Autumn Term 2018

We aim to keep this blog updated as much as possible, however we are sometimes affected by our day jobs and may get a little behind in posting here.
27/09/18 - First session of the term: Leaf identification
We started off the term looking at different leaf shapes and walked around the school armed with a scavenging card with double sided tape and an identification sheet containing six native shrubs and trees that grow in our grounds. When we identified a leaf the children stuck one on the scavenger card to show they correctly identified it.
We then went to the large copse on the field. Over the summer holiday, County contractors had to remove several of our mature ash trees that were affected by the Chalara dieback fungus. This work has removed a large part of the vegetation and has exposed some 'leggy' saplings that needed our help. We coppiced one of our hazels for sticks to support the saplings and we had three teams, one trimming the new supports and the other two tying the saplings to the supports.
We have ordered more trees from the Woodland Trust that will arrive in the spring to help regenerate the copse to fill the gaps between the saplings we are protecting.
04/10/18 Spiders
We had a very lively session about spiders, where we learned how important these animals are to keeping the numbers of other potentially harmful species in control. We watched a Powerpoint about the different types of spiders and their webs, before playing a spider game on the playground to investigate how some spiders catch their prey.
We then had a walk around several habitats in the school to look at different spiders. Unfortunately, the drop in temperature seemed to have made the spiders hide in their warm retreats, but we saw several different spider webs, including those of orb weavers, house spiders and false widows. We did see a couple of lace web weavers in the bug hotel and Mr West had caught a couple of male and female giant house spiders prior to the session. We looked at the house spiders and discussed how we often see the male spiders running around our houses this time of year and that they are just looking for a friend for the winter. They often fall into our baths and sinks when they are looking for a drink of water.
At the start of the session, a few children said they didn't like spiders, but by the time we finished most of the children we keen to get close to look at the giant house spiders. Hopefully we have shown the children that there is nothing to be scared of about spiders, despite their creepy appearance. It was a bit of a coincidence that we had this session on the same day that the news broke about the four schools in London closing due to the presence of false widows. This was discussed in the session and afterwards with a few parents and we pointed out that false widows have lived with us for over 200 years and the 'problem' only arose following sensationalist journalism a couple of years ago. We now have some super spider experts that are far more knowledgeable and sensible than most journalists out there :)
The photos below were taken on the following day to the session.
11/10/18 Hedgehogs (part 1)
We learnt about hedgehogs in this session, watching a short video about the hedgehogs year and sharing a Powerpoint presentation telling us lots of facts. The presentation has been uploaded below so you can share with your child at home if you wish. We looked at where hedgehogs like to live and what they eat as well as some of the dangers they face in the world around them.
We then went on a leaf hunt to make a base for a hedgehog that we made in the last part of the session. Before we started making the hedgehog we had a safety lesson, but in the style of a tool talk to prepare us for using tools later in the year. we then used a potato as the hedgehogs body and drew on the under fur and face before pushing cocktail sticks into the potato to create its spines. I think we all fell rather short of the 5000-7000 spines that a real hedgehog has ;)  
We will be learning more about hedgehogs next week as well as making areas of the school grounds better for hedgehogs to live in and looking at ways to find out if we have hedgehogs visiting at night.
18/10/18 Hedgehogs (part 2)
We followed up last weeks session by learning how to look for signs of hedgehogs. We set up a mammal footprint trap and placed some sand pads on the field. We then went to look at a mammal footprint trap I had set up on the previous evening to check for foot prints. Unfortunately, we only had one visitor that had left their tracks... a cat, who had eaten all of the bait. We ended the session by setting up a new hedgehog house in our 'Wild Things Woods'.
I went back on Friday to check the mammal footprint trap and sand pads we had placed the afternoon before, but we only had one cat footprint in one of the sandpads placed by the children.
Better luck next time hopefully. We hope you enjoy your half term break. If you get up to any wildlife exploits over the break, we'd love to see any photos at our next session.
Below are some links for wildlife rescue places that help hedgehogs.
01/11/18 Minibeast hunt
As the nights are starting to creep in and the weather is more likely to get colder and wetter, we decided to go on a last minibeast hunt for 2108. Unfortunately we didn't find as many as we had hoped, but we had a good look about and some of the children were naturals at spotting animals that were overlooked by others. Photos below.
We also checked our footprint trap and were delighted to see that a hedgehog had visited. We had tried a different type of bait this time and used a small tray of conflakes (we were hoping to get mice, etc to turn up) and were very surprised that it attracted a hedgehog. In hindsight though, when I was cleaning the trap I noticed quite a few snail and slug tracks so it's possible we encouraged a large number of the hedgehogs favourite food to the cornflakes and that the hedgehog had feasted on these instead of the cornflakes.
08/11/18 Wild Things and Forest School
As part of the school curriculum at Hook Infants, we are planning to start running Forest School to add a practical approach to our learning. However, we have had a big problem with our copse this year where our mature ash trees were found to be affected by the Chalara dieback fungus which is sweeping across the country. As a result, we have lost most of the mature trees from our copse reducing the feeling of separation from the school and the amount of foliage and canopy cover. 
Wild Things have volunteered to take on a warden style role and we will be helping to restore the copse and to enhance its use for Forest School. Today we helped to tidy the paths and started to move the huge pile of chippings from the ash trees we lost. We are using the logs that were left over from the council's management of the ash trees to line the pathways and infilling between with the chippings so all the 'waste' will be reused on site. 
We will also be looking at creating woven fencing to protect areas we want to replant or regenerate and planting new trees in the spring. We will also look at creating a new Wild Things tree nursery so we can bring on new trees to help recreate the feeling of being in a larger woodland.
We started the session with a Powerpoint presentation to look at how many trees we had lost from the copse and how we could help. We also had a tool talk to explain how we had to use the tools to make sure that we kept ourselves and others safe.
The children (and adults) had amazing fun creating the pathways, which were originally marked out by the school's Grounds Committee volunteers. I can honestly say that all the children were fully engaged in the task, were fantastic at remembering our tool tips and safety and worked together brilliantly. We are so proud of all our little Wild Things!!!
We have uploaded the presentation so you can see some of the photos of the copse, before and after the Chalara management. We have also posted up some photos of today's task, although light levels and the speed of the hard at work children has meant some of the photos are a little blurry (it's not my poor camera work, honest ;)  ).