Sam and Dylan working after school and with all of the Castle students in lesson time, have helped to maintain the wild forest area by weeding and chipping paths, cutting back brambles, lopping branches and infilling Den 1 with fresh foliage, cementing in boat 6 as a second bird hide and sawing stakes to form fruit cages. Boat 6, Moor otters and Dragon wings all form part of the features on display in within the OL resource area.
Sam and Dylan have successfully raised one of the beds to a fourth layer using recycled wood, power drills and saws, in addition to chipping trails, staining wooden pegs and after they have been numbered, hammering in at each of the sapling trees planted within the wood (160).
Years 10/11 have now completed their outdoor learning IAG sessions and have been instrumental in filling leaf mulch bags, planting spring bulbs, topping up the trails with chippings, pruning back the brambles, painting the ceramic poppies and sunflowers and generally clearing up after the winter storms.
In the summer term year 7 get their turn, followed by year 8
Pupils from Year 11 are just completing their IAG (information and guidance), Outdoor Learning sessions having got involved in the ‘Conservation and Conversation’ themed activities. This has included moving wood chippings and laying trails throughout the OL resource area, cutting back brambles, filling leaf mulch bags, adding card to compost bins, planting out spring bulbs and painting poppies and sunflowers for our features. At the same time they have considered how this quiet and tranquil place, which is very much a wild life haven can contribute to them being de stressed during exam revision.
Sam, Dylan and now also Luke, will be attending after school sessions and using a variety of tools safely to help maintain the wild forest area. This term we need to rebuild the storm damaged Den 2 and attach a fourth board layer to each of the beds.
We achieved a certificate for the recycled flock of sheep feature entered in Launceston show but they went missing thereafter? Will they be returned to us or are they chomping happily in the fields, I wonder?
The fantastic early autumn weather has meant our year 10/11 and now year 9’s have been able (during their IAG sessions), to top up our chippings trails (thank you Glendale’s), so that all groups can continue to use our Outdoor Learning resource throughout the year. Students have also been collecting fallen chestnuts, roasting some and then using the husks to create 2 x giant hairy spider features, filling leaf mulch bags for the beds, creating hedgehog hibernaculums, pruning back the brambles, planting spring bulbs, painting our ceramic features and thinking about British values, our mental health and emotional health and how these activities undertaken with friends in a safe, quiet and tranquil environment can contribute hugely to their overall well- being.
By the end of term Dylan and Sam had completed 10 after school sessions during which they tended the 100+ tree saplings, erected rustic coffee tables, raised mini garden boards, laid chippings trails, added to the dens, raised the castle, sawed wooden stakes, collected burning wood etc.
They also participated in an ‘Alfresco’ cooking day during Active Learning week along with 18 others, which proved most successful. A longer report can be found under outdoor learning on our web page. Similarly, a report detailing ‘Woodland life’ also held during AL week, including bee keeping introduction, can be found further down the Forest Activity page.
Throughout the year numerous subject groups from years 7-13 have made use of our OL resource, including Science, Humanities, English, Maths and Art. In addition all years have gradually worked with Ms Unwin during IAG periods, the latest being years 7 and 8 participating in a mix of gardening and forest endeavours.
The College Nursery group of 22 children + 5 staff have been the latest group to use our woodland facility. With Ms Unwin setting up a range of activities to stimulate and interest, they have explored the whole area with their teachers and it has been the highlight of each week. So far they have experienced digging, planting, watering, filling, carrying, climbing, jumping, sliding. They have used the dens, extra- large tarpaulin, sprinkler, trowels, soil, compost, wood shavings, leaves. The children also helped to make a recycled sheep planter for the Launceston Show.
At present Dylan Harvey 8JP and Sam Tancock 10FCA regularly attend Forest activity each week, (numbers do tend to rise when the weather improves). Both of these boys have worked with Ms Unwin throughout the year in all weathers. Fully kitted up in PPE they have participated in a range of activities which help to maintain and develop the OL resource. They are becoming increasingly proficient in using a variety of materials including tree wood, sawdust, soil, clay, chestnut husks, stone, water and of course tools including wheelbarrows + load, saws, loppers, secateurs, hammers, drills, scissors, paint brushes, vegetable knives, spades, trowels, forks.
Forest Activity continues this term with students repairing and maintaining the wooded area after the winter storms. Den 1 held up extremely well and remains 90% waterproof. The larger and not yet fully finished Den 2, has taken a complete battering and will need to be re – constructed. The robins how ever have returned to its surrounds, having nested their last year, and are currently building new nests. Watch this space for more news.
Forest activity continues weekly with much to do and fun to be had. Students learn to use a range of tools in building and taking down structures, learn the names of plants and trees, create habitats and features designed to make students observe and think about how we should live along- side the natural world. Tommy, Becca and Reuben start attending weekly sessions.
The apples and remaining runner beans are harvested and along with our own stored blackberries and shop bought pumpkins are used by the students to create a range of food products, which are then available to others in the school canteen.
Thanks to Mr Dougie Finnimore, tree surgeon, and the Kennedy family for supplying us with tree prunings for our use in OL, including den making, tepee and bivouac building.
