agent in their own learning.  All the activities on this page are designed to give your child opportunities to get curious and involved in learning.  As much as possible, help your child to make choices about and to be actively engaged in what they’re learning.

It is an underlying principle of the curriculum that the child should be an active agent in his or her own learning. The structure and content of the curriculum are designed to provide opportunities for active engagement in a wide range of learning experiences and to encourage children to respond in a variety of ways to particular content and teaching strategies.”  (Introduction to the Primary School Curriculum)

Things to notice this week

Become an animal detective. Can you find evidence of different animals homes and feeding habits?

I found this nest on the side of the road. I think it might have fallen out of a tree. I hope the chicks had fledged.
I wonder what animals live in these two holes? Can you find any animal homes near you?
Who made this track in the mud? Can you find any footprints of animals?
What animal might have left this behind?
What animals are living in the seaweed?
This seabeet is a wild form of spinach. Can you see the seeds forming? Can you see evidence that some animals are finding it delicious?

Possible Activities to try this week

  1. Watch scoil na mara 

I find these videos really engaging and informative.

2. Write a Pebble poem

3. Weave a fish with Beth Murphy

4. Take a break with a sense countdown

5. Learn how to become a plastic free ambassador

6. Take on a birdsong challenge from the natural history museum

7. Go on a wildflower hunt

Other links if you have any spare time!

Listen to a story with Candlelit tales

Can you spot the animal that is not native to Ireland in this story?

Biodiversity activities

Get creative

Take part in Project2020 Together / Le chéile with drawings, poems or stories.

Learn some circus skills

Cruinniú na nÓg – how to make your own juggling balls

Summer term week 6 


Biodiversity, short for biological diversity, means the amount of different living things within an area.  

The more biodiversity there is, the stronger an ecosystem is. Trees share valuable nutrients and information with not just their own species but those around them because the wellness of our neighbours affects all of us. 

This is a wonderful resource on gardening for biodiversity which is adult and child friendly.

This is also true of our school community and our country.  We thrive when we respect and celebrate diversity within our living communities; when we respond with an ‘isn’t it interesting?’ or a genuine ‘I wonder’ to someone who is behaving differently to how we normally behave or when we choose to create spaces in our gardens for wildlife.  Even though some of these ‘growth or learning opportunities’ can be challenging; when we support life in all its diversity, we are stronger together.  

Curriculum – Environment based learning 

Another of the principles of the primary school curriculum is environment based learning.   Everyone of us are getting to know our environment better these days and sometimes it’s helpful to be reminded that this is a wonderful support to your child’s learning.  

“The child’s environment is an important context for his or her development. First-hand experience that actively engages the child with the immediate environment and with those who live in it is the most effective basis for learning. This will be centred in the home at first. Later it will be extended to include the immediate environment and the school and, as the child matures, will encompass an ever-widening context. This first-hand experience provides a reference framework for the understanding of more abstract concepts. A rich experience of different aspects of the curriculum outside the classroom adds enormously to the relevance and effectiveness of children’s learning.” (Primary school curriculum)

Things to notice this week


One of the most delicious of the tree flowers and it’s just coming into bloom at the moment.  

Guelder rose flowers

How do these flowers look the same and different to the elderflowers?  

Cleaver flowers 

These tiny white, four petalled flowers become sticky seeds later in the year.  


Can you see the flower and then the petals falling away until there is just seed head left? If you pick a buttercup, can you test if someone in your family likes butter?


Have you seen this little flower creating beautiful patches of blue in lawns or hedges near you?

Willow fluff

Once pollinated by wind, female catkins develop into woolly seeds.

Optional Activities

Backyard bioblitz

Make a mandala

A mandala is a circular structure with a design that radiates out symmetrically from the centre. You can find mandalas in flowers, tree rings, spider webs, seashells and more – and you can use materials from nature to make a beautiful nature mandala.

Daily dose of nature

Can you do one of these each day? Your choice of how to do it and which one to do.

Sit spot

Map your sit spot

Other links that might be interesting

Birds and their birdsong

This is Ireland’s biodiversity – video

Pine pollen little information video from an amazing teacher of mine.  

TedEd biodiversity

Summer term – Week 5

As always, the following ideas are offered to be useful rather than to be a burden. We hope you enjoy spending time outdoors playing and noticing and being curious. In the primary school curriculum the first principle of learning is ‘the child’s sense of wonder and natural curiosity’.

