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Forests and Ferocious Felines - Feb's fab fun

Forest school is one type of school we are big fans of in home ed world! You will find one in pretty much every locality. They are about child-lead fun, freedom and give kids the chance to learn about nature hands-on in a woodland environment. You can do all sorts of super fun stuff from fire-lighting, bug hunting, den building, nature crafts, outdoor cooking, tree climbing, swinging from ropes, splitting logs, wood carving.

We have lots of forest schools around Somerset and Devon. A rising favourite is Children of the Forest which is based in private woodland near Uffculme and run by one of our number, Lewis Ames. We asked Lorraine who has been going for a while now to share her experience:

“ Fin and myself have been going to Children of the Forest's HE group Home grown for 4 months. We have benefited so much from being outdoor's in beautiful, peaceful surroundings. We can relax and take time to really enjoy the activities. Fin can play freely and have fun in a natural way learning about his limits and sometimes challenging those limits. Fin is becoming more inquisitive about nature and his surroundings. We have learned that nothing is off limits as long as we try things in a safe way. Fin's confidence is building at a fast pace as he makes friends and tries new things. It has been the greatest experience for both of us.”

So if you haven’t given forest school a try yet and your child is interested have a look at our lastest HE Activities Guide which has links to Children of the Forest, Glastonbury Forest School, Wild Thyme Forest School and many others.

Our Fun Day this month was entitled “Ferocious Felines”! One of the kids suggested a wild cat day a while back – we were only too happy to oblige! A number of us are big fans of the Warriors book series by Erin Hunter which features the trials and tribulations of clans of wild cats so we had a big display about the Warrior Cats and the characteristics of the different clans. Running activities was “Yellowfang” – erstwhile ThunderClan medicine cat who now walks with StarClan. Yellowfang asked the kids to hunt for prey/fresh kill and they managed to find lots of mice, snakes, lizards and frogs plus the odd rabbit for the Taunton Home Ed cats. You could also ask StarClan which clan you belong to and then receive a Warrior Name. We made a Warrior themed board game “Race to the Gathering” and one of the rooms became a wild cat transformation chamber where you could make your own cat ears, tail and mask or paint your face like a wild cat.

Numerous cat at sock puppets and Egyptian Cat Mummies were carefully crafted and there was also a huge wild cat species display featuring colour photographs of every single wild cat species – all 38 of them, organised according to the 8 different lineages plus a wild cat habitat table with three different habitats – Boreal forest, Savanna and Rainforest and our usual trail with challenging questions. In the kitchen we made tiger cake and tuna catnip treats for our own moggies and did cat-themed art inspired by Rousseau and folk artist, Laurel Burch. We had a visiting Lynx, Letitia, who asked us to vote on whether the Lynx – once a native species of the british Isles – should be re-introduced as part of a controlled scientific trial. Our answer was a resounding “YES!!!” although we want to make sure they would be safe from hunting and poaching.

At Cookability, we made delicious dishes featuring the much maligned POTATO. Wow it is amazing what unorthodox, scrumptiousness you can make with the humble spud. Venetia showed the kids how to make sweet potato pizza and yummy potato baskets and…wait for it…. potato truffles for desert – all were a big hit.

This month in Fun Science the kids got to grip with Friction and then Speed, Velocity and Acceleration. If you are going to learn about friction then what better way than to make a hovercraft with a balloon and a CD and play a game involving jelly, vegetable oil and chopsticks. We learned that friction is a force between two surfaces that are sliding or trying to slide across each other i.e. rubbing together and it always slows a moving object down. Sometimes friction is helpful – if cars didn't have tyres which create friction they would just skid all over the road – and other times you need to come up strategies to minimise it (like if you want a hovercraft to work properly).

To learn about speed, velocity and acceleration the kids did a range of investigations involving seeing how fast they could run 10 metres, measuring how far a toy car would go if rolled down a ramp at different heights and angles and making their own catapults to fling sweets around the room which showed us that force and mass are two things that affect acceleration.

In our Art Class the kids were introduced to artist Iris Scott, a contemporary impressionist who paints vivid paintings with just her fingertips, having traded in brushes for latex gloves. Here are a couple of the kids’ Iris Scott-style paintings.

Then they looked at the work of Shepard Fairey who is an American contemporary street artist, graphic designer, activist, illustrator and founder of OBEY Clothing who emerged from the skateboarding scene and designed their own politically-inspired artwork.

Next up was Romero Britto who is a Brazilian pop artist, painter and sculptor. He combines elements of cubism and pop art in his work, using vibrant colors and bold patterns as a visual expression of hope and happiness. The kids truly had a great time doing popping Britto-style works.

A new series of drama and dance workshops started up in February and it has been amazing to see the kids express themselves so confidently and creatively. Each week they’ve devised different work in small groups and performed them in front of everyone.

Finally we’ve been to visit the new outdoor activity centre in French Weir Park – COACH looks fab and Channel Adventure are up for running some bespoke home ed adventure days for us, YAY!!

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