Blog of sessions

Liz McMahon is keeping a session by session blog with photos on the following website.

20th April

The aim of providing these sessions is to foster resilient, independent, confident and creative learners, using a flexible approach and natural resources for inspiration.

Senior Infants

The sunshine welcomed us to the forest.  We got straight into being creative during the gathering time.

Today was a very much a time to explore our forest using all our senses. We stopped regularly on route to notice interesting things. Children took turns to be the leader and point out something they noticed.

We got creative after hearing a story about how the animals were made and made our own creatures with clay and natural found objects.
And then it was time for a bit of quiet; a time for being alone with nature.
During our sit spot we noticed:

– lots of birds

– squirrel running around on a tree

– the sun made me feel happy and warm and safe

– saw some birds and heard some

– the sound like an ice cream van

– loads of birds cheeping

– the birds in the sky and when the sun came out, they flew back to their home

– a rabbit jump

– heard a person walk

We finished the day by sharing what we were grateful for and walking back to the car park via the ‘leafy forest’ we had found on the way up.

We’re grateful for:

– being in this world and in forest school

– for being in this group

– that we can crawl on that log

– being in this world and we’re just starting forest school

– to spend time with you all

– making the animals

– making these clay creatures

– everything – making the camp and the coat stand

10th November

4th class

It started as a day of celebrating leaves.

We found so many leaves we liked.

We liked them so much we felt like making big piles and jumping in them!

We were looking for small details and found lots of interesting things whilst exploring.

A fairy vacuum cleaner

What has been eating this fir cone?

A leaf miner trail

The way up to the fairy jacuzzi

The fairy jacuzzi

A drop of sap caught by a spider thread

I think we also have an album cover for both a solo artist and a band!

At the very end, we made a group shadow photo.

We were very grateful:

  • we got to tie learning and playing together
  • for the trees and the animals who welcomed us into the woods and for whoever/whatever planted the trees many years ago and for the people who take care of the park.
  • for the robins
  • to be allowed to play and climb in the forest
  • for learning about edible shamrocks, beech nuts, blackberries, the rubbery leaf plant and the woods
  • that we got to explore and have fresh air and that we were split into smaller groups so that we weren’t crowded and we didn’t have to wait for lots of people all the time
  • that we got to be with this group because we worked together and we didn’t fight or argue
  • for what a great forest this is and that I found an acorn vacuum cleaner
  • that all the groups had different experiences and that we got to hang out together in a small group

6th class

We got so focussed on using our magnifying glasses and exploring and playing games that I didn’t take very many photos.

Reflections about Forest Fridays:

  • I’m glad we got to be outdoors and it’s so much fun and you get exercise.  I feel fitter now.
  • I enjoyed spending time with my friends, not in the classroom, and I noticed more things in nature than I normally would.
  • I prefer that we didn’t just go walking around a random park.  I like that we got to go into places and make stuff like clay faces and swing apples.
  • I liked that we didn’t just have the normal people we’d always hang around us in our group.  We got to hang out and get to know better other people we wouldn’t usually hang out with.
  • I liked that we got to go to unusual places and off the path and off track and on the rocks and away from the usual paths.
  • I learned lots of nature words in English.
  • I learned lots of new things about nature and had lots of fun.
  • I liked that we learned in a different way to how we learn in the classroom.  Instead of talking about something or learning about it, we got to do it and see it and touch it.
  • I liked that we got to make things with our surroundings using what’s around us to make art.
  • I noticed I am better at running around not on paths.  I seem to have better grip on uneven surfaces.


4th class

We started the session with the children showing what they noticed on the way up to base camp.  Slug trails and sun baths were order of the day.

After free play (with the very able children being teachers!) everyone got busy with setting up a Halloween themed woodland.  Swing apples has been a game played around Halloween for centuries in Ireland and these traditions are best learned about by continuing them.

There were beautiful broomsticks to be seen with odd creatures sometimes flying around on them.

