Saturday, 20 September 2014

Preparing for a visit to Bear Woods.

Peter from An Creagan made this sign for us.
From experience it is best to plan well ahead before any visits to new & unfamiliar places with young children. This year I have a bigger class than usual, 28 as opposed to 26 and in that class there are several children with additional needs & others who speak little or no English. Therefore I can't just spring surprises on them & expect no tantrums or upsets. For the past 3 weeks they have had enough new experiences thrown at them almost every day & we have tried from around the 3rd day to have a very set routine for them to begin to understand the flow of their day. (At the moment their day is only for a 2 hour session) The basic routine is outdoor play, indoor play, tidy up time, story & then home. Some are still struggling to grasp this routine & the 2 hours is too much for others & their session has been shortened by 30-15 minutes. I would much rather a child went home 30 minutes earlier but happy than stayed the 2 hours but was crying or unsettled towards the end. 
This week I began to talk about Bear Woods, this is our little wild area within the school grounds that is planted with alder, guilder rose, rowan & birch trees. Last year we used this area on a weekly basis & we were amazed at how much the children enjoyed & looked forward to their time in this tiny fenced off area. It really proved to us, the adults, that children don't need vast forest areas or loads of resources to enjoy being outside in a natural environment. We can see the area from the playground, I talked about how we would walk up the hill to get there & that they could run ahead but must stop at the red circle on the fence. Some enjoyed looking at the red circle from the top of the slide. I talked about they must never open the gate - that's a job for grown ups!
Running up the hill towards the red circle on the gate.
I also brought a set of rain gear (our waterproof coats & dungarees) into the story room so they could see what they will wear, with several children with sensory issues I was very concerned that this may be a big issue for them, many children with sensory issues hate the sound & feel of the rain gear. The next day most couldn't wait to get trying on the rain gear for themselves & many have put it on every day since. 
However, I forgot that 3 & 4 year olds don't really understand the concept of next week & after the first day of talking about going to Bear Woods, several arrived in the following morning all excited & ready to go there & then! So that day I drew the number of 'sleeps' until we go on the whiteboard in the story room & each day we rub another sleep off until they will begin to see the actual day getting closer!

A small sloping piece of grass dotted with saplings - but guess what to 3 & 4 year olds it quickly became 'Bear Woods'!

We plan to go up to Bear Woods every Wednesday & it will be perfect to have 2 weeks to explore the space in the smaller groups of 15 & 13 before the whole class begins to go there. 

I hope that this year the class enjoy this small space as much as the children did last year, it never ceased to amaze us each week how excited & happy they were to go there. It also proved to us that children don't need loads of fancy resources to have fun! It also was a great reminder to us, the adults, how trees help to make the seasons even more noticeable.
A Guelder Rose in flower in spring.
The alder trees had lots of caterpillars last September.




  1. It does sound as though you really have your work cut out for you with your class this year. It must be very satisfying to watch them develop over the year though. Well done on getting them out to your woods for an explore. At least the weather has been kind for the start of term. thank you for sharing with me on Country Kids

    1. Some years are harder than others that's for sure! The weather has been great but sometimes we need rain early on to get everyone used to the rain gear!

  2. Awww I can imagine my kids as one of those running. Thanks for thinking of how to make things better for your students. As a mother I appreciate generosity like this =) #countrykids

    1. What a lovely thing to say, thank you very much xx


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