Winchester Science Centre

As the forecast was rain during much of our week away we planned for days out that had both indoors and outdoor areas. Alice has shown a good interest in space as a topic over the last year so the science centre and planetarium seemed a choice.

On arrival, Alice was very excited about the bins. I think she possibly enjoyed them enough to justify the price of admission. When she was asked what here favourite parts were at the end of the day the bins were mentioned.

The main exhibit area upstairs had lots of displays around the science of sound. Lots the kids can get their hands on and lots of visual displays of how sounds travel.

The planetarium show was great fun. We were shown several key constellations and then taken on a journey through the planets.

There were several displays downstairs showing visual illusions. Tricks of the mind. The little/big room was like an Alice in Wonderland illustration with the room appearing normal but shrinking in the corners.

In the middle is a space for experiments. They had different shows about every half an hour or so. Here they built up pressure in the tubes to fire socks up to the roof. Alice watched and cheered along.

Alice picked her souvenir, a space ted which she showed around the space are.

A Lego model of how we move around the sun.

The outside area had been set up for a butterfly trail but it was a bit wet so there weren’t many to be found.

A gatepkeeper sheltering on yarrow.

A caterpillar hiding on scabiosa.

It was starting to get busy when we left just after lunch but we’d had plenty of time to go around the centre. It kept Alice’s attention well and she came away happy. Well worth a trip to.

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Hengistbury Head

We have returned from house sitting in Doset. We’ve had a lovely week down there looking after a house in Christchurch and over the next few blogs I’ll be recounting our adventures. The journey down was painfully slow. You can really tell more people are staying in the UK this year. But it was well worth the journey.

After our day of travel we headed off to Mudeford Quay. We have visited before when Alice was a tiny toddler and could only manage a short burst of walking so it was nice to return. Mudeford Quay is a stopping point to get on the ferry to Hengistbury Head. Hengistbury Head has every nature title going for it. It’s a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It is also a Special Area of Conservation, Special Protection Area, an Environmentally Sensitive Area and a Site of Nature Conservation Interest. There are many critically endangered insects found here. We have usually been in the rain so seen none of the things that make it significant. The quay is filled with lots of crab and lobster pots. The sparrows and starlings were clambering all over and stealing the odd scrap from tourists.

The ferry goes back and forth between Mudeford and Hengistbury. It’s probably only ten/twenty metres across the water to the headland of Hengistbury though it’s fast flowing. But it’s a nice little loop across and going on a boat is an adventure in itself for a five year old.

Hengistbury has lots of holiday lets along the beach section. The beach is sandy and covered in shells. There are patches of wild plants along the beach. Some like ragwort I see regularly then a few less common to us like Crambe martima, sea kale

Alice’s legs can handle us going a bit further these days and she was in a fairly cheerful mood, though she puts on daft expressions any time she’s asked to pose for a photo.

She’s also rubbish at looking in the right direction.

It’s the first time we’ve made it along the beach to go up the cliff top. Here is the view back along the beach.

Along the top heathers predominate. Alice’s legs weren’t up for walking any further but it was good to make it further than previous visits.

A patch of honeysuckle.

Ragwort was attracting more than anything else. There was a lot of soldier beetles around.

We saw a few of the cinnabar moth caterpillars. I’ve not seen many this year so good to know they are still around.

And a strange something.

Gatekeepers were probably the commonest butterfly we saw throughout the holiday.

And a white. Ragwort really is a great plant for insects. It supports so much.

We made it back across on the ferry to the carpark just as the rain started. It was nice to visit and see the area in slightly dryer weather than previously and make it a bit further along. There is still more to explore if we return. I’ll be looking at some more of our holiday over the next few days. It’s been nice being away but good to be back at home and my own garden.

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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: 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.

12 Days Wild: Day 12-Final day

So, we have come to the end of 12 Days Wild. As ever, I would recommend supporting your local Wildlife Trust. It is a great organisation and like so many of the charities it will have lost out on some of its revenue this year.

We didn’t get much time today for acts of wild, but we did finish Alice’s birdhouse. She’s happy with it and once the glue has dried we can find a spot outside to hang it. I’m not sure whether the birds like hanging super colourful homes. But we’ll see. She enjoyed making it and it encourages an interest in birds. So, that’s all positive.