And some scary creatures appeared with slime and webs galore.

Around the same time, we began to notice some very scary monsters on the trees.

Some people considered this the scariest one of them all as it reminded them of a president somewhere!

6th class

6th class wanted to lead their parents blindfolded to base camp.  They stopped at something interesting to touch, allowed the blindfolded person to touch it and describe it and imagine it in their mind’s eye before removing their blindfold to see how their imagination matched what they saw.

Free play involved the children showing all their favourite trees to climb and jumping over the ‘bonfire’.

Lunch on the rocks is always stunning and made even better when you get to share it with people you love.

We then set to creating a Halloween fairy village.  Lots of strange creatures appeared.

And we played some traditional games including swing apple and conkers.

Some Halloween themed ideas for you to try at home!

These are all available on the amazing nature detectives website.

Here are a few more wonderful ideas from the Forestry commission to enjoy nature over the Halloween break.$FILE/Autumn_activity_sheets-2017.pdf

20th October

Today was a day of preparation for the children welcoming and leading their parents in the woods next week.

4th class

We started by playing lots of games for us to choose which ones we wanted to teach and play with our adults.

Súil an iolair

ialtóg agus leamhan

sméara dubha, luch agus ulchabhán

We noticed lots of interesting things on the way to the base camp.

There were slugs climbing on one tree.  We thought they might have been practising their bungee jumping or sky diving!

We took a sun bath.

We found puff balls and made them smoke!

And we found jelly ears which felt just like their name!

We then planned for next week’s Halloween creative focus for our adults.

We finished by creating a circle game.

6th class

This group discussed how we wanted to bring our parents to basecamp.  They came up with the idea of blindfold guiding!  This involves being guided to something interesting, touching it, imagining it in your mind’s eye, describing it and then opening your eyes.

We had free play and planned for our parents visit.  We played jumping over a fire!

Following on from our exploring day last week, the children asked to move to a different area to have a sit spot.  We found lots of rosehips on the way.

13th October

This week’s session was based on a very simple and profound Mary Oliver poem.

The focus was wandering and mapping.   The children got to choose where to go and how to go, keeping in mind our golden rules of keeping themselves safe and happy, each other safe and happy and nature safe and happy.

This week, as we broke from ‘routine’ (isn’t it wonderful that spending 2 and a half hours in the woods each Friday is routine?!), I got to notice how much of the Forest Friday ethos the children are living.

Forest Friday ethos

We will have fun, play games, create, learn skills, make things but above all the focus will be on connection; connecting to yourself, connecting to each other and connecting to this wonderful world we live in. 

The aim is to foster resilient, independent, confident and creative learners, using a flexible approach and natural resources for inspiration.

Elements                                                                                             – 

– observation


– creativity as an intrinsic part of every session

– taking appropriate risks and enabling the children to assess risks for themselves

– nature connection

– games & fun

– expanding our senses (lots of games and activities to encourage this)

– harvesting (gathering, enjoying and reflecting on what we have learned and enjoyed)

– unstructured time (to allow for the key principles of play – freely chosen, personally directed and intrinsically motivating)

– gratitude (explicitly encourage gratitude)

– flow learning (inspiration, excitement, movement, focus, relaxation, celebration, reflection and integration)

– 50/50 model (Plan for 100% but go with the flow and energy of the children)

– starting and ending in circle”

In witnessing the children bubbling with excited memories of the way their old base camp from 2 years ago, I was amazed how deep the connection still was!  These are visceral memories that the children have been allowed to experience with their whole being.   Their observation skills and curiosity were evident as they shared their memories, noticed changes and helped each other reconnect with the place.

4th class


When the children arrive, they go to their mats and try to figure out how to tie the knots.  They are improving every week.

We have been learning these knots over the last few weeks:

Lark’s foot Knot

Square knot

Figure 8 knot


Timber Hitch

Sheet bend

Taut line hitch

Two half hitches

Though we have been learning specific knots, the children have also created their own ones.