Taken verbatim from the curriculum guidelines: “The impulse for such learning is the child’s sense of wonder at the complexity of the world, the desire to understand it, and the spontaneous impetus to explore it through play. This sense of wonder, together with the child’s natural curiosity, is at the heart of the learning process and provides the purest and most valuable motivating factor in the child’s learning. It is in cultivating the sense of wonder that the curriculum can provide the most fulfilling learning experience for the child and foster an appreciation of the value of learning.”

This is the first picture in the Primary School Curriculum guidelines!

We aim for these activities to add to your child’s sense of wonder and natural curiosity.

Possibilities of things to notice this week

Ribwort plantain – slánlus

Its name in Irish means healing herb but most people know it better through playing a game of soldiers with the flower heads where one person tries to knock the flower head off the other person’s ‘soldier’. I have also used these leaves as a very effective plaster for sore fingers during Forest Friday sessions!

Perhaps you could play a game of soldiers with ribwort plantain? If you don’t know how to play, could you ask your grandparents or an older neighbour?

Can you see the ribs on the leaves?

Sycamore flowers – seiceamar

Sometimes we only notice the flowers on the ground and forget to look in the trees. The Sycamore tree currently has lots of beautiful flowers dangling from it which will become keys (or helicopters) in Autumn.

Gorse flowers

The gorse is blooming all around us and the smell of the ‘coconut’ is sometimes overpowering.

Can you find a flower bud, a flower in bloom, the start of a seed pod and the peas inside a seed pod?

Clover flowers

I keep seeing bees around the clover flowers. Clover is part of the pea family and helps to keep our soil healthy by converting Nitrogen in the air into something other plants can use in the soil.

Can you get the scent of the clover that the bees like so much?

Butterflies in May – Feileacáin

Have you seen any of these?

Activities you might like to play with this week

Get to know a tree near you

Get to know the different parts of it.  Can you find the trunk? The leaves? The bark?  The branches? Twig? Bud? Seed? Flower? Root?

Visit it each day and see what has changed.  What is growing around it?  Can you find any other living things on it?  Insects? Flies? Fungus? butterflies? bees? galls? 

Ask it a question in your mind.  Put your hand on it, close your eyes and see what if it answers or what it says.  

Willow Tree story

See if you can find a willow tree.  They like to live near water.  At the moment the catkins on a grey willow near me are turning fluffy. Grey willow is dioecious, meaning male and female flowers grow on separate trees. The catkins arrive in early spring – the male catkins grey, stout and oval, becoming yellow when ripe with pollen; the female catkins longer and green. Once pollinated by wind, female catkins develop into woolly seeds. Most willows can also propagate themselves by lowering their branches to the ground to develop roots.

Here’s a famous story from our Irish mythology which features a willow tree.

Wonder game

This is much harder for adults than children!  It needs no preparation or equipment and the more it’s played the more it gives.

Choose one natural object that you can observe near you.  e.g ants, clouds, a leaf, a rock.  Each person has to start a sentence about the piece of nature chosen with “I wonder”.  For example, “I wonder how the ant knows where to go” or “I wonder if the ants are telling each other jokes”.  It doesn’t matter what the wonder is and you’re not allowed to answer any of the wonders whilst in the middle of playing the game!  Keep going until you get to at least 20!  At the end, each person chooses their favourite wonder.   You can then investigate or try to find out the answers to some of your favourite wonders.

Family biodiversity treasure hunt

Daily sit spot challenge 

Choose the same place to sit quietly in nature and go there each day. Get comfortable and stay as still as you can for about 5 minutes (or longer if you can). Share what you noticed at the end.

Day 1 – Notice what you notice.

Day 2 – What do you hear? What’s the furthest away sound you hear? What’s the closest sound you hear? How many different types of birds can you hear?

Day 3 – What is moving? Keeping your eyes facing forwards, what do you notice each side of you?

Day 4 – What body sensations do you feel when you sit still and quietly?

Day 5 – What different colours can you see in the flowers around you?

Day 6 – What’s really close to you? What’s really far away?

Day 7 – Notice what you notice.

After your sit spot you could draw a picture of something you noticed during your sit spot. Perhaps you’d like to make a map of the area around your sit spot.

Other links that might be of interest

Liz McMahon’s blog of the last five years of our Forest Friday sessions. Though it takes a bit of time to scroll down through them, there are amazing ideas and stories that we have shared with the children. Look for things to do in May.

The Heritage in schools website has a lot of wonderful information and tutorials about varying aspects of our heritage.

