Feedback

I’ve been told there is a discussion on a Facebook group for Forest School trainers regarding my online portfolio and the pros and cons of a website based portfolio. I’m not a member of the group so can’t see or contribute to the discussion so wanted to address the points I was aware had been raised.

I’d genuinely welcome any feedback on either the format or the content of the portfolio. If anyone has questions, comments or suggestions they’d like to make I’d encourage them to leave a comment on this post or drop me an email at info@thissiteurl.

Website format

Why a portfolio website? Primarily because it’s a familiar and comfortable medium for me to work with. I spent some time setting up the page structure and am now free to just add bits and pieces in no particular order as and when I have time and it all remains logically ordered. With all my photos and notes synced with a Dropbox account it means I can also work from home, work or anywhere else without needing to carry anything around with me.

I’ve found the bits and pieces of other peoples portfolios and the experiences shared in online groups have been invaluable in my learning and development. Whilst I’m enjoying creating the portfolio purely for it’s intrinsic value it’s also nice to be able to give something back. I’m hoping that my portfolio and experiences might be useful to others in their journey.

Group photo permissions

This is an interesting one and relates specifically to the group photo I have on the home page. On the first development week of our course everyone agreed that they were happy for photos of themselves to be taken, shared and used in portfolios. The exact same photo appears publicly, amongst other places, on our trainers Facebook group. I know most, if not all, of the trainees on the course are aware of their photo on this site. To be fair though I can’t remember at the time if I said explicitly that my portfolio would be online or not. I’ve modified the photo though just to avoid any issue or upset (smiley’s for the win!). It may be worth forest school trainers considering use of group photo’s online and how this fits in with their current photo policy for trainees.

Plagiarism

Plagiarism is and always will be a risk. There are a number of forest school portfolio support groups on Facebook. People use these to request help with their portfolio and it’s common for a reply to extend to “I’ll email you mine to use”. There’s more chance of plagiarism occurring undetected in those circumstances. This site being public makes it easy to check against if anyone does suspect plagiarism. A couple of completed portfolios in PDF format are already floating around the Internet. I don’t think mine being in this medium presents any higher chance of it being plagiarised. Much of my portfolio is relevant to my unique sessions and client groups. I still haven’t submitted it so who knows if any of it is any good or if it will pass yet anyway!

The Archimedes model

I understand their are some concerns about whether the site reveals too much about the Archimedes forest school model. I’ve been careful to write everything from scratch and have also created my own formats for forms (participant observation forms and session planning forms for example) rather than use copies of the forms that are in the course materials.

The Archimedes forest school courses are accredited by the Open Awards awarding body. Their website includes details of the course structure along with unit descriptions and section titles. Details of similar course/portfolio structure is also available on the Open College Network (OCN) website. OCN are the awarding body who accredit many of the other UK forest school leadership courses. I’ve also seen electronic copies of the Archimedes practitioners handbook floating around the net a few times.

I don’t think that the content of this site gives any more information than is already freely available. I wouldn’t want to cause anyone at Archimedes to feel like I’ve shared something in a way I shouldn’t though. I’d welcome any concerns being shared directly with me and would be happy to look at addressing them if possible.

Colour coded cordage.

Wild Elk Paracord
Three hanks of Wild Elk paracord.

I’ve been meaning to buy some bright cord for a while. The majority of the cord I’ve been using so far has been green or black. The bright coloured cord should reduce the chance of people walking into it when it’s in use and make it much easier to find stray pieces on the woodland floor.

I saw a post on a a Facebook Forest School group recently that suggested using different colours of paracord and cutting each colour in different lengths.

Paracord Lengths
Paracord cut into different lengths.

I liked the idea a lot so I bought three different coloured 100ft hanks of Wild Elk paracord. The blue I’ve cut into five 20ft pieces, the yellow into ten 10ft pieces and the orange into twenty 5ft pieces. The idea is that it’s much easier to find a suitable length of cord rather than working through all the random pieces that end up sat in the bottom of the box or bag.

ALL. THE. LICHEN.

We’ve just arrived at a cottage on the edge of Loch Earn in the Trossachs where we’ll be spending the next couple of weeks. The area is stunning but the first thing that struck me is how every single tree and fence post is literally dripping with lichen. It made me realise how little, quantity and variety, there is back in the Midlands. Poor signal here so I’ve taken a load of photos to compare to a guide when we’re home.

Lichen on fence post

Lichen on tree

 

Xanthoria parietina?

Fairy door and lichen
Xanthoria parietina?

A walk around Cannock Chase today. We usually avoid the visitor centres and areas by larger car parks but braved one today to take the kids to a new play area. Far, far, too many people for my liking but one of the fairy trees is now covered in what I think is Xanthoria Parietina.

Skills Day at Manor Farm

Yesterday I went to Forest School Skills Day, at Manor Farm, organised by Nottingham and Leicester Forest Education Network. The workshops I took part in were Spoon Making, Working with Hazel and Wonder of Trees.

Spoon Making

In the spoon making workshop we started carving our own spoons and got to try out a variety of hook knives and other tools.

Erik Frost wood splitting knife - used to split the round branches.
Erik Frost wood splitting knife – used to split the round branches.
Flexcut Hook Knife. One of the hook knifes used to carve out the bowl of the spoon.
Flexcut Hook Knife. One of the hook knifes used to carve out the bowl of the spoon.
A selection of branches from different trees. I chose to make my spoon from Alder.
A selection of branches from different trees. I chose to make my spoon from Alder.
Once split the profile of the spoon was drawn onto the wood as a guide.
Once split the profile of the spoon was drawn onto the wood as a guide.
Partially carved spoon. Ill complete the rest back at home.
Partially carved spoon. Ill complete the rest back at home.

Working with Hazel

We learnt how to select suitable hazel rods and use a riving post to split them. We were show how to weave and twist the split rods to build a hurdle in a traditional pattern. Whilst the concept was easy to grasp it was obvious it would take many hundreds of hours of practice to become competent, let alone proficient, at building hurdles in this way.

Using a knife to start a split in a hazel rod.
Using a knife to start a split in a hazel rod.
Splitting a hazel rod on a riving post.
Splitting a hazel rod on a riving post.
Learning how to weave and twist hazel rods into a hurdle.
Learning how to weave and twist hazel rods into a hurdle.

The Wonder of Trees

During this workshop we learned about the different types of lichen that grow on trees and how they can be used as an indicator of air quality in the local area. We took part in an OPAL (Open Air Laboratories) survey recording the lichen on trees and tar spots on Sycamore leaves on the site.

Building a Barefoot Walk

The kids at an outdoor home ed meetup today had a go at building a temporary barefoot walk. After using branches like brushes to sweep and clear an area sticks were used to build a series of rectangles. The children then searched for different materials – grasses, leaves, sticks stones – to create different textures in each section. Loads of fun and quick and easy to dismantle and leave no trace.

Building a Barefoot Walk 1

Building a Barefoot Walk 2

Building a Barefoot Walk 3

The 5 Minute Forest School Plan

In mainstream education there is a well known alternative to traditional lesson plan templates called the 5 Minute Lesson Plan. It’s designed to cut down on the paperwork and bureaucracy of lesson planning and has spawned a whole series of variations. I’ve created a variation for use when planning forest school sessions. Click on the image for a full size JPG file or download the PDF below.

The 5 minute Forest School plan
The 5 minute Forest School plan

Download:

The 5 minute Forest School plan v0.1