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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