As the children wandered to their old base camp, they spotted old friends on the way.  It seemed as if each rock, tree and stump had a name.  Can you match the photos below with any of the named places on the maps the children created?  Entrance rock, Squirrel Bath tree, Mud rock, Slimey Fungus tree, Cliffs of Destiny, Art stump, Split tree, Root tree, Goose bump tree, Mud slide path, Zebra tree and rock roulette were just some of the important markers I was introduced to in what was maybe a 200m walk!

The maps which highlight the amazing connection the children have to this place.

We decided to spend some time in the old base camp rediscovering memories and places and played some games together.

We then chose to go up to the Witch’s Hat.  The sun came out and we had a great time on the pyramid.  We had our sit spot in the sun admiring the view from a new location.


Time flew by and soon it was time to go back.  We went down a different path.

6th class

We started in a circle to make some agreements before we set off.  We heard from everyone what they would like their day to include and then we made a plan that everyone agreed to.  The group decided that they would like to visit their old base camp and to go to the obelisk and to play a few games.  They agreed that they would not have leaders but that everyone would stick together.

Within a minute or two of starting to draw the map, some children realised they’d started too big and wouldn’t have enough room.  No teaching needed but lots of learning happening.

Once at base camp the memories flooded back.  “I just have so many memories of this place.”  The excitement was palpable when they discovered their old den complete with kitchen area where they had made jam.

We found the old way up to the pyramid and obelisk and had lunch.

After lunch, we decided to play tip the can.  And then had a beautiful sit spot in the sun with a view of almost the entire city and the feeling of the warm wind blowing.  Some of us found really squishy cushion grass and others sat on hard rocks beside blackberries.

We found a very strange spider web with thousands of moving tiny creatures inside.


We found a creature that I couldn’t find a name for on this rock.  Looks like a type of ladybird.

We were grateful:

  • we all got to decide where we went together and we didn’t have one leader.
  • we got to play hide and seek
  • we got to explore a bit and go to other base camps
  • I found a fuzzy weird plant
  • we got to walk around and explore more
  • we had a lot of freedom and choice
  • how wandering allows your mind to wander
  • playing a new game
  • we could explore

We went home happy after a session wandering together and a sense that we want to explore more!

6th October

4th class


The gathering activity in the morning is learning new knots.

Benefits to learning knots

Practical purposes

  • Tying and securing sail ropes on a boat
  • Securing luggage
  • Putting up a swing
  • Tying down tarps over loose outdoors items before a storm
  • Tying gates or loose section of fencing
  • Making a secure, makeshift leash for your dog
  • Securing thin ropes to the backs of art work for hanging

Creative purposes

  • Making jewelry
  • Making the knots between pearls or other loose beads
  • Tying ropes to create home décor such as tassels
  • Securing the rope to the beginning of an object for rope wrapping
  • Creating rope sculptures

Sporting purposes

  • rock climbing
  • sailing

Finger Agility

  • keeps your fingers nimble is important fine motor control-oriented tasks such as typing or playing an instrument.
  • Practicing rope knots on a regular basis is a great exercise for fingers, and can help strengthen them.

Mental Agility

  • Tying rope knots can be seen as a type of puzzle.
  • Learning a new knot will force you to stretch yourself in a different way, which will help to keep your brain function strong.

Fun and enjoyment

  • Learning any new skill can provide hours of fun and enjoyment.
  • Mastering each knot, practicing on various types of rope, and implementing what it is that you’ve learned can all be sources of enjoyment for you.

Free Play

Free play is an important part of each session.  Here the children get to follow their curiosity and playfulness, individually or together.

Swinging, climbing and carrying are frequently part of free play.

This week, the innovative Blackberry spa opened in our base camp.  On offer were facials and manicures.  A facial cost 3 acorns!

