For our final session, we went to the Scout Area, previously unexplored for most of the children. Even for those familiar with it through Beavers or Cubs, there were surprises in store since the work undertaken by the team from North West Kent Countryside Partnership in the shape of new pathways, tunnels and hidey-holes in the woods.
Huddled around the fire circle, we discussed how to stay safe when using fire. We then thought about the Fire Triangle - what three things does a fire need in order to burn? 1. Oxygen - plenty of that around; 2. Fuel - first job for the children... collecting wood of appropriate thicknesses; 3. Heat - using fire steels today. After lots of positive group energy, we got the main fire going and then it was the children's turn to have a go at igniting tinder using fire steels. This was not an easy task and, after much perseverance, trial and error and teamwork, gasps of fear-tinged excitement could be heard around the fire circle as bits of tinder burst into flame!
With the main fire now burning down to embers, it was time to prepare for the most important event of the whole 6-week programme - roasting marshmallows! For this, the children needed to whittle pointy sticks and, remembering the principles of tool use as well as new specifics relating to peelers, they eagerly set about their task.
The session ended with lots of sticky (sometimes ashy) fingers and mouths, happy faces and positive reflections of their Forest School time. I shared some of my own thoughts and feelings as I concluded my very first Forest School programme: how proud I've felt at their response to the trust shown in them and the difficulties they encountered; how impressed I've been by the way they have worked together; and how reassured I've been by seeing each and every one of them explore the edges of their significant, albeit different, capabilities. Their challenge to take away: to use the confidence and self-awareness gained as a springboard in other areas of their lives.
Well done to all and many thanks to Mrs Mihill, Mr Cohen (TAs), Mrs Padgett, Mrs Clarke and Mrs Donelan (volunteers) without whose help it would not have been possible.
What a successful first term at Otford Primary Forest School - here's to many more!