Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hazelwood Integrated Primary School (Belfast Northern Ireland)

Hazelwood Integrated Primary School …Nthn Ireland.  I spent the morning with the P7 class who also took me on a tour of their woodland that backed on to the school ground.  The integrated part of the school name comes from both Protestant and Catholic students being enrolled at the school.  The school is located in an ideal location for an integrated campus.  On the school’s Northern boundary is a predominantly Protestant Estate and on the southern boundary is predominantly  Catholic Estate with the school sandwiched between.  To the schools west is the local woodland which is used extensively for the Forest School program.  In Northern Ireland approximately 8% of students are in an integrated school with other students enrolled in either Catholic or Protestant schools.  The school is full with a waiting list for families wanting to enrol their children.

Jim McDaid the Assistant Principal is the Forest School Coordinator at Hazelwood Integrated Primary School.  He was very generous in giving of his time and sharing resources.  At Hazelwood the Forest is managed by the local authority who work with the school in the management of the woodland.  The woodland is a public park however during the day few visitors mean essentially the school has it to themselves.  Beyond the woods in a huge hill overlooking Dublin.  It looks like a persons head lying down, and was the inspiration for the book “Gulliver’s Travels. 

While walking through the woods several rabbits were spotted, I felt this was a fairly common occurrence however there was great excitement each time one was spotted.  We managed to get really close before they would scamper off. This 17 acre site is a real asset particularly being on the schools boundary. 

Jim has developed a set of resources for each year level.  These resources are the minimum expectation for students Forest School work.  Teachers are free to do more, and many do.  Classes usually visit the woods at lease once per month to complete the activities listed in their class book.  Jim has used the following web site for developing activities.  www.naturedetectives.com.uk 
Jim demonstrated a number of Forest School activities with his class.
1.                  The class went out and played a game of Camouflage… essentially hide and seek.
2.                  Tree hugging… a student was blindfolded, lead to a tree and had to memorise the tree by touch and was then led back to the start point.  The student then had to identify his tree.  This was achieved all be it unsuccessfully by going up to trees and feeling them to match the memory from hugging the tree when blindfolded.   Great fun and multi sensory.  The activity gave students a real micro experience with a tree.
Jim also spoke of other tree activities; Students were taught how to calculate the age of a tree.  2.3 divided by the circumference.  Students then had to find a tree that was the same age as them.  In another activity they would find the oldest tree in the wood.  In the case of this wood the oldest tree was 198 years old.  They would then research the period in history when the tree’s life began.  Students developed a real appreciation for what essentially will be the largest and oldest living thing many of them will ever meet. 

To develop the theme of camouflage one activity was to give all students two pieces of string, one brown and one yellow and having students hide them from each other.  All pieces of yellow string were found but none of the brown.

Jim saw the Forest School program as something to develop pastoral care and promote self esteem.  The curriculum content was important but not the primary focus. 

The school was also heavily involved in the John Muir Awards and used their wood for this.  Eco Schools was also big with particular emphasis on energy.

All in all a fabulous visit and very informative.   


Emma Strong said...

What a lot of lessons you can get out of a tree! Reminds me of a drama I did about a tree, in front of a group of teens outside Fremantle Prison. Yep, there's oodles of learning possiblities in a tree. Fantastic, too, that schools over there are opening up to both Protestants and Catholics.

Emma Strong said...

And I think that link should be www.naturedetectives.org.uk

Neil McAllister said...

Hi Stuart

Loving your blog. Was a pleasure to have you with us last Friday. Hazelwood sounds excellent. Really hope we can get some sort of school link up set up when you get home.

Safe travels


Stuart Cumming said...

Emma...thanks for comments...glad you have enjoyed blog. See you next term. Stuart


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