From understanding comes strength



Archive 2015-16

Wednesday 31st August

The focus word for today’s outdoor session was ‘Organisation’. This involves carrying out allocated jobs to the best of our ability and looking at different ways of tackling tasks which may promote more efficiency.

Our woodland camp was set up and it wasn’t long before we were enjoying a hot drink from our Kelly kettles and a snack. The group are getting confident at collecting the correct size of sticks and are showing they are prepared and organised for keeping the Kelly kettles alight. We have safety in mind with everything we do and for this task we know:

To stand around the kettles rather than crouch.

Keep the chain tucked away in case we stand on it.

Feed the kettle from above one stick at a time.

Put two hands on the handle and lift from the side of the kettle rather than above so we don’t get burnt.

Leave the fire in the base to burn out.

Our lunch today was lentil soup with crusty bread followed by toasted marshmallows. Our three selected cooks did a wonderful job of cutting the vegetables for the soup, tending to it while it cooked and serving the soup. This was the first time the group had used the Dutch oven. Everyone tried the soup and most had second helpings! We used our knife skills again today to create a sharp stick we could use to toast marshmallows.

Today we learned how to use two different knots. A clove hitch and square lashing. After a demonstration we all had a go at using these knots. It was a tricky task however everyone persevered and managed to tie each knot correctly. We then used this new skill to make a wooden picture frame which we will use next week. There was a great deal of co-operation and peer supporting which was lovely to see.

Our day finished with a small group task. To explore structures outdoors and which are the most effective pupils created mini shelters from any materials they wanted. We shared our ideas and talked about the qualities of each structure.  (Photos by Tom Hall)

Wednesday 7th September

Today’s focus in the woods was being creative using natural materials and expressing our ideas through art and design. We were joined by Miss Reid from our Art department. Pupils looked at the work of natural land artist Andy Goldsworthy and discussed the ways in which he uses materials that he finds from nature. Pupils looked at a variety of photographs then set off to work making their own natural art. They worked individually and in small groups to share their creativity. Some wonderful pieces of natural art were produced.

Pupils also created leaf print pictures using cotton squares, hammers and a variety of collected natural materials. These were then added to the picture frames we made last week.

Lunch today was chicken, vegetable and noodle stir fry pockets which were enjoyed by all. Warmed pancakes with either chocolate spread or jam was for pudding and they also disappeared fast.

Our focus word today was ‘being positive’ and we were able to identify times when we or others showed positivity in the way we tackled today’s tasks. We are mindful that it is not always easy to be positive but for every negative emotion there is another way of looking at things which could be more positive and make us feel better.

Just before going home we saw a wonderful bird of prey sitting on the branch of a far off tree. We were a little too far away to identify it but after a while of surveying the land he swooped to the ground and disappeared, likely to enjoy his fresh lunch!

Wednesday 21st September

Listening skills was the theme of our woodland skills today and we developed this theme through music and knife skills. We had a visit from Mr Bruce our music teacher who brought along various drums. We used jig, waltz, strathspey, salsa and scotch snap rhythms to create different pieces of music. We are pretty sure we scared off any local wildlife for that hour!

We developed our knife skills by using what we have learned to make a simple gnome and mushroom. It built on our knowledge of how to whittle to a point but introduced making stop cuts and different knife techniques which create a smooth and even finish on the wood. The gnomes were painted and we had great fun doing this. The mushrooms were started and will be completed next week.

We discussed some of the woodland wildlife that may visit our camp area and how we can be nature detectives. Using a simple shoe box, plastic bag, flour and food scraps we made a place where mice and other small creatures may visit. We hid the box beneath a tree and camouflaged it using moss, sticks and stones. Hopefully next week we will find footprints in the flour and the food gone.

Our lunch today was meatballs and a tomato sauce. This was served with crusty bread. We experimented with warming Tunnock’s tea cakes on the grill over the fire and eating them straight from the wrapper. A sort of self-made smore! It was delicious.

This week we moved to a different site at Clune Wood, Durris so we could have access to running water for our activities. We were joined by Mrs Matheson from the Science department and enjoyed a whole day of scientific experiments.

