Nature schooling: nests

Next weeks topic in the forest school is nests. It’s a great topic with lots of possibilities. Nests are defined as “a bed or receptacle prepared by an animal and especially a bird for its eggs and young“. While we mainly think of birds with regards to nests there are many other nest making creatures.

One of the main books I’ll be using is A nest is noisy. It has beautiful illustrations and it also shows many different birds and animals that build nests.

 

The second story I will be using is bird builds a nest which is part of a series of books, “a first science storybook”. It’s a nice simple book that shows how the big builds a nest and also shows concepts such as big and little and heavy and light.

Chocolate nests

I only cover the two sessions in the nursery so I won’t have that many chances to teach different aspects of nests. I would like to do chocolate nests but I’m not sure I’ll get a chance as I don’t have the baking area this week. But I decided I would make some with Alice even if I don’t do them in school.

It has to be the easiest baking you can do with kids. I’m not sure if it even qualifies as baking it’s that simple. But it’s fun, the kids can do most of it themselves and you get something edible at the end. We made use of cornflakes and chocolate from the eco pantry. It is nice to use bran as it looks more like a nest, but I like to make use of the eco pantry. This is food that the supermarkets have rejected or is coming close to best before and they know it won’t sell. It cuts down food waste.

The chocolate was melted in the microwave giving us the chance to discuss changes of state. Alice took every opportunity fo spoon licking so we went through a lot of spoons making sure she didn’t double-dip.

The cornflakes are mixed in. A little chocolate goes a long way with these.

The mix was scooped into bun cases.

And an egg on the top of each one. We set them in the fridge which gives them a bit of crunch.

You don’t really get simpler cooking with kids but it keeps Alice’s attention as she gets to do most of the stages so I don’t need to interfere. Plus, we get an end result she actually wants to eat.

Playdough nests

Making playdough is pretty much part of most Early Years professionals skill set. You constantly replace it as kids use it, it gets too dirty, or in many cases gets eaten. Over the years I’ve picked up many different recipes for making different varieties and different activities to go with each. Making nests has been a regular activity over the years.

The basic recipe I use needs:

          • 1 Cup of salt
          • 2 Cups of flour
          • 2 spoons of cream of tartar
          • 1 spoon of oil
          • 1 cup of water

It all goes together in a bowl and gets mixed.

If it is too dry add a little water. If it is too wet add a little more flour. Carry on adding and mixing, then knead it into a ball to check the consistency and that it is mixed through.

For the nest, I collected a pile of sticks and animals that make nests. As I already said it isn’t just birds that nest. Tree frogs, alligators, orangutans, wasps, some beetles many animals make nests.

I test out lessons on Alice beforehand. She wanted to lay her sticks int the playdough very carefully comparing sizes.


And then some went around the outside before she decided who was going to nest in hers.

It’s a dead-simple activity but it’s nice and open-ended. Lots of opportunities for covering many areas of learning. Making the playdough has lots of science opportunities with changes of state and the maths side with the measuring. Then building the nest allows more opportunities for discussing the animals and creative play with playing with animals. Stories quickly emerge and characters develop.

Gardening

Next month many of the birds will start to collect material to build their nests. So to encourage the birds in we will put out some material for them to use. Many like to collect material from close to the nest site. So we can help by leaving piles of sticks, straw, wool and other nesting material. I use this strange hanging egg device to help. It can be stuffed with wool and the birds can pull bits off for their nests. I’ve not filled it yet as it’s still a bit early and I don’t want it getting wet.

 

Music

I like to plan in a few songs to go with each theme and usually aim to teach a new song. However, this week I think I’m going to stick with one most of the children will already know. Five little ducks is a popular one and we have the resources for me to place the toys in a nest to sing the song. There are other songs that actually mention nests but I like five little ducks.


Alongside the singing, I’ll be slipping in some bird song to listen to at some point during the week. Or I may just play it while we do some of the other activities.

 

I hope you are all managing well. If you are homeschooling don’t place too much pressure on yourself. Particularly if you are working from home alongside, you need to do your job to earn. You can’t do everything at once. Unprecedented times. I’m going to leave you with another playlist. Nests as a topic for music seem to largely be reserved for very herdy gerdy folk music of the sort in the first song from Morris on. So, I have extended the theme to bird songs.

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And an earworm to finish.