The National gallery has some lovely creative activities.

A tree identification aid from Leaf Ireland

Storytelling at home – great resources for creating stories at home

Wild things at school – probably my favourite resource for learning about our native plants and animals.

Summer term – Week 4

Isn’t nature amazing?  Every day I step outside, I’m noticing things changing and growing.  Just like we are changing and growing every day.  It’s really amazing to think about how each flower transforms into something else.  The horse chestnut flowers become conkers.  The apple blossom becomes an apple.  The dandelion flower turns into the fly away seeds.  (It’s really helpful to point this out to children as a lot of children don’t make the connection of the full life cycle.)

Things to look for this week:

Horse chestnut flowers

These are a conical spire of white flowers sitting on top of five to seven separate leaflets.  The leaflets are widest near the end, the largest leaflet being the middle one.

The white flowers have 4 to 5 petals and a touch of yellow and red within. Yellow un-fertilised flowers turn red after fertilisation.  If fertilised these flowers will transform into conkers in the autumn.  

The bees love these flowers so see if you can find any bees fertilising them.


The seed heads of dandelions are flying all around us the moment.


Can you make a daisy chain?  

Possible Forest Friday activities

Nature check in.  Look around you and find something that is like how you are right now.  Share in what way you are like that object.  For example: I’m like a dandelion seed head because I feel I’m flying around the place and not sure where I will land.  Or I’m like this twig because I’m feeling strong and useful.  

Game: Try and catch a dandelion seed blowing in the wind!  

Explore and observe: See if you can make a dandelion x’s and o’s.   

Free play: Children learn through play.  Let them play as much as possible.  Enter into their play if they invite you.  Or feel free to play with what’s around you.  

Creative Focus: Dandelion magic

1) Dandelion invisible ink.  Make a drawing or write a secret message in invisible ink.  Use the sap inside the dandelion stems to write or draw little messages!  Choose a strong stem with lots of sap to ‘write’ straight on to a white piece of paper.  The sap will dry brown which will allow the picture or words to slowly become more visible.  You might need to keep trimming your stem to keep the sap-ink flowing! 

2) Dandelion Clock Pictures 

Take the age old dandelion-clock-blowing to the next level with the addition of double sided tape, glue and paper!

  • Locate some ‘ready to blow’ dandelion clocks in your garden
  • Carefully create a letter or design on your piece of paper using double sided tape or glue (using dark coloured paper gives the best result)
  • Hold your dandelion clock close to the paper and blow!  The little dandelion seeds should attach them to the sticky part!  Have fun racing around the garden finding more dandelion clocks to add to your design.

Take a break: Wash hands, have a snack, share a nature story.  (The story about the dandelion who wanted to see the world below is one option.)

Sit spot:  Pick a sit spot in nature and stay there quietly for 5 minutes.   What are the birds saying?  How many different ones can you hear?

Gather and share: 

What did you notice? – Share what you noticed (what you saw or heard or felt) with each other.  

What are you grateful for from this session? 


Story – The dandelion who wanted to see the world

Once there was a dandelion who wanted to see the world. 

It may seem strange to you that a dandelion should have such notions. But consider her situation. A small circle of leaves in the middle of a large lawn, and all she had ever seen was the dirt beneath, a forest of grass all around, and a patch of sky above her. This didn’t satisfy her.

She didn’t know what else there was to see, but she was sure there must be something. She was determined that sooner or later she would discover it for herself. And she certainly tried.

The thought naturally came to her quite early that she should grow her leaves above the surrounding grass. Then she would be able to see whatever there was beyond her immediate neighbourhood. And this she tried to do.. 

But every week something terrible happened.

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr . . . . . . .And then suddenly the mower comes to life. 

Those were the sounds that brought awful fear to the heart of the dandelion. For a while the noise would keep its distance: Brrrrrrrrrrrr . . . . .. 

Then it would come close and very loud: BRRRRRRRRRRRR . . . . . Then it would move off again. But always, at last, it would happen. A shadow would suddenly come over her. There would be a whirring and a smashing and a mangling in the midst of incredible noise. A second later, when it was over, her leaves were gone, and she had been chopped back to the level of the ground.

It was a dreadful experience. 

For two days afterwards the dandelion was in a state of shock. Then, when she began to get her wits back, she said to herself: “Why do I bother?” But then she would take courage and begin all over. She would send up young leaves and try again. She thought to herself that it had to be worth it 

And then, one particular week, it didn’t happen. The horrible noise didn’t start up. Her leaves were allowed to grow higher than they had ever gone before.

