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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Nature Schooling: Rainbows

Well, I didn’t get to deliver my activities on beetles in nursery this week as I tested positive for Covid so I have been isolating. I don’t seem to have suffered as badly as many accounts. My head has been hurting. I’ve been aching but not had a temperature, only coughing a little bit. So, it is worth getting tested even if you only show some symptoms.

But, while I haven’t got to teach the children in person we are still providing ideas for the parents home-learning. It’s uncertain exactly when I’ll be back at work but the next topi is rainbows. Of all the topics this has been the one I’ve had the least interest in. Alice, on the other hand, is very excited for rainbows. But to me, rainbows are just natural phenomenon. They serve no purpose, they do nothing, they just look pretty. So, I’ve invested more time into this one to look at exploring every possible avenue of rainbows as a topic to try and find a hook that engages me. It obviously lends itself to the teaching of colours but I wanted to find more opportunities.

Rainbows feature within folklore and the bible. In Norse mythology Bifrost, the burning rainbow bridge reaches from Earth to Asgard. Leprachauns gold can be found at the end of a rainbow. The rainbow bridge featured in poems in the 1980s and 90s as a route for deceased pets to go to a pet heaven. In Tibetan Buddhism the rainbow body is referred to as levels of realization. Since the 1970s it has been used as a symbol by the LGBTQ movement. Then in the last year it has been adopted by the NHS as a symbol of hope and the hard work they have done through the Covid pandemic. ‘The world made a rainbow‘ is one of the better stories I’ve found featuring rainbows and it supports the work of Save the Children.

Suggested books:

    • Planting a rainbow-Lois Ehlert
    • Elmer (and Elmer and the rainbow)
    • The rainbow fish
    • The world made a rainbow
    • The rainbow bear (ages 5-7)

Craft

Rainbows, as a topic, are obviously good for craft and artwork. Though more for home learning than in class. Trying to get 10+ children to make rainbows is not fun. It either ends up being too directed with a stressed out teacher or lots of colours mixed together or in the wrong place. While that has a great value for exploration, I like craft activities where the children can indepently achieve something that looks like what it is meant to be. But at home working one to one with Alice we have spent the last week making rainbows in just about every medium she can lay her hands on. She has painted them, used felt-tips, collaged, crayons, built from Lego, and even minature polymer clay rainbows.

We made rainbow paper chains and decorated the windows again to add a burst of cheer while we are isolating and to hopefully bring some cheer to people going past. It’s also ended up as a bit of local art display with a glass rainbow and knitted rainbow made my locals. The glass rainbow was dropped off with a tag for Alice. We still don’t know who kindly gave it to her. But I think it is the work of Jude Howe.

Sorting

With all the colours the rainbow topic lends itself well to sorting and pattern work. I have been painting wooden acorns to make a set of rainbow acorns. This seemed like it would be a nice activity to do with Alice to make a useful resource. However each has needed a few coats of paint and it’s been more of a faff.

But, she has a nice set for making patterns with. She is currently very keen on making symetrical patterns with them.

Having messed about with painting the acorns I decided to use felt tips to make a rainbow family to add to the objects to sort.

Science

I think one of my reasons for not liking the topic is that you can’t take the kids out and find a rainbow. Topics like the moon, birds and beetles I can pretty much guarantee we will find these things. However, rainbows I can’t make happen outside. So I’ve looked at the best of the home learning options for creating rainbows. Using a prism is pretty much the best way but a bit expensive for a one off.

CD’s and DVD’s have been the best I’ve found so far. By either letting the sun shine on the discs or using a torch you can create a rainbow in your own house. With a little bit of angling back and forth you can project a rainbow onto a wall or surface.

You can achieve different effects by placing the disc in water. You can then project the rainbow in the water.

We’ve also looked at felt-tip colours. Felt tip pen colours are made by mixing a number of colours to create the desired colour. You can separate the colours to see the different colours that have been mixed to make each pen. It’s a nice quick activity for discussing colour names and encouraging scientific enquiry.

