Six on Saturday: 27.2.21 Spring approaches

Well, this week has seen a big shift in the weather. I’ve seen my first butterfly of this year. Lots of signs of returning life.

1. Frogs

The first isn’t from my garden. It is from the local park. There is a sea of frogs across the waterlogged grass. Truly spectacular.

2. Primulas

We now have a decent mass of primulas. I will probably divide these later in the year as they are getting nice and thick.

3. Primula victoriana gold lace

From one patch of these they have been divided twice now and they are getting to a decent point.

4. Second nature

I’ve been reading this the last few weeks and it’s been quite interesting seeing an American view on gardening. Particularly the open front lawns. Pollan gradually finds his balance with nature while conforming to socities norms. He isn’t quite ready to remove all the lawn.

5. Alice’s bird house

Alice finished her bird house last week. She decided she wanted a picture of clouds in the shape or robins on it. As you do.

6. Iris reticulata ‘Katherine’s gold’

This is coming up in a planter in the front garden. It’s an absolute beauty. I could go for more of these.

A short one this week, but lots going on to enjoy. Hopeful I may get out to do a few jobs in the garden this week. Hope you’re all keeping well.

Find me on Twitter.

Find me on Instagram.

Nature Schooling: Butterflies

Next weeks topic in the nursery is butterflies. As ever I’m looking at the topic with Alice before the lessons in the nursery. I’ve covered butterflies quite a few times with Alice so it’s getting harder finding new ways to cover the same information. Her knowledge has gone up and she is naming specific butterflies now. But she knows about the lifecycle and many details like the body parts now. So I’ve done a bit of extra research to find some different ways to engage her. Obviously, this time of year is a bit useless for going outside looking for butterflies so it has mainly been outdoor activities. I’m going to start by recapping two previous ideas.

Butterfly life cycle

We made this life cycle as part of 30 days wild. It was a simple piece of craft but one she has kept on the notice board and still talks about regularly.

 

Butterfly printing

Butterfly printing is a nice activity to look at colour, pattern and symmetry. It’s a nice activity even with younger kids as the child will usually end up with something that looks good so they come up away with a sense of achievement.

The very hungry caterpillar stage show

So, returning to look at butterflies again I wanted to find something different. Any topic on butterflies in education inevitably makes use of the very hungry caterpillar. It’s a great story with many opportunities for art, maths, music and science. The very hungry caterpillar stage show is currently available to stream. It is a bit pricey for what is essentially a rental but Alice enjoyed it a lot. It’s not like we are getting out to the theatre currently. The show features several Eric Carle stories. The puppetry is great and Alice sat engrossed.

To make it more of an occasion I made a set of tickets and put them in an envelope for Alice to find. We set up the front room as a theatre with the curtains shut and the lights down. We had watched the snail and the whale as a live stream a few months back so Alice is getting used to theatre this way. I had bought a cheap set of butterfly wings for the event thinking Alice would enjoy dancing and twirling in them. She loved them and spent several days after as a new superhero ‘butterfly girl’.

She obviously enjoyed it as I got a few days of her performing her own shows and her drawing pictures.

And she linked to the previous rainbow topic asking to make a rainbow of butterflies with the Sizzix machine.

Baker Ross crafts

Looking back through the blogs gives the impression that we largely do very close-ended craft when in reality Alice has access to lots of art materials and usually decides what she wants to make. Pictures like her very hungry caterpillar above and her rainbow of butterflies. However, I saw two Baker Ross sets I thought she would like on offer so I ordered them. The first was a butterfly mobile. I like this one as it has the pulling mechanism setting it apart from previous models we’ve made. She made the decision to use felt tip as we’d painted a lot of wood recently and she didn’t want to wait between coats or have to paint multiple coats. She focused very well and it took a good section of an afternoon.

The finished effort hanging in her bedroom.

The Baker Ross kits often come in threes which suits us perfectly as a family as we each get to make one. Here is my effort.