The reason for that, though the dandelion didn’t know it at the time, was that the family whose yard she was living in, had gone off for their summer holiday. All she knew was that this time no dreadful shadow descended on her to chop and crush and mangle her, reducing her back to the soil. 

The dandelion believed she had a chance and that she could still do it. So she did. 

She pushed her leaves higher with excitement and determination. It was then she saw things that she had never seen before. She saw other growing things besides blades of grass. She saw flowers in beautiful colours. She saw shapes that we would recognise as fences and sheds and houses. It was all very exciting, even if it was a little bit hard for her to understand.

With great daring, she then began to do something she had never done before, something she had only just realised she could do. She sent up a stem with a bud on the end. 

“Goodness,” she thought, “I’m going to have a flower! I wonder what colour it will be!” When the flower opened she found it was a beautiful golden yellow, and she was pleased. 

Now she could see all sorts of things, and she just wished she could go to explore them more closely. The fence, the house, the flowers, even moving things – butterflies and birds, cars passing beyond the fence. It was all very strange, and a bit confusing. But it was wonderful.

After a while the petals of her flower began to dry up, shrivel, and fall away. But the dandelion didn’t mind that. Because she suddenly realised there was something else she could do, something else she could become, just as lovely in its own way as the flower. 

Soon, on the end of the stem where the flower had been, there was a marvellous round, white, fluffy ball. The once blossomed flower of hers had now turned to seed.

The dandelion was delighted! 

But meanwhile, just then the family came back from holiday. 

“Goodness!” Father said, as he stopped the car in the driveway. “The very first thing I must do is put the mower through the lawn.” 

“Oh look!” said one of the children, “There’s a dandelion!” She ran over. 

The dandelion found herself plucked from the ground and lifted up higher than she had ever imagined she could go. 

The child blew… and the dandelion’s downy seeds danced away on her breath, flying higher still and spiralling up upon the soft summer winds. 

And the dandelion was free at last, free to travel in a hundred directions. 

She was off to see the world, finally experiencing what she had always dreamed of and knew she could. 

Other links:

  • Celebrating ‘weeds’ with the national gallery
  • Really useful information on making your garden more wildlife friendly.
  • No mow May – how to increase the flowers and biodiversity in your lawn

Summer term – Week 3

This Covid time has given a lot of us the opportunity to pay attention to what is happening in the natural world. We’d love to hear what you notice. This week we’ll focus on flowers and all the creatures that love them.

Things to notice this week:  Flowers and all the creatures that love them!

Dandelion – caisearbhán

  • The dandelion flower opens to greet the morning and closes in the evening to go to sleep.
  • Every part of the dandelion is useful: root, leaves, flower. It can be used for food, medicine and dye for colouring
  • The name dandelion is taken from the French word “dent de lion” meaning lion’s tooth, referring to the coarsely-toothed leaves.
  • Dandelions have one of the longest flowering seasons of any plant.
  • Seeds are often carried as many as 5 miles from their origin!

Bees – beacha

On a sunny day, spend some time watching some bees as they go about their day.  Which flowers do they like best?  How long do they stay there?  Can you see any differences between any of the bees you see?

This is a 3 minute video from the All Ireland pollinator plan called blooming bees.  It has information on bees and the challenges they face and what we can do to help them.

Lots of information on pollination for upper primary children here.

Cuckoo flower / Lady’s Smock – Léine Mhuire

You may have seen this flower and wondered what it is.  

There is a campaign in the UK called “No mow May” to encourage people to let the flowers bloom on your lawn which helps to provide a vital source of nectar for bees and other insects.

  • The highest production of flowers and nectar sugar was on lawns cut once every four weeks. This gives ‘short-grass’ plants like daisies and white clover a chance to flower in profusion, boosting nectar production tenfold. 
  • Areas of longer unmown grass were, however, more diverse in their range of flowers, with other nectar-rich plants like oxeye daisy, field scabious and knapweed increasing the range of nectar sources for different pollinators and extending nectar availability into late summer.

Whitethorn/may bush/fairy tree/hawthorn – Sceach geal

The hawthorn is just starting to bloom.  It has a strong smell and is very beautiful. 

