All posts by Bubbles

I am a mum of 3 girls. I home educate my children so much of this blog is likely to be dedicated to recording activities and events related to Home Education.

Forest School weeks 4 & 5

The last two weeks of Forest School have been focused on food! Week 4 began with a game of 20/20 tag. Chloe enjoyed hiding in the forest and hung around on the edges while player after player ran to home inside the circle. When she was finally spotted and turfed out of her hiding place to be chased through the trees to home, her face was a picture of happiness. Nothing quite like running through a forest to make a girl like Chloe come alive!
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Next we needed a fire so we had a session on fire lighting safety and all the group had a turn practising lighting some cotton wool in a metal dish until everyone had been successful. This took a while. Using the fire lighters is not easy and it takes a long time for the sparks to catch and light up.

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Once we had a fire going, Katy set up a kitchen area and the group all made pizzas over the fire!
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Week 5 was a little overcast and it looked like it was going to rain hard, so a little tent area was created to keep the equipment inside.
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As agreed afterr the success of the pizzas, everyone had brought sausages and buns to make hot dogs, so we needed some skewers to cook the sausages on. We were given some loppers and Katy gave a talk on how to carry and use them safely and we went off in search of hazel to cut.
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Once we all had a branch we were given a pen knife and Katy taught us how to wittle the wood into a point to make skewers.
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Then the sausages were placed on the skewers and put over the fire to cook. The hot dogs were tasty, but the best bit was the Krispy Kreme donuts that Gulsoom had brought to share.

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Stream of consciousness 10 minute challenge.

I am new to blogging so I have no idea what this is going to turn into. By that I mean this post I am writing right now and my blog as a whole.
I created the blog to follow my daughter’s journey through her home education. We do a lot of activities and I want a space I can keep track of all she does aside from my facebook album which is dedicated to it.
I also want it to be a place I can talk about things that interest me and I am going to make a confession here. I have recently begun studying Wicca and Pagan religion, and so this blog is likely to include much about that as I am learning as well as posts on nature in it’s many forms.
I also have become rather crafty in the last year. I did my first piece of knitting around a year ago and I have created some quite nice things since then. I never considered myself artistic or creative enough beforehand, but I have surprised myself a few times in the last year.
In fact I am discovering a few skills that I wish I had pursued much sooner than the arse end of my 30s. I have been spending a lot of time learning about gardening and have now finally got the confidence to get stuck into my garden which is a bit of a wild mass of plant life at the moment. I will have it sorted by this time next year and looking lovely.
Stand up comedy is another interest of mine. I find that comedians are far more than just people who make you laugh. There job is to state things that we see and do everyday and make it humerous, and for that reason most comics have a way of putting the world in perspective that is so true and genuine. The comeidians who have the balls can really make people think about the world. I am not exaggerating when I say Bill Hicks changed my life. George Carlin too. They gave me tangible things that I could relate to that helped me make sense of the shitty world and to juxtapose that with the amazing beauty and love I felt for life. They helped me realise so much about life and it’s duality, irony, beauty and hypocrisy that abides on this planet. Anyway, my 10 minutes is up so ciao!

John Muir by Chloe D

John Muir was born on 21 April 1838 in Dunbar and died on December 24 1914. He was a naturalist , he was passionate about nature. He pioneered the study of ecology.

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He was an activist who worked to help preservation within the western forest in the USA.

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Today we are continuing his work looking after the enviroment.

“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks”

“The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness”

“The power of imagination makes us infinite”

“The mountains are calling me, I must go”

– John Muir.

The Secret Death of Bees

Have you heard of CCD? If not, then you should have. It is a disease that is spreading and is causing an epidemic that if not contained and managed effectively is likely to cause nothing less than an agricultural catastrophe.

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This is not a new problem. In the UK the number of species of bees has fallen by half since the 1950s. But the complete disappearance of entire colonies is a phenomenon that was first globally reported on in 2007 and is known as CCD, (Colony Collapse Disorder). Year on year the number of bee colonies are in decline. Last year in the UK there was a 10% decline in the number of bee colonies, which is an improvement on the year before which saw a 34% loss. In North America, since 2006, migratory bee keepers have noted an annual 30% – 90% loss in bee colonies; while non-migratory keepers have noted a 50% decline.

Causes

There are a number of factors which are combining to cause the death of the bee. Pesticides, Genetically modified food and loss of habitat are the major factors which us as a species are contributing to loss of the bee colonies. This alongside disease caused by mites, means that it is now time for us as a species to stop taking action which is destructive to the bee and start conserving, managing and encouraging the growth of bee colonies.

Varroa Mite

The varroa mite is a parasitic mite, exclusive to bees, which feeds on the blood, and from which the bees have little to no natural defenses.
In the UK Varroa is currently in endemic status within England and Wales; and is widespread within Scotland and N. Ireland. It is not exclusive to the UK, or indeed to Europe. This is a global problem, and one that cannot be eradicated. It is therefore imperative that infested colonies continually maintain effective control of the parasite.

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Nosema

Nosema is a cold weather disease caused by microsporidian fungal parasitic pathogens that invade the digestive tracts and spread throughout and between hives, causing dysentery like symptoms.

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Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV)

A wide spread disease which causes infantile paralysis, killing 80-90% of infected bees.

Insecticides

Despite the fact that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have deemed the use of the pesticide Neonicotinoid as ‘unacceptable’ the FSA continue to allow its use. The pesticide is applied to seeds before they are planted and therefore is transported up the plants’ vascular system as it grows and remains present in the plants pollen and nectar, and is then passed onto the bees. It is also present in the soil and is having a detrimental effect on a number of affected species of bird.

Loss of Habitat

Urbanisation of natural environments directly removes the bees habitat. Furthermore, it fragments environments, causing foraging resources to be scattered and few and far between. This leads to nutritional stress in bees. The extra time and work the bee must expend in foraging leads to a decline in the quantity and quality of the honey produced.

The Result

With the human species poisoning the pollen and nectar, lowering the immune systems of the bees, as well as systematically destroying their habitats to make way for housing and retail developments; bees are increasingly at risk of the numerous diseases that have been sweeping through the colonies. These factors, while taken as isolated incidents, may appear to be fairly harmless. However, with all factors combined the result is Colony Collapse Disorder in epidemic proportions. The result of such a decline in bee colonies has the potential to be devastating to crops. This is happening right now and has been for many years. CCD should be as widely known about as global warming. We should be educated to do our bit, just as we are in regards to recycling these days. Councils should be supplying us with bee attracting plants and offering education and training to teach us how to attract bees to our gardens. If you think I am exaggerating then consider this quote:

‘ The fact is that of the 100 crop sources that provide 90% of the worlds food, over 70 are pollinated by bees’ – UN report.

While the page this quote was sourced from seemed less than sympathetic to the plight of the honey bee stating, in not so many words, that should bees become extinct it wouldn’t be the end of the world, and this is probably true; but it would be a world greatly changed. We would lose a large amount of our food sources, or have to work extremely hard to maintain them. What we need is to act now. We need to take the effort it would require to do a fraction of the work the honey bees perform and put that energy into taking steps to save the bees from extinction. I mean, can you really imagine a world with no honey???

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What can we do?

Anyone can help to do their bit. Plant bee attracting plants in your gardens.
Educate yourself, educate your kids. Be a friend of the honey bee. Find a local beekeeper and volunteer to help out or arrange talks for your club or your kids clubs. Or simply share this blog and others like it that you come across. Knowledge is power, sharing is caring! Spread the word and save the bees!

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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.

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.