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I’ve been working in collaboration with forest school Fiona at Washwood Heath Nursery School to build a pizza oven in the playground.
It took just three days to complete with lots of help from the children and staff at appropriate stages.
The children loved mixing the cob (clay, straw and sand) whilst the staff excelled at decorating the dome. Even when they were unable to help, we had an inquisitive audience sat on the periphery of the build site.
The project culminated on the last day of term and co-incided with the Nursery’s Ofsted celebration event. The children’s families were invited to share in the Nursery’s ‘Outstanding’ report by enjoying music, food and other entertainment – as well as witnessing the inaugural lighting of the pizza oven.
Once the embers were nicely a glow, we were able to cook chapati’s.
Jon Williams

 

I don’t think, in all my years of working in schools, I have ever come across a setting so up for clear blue creative experimentation. Imagine this, two major creative partnerships projects running alongside each other, one for the children (the village) and the other for the staff (muddy mountains). Throw into the mix no less than seven creative practitioners and you begin to get a feel for the innovative and imaginative approach to learning.
The head is keen that a certain amount of cross fertilisation occurs between the two projects, and with so many stakeholders involved, roles and logistics can sometimes be chaotic and blurred. However, the sheer volume of stuff going on makes for an exhilarating and creative atmosphere.
Initially, my role was to instigate the staff project – encouraging the team to design and build their very own ‘muddy mountain’ from two huge spoil heaps on the school field. The physical outcome could take any form, based on their reaction to the material, tools, techniques and environment.
Despite some early wobbles as we all grappled to get to know each other and the open-ended approach to problem solving, a wonderful maze and pod design was taken forward and executed with enthusiasm. It always amazes me how given time a group of individuals can pool their skills and resources to produce a brilliant outcome.

We now have three steel frames on order for the domes and the maze is definitely taking shape. On Thursday the children were invited to start their ‘muddy mountain’ in response to what the staff had produced so far. The children had great fun making a lovely mud chair in the woods, eventually to be housed in one of the pods.
Jon Williams

Another day, another inspirational Birmingham Nursery!
Jon got the chance to join forces with Washwood Heath Nursery’s resident forest school artist Fiona Hopkins. The pair had planned to build a pizza oven for the children to cook flat breads; and Friday provided the first opportunity to start work on the structure. Fiona had secured some beautiful reclaimed bricks which were fashioned into the stand. This activity took the majority of the day, what with moving, stacking, and admiring the aesthetics of the bricks!
The oven is being constructed in the outside play space so there was a constant audience of inquisitive youngsters. Jon and Fiona were kept busy answering a hundred questions and ensuring the children didn’t stray too close.
The next stage is to make the oven – a messy business indeed, but one that the children will be able to engage in fully.

Followers of this blog may have seen the Evesham Bread Oven entry for Thursday 14th May? This week I returned to the forest with the children to make and bake pitta bread in the oven.

 

The structure had dried out perfectly although the base bricks felt a little damp. Before building and lighting the fire I ran my hands around inside the cavern to see if the dampness would hinder the bake. My fingers brushed up against something cool and soft…and moving – seconds later a large toad (rather disgruntled from having been disturbed) crawled through the oven door and hopped into the undergrowth -phew, lucky I checked before firing!
So as well as rolling dough, baking and eating fresh pitta – the children were fortunate to experience a real live toad too!

Native American Art week at Tenbury Wells Primary School provided the challenge of producing a ceramic totem pole with year’s 5 & 6.

As part of my research, Google revealed a mass of information and facts about totem pole and why they were made – fascinating stuff about shaming bad debtors, commemorating significant occurrences and celebrating an individual or clan.
I encouraged the children to consider their own animal totem by asking a range of questions. After much fun and debate, the children created their own stylised totem in clay.

All the tiles and cladding will be fired before the end of term and stand guard at the entrance of the school’s forest school area.
Check out the school’s website: http://www.tenburyprimary.co.uk/