You need:

    • Paper, coffee filters work well, kitchen roll, thick tissues and toilet roll can be used but are not quite as good.
    • Feltips
    • Bowl or cup of water

Place dots of pen or a line along the bottom of the paper.

Place the paper with the bottom in water. The water will soak up the paper spreading the pen ink as it rises.

The longer you leave the water to soak up, the more the colour separates. Discuss which colours you can see. Different colours will achieve different effects. Black works particularly well as this is often made by combining many colours.

Rainbow hunt

A good activity for inside or outside is a rainbow hunt. It’s a little tougher at this time of year outside but that fills a bit more time and we have no shortage of time currently. You can do it altogether looking for the colours or add an element of competition seeing who can find a colour first. I’ve been pretty lazy with this while recovering from Covid using Alice’s buns and sending her to find objects of the different colours.

Rainbow tree

A simple little threading activity I saw through Mud and Bloom to develop your child’s fine motor skills.

Collect sticks.

Wrap sticks with coloured string, hair bobbles, electrical tape.

Thread beads onto the branches being careful of the stick ends.

Display in a jar. I’ve used the jar we made for Diwali/the lightbringers as seemed appropriate for the activity.

I feel like I have fully explored the potential of this topic. Alice is still working on making rainbows in more formats. We are painting a wooden rainbow set and I may try and make a rainbow of butterflies ready for the next topic. But, I am feeling the rainbow fatigue. Hope you’ve enjoyed our rainbow explorations. And to finish a rainbow playlist. Rainbows are a lot more popular with song writers than beetles. No shortage of songs for this week.

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Six on Saturday: 30.1.21

Well, this week has been spent at home. I tested positive for Covid at the start of the week. I didn’t show a lot of the common symptoms but I had a splitting headache and I was very achey. I seem to have been let off lighter than many others. My head is still hurting but I have still been able to move within the confines of our house. Sadly, this means I haven’t got to teach beetles this week. It has meant I’ve been home schooling Alice again but she is happy with this situation. This weekend is the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. I’ve wanted to involve Alice each year and tried to make it an event so even though we are stuck isolating at home we can still create happy memories. The birdwatch helps keep Alice interested in the garden and help teach her care for our world.

1. Robin gingerbread

We can’t do a birdwatch without snacks. I picked up a reduced Christmas baking kit a few weeks back but these would be easy enough to make without. The kit contained a gingerbread mix that you just added golden syrup and butter too. You cut a circle for the robin and a smaller circle for the breast. A hardboiled sweet went in the hole and this melted when baked to fill the circle.

The sweet didn’t come out that red, but I think they are quite cute.

2. Fat candles

Before we went into isolation I brought some lard back from work. We have an eco pantry where we get donated food the supermarkets know they won’t sell and we ended up with an abundance of lard. Fat candles are dead simple to make. Melt lard or suet in the microwave. About a minute will do. Mix in seed, raisins, grated cheese, seed, whatever you have available. Put a piece of sting in a cup and spoon the mix in around it. Put it in the fridge to set and then you can pull it out once set. This is easier with paper cups where you can cut them off. We didn;t have any in so I had to scrape it out a bit.

Off all the different home made bird feeders I’ve made over the years these are the most popular. The Cheerio feeders are largely left, the bottle feeders swing around too much. But I carry on making them with Alice as they help to engage her with the garden and the birds.

3. Bird hide

We used Alice’s den kit she got for Christmas to make a bird hide. It is not the most subtle with the red sheets but it was what we have spare.

4. I spy

I bought Alice the I spy birds book for the occasion. These are published on many themes to suit different children’s interests. You tick off as you see the birds. They each have a score. When they have reached set scores they can send them in for a certificate and a badge.