Various subject groups, in addition to those pupils working with Ms Unwin have made use of the OL area this term and the bark chippings laid down earlier really helped keep things clean and tidy. Sam, Hayden and Dylan have attended forest activity throughout the year after school and have been instrumental in taking down the dens, erecting a pallet coffee table, making scarecrows, adding to ‘Eden’ and creating the motte and bailey castle. Anthony, Oren, Keira, Louis, Emily, Max, David, Rose and Tom all worked with Ms Unwin during TT lessons mixing both gardening and forest activity. These sessions both ‘reward’ and ‘enable’ students, complementing the more formal aspects of their learning undertaken in the main block.
Groups of year 7/8’s made the most of a week of fine weather in July to attend outdoor sessions with Ms Unwin in Active Learning week. The pizza/bread oven designed by Mr Blackburn and built with the Castle students came into its own –yum!
Sam has attended regularly after school all year, along with one or two others attending periodically, (due to fall out with friends, clashes with homework clubs and dark nights). It is hoped that these students and two more from year 8 will start after ½ term. Other students, including all of year 12, and all of year 8 during IAG sessions, Max, Rose and David from sixth form special provision referral unit and Kiera, Emily, Louis, James and Anthony have enjoyed forest activity with Ms Unwin during TT lessons. They have gained experience in using a range of tools with which to manage the wooded area, construct wildlife habitats and create a range of features to stimulate interest. Just being in the wooded area can have a profound effect on people, not only bringing them closer to nature, but also allowing them time and space to relax, talk, socialize and reflect. We haven’t lost any sessions to bad weather as yet, but have made use of the on- site classroom in order to paint poppies and sunflowers, make dream catchers, Christmas and remembrance day wreaths, papier mache animals, pine cone owls, leaf bale sheep ……the list is endless. 90% of all materials used are recycled , including the 50 broken chairs which made up our centipede. If you wish your child to participate after school letters are available from Ms Unwin.
The ALC ‘wild’ area has been in use throughout the autumn (2015) and spring (2016) terms in spite of the very wet weather. Weekly sessions have been held after school supporting students in year 8.Yr. 11 CTH Childcare group spent a whole day in the rain experiencing a range of forest activities as part of their course and are coming back for more on March 7th. Yr.10 will follow in the summer term. Ms Carlton, Ms Gough and Mr Mitcheson’s humanities groups have been in the woodland area s to consider ‘sense of place’ and spirituality. Ms Taylor, Ms Bateman, Mr Adams’ science groups have been over to do some science based experiments. In between downpours, Mr Blackburn has been working with the Castle ARB students, building a pizza oven. Just after ½ term they enjoyed watching a digger unload a cast concrete mains ring which Mr Blackburn hopes will strengthen the base. Mr Bazely has most recently used the wooded area to show his environmental science group how nature claims back land if it is left undisturbed. Also how at the end of a trees life it falls or is taken down and becomes habitat for a whole range of creatures. The gaps created allow in more sunlight and new ground layer plants take over. Mr Peter Hicks and Ms Unwin have had to take down a series of trees damaged in recent storms including Larch, Willow, Pine. These have enabled natural seating, shelters and signs to be made, and woodchip and shavings to be used for pathways and art work.
Forest activity 2014-2015 started successfully in the rapidly changing ‘adventure learning area’. Students (Olivia, Coral, Tyler, Stuart, Max) have been helping to clear the area of overgrown brambles, collecting chestnuts, identifying trees, planting willow, making an open fire and cooking on it, made and sited animal trackers and built a group shelter. Students use a range of tools to do this. They also are learning to widen their social skills, improve their physical and emotional resilience, improve confidence and work on leadership skills.
As of April, Jess and Stuart are continuing to clear back the undergrowth and reveal the old beds and this work which supports that done by the John Muir ‘wilderness’ project, run by Mr Mitcheson and supported by Ms Unwin and Mrs Mc Donnell has made a real difference to the area.
Year 7 tutor groups have been busy making ceramic poppies, with Ms Unwin. Along with her sunflowers, woodland anemones and tree name plates in the style of ‘the green man’ ancient images, and Giacometti type figurines and creatures, they will feature in the wooded areas drawing your attention. We hope they will provide a focus for contemplation and thought, and a stimulus for learning (perhaps finding and observing the real thing).
Ant, Dec and Luke our ‘newbie’ Year 7 students joined Nathan in cutting up their fruit and vegetable refreshments , using sharp knives before learning how to use a bow saw to cut up wood for the camp fire. They also split kindling using a mallet and French Bill hook. Most successfully I might add.
The ‘Circle of life’ feature has been dismantled from the garden and needs now to be reformed in the soon to be renovated outdoor learning site. With the better weather students can now research wildlife in the woods as nature goes into spring overdrive!
At last, in March, students were able to participate in Forest- School activities in dry weather. A new fence is being built around the outdoor adventurous learning area to make it a secure and safe place in which to learn outdoors. Meanwhile students continue to learn how to do ‘wild cooking’ on an open fire and this week, develop their sensory skills.