She certainly went with the brightest colours.

After discussing the sound of the rain yesterday, I found a nice website for nature sounds, Tree FM. People around the world have made recordings of forest sounds. They are lovely and peaceful and if you are in need of a moment of calm today I would recommend listening. Some of you may not be able to get out right now but the Japanese concept of Shinrin-yoku-forest bathing is a good one. The sounds of the forest are reported to be one of the most significant elements in this.

Tree FM.

I hope you are all keeping well and if not reach out to people. There is help out there. The news in the UK is pretty grim right now so it’s more important than ever to have your stress relievers. We have had a lovely break off and our time outside plays a large part in this. Stay safe.

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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 10-Plant hunt and bird box

Today was the last day before I return to work so we’ve tried to make the most of it. The ice decorations we made yesterday came out of the freezer. The ribbons helped to ease the decorations out of the plates.

We kept one inside in a bowl so we could see how it melted and Alice could go back to keep checking and feeling it.

Then two went in the trees outside. The decoration inside took until dinner time to melt while the outside ones held out until the late afternoon.

Then we carried on with the craft activities. Alice received a paint-your-own birdhouse for Christmas from my parents. So, we made a start on painting it. She wanted the brightest colours going. I’m not sure how birds feel about kaleidoscopic homes. We’ll see if any end up using it.

It will need a bit of time to dry before we assemble. Some pieces will need painting both sides.

Then we got out to take part in the BSBI’s New Year Plant hunt. I think we’ve taken part the last 2 or 3 years though we’ve often been up visiting Amy’s dad at Robin Hood’s Bay.

Nothing unusual recorded but I find it enjoyable taking part in these hunts. My knowledge has increased over the last few years and I take pleasure in seeing the flowers coming and going through the seasons. Each flower at the moment taking us a step closer to the warmth of spring and the abundance of summer. First up we have red valerian which is a common sight through a lot of the year.

A few different daisies spotted on our walk.

Winter heliotrope. A rather nice flower that was introduced to gardens in the UK in 1806, but with a bad spreading habit making it unsuitable for most gardens.

As Alice gets older we’ll hopefully make it a bit further afield and find more interesting flowers. But, her legs will only manage so far currently. Eventually, it will be nice to go around the Mere where there is a variety of habitats. But for now, a jaunt to the park and around town is about her limits.

So, I return to work tomorrow but it’s only a training day so I get eased back into it. The endless cups of tea at home come to a halt. Time to get back on with a bit more RHS revision. Hope you’re all enjoying your Sundays.

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12 Days Wild: Day 7-New Year’s Eve

The day started very cold again. The back door was very stiff to slide open. But, it’s been nice sitting in the backroom and seeing the birds enjoy the extra bird feeders. They are obviously appreciating the food in the cold weather with large swarms coming in.

A good day to steal Amy’s macro lens for a few close up photos. I have a suspicion that all this frost is probably going to destroy the camellias emerging blooms but so it goes. I think it’s going to get dug out after its next round of flowers.

The colour of the Golden King holly almost concealed by frost.

It has stayed cool enough that the frost hasn’t really faded. We didn’t get out until after lunch and there was still lots of ice around. Alice wanted to go to the park to play hide and seek and look for more robins to show her robin toy.

Alice all wrapped up with her favourite new hat.

We did manage to find a robin over by the church wall. The wall here is covered in moss and ivy and you can usually find a good few birds hopping in and out of the cover.

Alice with her robin.

We spotted a squirrel which Alice told me is robin’s brother. It’s an interesting family tree.

I’m glad we are getting some decent sunny days before we head back to school. It is freezing but it’s still a tolerable temperature once we are wrapped up. But we are lucky to have numerous nice spots to walk out too. We will not be doing anything special for New Year’s Eve. Even if there weren’t restrictions in place New Year’s Eve isn’t much fun when you know you’ll still get woken up the same time as normal by a 4-year-old. So, normal bedtime for us. But I hope you all manage to welcome the New Year in safely and enjoy whatever you are up to.

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