Forest Days Blog

We are delighted to be learning outdoors this term with Senior Infants, 2nd class, 3rd class and 5th class.

In addition to our blog below, there is also a lovely record of some of the learning on Liz’s website.

https://dlrcreativityintheclassroom.wordpress.com/category/dalkey-school-project/

A beautiful note of thanks from one of our grateful Forest School parents!

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.”

Sixth Class, Session 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!

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.

Sixth Class, Session 1

‘Games’

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!

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:

Fifth Class Photo Gallery:

Second Class Photo Gallery:

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:

Fifth Class Photo Gallery:

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:

5th Class Photo Gallery:

2nd Class Photo Gallery:

Senior Infants

‘Tracking’

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:

Autumn 2020, Session 5

October 8th and 9th

‘Weaving’

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:

5th Class Photo Gallery:

2nd Class Photo Gallery:

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:

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:

5th Class Photo Gallery:

2nd Class Photo Gallery:

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:

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 https://irishsealsanctuary.org/seals-in-ireland/

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 https://www.rspb.org.uk/fun-and-learning/for-kids/kids-stories/im-not-a-baby/ .

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.

Rockpooling

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.

https://blackrockec.ie/attachments/article/245/East%20Pier%20Trail%20July%202017.pdf

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.

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:

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/58079547be65945328801743/t/5ee08bc242902756ed187853/1591774155795/James_Joyce_Activities.pdf

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

Adaptations

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.

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!
https://www.sailing.ie/Portals/0/OpenContent/Files/647/Dublin_June_2020-1.JPG

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…

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.

https://www.rte.ie/learn/2020/0605/1145733-how-to-take-part-in-the-2-minute-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.
https://www.rte.ie/learn/2020/0605/1145642-fun-activities-for-world-ocean-day-2020/

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

Habitats

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.

https://www.rte.ie/player/series/rté-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

https://www.youtube.com/embed/uilRipTg4hk

  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

http://www.heritageinschools.ie/online-tutorials/lets-go-fishing-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

https://www.museum.ie/en-IE/Museums/Natural-History/Engage-And-Learn/Learning-Resources/Birdsong-Challenge

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 

https://greenschoolsireland.org/green-schools-stay-home-biodiversity-week-6/

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7853KaKY7vI&feature=share

Summer term week 6 

Biodiversity 

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

Elderflowers

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.  

Buttercups

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?

Speedwell

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

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/environment/this-is-what-we-need-to-protect-highlighting-ireland-s-biodiversity-1.3801871

Pine pollen

A 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?

http://www.askaboutireland.ie/reading-room/environment-geography/flora-fauna/selected-wild-flowers-of/ribwort-(plantago-lanceol/

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. https://dlrcreativityintheclassroom.wordpress.com/category/dalkey-school-project/

The Heritage in schools website has a lot of wonderful information and tutorials about varying aspects of our heritage. http://www.heritageinschools.ie/online-tutorials/learn-to-sign-na-blathanna

http://www.heritageinschools.ie/online-tutorials/music-of-the-plants-part-2-beech-tree-marina-levitina

http://www.heritageinschools.ie/online-tutorials

The National gallery has some lovely creative activities. https://www.nationalgallery.ie/what-we-do/education-department/early-years-children-and-families-programme

A tree identification aid from Leaf Ireland https://leafireland.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/AnCB-WS5-Tree-ID.pdf

Storytelling at home – great resources for creating stories at home https://www.storieswithchris.com/new-stories-together

Wild things at school – probably my favourite resource for learning about our native plants and animals. http://www.heritageinschools.ie/content/resources/Wild_Things_at_School.pdf

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.

Dandelions

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

Daisies

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? 

Close

StoryThe 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

https://www.nationalgallery.ie/art-and-artists/exhibitions/drawn-nature-irish-botanical-art/wonder-weeds

  • Really useful information on making your garden more wildlife friendly. 

https://laois.ie/wp-content/uploads/Garden-Wildlife-Booklet-WEB-17MB.pdf

  • No mow May – how to increase the flowers and biodiversity in your lawn 

https://www.gardensillustrated.com/feature/lawn-mowing-when-flowers-may/

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!

Dandelioncaisearbhán

  • 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.

http://www.heritageinschools.ie/content/resources/Newsletter-EIP-farming-kids-Good-res.pdf

Cuckoo flower / Lady’s SmockLéine 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? 

Close

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

Cocooning

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,!)

https://birdwatchireland.ie/birds/great-tit/

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/apr/16/home-birds-how-to-spot-20-of-the-most-common-species-from-your-window-walk-or-garden

– 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.”  https://www.gov.ie/en/campaigns/lets-play-ireland/

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? 

Close

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! https://dlrcreativityintheclassroom.wordpress.com/category/dalkey-school-project/

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?
Close

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.