There are lots of traditions and folklore associated with the hawthorn.   Perhaps you could research some of them.  It is one of the trees said to make up the “fairy tree triad” of Ireland and Britain – “Oak, Ash and Thorn” – and where all three trees occur together, according to legend, fairies can be found! Other legends associate the tree with witchcraft, and it was once believed that gnarled old hawthorn trees were really witches who had magically transformed themselves into trees.  

“Forest Friday” style learning opportunities

The ideas below are just there to support you; not to restrict you.  Go with the flow of your child’s interest and your own. 

Inspire: Rose Review – Try starting with a rose review of your week so far.  Share a flower (nice thing) , a thorn (difficult thing), a seed (opportunity) with each other.  If you’d like to, you could send the rose review to your teacher via your class seesaw account.  

Game: Busy bee. Bees go out from the hive everyday and come back with reports from the world to the hive.  Be like a bee and within an agreed space, take about five minutes to go out and explore the space.  Bring back the three favourite small things you find (if it is safe to do so!).   Show each other what you’ve found and share your information with the others ‘bees’.  Now go back out from the hive and see if you can find what the other person brought back on their first foraging trip.  

Explore and observe: Dandelion clock – Find a dandelion clock to tell the time with.  Blow on it and however many blows it takes for all the seeds to disperse is the o’clock time!

Free play: Children learn through play.  Let them play as much as possible.  Enter into their play if they invite you.  Or feel free to play with what’s around you.  “Play is freely chosen. Play is led by the child. Play connects us.”  

Creative Focus:  May bush

There are many different variations and traditions around the May Bush which you hang above your door to welcome Summer, and it has been said it keeps away the cheeky fairies!

– Gorse or Whitethorn was traditionally used.. but you can also decorate a branch/stick and hang it over your door!

– Traditionally egg shells from Easter would be painted. So save a few of your egg shells and paint them brightly!

– You can also tie ribbon/wool/cut some old fabrics/old veg bags/pipe cleaners/streamers… see what you can find!

Then add them to your branch and put it above your door. 

Take a break: Wash hands, have a snack, share a nature story.  (The story about the dandelion below is one option.  See if you can find any of the other flowers mentioned in the story.)

Sit spot:  Pick a sit spot in nature and stay there quietly for 5 minutes.  What flowers do you notice?  What can you smell?  What’s moving around the flowers?

Gather and share: 

What did you notice? – Share what you noticed (what you saw or heard or felt) with each other.  

What are you grateful for from this session? 


Dandelion story

Long, long ago, the flowers had a huge argument about which of them was the most beautiful, the most special, the most loved by the humans and by the fairies. The argument lasted for weeks, with each flower claiming to be the most beautiful and the most loved. Finally, all of the flowers agreed to let the Flower Fairies decide.

The Flower Fairies sent they’re gentlest and kindest of spirit fairy to settle the problem and to give one plant her blessing and the title of the “most perfect” flower. The little Fairy decided to test each flower by asking them one question.

The first flower the Fairy talked to was the Rose. 
“Where would you most like to live?” she asked it.
“I would like to climb the castle wall.” said the Rose. “And then kings and queens and nobles would pass by everyday and exclaim over my beauty, my scent and my delicate nature.”
The Flower Fairy walked sadly away from the Rose.

Next the Fairy came to a tulip, standing tall and proud. “Where would you most like to live?” she asked the Tulip. 
“Oh, I want to live in a public garden” said the Tulip. “Where everyday people would come and admire my wonderful colors and see how straight and tall I stand.” Once again, the Fairy walked a way feeling sad.

She walked until she came to a forest. There she found some Violets. She asked them “Where would you most like to live, little Violets?” “Oh” said the violets quietly “We like it here hidden in the woods where no one can see us and where the trees keep the sun from dulling our beautiful color.” The fairy thanked the Violets and walked on looking for more flowers to talk to.

She talked to the Tiger Lily who was much too wild and fierce.
She talked to the Sunflower who barely answered her because all she wanted to do was be warmed by the sun.
The little Flower Fairy talked to the Orchids who only wanted to be taken out to dances and she tried to talk to the Narcissus but it was too busy looking at it’s reflection in the water to speak to her.

The little Fairy, with tears in her eyes, was ready to give up and go home when she came to a field with bright fluffy yellow flowers on long thin stalks. The leaves were long and jagged and very close to the ground. But the flowers….oh how happy and cheerful they looked in the field!

