Wild Play!

Last week saw the last of this summers “Wild Days Out” activity days – this time with a team challenge theme for the older age group and simply outdoor, “wild” play for the younger ones the following day. The weather was kind to us on both days and fun was definitely had by all!

Our Wild Challenge began with deciding our teams and warming up with some riddles, anagrams and team flag making. It was then out for some problem solving games and activities before competing to be the first to light a small fire, boil a “Kelly Kettle” and make the leaders the best cup of tea ;o)

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After lunch the fun really began as we headed over to our den building area, not to make dens, but rather to attempt to construct ballista/catapults (from the den building poles, rope and old bicycle inner tubes) in preparation for battle!

Our teams came up with quite different designs, both effective, but neither catapult could compete with Sammy’s inventive use of his own legs and feet in conjunction with the inner tube for projectile distance!

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With inventions completed, tested and fine tuned, our teams were armed with sponges and buckets of water and the Great Battle of Blashford commenced!

And I wasn’t going to just sit around supervising letting them all have the fun!

The following day our Wild Play began in the same den building area, this time with den building, tree climbing and leafy art and clay creations.

Tree climbing by Tracy Standish190821 WildChallenge_Play_Tracy Standish (1)

After lunch some of the children asked about pond dipping – something that everyone joined in in the end (you can’t beat a good pond dip when your 6!). Those waiting a turn or ready for something else spent a lovely time playing in the sand pit or bug hunting – the “tunnel” at the back of the centre was a child magnet in this respect, festooned with spiders and large white butterfly caterpillars as it was!

 

This filled most of the rest of the day so we finished up by taking down the dens and had just enough time left for another water fight, this time dispensing with catapults and settling for simply cobbing wet sponges at each other!

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A bit soggy, the children left tired and happy and the leaders were dry by the time they locked up at the end of the day!

The next Wild Days Out are scheduled for October half term with Autumn themed activities – event bookings on “Eventbrite” will be opened next week:

BIG Autumn Adventure for 7-12 year old children on Tuesday 29th October – https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/wild-days-out-big-autumn-adventure-tickets-70779598685?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

little Autumn Adventure for 5-8 year old children on Thursday 31st October – https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/wild-days-out-little-autumn-adventure-tickets-70765239737?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

 

Ugly Bug Ball!

Today was a slightly later in the month than usual Wildlife Tots, and we headed to the woodland in search of all things bug. We began by colouring in some moths, trying to think about the colours we used so they blended in with their surroundings when outside. To help us with our camouflaging, we had some moths from the light trap for inspiration, including this stunning Merveille du Jour with its brilliant lichen-like markings and colouring:

merveille-du-jour

Merveille du Jour, or ‘marvel of the day’

After camouflaging our moths, we headed outside to find a good spot close to the centre to hide them – would we find them all on our return?

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Camouflaged moth hidden in the undergrowth

After playing bug follow my leader, scuttling like spiders, jumping like grasshoppers, buzzing like bees and walking all together like a centipede, we searched for our ugly bugs in the woodland, pairing them up so they could go to the ugly bug ball:

ugly-bugs

Some of our ugly bugs, paired up and ready to go to the bug ball!

It was then time to find some bugs of our own, so armed with bug pots and paintbrushes (to make sure we were super careful when putting them into our pots), we rummaged under logs and in amongst the leaf litter.

After showing each other our finds and carefully putting them back, we had a go at making some bug sculptures on the ground, using leaves, sticks, bark, grass and logs:

Finally it was time to head back to the centre to see if we could remember where we had hidden our moths, and if we could spot them after camouflaging them so well…luckily, we all could!

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Sam proudly pointing to his hidden moth

Thank you everyone for a lovely afternoon in the woods!

Challenging and Wild Play!

This week has seen our summer programme of Wild Days Out events come to an end – they’ve been a lot of fun! We began on Monday with a Wild Challenge for the older children, where in teams they had to explore the reserve and tackle different challenges on the way – they were certainly up for it!