Nature schooling: Moon

So, schools have closed to children except a few, however, Early Years settings are still open for business as usual so I am still planning for next week’s topic ‘The moon’. Last week we looked at the rain and had great fun making our rain shakers. Alice gets to be the guinea pig for activities before I try them in school.

During the first lockdown, the full moons were fantastic. Our night sky by the coast is usually pretty clear but lockdown reduced pollution making it even clearer. Alice became very interested in checking out the phases of the moon and I became interested in the technical challenge of photographing the moon. Getting outside during the night is an adventure for children and brings new opportunities for seeing different birds and animals. At this time of year, you are unlikely to find the hedgehogs and bats but winter is a good time for spotting owls and foxes.

Though you don’t need an amazing camera to have fun photographing the moon. A lot can still be achieved with silhouettes.

One of the main books I’ll be making use of is Moon by Britta Teckentrup. I have reviewed it previously. It’s a gorgeous book with beautiful illustrations to engage the children. It doesn’t really cover any factual details but it is a good book to inspire children’s questions. I will probably use Jilly Murphy’s Whatever Next where baby bear visits the moon. It is well used in education as it has so many possibilities to explore with kids. It’s a good start for box play to develop their imagination but can be used for lots of reasons.

Today we trialled making moon pictures to try and find something I can do with the kids in school. I’d seen a few ideas for foil printing pictures of the moon using crinkled foil to print texture. We started with a circle of paper for our moon and mixed back and white paint to make a grey.

We crumpled up tinfoil and pushed it around the bottom of a bottle. Then we pushed the tin foil in the paint and printed it onto our moon picture. We didn’t get enough texture. I may try experimenting with materials for printing. Maybe try cotton wool or sponges. When printing in school, there will be some children who meticulously dab the paint while there will be others who smear the paint all over. It’s all good exploration with paint and learning how paint can be used.

Alice wanted to do some stars for a background so she dabbed some dots for stars.

And one assembled.

Alice wanted to carry on and make a few more phases of the moon.

I have two sessions to cover so I’ll need to come up with another idea for the second session but this is a good start. I’ve got a vague idea that I can use a torch and a jamjar lid to demonstrate the phases of the moon but I will need to play with this idea to make it practical. The kids quite enjoyed the rain sounds last week and the rain playlist last week. So I might make a moon playlist for this week. It’s tempting to just play the whole of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon but there is no shortage of moon songs across many genres and cultures. Just have to check the lyrics to make sure they are appropriate. I hope you are all keeping well and those of you homeschooling and working are managing to balance both without putting too much pressure on yourselves to achieve miracles. Enjoy the rest of your weekends!

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12 Days Wild: day 11-rain

Today, I returned back to work. It’s been a training day so no kids today. The debate of whether the kids should come back is still going on but we will still be open to vulnerable children and key worker children I imagine whatever is decided. I’ve got a good term ahead of nature topics seeds, nests, beetles and more. Lots I can get my teeth into. Our theme for this week is rain.

There are lots of lovely rain stories for young children but one of my favourites is rain by Sam Usher. It’s part of a series of four books that look at weather through the seasons. In rain, the boy and his grandad put off going outside because of the rain. Eventually, they go out in the rain anyway and have a wonderful adventure. It’s a great story pushing not putting your life on hold because of the weather.

A more recent addition is Felix after the rain. This is more of a metaphorical story with Felix dealing with the death of his grandma and taking on lots of negative emotions. He learns to deal with these emotions and regain his balance.

At some point during the week in my cover sessions, I’d like to look at just listening to the sound of the rain. I reckon we will have some actual rain but if we don’t recordings of rain have still been found to improve mood and it one study arithmetic ability. Although, they do point out the fact that the sound was rain may not be significant. Either way, it’s a calming sound for a calm classroom.

Alongside this, we’ll probably have a go at doing some bottle rainmakers like I did with Alice yesterday.

Very easy craft, One bottle wrapped in masking tape to make it easier to draw on.

We just used felt-tips as I wasn’t looking to spend a long time on it, but you could paint instead.

Alice drew herself, a butterfly and a tree. She is getting more particular thinking about colours for the tree.

It’s nice to make a few filled with different materials for different sounds: rice, beads, pasta, nuts and bolts, etc. Alice was very happy with hers.

 

And as a bonus today, a rain playlist of songs both positive and negative about rain.