Focused activity – making hanging land art

We learned to use palm drills safely to make a hole in an acorn or conker.  We used our knot skills to create mobiles.

While waiting to use a scissors, one child used his ingenuity and creativity to create his own tool and cut string with a sharp stone.

Individually or together, we made land art that used natural objects and knots.

We had a beautiful sit spot and went back to school happy.

6th class

Balance and climbing are choices for 6th class during free play.

Using the skills of our wonderful volunteer parent, we learned to make dream catchers using ivy as the circle.

Others chose to interpret the challenge of making hanging land art using knots differently.

During our sit spot, once again we noticed a bird hovering and then three crows/rooks came and chased it away to a new location.  We’ll need to bring binoculars to figure out what it is.  It might be a kestrel or a sparrowhawk.


29th September

Change and continuity

As we moved into the fourth session, we notice how some things change and some remain the same.  The mushrooms we saw last week have changed completely.  New fungus has sprouted in other places.  The sea looks different moment by moment.  Bray Head remains in the same place!  Small logs have been moved.  The weather is different every time we’re up here.  In going to the same place at the same time with the same people week after week, a richness and depth of learning happens that cannot happen in the once off sessions.   We build layers of knowledge and knowing and experience and sensations each week on top of the previous experiences.

Last week a tree full of mushrooms

This week the same tree looks very different

Instead of saying “Be Careful”

We are learning to take good care of ourselves and others and to assess risks for ourselves.  Instead of saying “Be Careful”, our leaders try to help us to learn the skills of taking care of ourselves by using phrases like:

“How could you keep yourself safe?”

“How can you keep others safe and happy around you?”

“Do you feel safe there?”

“Take your time.”

“I’m here if you need me.”

“Please find a safe spot for your stick while you’re running.”

“What’s your next move?”

“Stay focussed on what you’re doing.”

“Sticks need space.  Look around you – do you have enough?”

“Do you feel balanced?”

“Do you need more space?”


4th class

We started our day using our imagination to warm our hands by the fire we found.

And we quickly learned a new woodland animal game that warmed us up further.

Observation & curiosity

These were just some of the things we noticed on our way up to base camp.

During our sit spot, we noticed:

  • that there was a tree that had brown needles instead of green
  • how calm the sea was and the sun reflecting off the sea
  • some of the grass was much longer than other grass
  • when you follow dead looking trees up they can have leaves at the tip
  • a lawnmower cutting grass
  • that it was quiet and nice and peaceful
  • that there was only a little bit of wind and that the tree whistled with the wind
  • the warmth of the sun on my back
  • people’s footsteps and kids voices
  • birds tweeting
  • how quickly everyone became calm
  • a wasp flying around me and making a buzzing noise

This week we became the story tellers, learning the story of the apple star.  We paired up to learn it and to put a bit of drama into the telling.

We created some land art to understand the life cycle of the apple tree and then created books.

Some of the beautiful books we made to illustrate the life cycle of the apple tree.

We are grateful:

  • that me and Ruby got to act out the apple story
  • for coming up here and having the sunshine
  • for what a lovely sunny day it is and that the wind was calm whenever we sat
  • for how different all our creativity looks
  • all the games we can play especially owl, mouse and blackberry game
  • learning something new every week about nature – this week it was about beech mast or beech nuts
  • for the games we play especially you’re only safe if
  • for doing the land art this week
  • for all the different stuff we’re doing every week like base building and hammock making
  • for the games at the beginning of the session
  • for the weather and there not being a cloud in the sky

6th class

As quite a few of us said we were tired when we checked in at the start of the session, the group asked to have a longer sit spot.  This is a very lovely time when the children get to spend time with themselves and what they notice around them.   It can be very relaxing and peaceful.  When we checked in at the end of the session, the most common feeling was relaxed instead of tired.