We spent slightly longer than planned making our all important team flags, mainly because we decorated them with paints made from natural finds – charcoal, the baked clay that had lined our pit furnace, chalk and blackberries. We also collected leaves and bracken to print with, and painted our hands and feet!

Whilst finishing off our flags in the classroom, we had a go at our first challenge of the day, some dingbats, or visual word puzzles of well known words or phrases.  Volunteer Cheryl gave the two teams a great example to get them going and by the time we headed outside the boys were just ahead by one point, as they had got all their dingbats right and gained a bonus point by finishing first, it was starting to get competitive!

Dingbats

Dingbats – forever; double decker bus; Jack in the box; banana split; snowball; lazy bones; ants in your pants; misunderstanding; four wheel drive; up hill struggle; Cheryl’s example, mayonnaise

Heading outside our challenges got more serious and we played the chocolate game, where you have throw a six with a dice, dress up and try to cut a bar of chocolate using a knife and a fork whilst everyone else in the team keeps rolling for a six. If someone else rolls one, you have to change over. The boys were very vocal with this game, but unfortunately both teams were so good at rolling sixes the girls only managed to cut two pieces and the boys one, meaning they were neck and neck. Here’s Millie demonstrating the chocolate game in her very fetching health and safety gear, much more exciting to wear than a woolly hat and scarf!

Chocolate game!

The chocolate game, with a health and safety twist

We then headed to the woodland for two more challenges, a plant identification memory test and some fire lighting. Both teams were brilliant at their plant challenge, remembering most of the leaves, grasses and flowers hidden under the tea towel, although we did give them both a second sneaky peak!

It was then onto fire lighting, with one point awarded for creating a spark and two for lighting a piece of cotton wool.  All were brilliant at persevering with the strike sticks, as you do need to apply a fair amount of pressure to create a spark, but the girls just crept into the lead with everyone in their team managing to light a piece of cotton wool.

We finished the day by setting a trail for the other team to follow, with points awarded for how good their trail was, e.g. could the other team actually follow it successfully, and how well they hid at the end. Amber, Connor and Max all gained an extra point each for being expert hiders!

Whilst waiting for the other team to set their trail, we played two more games: magic carpet, where you have to flip over the ‘carpet’ you’re standing on without putting your foot on the ground; and human knot, where you have to hold hands with each other and un-tangle yourselves back into a circle, without letting go:

Both teams fully embraced the challenges and had a lot of fun – although the girls just beat the boys to it by a whopping one point, they were all brilliant and equally rewarded at the end!

Arrows

Arrow on our tracking trail

Yesterday the younger children joined us for a Wild Play session, a lovely way to finish off the holidays! We began by making kites then headed outside to see if they would fly – luckily there was just enough of a breeze:

Kite flying!

Kite flying, with just enough of a breeze!

We spent most of the day in our camp area, making paints, decorating flags, tree climbing, den building, bug hunting and fire lighting, before having an afternoon popcorn treat! We tried flavouring our popcorn with a little bit of cinnamon and sugar, which needs a little bit of perfecting but was very tasty…

We had a couple of great wildlife spots whilst in the meadow, catching an awesome Dark bush cricket, which hung around long enough for a photo, and spying a brilliant Goat moth caterpillar, which we quickly re-located to a safer spot. The Goat moth caterpillars feed principally on willow, a species we have plenty of!

Goat moth caterpillar

Goat moth caterpillar

We finished off our play day with a paddle in the river to cool off, and a game of hide and seek.

There will be more exciting Wild Days Out in the October Half Term – keep an eye on the website for details:

http://www.hiwwt.org.uk/whats-on

Bronze Age, Bioblitz, Birds and Bugs!

The last two weeks have seen children on our Wild Days Out embracing the Bronze Age, carrying out their own Blashford Bioblitz and embarking on a bird and bug hunt, with a bit of fire lighting, den building and damper bread cooking thrown in for good measure!

Last week we stepped back in time and embraced the Bronze Age, with help from Dr Chris Standish from the Department of Archaeology at the University of Southampton. The Bronze Age saw bronze gradually replace stone as the main material for tools as a new culture arrived in Britain via cross-channel connections with mainland Europe. By 2200 BC the period known as the Early Bronze Age had begun.