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12 Days Wild: Day 3-A walk out

We are up to day 3 of 12 days wild and it was time to get back outside. We’ve had two days largely inside and that’s pretty much my limit. It was only a short walk out but it felt good to shake off the cobwebs.

We are very lucky to live by the sea and it is a short walk to the seafront. Today was a gorgeous winter day with blue seas and views out to Flamborough.

At several sites along the coast, these recycle bins have been placed. Alice loves to check it out each time and sometimes asks to save recyclable rubbish to put in it.

Next to it is a sign explaining how long it takes for rubbish to decompose. It is a shocking amount of time but despite many of the schemes we still end up having to do beach cleans. The number of years are too big really for Alice to comprehend but she knows it isn’t good. If a 4-year-old can understand there is no excuse for anyone else. There are bins every 20m probably. The seagulls can be a pain and pull things out but much of the rubbish is just pure laziness.

Preaching over. As it was a lovely day just about everyone else had decided to get out for a walk along the seafront. The car parks were rammed. I don’t begrudge people wanting to visit but I felt a bit hemmed in so we headed away to the memorial gardens.

And Alice found a cousin to play with for a little bit.

It was only a short walk but I think it did us all good to walk off some of our food from the last few days and feel some sun on our skin. A lazy evening ahead of games and reading. I am reading Merlin Sheldrake’s entangled life which is fascinating. It is all about fungi which in the grand scheme of human knowledge we still know little about. I also got an alert to tell me the new Monty Don had dropped to 99p on Kindle. I’ve been interested to read but didn’t really want to pay full price. This looks to be Monty’s efforts at talking about nature and wildlife gardening. I have quite a few very good books on the subject so I’m not expecting anything new but figure it will be an easy read alongside my RHS revision. The reviews have been very critical as they say he defends fox hunting which isn’t going to win him any fans amongst environmental readers. But we’ll see when I read it whether it is any good. At 99p I don’t mind if it doesn’t turn out to be amazing.

I read a few of Alice’s new books with her sat in her den set. We read Nicola Davies-Last: the story of a white rhino. Despite her face, in this photo, it did quite upset her hearing about how animals are becoming extinct.  This isn’t a book that is going to be a regular bedtime read but it introduces that idea of animals endangered to promote our need to care for the natural world. It sparked a lot of conversation from her which was the point. We want Alice growing up aware of our need to be stewards of the natural world. I am a fan of Nicola Davies books with the promise being one of my favourites of recent years.

I hope you’re all managing alright and not suffered too much with storms the last few days. It hasn’t been particularly bad here despite warnings. Hopefully, you’re all keeping well and got a chance to get outside today.

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12 Days Wild: day 2-bug bingo

Yesterday was day 2 of the Wildlife Trust’s 12 days wild. The scheme aims to get people out in nature and help people connect to nature and improve their mental health. I was pleased, yesterday, that my six on Saturday post on mental health and gardening received lots of positive feedback. I was happy people got some pleasure from it.

We spent much of yesterday just chilling. Alice took stock of what she had received for Christmas and she had more of a chance to enjoy it. She wanted to spend most of the day playing games. She received a chess set from her grandparents. So, she is now desperate to learn to play. I need some nature therapy after each lesson as it isn’t the easiest game to teach a 4-year-old. But, she is full of enthusiasm. Ludo was pretty frustrating for her as it takes quite a while to play and she kept getting sent back to the start. Uno junior makes for a good quick burst and it’s a game with can put in the rucksack for when we do go out on adventures. Suited to a quick game in a cafe while waiting for food. Or will be when we can actually return to cafes and restaurants. On the ‘acts of wild’ side of things, we played bug bingo. This was enjoyable and simple enough for us to play straight out of the box. The illustrations are lovely and it helps teach us the names of many different bugs. We looked up a few that captured her imagination afterwards to learn more. It was quite long and while we do play games to teach patience and turn-taking I may play it with her as the first to get five or ten initially to keep her attention. I’d rather play several rounds of the game than have one big game that loses her interest. The bugs come from around the world. In an ideal world, I would prefer an edition which just covered UK bugs that we are likely to see. My approach to the natural world is very parochial. I am mainly interested in the nature within our own patch. Corona Virus has only strengthened this with us being limited to our locality. But enough of the bugs are UK based for it to still teach her about the names of UK bugs and foster an interest in them.