5. A robin reward

I’ve wanted to try to make the bird watch a memorable experience. While on lockdown we don’t get the chance to go out and visit places but we can still make lasting happy memories at home. So I ordered this fused glass robin to give Alice as a souvenir, something to remember it by, for when we’ve finished our birdwatch.

6. More snacks

We’ve made more chocolate nests following on from nest work. These are particular decadent with milky bar cookie chocolate and honey nut cornflakes. I’m not a big eater of chocolate preferring savoury options but these are particularly good.

The birdwatch results will follow. I’m expecting a dip from previous years due several circumstances. Lockdown means we have more seagulls in the garden as they are lacking fish and chips. These scare off many of the other birds. Also, our next door but one neighbours have had one of the tallest trees cut down. This was a perch many of the birds used before coming down onto our feeders. So, I’m expecting good numbers of gulls and pigeons but I have less expectations for the smaller birds. But we’ll see. I’ve got most of next week in isolation to recover. Hopefully get my head back to a point where it doesn’t hurt. My concentration is pretty low so sorry if I’m not reading your posts. I’m pretty restless. In the meantime, I am planning activities for children who are off home schooling. Next week’s topic is rainbows. Alice is very excited for this topic whereas I have less enthusiasm for it. They look pretty but serve no purpose so I’m looking for some hook to engage me. I hope you are all keeping well and staying safe. Enjoy your weekends.

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Nature Schooling: Beetles

Next weeks topic I am working on at the nursery is beetles. I have been quite excited for beetles week as it is one of my favourite topics to look at with children. Beetles vary massively. It is one of the most diverse families. Estimates suggest if you lined up al the plants and animals one in four species would be a beetle. As normal, lesson ideas have been trialled on Alice this weekend.

Beetle books

There are some amazing books to support teaching beetles as a topic. The beetle book and a beetle is shy show the amazing range of beetles with gorgeous illustrations. Billy’s beetle and what the ladybird heard series are great stories featuring beetles. For older children MG Leonard’s beetle boy series are great.

And a phonics story and game idea.

Beetle maths

I have shared my ladybird double song before and craft ideas here. Alice wanted to make a new set of ladybirds ready for the topic.

And I have recorded the song ready for the children who are home learning.  I don’t think I’ll be shifting to vlogger anytime soon as I don’t like listening back to my own voice. But we’re all adapting to teaching and involving parents in different ways.

Beetle stones

For another simple craft activity, we have made beetle stones. We have painted them in a whole load of different colours and patterns to show the extensive variation. I will probably just use them in a small world tray but also for the maths.

I also made some counting frames. It’s just a piece of cloth with the boxes drawn on. They’ve been recommended in a number of early years and forest school books as a good open-ended number resource. I gave it to Alice to see what she’d do. She started with counting objects into each space. Then she moved onto working out her number bonds to 10. Placing objects in spaces and then counting the gaps left. I thought it might be a bit basic for her but she got a lot out of it.

Raising mealworms

I have bought mealworms to show the children the lifecycle of a beetle. Mealworms are normally sold as food for birds. It is the larval stage which is sold as worms. They are incredibly easy to care for. They need a layer of bran to eat and dig in and then they get their water from the moisture in veg or fruit peelings. Alternatively, ladybird rearing kits are available if you fancy a cuter option for looking at a different beetle lifecycle. But by and large, ladybirds are quite easy to find in the wild if you have a decent patch of nettles.

I know some people object to the use of live animals in classrooms but I don’t think you can beat the hands-on experience for teaching children to care for their world. If you take a look at many of the countries most popular naturalists people like Attenborough and Chris Packham they spent childhoods killing many insects with the killing jar and through trying to care for insects. But this gave them a knowledge of these creatures. I’m not suggesting we return to using the killing jar to collect butterflies but a toy model is no substitute for seeing the real thing. Mealworms by Adrienne Mason is a great book for using alongside teaching about beetles.

