School update

Today is the start of the half term holiday, but over the last week I’ve made a bit further progress with my F2 (reception year) playground.

I’ve painted one of the planters smartening it up a bit.

The kids have got the message not to climb through, so the bamboo has been removed. The flowers have taken well now.

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The music area has had some bunting added for decoration.

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Next to the music area the TAs have started to tart up the stage by adding curtains. I’ve seen some good performances over the week.

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Between the trees the TAs have added some mobiles.

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Within the garden the first two plots are dug over and planting has started. The soil is pretty poor and becomes clay at a spades depth, so will need to look at the children collecting the leaves from our trees for mulch come Autumn.

I’ve planted a dwarf apple tree in the corner as the children often play at planting their pips. I thought it would add to our discussions of the seasons with the blossom and fruit. In Ben Law’s woodsmen he pushed the message of the importance of planting fruit trees ready for a less carbon reliant world, so thought I’d make a start.

I’ve also gone for lavender and rosemary, as they are drought tolearant for if the garden is neglected. I used some potting grit to help with the drainage as that’s often an issue for both. I’m not sure I’ll keep them in the current positions, but wanted them in the ground.

In the middle plot I’ve gone for an acer variety that’s meant to stay small. Again like the apple tree it will help add seasonal interest for discussing with the kids. It’ll be a few years though to get it to a decent height.

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A hydrangea and bedding plants are adding some instant colour. The bedding plants should self seed for next year hopefully.

The last plot is still a wilderness, but it’s bringing in lots of bug life for now. Step by step making an area the kids and staff can be happy to be in. Lots more to go, but from a month ago it’s moving on.

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Garden and school update

At work the TAs have been working hard to spruce up the outdoor area. There is an area with posts, which so far I’ve used for den building. Apart from that though it’s underused. They have set up a threading area encouraging gross and fine motor skills.

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They’ve given the allotment fence a lick of paint and added some number flowers to the fence. They won’t last for long outside, but might manage a few observations showing the children recognise numbers to 20.

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They discovered paint and have now brightened up the bench, so we now have a minion bench.

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It’s all little things, but it livens up the area a bit and hopefully allows staff and kids to take some pride in the area as we develop it.

My own garden is looking nice at the moment with lots of shades of lilac and pink coming out. Here are a few high lights.

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The roses last year were badly eaten, but theyve been cut back and have come back stronger for it. I’m not a fan of roses as I dislike gardening gloves, so get spiked lots. However I can appreciate a nice large bloom.

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Some of these he bulbs I planted last year have come into bloom. I’d forgotten what they were, but I’m assuming there some sort of allium. Lovely structure.

 

The rose campion is doing well. I had one in my last garden, last year, and liked the little pink flowers it produces, so bought another. The lavender from last year has come back stronger.

The bluebells near the shed are doing well. There adding a nice dash of colour I can see nicely as a patch of blue from the kitchen table. I’m trying to encourage a patch of native bluebells in the shade that will hopefully spread.

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Still spaces to fill and next year I’d like to have better seasonal coverage, but it’s getting better all the time.

School visitors

I am building a record of wildlife visitors to my outdoor classroom. After the success of discovering hedgehogs I’ve been monitoring bird life.

We’re fortunate to have several tall trees providing a rich canopy complete with birds and insect life. I’ve spotted a number of butterflies up in the leaves, but no decent photos yet. The blackbirds however are fairly welcoming.

A robin on a toadstool seat. First one I’ve seen on school grounds.

And one of my favourite smaller birds the pied wagtail. I has discussed how their becoming increasingly urban and that does seem to be showing in the frequency I see them around school.

The kids are interested to see what I’ve discovered. We’ll have to wait and see what we can find next.

Outdoor classroom-music area and hedgehogs

One of my TAs husbands generously spent part of his weekend making a new music area for our F2 playground. With pallets from his work, a selection of kitchen pans and a dismatled xylophone we have a new music area. This adds to the provision we don’t need to bring in and out each day making our job easier. The day has been wet, but still a good number of kids investigating. I’m grateful to have a team of staff keen to move things on and keep improving provision.

I’ve also been working out what wildlife we see in our setting. I left the trail camera for the weekend to discover a hedgehog crossing the playground. I expected urban foxes, not hedgehogs. The children were delighted to see the video.

https://youtu.be/7KllJux-d8s

At the weekend added another bee to the list I can identify. Last year taking part in the Great British bee hunt I came to know white tailed bumblebees and honey bees well as they were the few visitors to my old garden. New garden though has seen common carder bee. Its strange how joy can be gained from simply identifying a bee, but it does make me happy learning more about these wonderful creatures.

All human knowledge is precious whether it serves the slightest human use.
A.E. Houseman


Den day green lighted

Den day has been given the go ahead at my new school. Den day is organised by Save The Children to raise awareness of children living without shelter. Many children across the world live without a stable home. As bad as the situation in the UK can be we are largely looked after so it is important to teach the children about their role in helping worldwide.

I’m going to be looking through this a lot over the next month.

We will be inviting parents in to help us in the building if dens. I’m delighted that our first stay and play session will be a largely outdoor affair and supporting a worthy cause.

If you feel moved to give a donation we a virgin money donation page. Any donation of any size will be appreciated.

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/dendaythorpepark

So now onto building den supplies. We have lots of tarps, curtains and fabric. We’re going to need to save boxes. We have lots of milk crates. Hopefully we’ll have a great day of teaching the children about global issues and have some fum den building. If you have any den building ideas please comment. 

Our space to work in.

Ladybirds and caterpillars

This week we took possession of two sets of 5 caterpillars at school from insect lore. Then split between mine and the end classroom all the 80 children get a chance to see them.

I have in the past seen criticism of using caterpillars and other insects in the classroom. It can be seen as making life something marketable and disposable. Thr RSPCA advice’s using soft toys and plastic animals. But I don’t see that this teaches children respect for life properly. The children develop a sense of wonder seeing the caterpillars change and they are very careful around them. They understand they are not just a toy. Building this respect for all life forms stops them going out on the playground and squashing spiders and snails shells.

What the children get out of this depends on the value you place on it. If you take all the teaching opportunities they provide they are an amazing opportunity.


Outside I have added more photo IDs around the bug hotel. I’ve seen small groups going to investigate through the day. A lot of the girls have enjoyed bee hunting. 

One of the girls spotted a ladybird causing much excitement.

Planters

A bit more progress was made with my F2 (reception year) outdoor area. We have several unused planters scattered around. The one we’ve worked on today has largely been used for an assault course with them enjoying climbing over this one. While I appreciate the benefit of climbing we have a wealth of areas they can climb and few areas with flowering plants.
With the children’s help this has been dug over. They’ve enjoyed breaking up the hard earth with the forks. Then we added a layer of new compost and then a few plug plants. The forget me nots have a good flowering period and hopefully will reseed naturally. Then we’ve erected canes to discourage the climbing over.

The planter could do with a lick of paint to tidy it up. But its a nice little step towards encouraging insect life and improving the feel of outside. I’ve talked more, with the kids, about what the plants need to thrive. They will be involved in the maintance which will help build their knowledge of biology. Just a quick job, but it improves the feel of the area, that it’s cared for.