Having bought one nature game I am now seeing lots of recommendations for other nature games through my online advertising. There are many variants of the bingo for the nature lover. There is a jungle, bird, dinosaur, cat, dog, monkey and ocean bingo. There is even a poo bingo which if I’d seen first I probably would have bought as she is at the age where poo is hilarious. I saw it first looks to be another simple game for seeing the great variety of life out there. Match the leaf looks like one I could do with to help teach me to match the leaves and trees. It even includes the Latin and common names so could help with my RHS course. It also comes in many varieties with a flower version, a bird version, paw prints and more. There are a wealth of nature games out there suited to any age now.

I hope you’ve all had good Boxing Days and now the main days of gluttony are done you find a chance to start getting back outside. We had yellow weather warnings last night but it didn’t sound too horrific out there. But, I will need to check the garden for damage as it gets a bit lighter. Enjoy your days.

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The Promise-Tree Planting

The wonderful picture book, “The promise” by Nicola Davies has had a lovely animation made in in collaboration with the BBC. The story is a beautifully illustrated story with illustrations courtesy of Laura Carlin. It tells the story of a young girl thief who finds redemption through planting acorns. It has a dark side to it but ultimately a wonderfully positive message. Even if you don’t have children I would recommend reading it and watching the new animation as it’s beautiful.

Link to the BBC video.

The Promise provides a wonderful platform for climate action with young children. It has been launched in several versions with an English and Gaelic version currently. The main purpose is to get people planting trees. For educators there have been some wonderful resources made to go alongside the launch with presentations on why trees matter, biodiversity, and worksheets to learn more. There is lots for teachers to get their teeth stuck into. Increasingly schools are having to send their children home during the Covid crisis and much of what has been included here is ideal for home learning. Even if the school is not facing Covid closures there is much here that can be shared with families and a time when educators are having to be a bit more distant than normal. We can’t currently invite parents into the nursery I work, but we can encourage growing projects at home. This is well suited to bridging that gap between home and school at the moment.

I wanted to do a few activities with Alice this half term around the story but we are lacking acorns. I have a few saved from earlier in the year but I don’t think many are viable for planting so I have been looking at different seeds we can try growing in order to encourage a few more trees.

Conkers

While we are lacking acorns we have no shortage of conkers, horse chestnut seeds. Conkers need to experience a period of cold for several months before germination. Known as cold stratification. You can plant them outside and many will likely germinate, though some will rot, some may be eaten before they get a chance to get going. So we are placing them in the fridge for a few months. After that we can check to see which are viable by dunking in water. Floaters are viable, sinkers need discarding. In spring we can plant them out in pots outside. They just need protection from being eaten by squirrels or the young stalk being devoured.

Self seeders

Usually when I weed the garden I will find a handful of trees that have established in the borders by themselves. The nearby maple is the worst culprit for this. It often seeds its helicopter seeds into the mass of hydrangeas making it hard to get out and also the reason it goes unnoticed until it has gained some height. Having a look through the borders this week I found a tiny little seedling that looks to be a holly. I’ve carefully dug it out and potted it up. Holly and most evergreen plants are not necessarily great for battling climate change but they are great for wildlife so it seems worth preserving. They also tolerate our sea winds well.

Pips

When I mentioned to Alice that I wanted to grow more trees she was keen to grow apple trees. Thinking with her stomach. Most apple trees are sold as grafts as this ensures that they retain the flavour of the parent tree. However, you can take a chance and grow from the pips, from the seeds. The pips will have a mixture of genetics meaning they may taste nothing like the parents so it is something of a lottery. However it is only through this experimentation that we end up with new wonderful varieties of apples. As with the conkers pips need a period of cold. We have placed them on a damp paper towel, then within a slightly opened bag in the fridge. Some may germinate while in the fridge. In a few months’ time we will take them out of the fridge and plant a few to a pot. Then I’ll pull out the weaker ones. Apples apparently have quite low germination success so we may not have much to show for this experiment, but it is ultimately free as we eat tons of apples.

Seed

We started a tray of Paulonia tomentosa last month and many have germinated. Known as the foxglove tree, it is one of the fastest growing trees around. An acre can absorb 103 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year. It can be highly invasive in some countries but I plan to pollard it cutting it back each year as it grows large leaves, up to 40cm long, this way. This means it doesn’t get a chance to flower and spread. On the positive side though it can absorb mass carbon, prevents soil erosion and produces hard wood quickly leading to it getting recommended for many tree planting schemes and reforestation projects. But one I would recommend researching before trying to grow.