Our first big question of the day was – ‘Is the burn polluted?’ Pupils worked in small groups and firstly collected ‘kick’ samples from the burn. To do this they used their foot to kick up and disturb the bottom of the burn and move stones and rocks. Samples of the water were then collected and put into small containers. Using keys the pupils identified the types of life they found in their samples. The main insects found were alderflies, water beetle larvae and mayflies. From these samples we could then say that the burn was not polluted. Our collected insects are indicator species and can only live in clean, unpolluted water.

Our second big question was – ‘What colours can we find in leaves?’ Pupils used a technique called chromatography to separate the colours of the leaves. Using two samples of leaves, one green (from oak trees) and one yellow (from birch trees) they ripped the leaves into small pieces and put them into two separate containers. Pure alcohol was added, tinfoil lids were put on and both pots were placed in warm water baths. After twenty minutes of swirling the pots in the warm water the colour from the leaves separated. Using filter paper we were able to see the colours from the leaves seeping up the paper. Green leaves had yellow and green pigment and the yellow leaves just yellow. This pigment is chlorophyll which is vital to the process of photosynthesis.

Clune Wood has lots of long finger like lichen growing from trees. This lichen is also an indicator species and tells us that the woodland is unpolluted.

Our lunch today was chicken curry and naan bread followed by toasted muffins with various toppings.

We also had time to squeeze in some work on our wood mushrooms! A very busy day.  

Wednesday 28th September

Wednesday 5th October

Today we were joined by Willow Lohr, a bush craft specialist who originally trained under Ray Mears many years ago. She involved us in an exciting range of activities which began with us viewing her ‘death box’! Willow handed round a huge selection of animal pelts to give pupils an ‘up close’ experience of some of Scotland’s natural wildlife. We saw everything from foxes and rabbits to badgers and seals. It was so interesting to feel the differences in the animal fur and hear about some of their natural behaviours. Willow also had a selection of animal legs so we could look at the differences in the way they walk and move. We were especially surprised to see the length of a deer foot. We also saw a variety of birds’ wings. We all thought the Jay wing was beautiful with its bright blue edged feathers. The owl wings were very distinctive and we learned that owls are totally silent when they fly due to the way their feathers are arranged and the shape of the wing.

Following on from this pupils had the unique experience of helping Willow collect data for the Rangers at Crathes Castle who are trying to record the numbers and varieties of small mammals they have. To do this pupils worked at dissecting owl pellets. We learned that owls regurgitate a soft pellet full of the indigestible parts of the animals they eat (fur, bones, teeth and feathers). By soaking them in water and gently pulling the pellet apart the remains of the meal can be found inside. We found mice, shrews and vole remains. This was a very absorbing activity which engaged everyone for a long time. Using identification guides and eye magnifying lenses pupils could tell which remains belonged to which rodent and what bone parts they had found.

We finished our day by doing felting. A really relaxing activity which allowed pupils to show their creative side. We had a wonderful selection of pictures made and many were inspired by the types of things we had being doing that day.  Our lunch today was baked potatoes with cheese, beans or coleslaw and our pudding was chocolate sponge baked in scooped out oranges over an open fire.

Wednesday 26th October

Our woodland site was a hive of activity as all pupils worked independently to set up the camp. We are now able to do this confidently. It was a cooler day so we ensured we got the Kelly kettles boiling for a hot drink and the open fire burning.

Today we focussed on using our new skills to make Christmas craft in the woods. Our first task was to make a garland out of wood slices which spell out a Christmas word. Our new skill was using a pyrography pen to burn the lettering into the wood. We had to be aware of the dangers of using this and apply all our usual safety rules. Once the wood slices were finished they were tied onto string to produce a stunning garland to hang up at Christmas.

We used our knife skills and applied our knowledge of how to make wood gnomes to make a Christmas Santa and two elves. The three characters were painted and decorated with glitter, ribbon, pom poms and cotton wool and will make a wonderful addition to any mantelpiece at Christmas.