“Little one” said the Flower Fairy “What are you called and where would you like to live?”
“I am a dandelion” said the little flower.”I’d like to live where ever there are children. I want to live beside the road, and in the meadows, and push up between the sidewalks in the cities, and make everyone feel happier when they see my bright colors.” The Dandelion chattered on happily saying “I want to be the first flower that the children pick in the spring and take to their mothers. And I could tell if a child likes butter by being rubbed under their chins, and if a child makes a wish and blows my seeds, I could carry that wish on the wind.”

The Flower Fairy smiled brightly and said “Little Dandelion, you are the most perfect and special flower of all and you shall have your wish! You will blossom everywhere from spring till fall, and be known as the children’s flower.” 
And this is why the dandelion comes so early and pushes her head up everywhere with such strength and determination. And why she is so loved by children throughout her long life.

Summer Term Week 2


A short letter in the Irish Times on the 4th April caught my eye.

Sir, – My grandson rang to see how I was getting on with being cocooned. To cheer me up, he said, “Think of the lovely butterfly you will be when the cocooning time is over.

”What a picture of colour and freedom and joy. It is something that is worth waiting for. – Yours, etc,

MONICA GRAY, Cabinteely, Dublin 18.

We are all cocooning in some form away from our previous lives.   Nature has many lessons for us on cocooning and much more.  Outdoor play can really help us to healthfully process all that is going on in the world.  

Things you might notice this week

– the wonderful peacock butterfly (it loves nettle patches)

– the bees buzzing in the dandelions (these are really important food sources for the bees)

– the great tit bird song (it sounds like tea-cher, tea-cher, tea-cher,!)

– the scent of apple blossom (This flower becomes an apple – a lot of children don’t make the link! Notice the five petals and how there is a five pronged star in the centre of the apple when you cut it across the centre.)

– the colours of all the different wild flowers

– the buds bursting on the trees (I’ve been really noticing the ash this year)

Play home forest school

Like we said last week, we are really aware that families are working within different contexts and have access to varying amounts of outdoor space.   You do not need a big space.  Your garden or a small patch of unmown grass or a tree within your 2km radius will work well.  Try as much as possible to use natural, found materials – this is a practice in resilience and helps to teach the children that what they need is all around them.  Restrictions give us opportunities to be creative.  

This type of learning works best when everyone, including the adult, is curious.  Allow the children to be the leaders wherever possible.  Child led learning is one of the aims and deviating from the plan to follow the child’s interest is a sign that you’re doing it right! In fact there is no right and wrong with this if you keep yourself, each other and nature safe and happy. (the three golden rules)

Here is a draft outline of a possible session.  The ideas within it are just there to support you; not to restrict you.  Go with the flow of your child’s interest and your own. 

Inspire: Have a quick game of x’s and o’s using anything you find around you like sticks and stones.

Game: Predator/prey hide and seek. Get the children to choose a (preferably native to Ireland) predator and prey.  Become these animals when playing your version of hide and seek or tag. Let the children come up with the rules. There are great discussions to be had about what’s fair and what would make it more fun!

Explore and observe: The wonder game.  Choose one natural object that you can observe near you.  e.g ants, clouds, a leaf, a rock.  Each person has to start a sentence about the piece of nature chosen with “I wonder”.  For example, “I wonder how the ant knows where to go” or “I wonder if the ants are telling each other jokes”.  It doesn’t matter what the wonder is and you’re not allowed to answer any of the wonders whilst in the middle of playing the game!  Keep going until you get to at least 20!  At the end, each person chooses their favourite wonder.  

Free play: Children learn through play.  Let them play as much as possible.  Enter into their play if they invite you.  Or feel free to play with what’s around you. “Play is freely chosen. Play is led by the child. Play connects us.”

Creative Focus:  Land art – Using whatever is available to you whilst taking care of nature, create a symmetrical butterfly. Colour, symmetry, pattern and shape all come into this.

Take a break: Wash hands, have a snack, share a nature story.  (The story about the creepy crawly or the nettle and the butterfly below are options)

Sit spot:  Pick a sit spot in nature and stay there quietly for 5 minutes.  See how many different types of birdsong you can hear.  What do you think they’re saying to each other?  Can you hear the great tit saying teacher, teacher, teacher?

Gather and share:  What did you notice? – Share what you noticed (what you saw or heard or felt) with each other.  

What are you grateful for from this session? 


Story – Creepy Crawly

At first Creepy-Crawly was nothing but a tiny egg on a blade of grass; but when he hatched out into a caterpillar he was Creepy-Crawly indeed, for though he had about sixteen pairs of legs, they were all so tiny that he could not be said to walk on them. But he crawled about quite happily, and was well content with life as he found it.