A little more information on easy trees to grow from seed here.

Pine cone

I have low expectations of this method but it looks ornamental enough even if it fails. Pine cones contain the seed of the tree. The seed is usually small and falls out when the pine cone opens. If you keep a pine cone moist the seeds can grow up from the pine cone or around the base if placed on a layer of compost. The cones needs to be found while closed before they open and drop their seeds. I have set mine up pushed gently into a pot of compost. I will then spray this to try to keep it moist but not so wet it rots. Around the base I’ve placed a bit of moss scraped from the fence. I may set up a few more around the garden in different locations if we find some more cones. This beast of a cone was found on a walk through the park in the rain yesterday. We’d gone out for some puddle jumping and leaf kicking to make the most of autumn. I may see about going back to see if we can find some more.

The Promise project is looking to connect with local planting and growing groups. So if you are involved with community projects that are planning to plant more trees it is worth checking their site out. You can make a handshake agreement to promise to plant more trees.

https://www.thepromise.earth/localpartner

The resources on the screening page look useful with templates for looking at parts of an acorn, the lifecycle of the oak, Japanese leaf pressing, and ideas for acrostic poems based on The Lost Words poems.

I hope you all check it out. It’s a great project and it will hopefully inspire some tree planting projects. Below is one last link to the video.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/ideas/videos/the-girl-who-changed-the-world-with-an-acorn/p08v4r0t

We will see next year which of our tree planting efforts succeed. I don’t need all of these for my garden so I will look at using some for work or donating to community projects locally. There have already been many tree planting schemes locally but some of the trees have died over summer as they didn’t plan for aftercare and watering while they establish. So, if we manage to get any of these to a decent point we can maybe help replace some of those. Fingers crossed.

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Half term adventure from home-The snail and the whale

It is half term for us. Sadly Hornsea is facing rising cases of Covid. We are not on full lockdown but many of our friends and family are having to isolate so many of our half term plans have been thrown off. We are trying to be careful so we are avoiding contact with people where we can and trying to plan safer activities. Yesterday, we watched Tall stories livestream of Julia Donaldson’s snail and the whale. We saw the Gruffalo last year when theatres were still an option and it was fabulous. A livestream doesn’t quite give the same experience as the theatre so I wanted to create a bit of excitement around it so Alice didn’t just think we were watching a normal TV show. It is shown from London but each showing is done in collaboration with a different theatre It seems like a good way to support theatre during these difficult times for the arts.

A good story can take you all around the world without even leaving your room-Tall Stories

For those of you who don’t know, the snail and the whale is a lovely story written by Julia Donaldosn and illustrated by Axel Scheffler. It tells the story of a tiny snail who wants to see the world. It hitches a lift on the tale of the whale and travels around the world. The story ends with the snail saving the whale. Despite its size it can still help the bigger whale. It has a slower pace than her more famous books like the Gruffalo but I think it has a rather nice mindfullness about it. The TV version particular exemplifies this with beautiful scenes like something from a David Attenborough documentary. The ‘Save the whale’ part of the story is a bit of a Greenpeace blast from the past but it is a story filled with positive messages for children.

After she’d gone to sleep on Sunday I set up a trail of small world trays with scenes from the story around the house for Alice to discover when she woke up. I started with the snails black rock with the message from the story, “Lift wanted around the world”.

Then a little further down the hallway we had the Antartic scene. A planting tray, a sheet of card with circles of white paper made up our Antartic scene. I thought we had lots more penguins but sadly not. Though oddly Alice keeps going back to this one.

A few logs, the bears and an eagle made up the next scene.

The volcano and beach was made with coloured rice and rocks. The rice is coloured by putting rice in a tuppaware box and adding a few drops of food colouring and a spoon of vinegar. Shake the box and then let the rice dry. The animals came from the charity shop a while back, though she’s never played with them that much. Now she has a story that goes with them she has enjoyed them more.

Then a water tray made from a storage box filled with water and Alice’s bath toys.