Lunch today was leek and potato soup with crusty bread followed by Halloween apples dipped in chocolate and sprinkles. These were a real favourite and everyone ate heartily, including Mrs Wight who came up to join us for lunch.

She was very impressed with our camp and pupils gave her a demonstration of how to use the Kelly kettles and showed her the work we had been doing that day.

All pupils showed that they were ‘responsible’ in the way that they set up and took down the camp and in the way they took appropriate safety measures when using dangerous tools.

Wednesday 2nd November

We worked quickly setting up our camp area today as it was slightly cooler and we wanted to get the big fire on to keep us warm.

Our focus theme today was literacy and our word was ‘confidence’. This was promoted through our more independent and peer supporting tasks. Rather than being shown a demonstration and getting talked through the task by the outdoor teachers, pupils were asked to make a Christmas tree twig ornament by reading and following a set of written step by step instructions. We discussed the importance of reading instructions and had some funny stories about times when we have not done this, (building an Ikea piece of furniture)! The important part of this task was peer support and collaborative working. Pupils had to help each other and ask questions of their peers rather than the teachers. This was a really interesting activity to highlight to pupils the importance of taking the time to prepare for the task first and to. For some, having the confidence to ‘give it a go’ was difficult. They wanted the reassurance of asking questions and being directed by teachers. With encouragement all pupils worked well on the task and we saw lovely examples of peer supporting. The tree ornaments all looked different and individual which was lovely.

We learned about native Scottish wildlife by playing a ‘guess what I am’ game. In pairs, one pupil had a photo of an animal on their back and asked questions to their partner to determine what they might be. The person answering could only say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. With a maximum of 5 questions and 1 clue it was tricky for some animals. We then played this in two teams and had a great time thinking carefully about which questions would give us the most information.

Lunch today was chilli in taco pockets with cheese. Our two cooks worked hard chopping all our vegetables and taking responsibility for the meal. We had toasted muffins with chocolate spread or jam for pudding. No one went home hungry today!

Wednesday 24th August – Woodland Skills

Today all pupils participated in setting up our woodland camp. The canopy went up, our log seats and camp fire site were prepared. The toilet area was checked and a site risk assessment was carried out. Jobs for the day were allocated and everyone was busy working. We all collected sticks for our Kelly Kettles. 3 sizes are chosen; matchstick, pencil and finger thickness.  Pupils worked in groups to light and tend their Kelly Kettles so we could all have a hot drink with our snack. Those on hot drink duty prepared mugs of tea, coffee, hot chocolate or hot juice and served them. We enjoyed our drink and snack whilst pupils had a demonstration of how to light the large central fire which is a focal point of the day and is used to cook our lunch.

All pupils prepared and lit their own five minute fires with great success. We are now getting used to using the flint and steel to create a spark which lights our fires.

Today was the first opportunity to use the forest school knives. After a demonstration and a discussion about knife safety all pupils used their knife to whittle a stick to a sharp point. These skills will be needed for further sessions. Everyone was very reliable and showed that they could be given trust to use these tools safely.  Lunch today was cooked on the skillet over the open fire. We had bacon buns and sausage buns followed by either baked bananas with chocolate or strawberries dipped in chocolate.   We had a short time to explore our surroundings a bit more. Today we saw two frogs and a toad which was very exciting.

All pupils help in tidying up the camp and we make sure we follow our ‘leave no trace’ policy to ensure we make the woodland safe and litter free when we go.

Wednesday 10th May - Final Woods visit

We ended our woodland skills work with a sharing the learning day at Corsee Woods. Thank you to all the staff, senior management and parents who were able to come and join us for coffee and cake and see where we have been learning this year.

It was wonderful to see the woods so busy! We displayed some of the things we have being doing this year so that we could talk about them with our visitors. Some pupils demonstrated their 5 minute fires and others worked with the Kelly kettles to provide the hot water for our coffee and tea.

As part of our John Muir Award we are required to share our outdoor experiences with others and I think we did a very good job of this today!

Everyone has worked so well this year and it was a super last day in the woods.