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To finish our topic on Into the Forest Whitebeam went to the scout camp in Thetford Forest. The day dawned brighter than the previous several days which was a blessing, but everyone came with a waterproof coat – just in case! The journey there was eventful as we hadn’t been told the coach needed to go through the power station to avoid a very low railway bridge. That in itself was quite an adventure winding our way through locked gates and towering constructions to reach the forest.
Once there we were met by Marie and given a safety talk. One aspect of this was how to identify and keep away from the very poisonous plant, hemlock, which is creeping into the forest. Once we had been shown what it looks like and knew which parts of the camp were out of bounds we got on with the fun.
First, in our groups, we collected lots of natural materials such as pine cones, twigs, grass leaves, etc., and made some wonderful art work with them. This was followed by a whole class endeavour to make a person which involved lots of collaboration, negotiation and teamwork. I’m not sure if this was a portrait of anyone in particular or even had a name, but it was very impressive. Marie commented that Castle Acre was one of the best schools she had ever had to finish the task effectively without arguments and disagreements. Well done to the whole of Whitebeam!
There followed a session of identifying some of the many wild flowers that were growing around the site; all sorts of things from plantains to shepherd’s purse to grasses (we even had a go at making shooters out of plantain flowers!).
Next it was collecting sticks to make a campfire later. We learnt about the different thicknesses of sticks needed (think mice tails, rats’ tails and cats’ tails) and how to identify which ones were dry and therefore useful and which ones were wet.
Time flew and it was time for a well-earned lunch. It is amazing how fresh air and exercise sharpens the appetite! We ate round the fire pit but without a fire (yet).
Marie showed us some tree fungi that looked weird and are apparently very good as kindling for lighting fires. Not for our use, though, we had cotton wool and all our sticks. We learnt how to use Ferro Rod strikers to make sparks to light the cotton wool. It looked easy when Marie demonstrated, but took quite a lot of practice in reality! However, everyone managed to get enough sparks flying to get their cotton wool pad alight. After this practice it was the real thing. Laying the cats’, rats’ and mice tails the correct way proved crucial in getting the real fire going. We did it in teams, one in each corner of the pit. A lesson quickly learned was which way the wind was blowing and how to avoid a face full of smoke!
All too soon it was time to go back to school, grubby, smelling of smoke but very happy and having learnt lots about nature.