In English the plant in the pictures below is called navel wort or wall pennywort.  Wort is an old word for a plant, especially those that were edible or medicinal.  In Spanish we were told it was ombligo de orion or ombligo de venus.  Either Orion’s or Venus’ bellybutton!  If you want to know more, have a look at

Drawing the life cycle of an apple

Land art

Can you guess which stage of the life cycle of an apple tree is represented by the following land art?

We tasted apple tea and shared what we noticed during our sit spot and what we were grateful for to end the week.

22nd September

4th class

As it was windy and wet this morning, we changed base camp to a more sheltered area.  This meant that we got to explore a new part of the woods.

We got muddy hands in the process – always a good sign.  (This photo was taken before we washed our hands for lunch!)

We were fascinated by the fungi that were found this week.

We created a living room, bedroom and bouncy castle for the fairies on the bracket fungus in our new base camp.

We noticed other fungus growing on sticks and leaves changing colours.

During our sit spot we noticed:

  • a silver spider crawling up a branch into a hole in the tree and the tree I was leaning back on I thought was dead but I followed it up and at the top were loads of leaves so it was alive
  • saw and heard raindrops dripping on the leaves
  • the different coloured leaves
  • little bushes everywhere that were the same plant
  • dogs barking
  • people talking
  • sounds of the leaves hitting off each other
  • the wind blowing against the leaves and branches
  • that sometimes it’s completely dry under the tress and then the wind comes and blows the rain off the leaves and we get wet.
  • the nice peace and quiet
  • the many varieties of trees
  • lots of leaves on the ground

Our new base camp was under a horse chestnut tree.  Some were twins or triplets!


We worked really well together making hammocks.  This was a chance to learn the skill and to figure things out as we went along.  The knots that we’ve been learning each morning before we go to base camp paid off.

We are grateful:

  • that we get to be up here unlike other schools and that we made hammocks
  • for making hammocks
  • for this weather because it’s exciting and we got a new base camp and it’s fun
  • how lucky we are and I’m grateful that Forest school wasn’t cancelled as I thought it might be because of the weather and I felt annoyed when I thought it might be cancelled
  • for the treecreeper we saw and for the lady who told us what it was
  • for building
  • for moving into a new area
  • for playing with my friends at a time that we’d normally be doing work
  • for exploring a different area
  • for shelter from the rain and wind
  • for all the sticks
  • for a lovely apple drink at the end

6th class

The weather had changed for the better by the time 6th class came up to Killiney Hill so we returned to our base camp.

Look at all the different types of fungus sharing the woods with us!

We spent a bit of time climbing and building.

We learned how do to some of the knots and were even able to do them with our eyes closed.

And then we started to figure out how to make hammocks.

During our sit spot we noticed:

  • Out at sea there was lots of wind and loads of big waves kept crashing on the rocks
  • That there were kinda parts in the sea that were darker than other parts
  • A bird gliding trying to fly into the wind but it couldn’t so it was just gliding
  • The plane flying above me
  • It was a house or a castle hidden in the trees
  • A bird that had been flying in the tree up higher
  • The bird that was just staying still
  • The bird but I thought it was a drone because it was staying in exactly the same place
  • The sea
  • On the beach there was a dog that was chasing the waves and then a giant one came in and crashed over the dog
  • The wind moving the grasses coming in gusts

We are grateful:

  • That we actually get to come to come to Forest school and that we get to come to Killiney hill rather than do it on the school property
  • That we get to come to forest school and that it’s so much fun and that our school is very special like that
  • That we get to look around and don’t have to stay in one place
  • That we have bases
  • We get to go to forest school because we get to be in the forest
  • Because we did hammocks
  • That it was windy today and it gave us a different experience of forest school
  • That it didn’t rain again and it looked like it was going to
  • For the beautiful view when we’re at our sit spot
  • For the activities that the teachers come up with for forest school

Can anyone figure out what this is?