The second kit was for a hanging feeding station for bees and butterflies. I’m not convinced most of these ever get used by the intended species but I enjoy involving her in the garden and I believe wildlife is one of the best hooks for getting children gardening. It’s still a bit cold for hanging them but we have them ready for as the weather warms up.

Maria Merian

Recently, I have been trying to find decent role models for Alice to look back on. Her current interest is art and for many months now she has been telling us she wants to be an artist when she grows up. The story of Maria Merian is one I stumbled upon but I have become quite fascinated by her life. She challenged the accepted belief in the 1600s that butterflies came from ‘spontaneous generation’. They believed butterflies sprang from the mud. Insects were seen as evil. As a child, Maria had studied caterpillars first hand and linked many caterpillars to the butterflies they became. Her incredibly detailed botanical illustrations laid out her observations on metamorphosis. David Attenborough has commented on her being one of the most significant entomologists in history. His series Natural Wonders has an interesting episode in series 2. We’ve watched a few different kids videos together on her life and I found one book written for children about her life. It’s been interesting looking at with Alice as it has presented the idea that people previously believed something that was wrong. It’s also shown Alice an artist who painted the natural world which is what Alice often chooses to paint pictures of.

Loose parts

I made a few butterfly outlines from cardboard and left with a few different items for Alice to find.

Once found she set about decorating them. She is becoming very precise in her artistic endeavours insisting on exact symmetry and pattern.

She went back to it a few times over the day. I’ll probably use this in the nursery for a settling activity and then leave it out for child-initiated time.


Book recomendations

There is no shortage of butterfly books for children and books are as ever one of our most useful teaching resources, particularly at this time of year when it will be harder to find butterflies except the odd overwintering one in the sheds. The hungry caterpillar is obviously popular, though I don’t like to focus too much on the story as it is one they often have at home. A butterfly is patient is beautiful, though has no plot to speak of and the text isn’t that engaging with the very young. Its value is looking through and discussing. What’s the difference between a moth and a butterfly is great for getting across key facts in an accessible way. Summer birds tells the story of Maria Merian for kids.

Butterflies are always a nice topic and the kids should be fresh after the half-term break. Looking forward to teaching it with them. I’ll leave you with a video made for the children home learning. Hope you enjoy it.

Find me on Twitter.

Find me on Instagram.

Six on Saturday: 20.2.21

I know a lot of people find this time of year depressing as they wait for spring to return. Garden literature often bad mouths February but I think there is actually quite a lot to enjoy currently. The snowdrops are still out and the crocus emerging. Daffodils will be following soon. The spread of irises coming into flower is breathtaking. The hellebores are looking tatty but still giving a few blooms. Mahonia are in flower around town. There is lots to enjoy and finding six things in the garden is becoming easier again. I actually had to choose between options rather than scraping the barrel. If you fancy taking part check the founder’s blog. I’ve not really read through everyone else’s the last few weeks while suffering with Covid but getting my concentration back.

1. Galanthus, possibly nivalis pleniflorus Flore Pleno

I’m going to upset all the galanthophiles with this possibly incorrect identification. I only have a handful of different varieties of snowdrops so I should really know. I think is my only double. I know I have Galthus woronowii and elwesii kicking about but they are both singles I think. I shouldn’t really upset the snowdrop lovers as I know they can be a bit fanatical, so sorry if I’m wrong here. It is pretty but apart from being bigger than my others it doesn’t look much different unless lifted to inspect.

2. Crocus

This is the first crocus I’ve spotted in flower. I mainly have yellow and purple in the back garden and white in the front. They are looking a bit bedraggled after the snow but glad to see some returning and some in the lawn. I live in the hope they will spread to give the early bees a food supply.

3. Sunrise

We have had a good run of stunning sunrises over the garden this week. And having a four-year-old I have been awake for all of them despite it being our holiday. No sleeping in for us.

