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If You Go Down to the Woods Today . . .

Celebrates the centenary of the Forestry Commission

by Janice Ross

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To celebrate the centenary of the Forestry Commission and to raise awareness and appreciation for our woodlands.

Preparation and materials


  1. Ask the children if they have heard of the song ‘The teddy bears’ picnic, which begins with the words If you go down to the woods today’. If any of the children know the song, ask them to sing it or say the words.

    Explain that an American composer wrote the music in 1907, but the lyrics - by Irish songwriter, Jimmy Kennedy - werent added until 1932. The song was once very popular and was recorded by several artists. It is still included in lots of nursery rhyme compilations today.

    Play the song ‘The teddy bears’ picnic’.

  2. Ask the children if any of them have enjoyed a walk in the woods or in a forest recently.

    Ask some children to describe their experiences of woodland walks.

  3. Ask the children to consider what they might see in the woods in wintertime.

    Listen to a range of responses.

  4. Ask the children to consider what they might see in the woods as springtime approaches.

    Listen to a range of responses.

  5. Explain that a wood is a living place that changes throughout the year.

    Show the YouTube video ‘A forest year’.

  6. Identify that a wood is a wonderful place for walking, exploring and enjoying picnics, with or without our teddy bear! Some children may even have been on holiday in a forest cabin.

  7. Point out that as well as being a great place for recreation and leisure, a wood is an important resource.

    In 1919, 100 years ago, the government set up a special department that would be responsible for looking after our woodlands. The First World War had ended the year before and during this time, there had been a huge need for timber. During the war, timber could not be transported safely from other countries, so many trees in the UK had to be cut down.

    After the war ended, the Forestry Commission was set up to rebuild timber reserves. It started by planting two types of trees: conifers and deciduous trees. Sometimes, these trees were planted in small areas of woodland and sometimes, in huge forests.

  8. Ask the children to look out for the similarities and differences between these two types of tree as they watch the video.

    Show the YouTube video ‘Deciduous and coniferous trees’.

  9. Identify conifers as being evergreen, having needle-shaped leaves and producing cones. Identify deciduous trees as shedding leaves during winter and producing fruits that have seeds inside.

    If there are any trees in the school grounds, ask the children to identify whether these are deciduous or coniferous.

  10. Point out that trees that have been especially planted in forests may be felled for various reasons. For example, they might be needed for fuel, paper, building, furniture-making and small, everyday items in our homes.

  11. Show the tray on which there are ten items made from wood.

    Play a memory game where the children close their eyes while you remove one item from the tray. When you have done so, ask the children to open their eyes and guess which item has been removed. You may need to invite volunteers to the front to carry this out. You may also want to make the game more difficult by removing more than one item.

  12. Ask the children what we would do without the wooden items on the tray.

    - Would it make any difference?
    - What could we use instead?

Time for reflection

Ask the children to close their eyes and imagine for a few moments that they are in a wood or forest.

Ask them to imagine breathing in the fresh air.

Ask them to imagine listening to the stillness.

Ask them to imagine that they can hear the birds singing.

Ask them to imagine the wind blowing gently through the leaves.

Ask them to imagine smelling the wild flowers.

Ask them to imagine crunching through the autumn leaves.

Remind the children that the Forestry Commission’s job is to protect our woodlands, to expand forested areas and to promote forests as a place of recreation and leisure.

Today, we celebrate and give thanks for their work.

Dear God,
We thank you for the beauty of trees, woodlands and forests.
Thank you for the ever-changing colours.
Thank you for the peacefulness of a forest, and for the fun that we can have exploring it.
Thank you for the animals and birds that make the woods their home.
Thank you for those who manage and protect our forests.
May we always treasure the gift of trees.


Bing Crosby singing ‘The teddy bears picnic’, available at: (0.32 minutes long)

Anne Murray singing ‘The teddy bears picnic’, available at: (2.38 minutes long)

Publication date: March 2019   (Vol.21 No.3)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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