Beetle bucket

I don’t know if we’ll have time for this activity in the nursery this week but I’d like to add one at some point to add to our habitats. It’s a very basic activity that shouldn’t take too long. A bucket or plastic container needs holes making in it and then it is buried under the surface. The bucket has some large stones placed at the bottom and then it is filled with bark chippings. I’m not sure of the wisdom of burying the plastic bucket with the plastic degrading which is part of why I’ve held off making one so far. We have several log and stick piles around the garden to serve as homes. But it is recommended by a number of key conservation societies. They are supposed to help the endangered stag beetles, the largest of the UK’s beetles. However, these are currently only found in the south so won’t be found in my locality.

https://www.rspb.org.uk/globalassets/downloads/kids–schools/teaching-resources/make-a-beetle-bucket.pdf

Click to access make-a-beetle-bucket.pdf

Nature table

We set up a nature table of the beetle resources we have set up at home with Alice. These are the main resources I will be using over the week with the class. The beetle box contains postcards with photos of different beetles to show the amazing variety. The acrylic blocks contain actual beetles. We have the lifecycle of a stag beetle and the lifecycle of a ladybird beetle. Then a number of the best beetle books.

We’ve been playing quite a few beetle games while we’ve thought about our topic. Alice has been keen to play bug bingo this week and keeps picking me bingo sheets with lots of beetles on as she knows I like them. She is favouring the butterflies. She is naming a lot of the bugs without me having to read as we’ve played enough now. I quite fancy the bird edition but I might wait until we’ve exhausted interest in this one. We have also been playing build a beetle. It’s a basic Orchard game where you spin to gain parts. It’s a nice quick game for number recognition, turn-taking and learning the basic body parts of beetles that they have the body, head and six legs.

I hope the kids at the nursery are as enthused by the beetle topic as I am. Usually, if I’m enthusiastic enough they’ll indulge me. They enjoyed last week’s nest work though it has been a very muddy week so we haven’t covered everything I wanted to. We did get some solid trail camera footage of the magpies and pigeons that rule the forest school when the kids are gone. I have finished each of my nature schooling blogs with a playlist but beetles it seems are not a popular choice for songs and the internet just wants to correct all my searches to the fab four, The Beatles. I’ve enjoyed looking at beetles with Alice. We’ve learnt lots about them along with some great craft, number work and pattern work.

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Six on Saturday: 23.1.21-Winter Flowers

Today’s six is coming a bit later. I normally pre-write the six before the weekend but I’ve been busy at work covering extra shifts all week. This has also meant little time for gardening but to be fair the garden isn’t in too bad a state. As ever, check out the founders six on Saturday guide if you fancy joining in the fun.

1. Iris unguilaris-Mary Barnard

I have two varieties of this Iris in pots to give some winter interest. This is the first flower for Mary. It’s a stunner. Hopefully, we’ll get many more over the next month or so. The photo doesn’t quite reflect the purple colour accurately.

2. Iris unguicularis-Walter Butt

Walter featured last month but it is worth featuring again.

3. Iris pallida

A new Iris addition. This will flower May/June time. There is a nice variegated version with stripy leaves. I’m not sure if this or not but we have signs of growth.

4. Athyrium filix-femina ‘Frizelliae’

This came with the Iris above. It has lovely frizzy fronds. While the individual leaves are lace-like. It doesn’t look like much but I think it should be a winner in a pot.

5. Frost

This morning is very frosty. All the birdbaths have been frozen solid. This was one our plot on a plate from last year that has been dismantled and left for the birds to drink from. But the fairy is frozen in place.

6. Galanthus nivalis-snowdrop

The first of the snowdrops are out. I don’t have many varieties of snowdrops. They are mainly nivalis. It’s a simple beauty. I’d like these to gradually bulk out and form patches.

Lots to enjoy today. It’s starting to get lighter each day so I should start to see a bit of the garden in the evening when I get home from work. Next weeks topic at school is beetles which I’ve been looking forward to. Fascinating creatures. I hope you are all having good weekends.

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