4. National nest box week

It is the BTO’s national nest box week. I haven’t added any new boxes this year as previous ones are still in good condition, look clean and haven’t been used. I have seen a few birds, mainly tits, inspecting. But, I don’t think any are moving in. Alice has got another build a nest box kit to do, which I’m aiming to get done today with her.

5. Nesting material

I have put out some nesting material. We have been crafting lots this half term and had little scraps of felting and yarn. I don’t know if they will use it but if they do we’ll have some colourful nests.

6. Iris reticulata ‘harmony’

Or it could be rhapsody. They were cheap Tesco purchases a few years ago. As with last weeks, they are in pots with the hostas. Iris flowers and shrivels and then the hosta comes up. They seem to be co-existing harmoniously anyway. The first to open came out in the rain and looked a bit weighed down.

But as they’ve all opened they are looking very pretty.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my six. Lots more to come over the next few weeks. We’ve got many more Irises to enjoy. Crocus coming out. Daffodils on the way. Lots to take pleasure in. I’m going to enjoy my weekend off before the return to work. Hope you are all keeping well.

Find me on Twitter.

Find me on Instagram.

Nature Schooling: Snow

Last weeks snow is melting away so I thought we’d do a play day with a few snow activities while she is still interested in the subject. So I set up a small world tray.

It just requires two ingredients cornflour and white conditioner. The cheap coconut conditioner is ideal and will make the room smell delightful while the kids play. Put the cornflour and conditioner in a bowl a little bit at a time and mix. If it’s too dry add a little more conditioner if it’s too sticky add some more cornflour. You are aiming for something that can be moulded into a shape but crumbles like snow.

Ice cream scoops and biscuit cutters are nice for moulding the snow. I used pine-cones for trees and the polar bears from her animal box. I try to avoid animals in small world trays that do not belong together when teaching about a specific area, so the penguins were left out as they live poles apart. A fact Alice may have had drilled into her. Something of a pet hate in small world trays. I know most people don’t care but I think the detail is important. If Alice had gone to get the penguins I wouldn’t object but I won’t start it that way.

A lot of the books around snow are connected with Christmas. These are three snow-themed without touching on Christmas. Ice bear is particularly good with the book touching on the Inuits as well as having polar bear facts.

The snowy day is a favourite, though I don’t have my own copy. I’ve always made used of ones in school. Alice has watched this little animation several times now. it covers all the best things to do with snow. There is a longer version made by Amazon Prime, but it does touch on Christmas.

Alice enjoyed playing with the small world tray. She is very much in the familiar family play stage with the bears being mummy, daddy and baby. But that was why I picked the ones I did. She moulded the snow with the cutters and made a snow castle with shot glasses.

She was making good links with previous learning talking about how the bears were camouflaged.

I made a simple transient art/loose parts set up with two circles of cards painted white and a hat shape last night. I left out a bowl of pom-poms and buttons and she quickly got the idea. I’ve done a lot of loose parts in schools over the years but I’ve never done much with Alice, something I’m trying to rectify with her creative flair.

It makes good use of spare cardboard from deliveries. She rearranged it a number of times and I was surprised how long it kept her attention.

She also had her own idea to make some little button snowmen arrangements which I think are rather cute.

Then asked for the clay out to make a model. She asked me to do the hat but she did the rest.

A nice way to spend a day chilling while the paths defrost. It’s still pretty dangerous out there and while we can dress up warmly I’m less keen on icy paths. But we should be able to get out tomorrow again. We’ve had a good few days of crafting with Alice choosing to make lots of snowy pictures but it’s getting time to be out again. Hope you are all keeping well and finding pleasant ways to fill the time.

Find me on Twitter.

Find me on Instagram.

Six on Saturday: 13.2.21 fun in the snow

It will come as no surprise why today’s six theme is. Last week it appeared everywhere in the UK was snow covered but us but it came eventually. Not as thick as elsewhere. Being coastal it doesn’t tend to last long.