“Why don’t you grow long legs like me?” said the Spider. “It must be terribly slow work crawling about like that.”

Creepy-Crawly did not stay to answer. Out of his body he drew two threads as fine as the spider’s own, glued them together with his mouth into a rope, and dropped by the rope from the branch to the ground. He did not like Mrs. Spider.

“Well, I wouldn’t wear a green coat if I were you,” said an Earth-worm whom he met. “Brown is a much nicer colour.”

“Brown may be best for you who live in the ground,” said Creepy-Crawly, “but green is better for me. The birds would like me for dinner, you know, but they cannot see me so well if I look like the leaves I feed on.”

“You should wear a hard shell on your back.” said a Beetle. “You are absurdly soft.”

Creepy-Crawly wriggled quickly out of the beetle’s sight, and a Butterfly who saw him laughed. She said: “Better grow wings, Creepy-Crawly. They are the best means of escape from your enemies.”

Creepy-Crawly looked wistfully at her as she flew off. “Yes,” he said to himself, “that is what I should like—to fly through the air in that grand, free way. That would be glorious! Ah, well! I have no wings, but I may as well be as happy as I can.”

Creepy-Crawly had been eating hard for weeks, but now he began to feel less and less hungry and more and more drowsy. One day he curled himself up under a dead leaf and went to sleep; there he slept on and on for week after week without waking once to eat.

As he slept his skin turned brown like the worm’s, and hard like the beetle’s; but inside the skin a still more wonderful change was taking place. From his body six slender jointed legs with clawed toes grew slowly out, followed by four wings, which promised to be broad and beautiful when they had room to open. From the head grew two long feelers with little knobs at their ends. Over body, head, and wings a coat of tiny, many-coloured scales spread itself, softer than down, and as beautiful as the rainbow.

Creepy-Crawly woke up at last, but he was Creepy-Crawly no longer. He pushed his way out of his hard shell and stood on the dead leaf to dry himself. He spread his wings in the sun; he shook his six jointed legs one after the other; he turned and twisted himself this way and that in his delight.

“Who would have thought I should have come to this?” he said to himself. “Now I am a Butterfly. I am like the one that spoke to me that day. I will fly through the air as she did, and find her, and show her how I have changed.”

He spread his beautiful wings and rose up into the warm air, and flew away to drink honey from the flowers and to dance with his butterfly cousins.

Story – The nettle and the butterfly

This nettle was feeling really sad because he thought nobody liked him.

Then one day, a beautiful butterfly settled on one of the nettle’s leaves and, instead of saying ‘ow!’ and flying away again, the butterfly just sat there and unfolded her lovely coloured wings and rested there in the sunshine.

Well, the nettle was just bursting with excitement and hardly dared move, in case he frightened the butterfly away.

Eventually the butterfly spoke.

“Why are you so quiet?” She asked the nettle.

“I don’t know what to say,” He replied, ” Nobody’s ever sat on one of my leaves before.”

“I wonder why?” asked the butterfly.

“Because I sting them,” Said the nettle, then added sadly, “I can’t help it.”

“Well,” declared the butterfly, “I think your leaves are very comfortable.”

She paused for a moment, deep in thought.

“I was wondering,” the butterfly said eventually, “If I could ask you a special favour.”

The nettle blushed: nobody had ever asked him a favour before.

“Of course you can,” he whispered.

“I need somewhere safe for my eggs during the winter.”

“Would you like me to look after them?”

“Yes, please,” the butterfly answered, “It would mean taking care of them for the whole winter. Could you do that?”

The nettle quivered with pleasure.

“I’d be honoured,” he said.

And so, that winter, the nettle guarded the butterfly’s eggs. All through the rain and the snow and storms, the nettle kept the eggs safe and dry under its leaves, where no animal would dare try to eat them.

In the spring, as the weather grew warmer, the eggs hatched out into caterpillars and, later, each of these caterpillars turned into a chrysallis. Finally, at long last, in the middle of the summer, each chrysallis hatched into a beautiful new butterfly. It looked so pretty, the nettle could hardly believe his eyes.

“Oh,” The beautiful new butterfly stretched its fresh new wings out to dry in the sunshine, “I do feel hungry.”

“Where will you eat?” asked the nettle.

The beautiful new butterfly flicked its glorious wings lightly. They were a deep red colour, with beautiful patterns along the edges, and had four great big eyes eyes painted on them, blue and white and yellow and black.

