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Friday, 3 January 2014

Forest School Activities and Useful items

Spider web

This spider web was created as a temporary feature of the Forest Schools site for use by the children taking part in the Forest school course. There are many ways it can be used. Most effective with older groups where it is central to an excellent team game, the team must all get from one side to the other without touching the web and without using a hole more than once, to use the topmost holes requires some ingenuity and exertion from the team members as they lift their teammates through the holes. For younger children this lower level web was built and with assistance from adult leaders proved very enjoyable for the children, in retrospect and even lower one would have been better. As a permanent feature of a site these webs can be made quite elaborate. For relevant risk assessment see appendices.
Health and Safety Considerations
The spider web should not be set up against trees that may be a risk to the children eg Hawthorne or Blackthorn. The ground should be cleared of nettles or other plants which may be a risk. The area should be checked for insect nests and other environmental factors which may cause a risk.
Securing of Spider Web
The web should be secured at solidly so it does not collapse under the weight of children climbing through it, where it is secured to the ground, there should be no pegs left protruding which would be a health hazard should a child fall, nor should anything that is used to weigh down lower stands pose a trip hazard.
It should be carefully ensured that the set up of the spider web does not disturb any birds nests etc.
The spider web should be constructed from high quality bungee rope which should be checked regularly to ensure that the material is not fraying or at risk of breaking and causing an injury when it recoils.
Depending on the age of the children the spider web will be set up differently. For older participants (teenagers) the web can be full size and as long as they are supervised they can lift each other through the upper gaps in the web as part of the team building game.  For younger learners a ground level web will be more appropriate. Close supervision will be required at all times.

Name Badges

Simple name badges for adults and learners certainly help to identify children for the first session or two. It can be fun to allow children to personalise their own name badges. On the first session of the course make shift name badges were made from large leaves which the children wrote their names on. From the second session onward these more permanent name badges were used and the children kept them at the conclusion of the course.
Health and Safety Considerations
If learners are to make their own name badges close supervision will be required while they use the appropriate tools to complete the task, a first aid kit must be on hand at all times during and the forest school leader must maintain close control of the tools while in use. Depending on the age of the participants this activity may not be appropriate or at least certain tools may not be.
Ideally the lanyard for the badge if it is to be worn around the neck should have a breakaway fastening to avoid any injury should the cord become tanged during activities. Alternatively the badge could be attached to clothing so the child does not have to wear it around their neck
Name badges should be constructed from non-toxic wood and be secured with strong thread, the name badges should be a shape which will not cause injury should a child fall on the badge.


These simple benches were constructed for use around a camp fire on a Forest Schools site, easy to make and very secure the long benches can be given extra security by a loop of wire attaching the bench to the legs, although not necessary and possibly undesirable as it makes the bench harder to relocate may be desirable from a safety point of view to give extra stability and avoid trapped fingers.
The simple round lengths could be used as effective seats or as pot stands for camp fire cooking or as props for activities such as Toxic River.
Health and Safety Considerations
If learners are to be involved in the construction of these benches they will do so with hand tools only. The forest school leader will not use a chainsaw while supervising a group as the PPE required cuts them off from the learners and does not allow the correct level of supervision to be given. Bench construction would only be appropriate for older groups due to the heavy lifting required and the tools used. 
The Benches are safe and stable without any fastening however, there is a risk that children could trap fingers between the legs and the seat if the seat rolls at all when people are sitting on it. To avoid this they can fastened together with a strand of high tensile wire and fence staples. This is a secure way of fastening the two pieces and avoids the use of nails and screws so there is no risk of injury from those.
Non toxic woods, with no thorns or attached ivy etc.. which may be irritant.  

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