1. Snow

The snow started light but it got heavier over a few days. The front garden is north facing and thus shaded so it isn’t melting away there.

2. Snowdrops in the snow

These nivalis are looking particularly pretty with the Ophiopogon behind. The snowdrops seem to be doing well in the clay soil with lots returning. I’m not sure as many crocus will come back as not seeing as many coming through.

3. Birds in the snow

The birds have been in lots this week with me keeping the feeders well stocked.

4. Snowman

We didn’t have very long for making a snowman. All we managed was this little lump before school. But it put some of my sprouts to use.

Alice was happy anyway.

5. Iris reticulata Katherine Hodgson

The first of the Iris reticulata are in flower. This is one of my favourites. It grows in one of the hosta pots. These flower and shrivel and the hosta then comes up for summer. The feathery pattern is particularly beautiful.

6. Birdwatch competition

We had some nice news that Alice was picked by nest friends to win a bundle of prizes from learning resources UK for her birdwatching efforts in the big garden birdwatch. She is now asking when they’ll be delivered.

The snow is gradually melting away but for a day or two the pavements will be lethal as it changes to ice. We are on half term now so will probably shelter inside for a day or two while it melts away. Snow is fun, ice less so. My chest is gradually feeling better after Covid. Still a background headache but all manageable day to day.

I hope you’re all keeping well. The weather and lockdown not causing too much disruption for you all.

Find me on Twitter.

Find me on Instagram.

Six on Saturday: 6.2.21-Garden Birdwatch results

Last week we carried out our Big Garden Birdwatch for the RSPB. As expected I didn’t end up with all the birds we have visiting. With several trees having been taken out next door but one it has affected how many birds are coming in. It was also a very windy wet weekend so I think some of the birds will have been sheltering. But I still like to keep the log each year to give me a long term record of how the garden is doing. For the week after we’ve had far bigger numbers visiting but that is how the birdwatch goes. I reckon every school locally set the birdwatch as part of their home learning so the birds have been well. I took a few photos along the way. They aren’t my best as I was shooting through the glass as I didn’t want to disturb the birds. But they illustrate which we see a lot of.

1. House sparrows

Normally, I get both dunnocks and house sparrows but only the house sparrows came in during our watch so that was all I included. These enjoy the ivy hedge that runs behind our garden. It provides plenty of thick cover to flit in and out of.

2. Blackbirds

We are getting many blackbirds in currently. They mainly feed from seed left out in the ground feeders and from the apple tree in a neighbours garden. But they will also dig around in the borders for food.

3. Collared dove

We have seen a lot of the collared doves and wood pigeons dominating the feeders currently. At times they can become a bit of a deterrent for some of the smaller birds which is part of why I keep some feeders in the mass of lilac where they can’t fly.

4. Blue tit

The blue tits had been in and out in the run-up to the birdwatch but were absent when it came to the count. The great tit did show, however.

5. Wren

The wrens have been visiting a lot and coming along the honeysuckle on the fence right up to the house. However, they are very speedy hopping around so I’m struggling to get a photo in focus. Here it is hiding behind a plant label.

6. Gulls

We get gulls in most days, usually sitting on the shed. At the moment they are not getting as much fish and chips so they are being a bit aggressive and have broken a few feeders shredding them open.

I’m hoping my number continues to grow as the garden establishes. The climbers are gradually taking over the fence giving birds more cover. I have a number of plants that provide food for birds. So with any luck, my garden should be able to counter the loss of trees along the street. I have finished my isolation period after recovering from Covid. I’m still a bit tight of breath but I am feeling a lot better. Not planning much gardening right now but should get back into it soon. For now, I’ve got 10 more plant profiles to write up for my RHS. It’s been a bit rushed finishing the current propagation assignment after covid. But almost all done. Hope you are all keeping well.

Find me on Twitter.