Our summer scheme – the first ever this year – was sold out. It is hard to believe that Elements is slightly less than a year old.
Children from all over North Down and Belfast got to experience the excitement of the Northern Irish summer.
From the start of July’s scorching heat to the almost deluge at the end of the first week of August, there was always fun to be had.
As nature becomes recognised as more and more important to our well being, being part of Forest School is being seen as something which feeds all elements (excuse the pun) of our bodies and souls.
It is almost a cliche to speak about the sites which we visit as magical but this site really IS magical. The land looked after so thoughtfully by Glencraig is one of the most sensitively managed areas we have used. And yet at the same time so welcoming to people.
It has a river which rises and falls – in a very safe manner. The water is filled with trout and we spent many happy hours trying to catch them.
The children were able to watch first hand the effect of rain on these streams and due to the cleanliness of the water they were able to play in them. It is quite sad that many water courses in Ireland are so polluted due to agricultural run off. But not here!!!!
The forest is large enough for adventures to take place. Like this walk over the troll bridge. Here stories are made and come to life. Here lessons can be learnt without ever being taught. For instance… the troll who lived under this bridge. He lived there because his family didn’t want him to live under the bridges in Belfast because he did not want to eat people. So he now lived there as he caught only fish. So let us be kind to the troll and be good to the water.
Walking in rivers and chasing fish is a lost art – many children today are taught to fear the water and fire. But at Elements, supervised fun is given free reign.
Because we have a small number of children and a group of experienced and passionate teachers, we are able to carry out some very exciting but practical activities. Cooking is very close to children’s hearts and Matthew Walton our new Forest School teacher made gluten free bannock.
We also made potato gratin over the open fire. Apparently this is the best potato dish anyone had ever made!
We whittled little sticks and walking sticks! Knife skills for six to 12 year olds is something we delight in doing. Children working with fire and knives learn that these are tools which are to be respected. If they are careful with them, they will be able to be in control of the fire/ knife and something dangerous can be a help meet.
With the permission of Glencraig, we were able to harvest young sycamore trees as part of the forest management activity and turn these beautiful trees into walking sticks which were keepsakes. We made nettle cords and these were then used to create handles on the walking sticks which hands could be slipped through.
We also spent time at the beach and made rocket stoves learning how to make a small efficient fire using only a tin and cottonwool. Every day was a learning day, every minute a minute of fun and just like that it was over.
Tired but happy has to be our tagline… that and of course, the Greatest Outdoors!!!!