“My favourite place,” She said, her wings shimmering in the sunlight, “is the flower of a Buddleia bush.”

There were lots of Buddleia bushes in the meadow, their enormous lilac-coloured flower-cones waving gently in the breeze. The butterfly flitted gracefully over to the nearest of them.

The nettle watched, then looked down at his own plain green leaves. They seemed so dull and boring next to the butterfly, he felt very humble.

As if reading his thoughts, the butterfly looked up and spoke.

“Thank you,” She said, “For looking after me all winter. I think your leaves are the strongest and safest leaves in the whole wide world.”

The nettle blushed with pride. Suddenly, he didn’t feel sad at all.

“What’s your name?” He asked her.

“Why,” She said, settling down to feed, “I’m called a Peacock butterfly.”

From that day on, every winter the nettle has looked after the eggs of the beautiful Peacock butterfly.

Peacock butterfly (péacóg)

– Peacock butterflies can be easily recognized by beautiful purple eyespots on the hind wings. When looked from up-side down, this pattern on the wings resembles to face of an owl.

– In the case it is threatened or bothered, peacock butterfly will flash its wings and produce hissing sound by rubbing its wings in front of the predator.

– Female lays up to 500 eggs after mating, usually in the sunny areas covered with nettles, which are the primary food for the caterpillars.

Additional extras

There are so many wonderful outdoor ideas and as we don’t want to overwhelm people, we’re keeping this blog as simple as possible. Below are a few extra ideas for those who want more input. Unfortunately in writing this week’s post, all previous posts disappeared. If you have a look at Liz McMahon’s blog of all the sessions we have done in the forest in the last five years, you’ll have more than enough ideas and stories to keep you going!

And I love this grid of lots of options to try out depending on your circumstances. Perhaps colour in the square once you’ve done that activity. Can you get three in a row? Or five in a row? You could send your favourite piece of work to your teacher via seesaw.

Outdoor learning at home

We are really aware that families are working within different contexts and have access to varying amounts of outdoor space. You do not need a big space to benefit from being outdoors. Your garden or a small patch of unmown grass or a tree within your 2km radius will work well. Try as much as possible to use some natural, found materials in the activities – this is a practice in resilience and helps to teach the children that what they need is all around them. Restrictions give us opportunities to be creative. Saying that, a kit of string/wool/scissors/pencils/journal/clay/magnifying glasses etc is wonderful for being able to adapt to any situation. Let the children decide what they want to bring!

This type of learning works best when everyone, including the adult, is curious. Allow the children to be the leaders wherever possible. Child led learning is one of the aims and deviating from the plan to follow the child’s interest is a sign that you’re doing it right! In fact there is no right and wrong with this if you keep yourself, each other and nature safe and happy. (the three golden rules)

You could play forest school with the children. Here is a draft outline of a possible session. The ideas within it are just there to support you; not to restrict you. Go with the flow of your child’s interest and your own.

Inspire: Start with a story of how you used to play outside when you were a child.
Game: This is not a stick.

Explore and observe: Treasure hunt: Gratitude scavenger hunt (or get your child to make up one that’s more relevant to your location) Try not to answer questions but to enter into the the wonder.

Free play: Children learn through play. Let them play as much as possible. Enter into their play if they invite you. Or feel free to play with what’s around you.
Creative Focus: Using natural found objects where possible create and play a game of x and o’s

Take a break: Wash hands, have a snack, share a nature story. (The story about seasons below is one option)
Game: Choose a favourite running game of yours or the children’s.
Sit spot: Pick a sit spot in nature and stay there quietly for 5 minutes.
Gather and share:
What did you notice? – Share what you noticed (what you saw or heard or felt) with each other.
What are you grateful for from this session?

The story about seasons:
One day, the seasons had an argument. Each one of them said, “I am the best!”
Spring said, “I am when flowers bloom and it is green and fresh everywhere. Birds fly and insects have fun with new flowers.”
Summer said, “Yes, but I am when the sun shines brightly and it feels too hot to do anything. People eat ice-cream, enjoy cold drinks and eat yummy watermelon.
Autumn said, “I am when trees shed their leaves and cover the earth in orange brilliance. The air feels cool.”
Winter said, “I am when people wear woollen clothes, caps and gloves to keep their bodies warm. They get to drink hot chocolate. Birds fly south for the winter because it’s too cold.”

Since they couldn’t decide who was best, they agreed that they were all important because one could not do without the other.

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