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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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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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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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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