15th September 2017

4th class

We are grateful:

  • That we go to Killiney Hill every Friday and we make dens and have sit spots
  • For coming here and having a good time
  • For having all this nature around us
  • What nice weather we have today
  • That we made dens and for our camp
  • For people looking after each other and keeping everyone safe and happy
  • That we can use nature for art and that it’s not just for looking at
  • That we’re so lucky to be with nature in this way
  • For having Jenny as a teacher
  • For all the stuff we’re allowed to do
  • For being up here with my class
  • For the peace and quiet and lovely company





Experiential, multi-sensory, active learning


During our sit spot we noticed:

  • Dogs barking
  • The sound of the wind
  • A magpie jumping from branch to branch
  • Birds singing
  • The alarm call of a magpie when a man threw the ball for the dog
  • Pink flowers near me
  • All the life around us and that we’re not the only thing alive here and that the birds were talking to each other and that everything else is living around us
  • People from beach school
  • A magpie eating things from a dead branch
  • Clouds moving extremely fast
  • The sea was incredibly calm and beautiful

6th class

Creating and problem solving

We quickly got down to making a den together.  This led to lots of discussion about inclusion and whether or not people could have their own ‘places’ inside and how to be fair about who gets in!  Together we came up with solutions that everyone agreed to.

Leave no trace 

We also had a big discussion about whether it was okay to leave banana skins or orange skins or apple cores behind us.  Lots of reasons why and why not.  We decided not to leave anything behind and even left the place better than how we found it by taking other people’s litter away and putting it in the bin.


One of us noticed that the inside of the stick we were using to help tell the story of the bundle of sticks was really spongy inside.  This led to lots of questions and observations and fascination.  We noticed that there was a green layer just inside the outer bark and that there were red strips on some of it and that you could push out the spongy bit inside and leave the stick hollow.  We then used a twig identification chart to try to figure out what tree it might have come from.  We think it was an elder which is the same tree that the elderberries that made our tea today came from.

Appreciation of beauty and nature, wide angle and close up

We are grateful:

  • that no one was arguing.  We all got on well
  • for the tea at the end which was really nice
  • for a relaxing time
  • for sitting in a sit spot
  • for making a base
  • for moving base
  • for time and space in nature
  • for having places like this in our area
  • for all of the things here
  • that we got to do den building
  • that everyone was included in different ways
  • listening to humming at the sit spot
  • a butterfly landing on my shoulder

4th class

Learning skills – The challenge of the morning activity is to be able to tie the knots with your eyes closed.

Observation – we noticed lots of interesting shapes like this heart shaped ivy leaf.

Playing – We played hiding games in our new base camp.

Relaxing – We hung out in trees.

Foraging – We collected some of the fruits of the forest.

Balancing – We challenged ourselves to balance and to keep ourselves and each other safe.

Noticing – we collected 40 shades of green

Creativity – we created 40 shades of green with watercolours

Gratitude – We are grateful for lots of things.

6th class

8th September 2017 – Pine base camp

Curiosity – we were fascinated by what might be living under here. We found tracks.

Working together – We worked hard together to create a den for our whole group.  Lots of good communication and figuring out of how to keep themselves, each other and nature safe doing this.

Creativity – We found forty shades of green in nature and then had a go at creating them ourselves.

Sit Spot I noticed:

  • The way the sea was moving, like the waves on the sea
  • The colours of the sea
  • The greenness of the view
  • The birds flying above
  • The sea was separated, some parts were green, some parts blue and the other white
  • The other group howling
  • The sound of the other people walking by
  • A bird hovering above the trees and being taken up by the air currents
  • That the tide was in
  • The waves moving
  • There were a load of spikey bushes

I’m grateful for:

  • Having a good group
  • To able to go to Killiney Hill
  • To be able to do forest school and to sit on the rocks
  • For building a den together
  • That everyone worked together rather than being separate
  • To spend time with you in the woods
  • Got to build a base
  • That we have a good group
  • Everybody got to work together to build the base
  • To spend time outside
  • The forest because I love trees