Our fire pit was transformed into a pit furnace so we could have a go at copper smelting. The pit was lined with clay and a fire lit in the bottom, before a crucible containing copper ore (malachite) was placed into it and covered with more charcoal:

To increase the temperature, bellows were used to blow air into the bottom of the pit furnace, close to where the crucible had been placed. It was hard work!

We also had examples to look at of the materials and equipment used for copper smelting:

Whilst waiting to have a turn with the bellows, we entertained ourselves by making spears and bows and arrows from willow and turning charcoal, clay and chalk into face and body paint:

The university had also kindly lent us a flint knapping kit, an activity hugely enjoyed by the group:

After everyone had been able to practice with the bellows, we attempted to smelt the copper ore by bellowing continuously for a longer period of time. The charcoal was carefully scraped back and the crucible was removed from the pit furnace and its molten contents emptied over the axe mould.

Unfortunately there wasn’t enough copper to fill the axe mould, but we did manage to pour a shape which, once cleaned up looked remarkably like Britain! Thanks again to Chris for giving up his time and sharing with us his knowledge of the Bronze Age and copper smelting and to the University of Southampton for lending us their flint knapping kit.

With the younger children, we embarked on a Wild in the Woods Wild Day Out, den building, having a go at fire lighting, face painting and making chocolate flavoured damper bread! Here are some photos from the day:

This week we challenged the older children to a Blashford Bioblitz, visiting as many different habitats as we could in search of amphibians, reptiles, insects, birds and more. We began with a rummage through the light trap and roped Bob in for his moth knowledge! The trap revealed 17 different species of moth, a harlequin ladybird and caddisfly whilst we also spotted a southern hawker dragonfly and brimstone butterfly over by the pond.

Rummage through the light trap

Rummaging through the light trap

It was then time to delve into the pond to see what else we could find, adding another 23 species to our list, including cased caddis, pond and ramshorn snails, water stick insects, newtpoles or ‘efts’, lesser and greater waterboatmen, whirligig and screech beetles, phantom midge larvae, damselfly, dragonfly and mayfly nymphs and a leech.

After lunch we headed to the meadow, finding a brown hawker dragonfly, common blue damselfly, meadow grasshopper, honey bee, ants and spiders, amongst others. The meadow was also the perfect place to test out our homemade pooters, with Archie managing to catch ants and a spider in his. Inspired by Bob’s talk of how moths were named, the girls decided their common blue butterfly was to be called Ambermidia, a mixture of their names.

In an attempt to find some shade, we popped into Ivy North Hide, spotting coot and mallard, then headed to the woodland to see what we could find up in the canopy. We held a beat tray under a tree branch, then shook the branch to see what, if anything, fell out:

Our most exciting finds were an oak bush cricket and a buff tip caterpillar, with James carrying the naming theme on, renaming a midge ‘annoyingus midginus’.

After a quick visit to the Woodland Hide which revealed 9 more bird species and a bank vole, we headed down to the river for a proper cool off, catching pond skaters, freshwater shrimp, beetle larvae and stonefly nymph whilst we were there, but sadly no fish.

Finally, we had a quick peek in the compost bin and were rewarded with 3 grass snakes. Here’s a not particularly great photo of two of them, as they didn’t hang around for long!

Grass snakes

Grass snakes in the compost bin

With a grand total of 81 different species, we had done brilliantly considering the heat!

Yesterday we carried on with the bird and bug theme with the younger children, making bee finger puppets and decorating birds on sticks before trying to camouflage our own moths by colouring them in and hiding them outside, testing our camouflage skills!

We went on our own mini bird hunt challenge, visiting both the Woodland Hide and Ivy South Hide in two teams – the totals were almost the same, with only a Coal tit in it for the winning team!

There were birds there a minute ago

Bird watching from the woodland hide, there were birds there a minute ago!

After embarking on a fun and rather giant bug hunt, we headed to the meadow to see what we could find:

So all in all it’s been a fun and busy couple of weeks, filled with birds, bugs, copper smelting and more. Thank you for reading to the end!!!