John Muir Award week 3.

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Week 3 of Forest School began with getting used to a new setting. Weeks one and two were held in Cannock Chase, but it was necessary for a new and more permanent environment to be found and this week we were introduced to the area that we will be working in up until Christmas.

We set about exploring the area, identifying some of the plants and trees we could see around us. This time of year there are plenty of elderberries around.

Katy pointed out that there are an awful lot of sycamore trees in the area. This needs to be controlled to avoid the area becoming dominated by sycamores.

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The site we are in is very close to a stately home whose gardeners have planted Rhododendrons. These plants are very invasive, they have worked their roots under the ground into the woodland area, and they are literally everywhere!! The area we are in is an ancient woodland area and it is beneficial to ensure as diverse a range of plants and trees as possible is able to grow in order to sustain the wildlife in the area. Rhododendrons invading the area however, limits the amount of plants that will grow into frutition, since they create such a low canopy, nothing can grow under it.

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So we have identified 2 pieces of conservation work thus far – the removal of budding sycamore trees and the removal of rhododendrhons.

We explored the area finding a lot of wood covered in coral fungai, as well as birch trees that were rotted from the inside out and had some very rubbery fungus growing all around it. We had a rather close call with a wasps nest, before finding the dried out remains of what would have been some amazingly gorgeous bluebells in the spring. I plan on visiting the area once the forest school is over to mark how it changes in appearance through the different seasons.

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We found a place to hold our camp this week and began gathering logs and creating a fire pit and a circle of logs to gather round. Chloe and I were fascinated by a birch tree that looked twisted. It was part of a cluster of birches that had somehow fallen. We decided there must have been ivy growing on it that had strangled the trunk and caused it to take on the twisted appearence. The time goes too fast on our mornings in the forest, so it was soon time to head back. We are both looking forward to getting stuck into some work in the forest in future weeks.

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John Muir Week 2

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Week 2 of John Muir award was spent getting the group aclimatized to both the outdoors and to each other.
The kids were encouraged to work with those that perhaps they didn’t know as well as the ones they regularly hooked up with and they undertook a trust exercise. One person was blindfolded and then led through the forest while being totally dependant on their partner to keep them safe from trip hazards, stinging nettles and whatever else might cause problems while walking through a forest blindfolded.

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The idea was to try to get the person fairly disoriented and lead them to a tree. They would need to feel the tree and it’s close surroundings and then, once led back to the start try to identify which tree you were led to. Chloe had a go at leading me blindfolded and I was pretty rubbish at it, she had got me well and truly disorientated!

Next we talked about fire safety and were shown how to light a fire. We were sent out to find tinder, kindling and larger logs for sustained fuel.

It was lovely sitting in the forest with a fire warming us while the kettle booked to make hot chocolate.

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John Muir Award * discover * explore * conserve * share *

 

 

This term Chloe and I, along with other members of the Mercia Education Group are undertaking a 10 week Forest School which is being held free of charge. Rugeley Power Station are providing us with the opportunity to work towards the John Muir Award in nature conservation.

 

There are 4 parts to the award. First you Discover a natural environment. This could be anywhere, from a beach to a mountain, to a forest or a spot in a park.

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Next you Explore the area, identifying the wildlife, plants and smaller ecosystems that live within the area you have discovered, as well as looking for ways you can help to conserve the area to ensure the area itself benefits while you are learning from it.

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Once conservation needs have been identified, next is naturally to get stuck in and carry out the work towards Conserving or maintaining the area.

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The final stage of the award is Sharing your experiences with others to promote spending time outdoors learning about the world that we live in. In addition to the importance of sharing our work with those outside of the group, is the value of sharing this experience with all the children and adults who are taking part and getting to know each other and working as a team.

These photographs were taken on the first day of the forest school. The group was split into four smaller groups and sent off to find materials to create the four words included in the award, and then we all spent time talking about what each word meant in terms of expectations of aims and outcomes.

It was a fantastic autumn day. The leaves were only just beginning to fall from the trees in Cannock Chase and to top of a lovely day we found a large toad in a hut just as the group was preparing to leave.

I don’t hold much faith that everyday is going to be as kind weather wise, since we will be working in the forest each week up until close to Christmas, but Chloe and I are looking forward to the rest of the course and cant wait to get stuck into some forest fun activities.

Chloe meets The Animal Man

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In January 2014 my eldest daughter Chloe left school and we began our home education journey together. As I had been planning on hiring The Animal Man for her 11th birthday, and I wanted to kick start her home education with something memorable and exciting I decided to call and request a one to one session for Chloe at home. Despite the request being rather unusual and not the typical type of appointment they would make, they came to our house and spent the morning and Chloe had the luxury of having all the animals to hold all to herself, while Rob explained about their habitats and talked to Chloe about each of the animals in turn. We both learnt a lot and Chloe had an experience she is going to remember for life.

 

The Animal Man is based in Wolverhampton UK. More typical visits include schools, clubs and birthday parties. You can find them on Facebook here https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Animal-Man/139951366076588