The trail then led her to an invite to the theatre show and a new toy. Since we didn’t have to travel this theatre trip was saving us lots of money in parking costs, drinks, ice-cream, etc so I thought we could justify a speacial treat to mark the occasion.

She loved doing the trail and carried on acting out the story through the morning and making some of her own.

We got dressed up for the occasion as it seemed like the right thing to do despite not leaving the house.

And then settled into watch the show. Alice loved the show giggling along at the jokes. Sadly our internet cut us off about 5/10 minutes before the end, but luckily she knows the story well enough that she acted out the rest with her toy and the trays I’d prepared. There are a few activities Tall Stories have created online which we may try over the week. The theatre show tells the story from the perspective of a daughter and dad telling the story of the snail and the whale as a bedtime story. It’s sweet and funny and acomponied pleasantly by music on the viola.

Tall Stories have more broadcasts of the show over the rest of the month. It’s only £10 so cheaper than actually going out to the theatre and if you have little ones at home and are stuck for ideas for things to do in this strange Covid environment this is a great option. Alice has asked to act out the story again today so I think that’s a sign that she probably enjoyed it. We ended up watching the BBC snail and the whale adaptation too. It provided a good days entertainment and I have a few follow up ideas for over the week. Well worth checking out!

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Six on Saturday: 5.9.20 Monocots & Dicots

For this weeks six I thought I would do a blog to aid with revision for my first RHS exam in a few weeks. Having had a look through past exam papers the differences between monocts and dicots is a regular exam question. Flowering plants (Angiosperms) are divided into two key groups moncots and discots. The course never really explains why this is important to know but it does give you a good idea of how a plant will grow, what leaves it will have. Some diseases may affect dicots but not monocots so it can be useful to be able to categorise the two.

1. Leaves

The leaves of monocotyledonous plants have parallel veins. They are usually strap-like in shape and have the stomata (where oxygen exits and carbon dioxide enters) are spread evenly between the top and bottom of the leaves. Grasses would be a good example of this. Here we have a hosta showing the parallel veins.

Whereas, dicotyledonous plants have spreading, reticulate (net-like) and branching veins. Here on the heuchera you can see the veins spreading out like a web. The stomata are located on the underside of the leaves.

2. Stems

Monocot stems have vascular bundles scattered around the stem with an epidermis one layer thick. They cannot undergo secondary thickening so they do not form woody stems. There are some exceptions such as palm trees and bananas that can form larger stems but these are exceptions that have developed different strategies than dicot stems for growing larger. So while something like a hosta may grow large leaves it does not develop a large stem. Here the agapanthus has the strap like leaves with a long stem but it cannot undergo secondary thickening to make it more stable.

Dicot stems have vascular bundles arranged in circles around the pith acting as a starch store. They can undergo secondary thickening. So, in general, most trees will be dicots.

3. Flowers

Monocot flower parts are arranged in multiples of 3. Irises and lilies are good examples of this.

Whereas, dicot flowers have parts arranged in multiples of 4 or 5.

4. Seeds

Monocot seeds have one cotyledon, thus the name monocot. The cotyledon is the embryonic leaf that the plant initially grows when first germinated. As it grows larger it forms the true leaves. In the case of monocots, as already said, strap-like.

In dicot seeds, they have two cotyledons. Here we have the two seed leaves of the dicot coneflowers, Echinacea purpurea.

5. Roots

In monocot roots are usually fibrous. They sometimes have an initial taproot that dies off quickly to be replaced by the adventitious fibrous roots. Whereas dicots can form a tap root system with a central thicker root growing down with roots branching off this. Then from the secondary roots smaller taproots may form. Here we have the fibrous roots coming off an onion.

6. Pollen grains

Monocot pollen is monosulcate. This means it has a single pore through the outer layer.

Whereas dicot pollen is tricolpate meaning it has 3 ridges through the outer layer.

I hope you have enjoyed me sharing some of my course knowledge. Hopefully, some of it may be accurate. One more weekend to go before the test so I have a bit more time to cram. Sorry if I don’t get around to reading everyone else’s sixes this week. Between starting my new job on Monday and preparing for my exam I am a bit busy. But it should settle into a nice routine after the exam. Enjoy your weekends.

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30 Days Wild: Day 30-We’re going on a bear hunt

Alice has been asking about going on a bear hunt for a few days. We started our preparations with bear biscuits and carried them on today. It seems appropriate that we started this years 30 Days Wild with a Teddy Bear’s picnic and we are finishing with bears again.

Alice was concerned we might get lost so she wanted to make maps in case anyone got lost.

Her map shows her route through swishy grass, splashing through rivers, squelching through mud, stumbling through the forest, through the snowstorm, and tiptoeing to the cave.

We had a read of the wonderful Jackie Morris something about a bear book.

The book shows different bears but finishes with the best bear of all. Your teddy bear. It’s beautifully illustrated and Alice talked through what she liked about each.

At the end, it has a little bit of information about the different bears around the world.

Alice’s cousins came round and helped her bear hunt in the garden. They swished through the grass and splashed through rivers and squelched through mud.

They stumbled through forests and whirled through snowstorms and finally tiptoed through the cave where they found the bear!

And they locked the bear out. Poor bear!

Then they took turns at being a bear.

Before settling in for a snack of bear biscuits.

And so we are on the last day of 30 Days Wild. It’s always a pleasure to take part. We live our life with high engagement in nature but it’s nice to make the record of what we’ve got up to. But it is a lot of work recording it every day and blogging each day so it’s nice to ease off. Alice is at a lovely age where she is taking so much in and keen to learn about everything. I’ve had some lovely comments over the month from readers of the blog. I mainly write it as a diary to look back on but it is nice to hear other people have enjoyed our adventures in nature. High points include being a guest author for the Wildlife Trust, having schools feature the blog for their home learning, and being asked onto a podcast. If you want to read back on what we’ve been up to over the month you can check the contents page. 30 Days wild is organized by the Wildlife Trusts. One of the best ways you can carry on 30 Days wild is by supporting them by becoming a member, visiting reserves as they reopen or volunteering. And from there you can make your 30 days 365 days wild. I hope you’ve enjoyed our 30 days adventures. We will be continuing as ever but the daily blogs will be stopping for a while.

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30 Days Wild: Day 27-Butterflies and wild art

Yesterday was an exciting day for deliveries. First, we had the delivery of a new sunhat from my aunty for Alice. A reversible hat with bees on one side and ladybirds on the other.

The second delivery was from insect lore. I’d ordered in one of the butterfly kits. However, due to Corona, they didn’t have the one we ordered so we got an upgrade and got a few extras in our set.

We’ve got two insect feeding stations to try. These are just dishes essentially with sponges to put the butterfly food on. Sugar water will attract butterflies and other insects if you fancy trying it, just like our bee dish.

In previous years I’ve seen people criticize these kits as cruel and reducing a live animal to the level of a toy. I think this is an unfair claim. It is only reduced to the level of a toy that the children look at and then move on if you treat it as such. This was very much an exciting event the caterpillars arriving. She watched them carefully and they’ve been handled carefully. I think it’s worth keeping in mind that most of my nations favourite naturalists, people like David Attenborough and Chris Packham, will have been egg collectors or used the killing jar to collect butterflies. While these aren’t practises we would do anymore it was this hands-on experience that gave these people their knowledge of the natural world. And from there they have helped countless species. The caterpillars included are painted ladies. These migrate north and south. When I’ve bought these sets I’ve tried to time it so they will be released as the butterflies would be migrating through our country so they aren’t just released into the cold to die. Last year was a bumper year for them so we’ll see how many come through this year.

It also came with a mechanical toy butterfly. You wind it up with the elastic band and then release it to flap. Alice was fascinated by it. That was probably an hours worth of entertainment her working out the mechanism and seeing how to make it fly best.

And that was enough time inside. Thunderstorms had been predicted on the weather forecast so I wanted to get her out for a bit in case we were stuck in. The National Children’s Gardening Week Facebook account had set a competition to create wild art. I gave Alice the brief and left a few bits out and then left her to it.

Lots of grass for hair.

She made a face complete with a bow made from the red leaves, a hair clip from the petals and lipstick made with rose petals.

Then we tried the first of our long-awaited strawberries. Alice has been checking on these daily to see how they’ve been coming on. They’ve been getting redder over the week and I thought it was time to try before the birds take a fancy to them. We haven’t got many but they were very nice. All the better for having been grown by her.

A bit of a lazy day staying at home but we’ve had quite a few good walks out this week. We’re almost at the end of this years 30 days so I’ll be trying to make them exciting ones before we slow the pace down to our normal nature involvement.

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