Family day out

Yesterday saw me, Amy and Alice heading out into Hull. We rarely have a reason to go in now and it is a military operation getting Alice’s kit ready, but we needed to go into the bank. While in we checked out a few of the Hull city of culture events on offer.

First we went to check out “the blade“. The blade is a temporary art installation covering Queen Victoria Square. Siemens is set to be producing these from Hull.

Facts from the culture site:

  • The blade is 75 metres long, 3.5m in diameter at the root and weighs 25 tonnes.
  • It is the largest single-cast product in the world.
  • The blades are a composite of fibreglass, balsa wood and resin.
  • This blade is part of a turbine which stands 90 metres tall.
  • Over the course of 2017, hundreds of blades will be made in the new Siemens factory in Hull.
  • Blade bisects the square from Savile Street to Carr Lane, rising to a height of more than 5.5 metres at its tip, allowing double-decker buses to pass underneath.

It is rather impressive in nature coming up close to one of these blades that are now a common sight across the country. It is remaining until the 18th March when the mammoth task of transporting it out will begin. But for now a nice reminder of the cities links with renewable energy.

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The birds seem to be enjoying settling on it and round it.

Still plenty of building works going on as they finish repaving the area. Shame it couldn’t be completed ready for the year of culture, but the areas done are looking much nicer.

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It was a nice sunny day and the centre was looking really good. The completed areas are looking smart. The surviving older building in the square are lovely. It’s a shame monstrosities like Princess Quay were allowed to be built amongst the older architecture.

We took a walk along the quay to Ask for lunch. As we have rarely been into town we thought we’d treat ourselves to lunch. On the way we spotted another moth for Amy.

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The quay was looking pleasant in the sunshine.

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We had a nice meal at Ask. We shared a calzone and a tasty seafood ravioli and a honeycomb cheesecake for pudding. Alice was impeccably behaved. She sat talking, giggling then happily ate her own food.

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After lunch we checked out the revamped Ferens Art Gallery. The gallery has secured a Francis Bacon exhibit for reopening. Pretty dreary, but a big name to relaunch with. They are also giving local talent exposure. Some good, some not so good.

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I rather like these ceramic penguins, but had a high asking price.

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There was a nice new sensory area with art activities for the children to do. Alice liked the light table and the colour discs. All in all a grand day out.

Garden Update

I’ve had a bit of time in the garden today and yesterday. Yesterday I started work on cutting back the climbing rose covering the shed. The shed needs re-felting so sadly it needed cutting back. It was lovely in bloom last Summer, but a good number of years of neglect has led to it getting out of hand. It was preventing me from getting to the shed roof and was destroying the fence. So sadly made the decision to cut it right back. The pollen beetles loved it, so will have to look at planting something else to make up for it. Looks a bit empty now.

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Today I’ve had my mum and one of the nephews helping dig over the flower bed I’ve not touched much yet. The other flower bed has been dug over and barked and is starting to take shape. The over is still a bit of a wilderness. While I want a wildlife friendly garden, in its current state it isn’t providing much variety for species. So once it’s dug over I can look at planting a greater variety of flowers to attract in ore diversity. But the soil is rich in worms, centipedes and earwigs, so doing something right.So far I’ve planted quite a lot the bees like, so would like to look at some more butterfly friendly flowers.

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While my mum and nephew worked on that I’ve repositioned some of the flowers I’d put in to put them in height order. My mum has given me some pansies which I’ve put in at the front. Of no great value to wildlife, but adds a bit of colour at a glum time of year. So put those in front of the viburnum.

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Along the back I’ve added two variety of foxgloves and a hollyhock, both good for bees. Then I’ve put in some gladioli bulbs to grow up the fence. Hopefully come Summer have a better variety of colours. Last year it was very pink with the hydrangeas, so I’d like a few other colours. My mum had bought me a lupin, which I’ve placed just in front as the shorter growing plant.

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So got one border coming along nicely. Gradually plugging all the spaces. The hydrangeas are trimmed back, the clematis are set to add some cover to the fence. Hopefully all be looking good come Summer.

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The first crocus are flowering at the back. I’m thinking I should of grouped them more, but maybe next year.

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Signs of Spring

Yesterday was the first day of the half term holiday for me. I took Alice out for a good walk and could really see the change in the seasons starting to happen. Through the park patches of snowdrops are starting to flower.

It was nice going through the park. It’s starting to warm up. More dog walkers were out, a couple of families out, and some kids climbing in a thicket of trees and bushes, using it as their hidey hole.

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I took the long route round which takes me past one of several blue plaques in Hornsea. This one on the white cottage is dedicated to TE Lawrence. I like to think he enjoyed his time in Hornsea and found some peace.

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Within my own garden the daffodils closest the house and warmth are looking set to flower. The ones down at the bottom of the garden have a little longer to go.

Throughout our walk Alice was chatting happily. Any other baby would of drifted off for their afternoon nap, but not Alice. She sat in the pram chatting and giggling the whole journey. You would have thought the sound of the sea, the rolling of the pram would make her droop off, but no happy as Larry. Thought she’d be grumpy til bed time with over tiredness but she was alright.

Free trees

The woodland trust are currently pushing the need to plant trees. The UK has one of the lowest tree covers in Europe. Our woodlands have been diminished. With most gardens small people don’t want large trees. Many people are turning their gardens into fake outdoors with fake grass, so trees are diminished. The woodland trust are looking to reverse the trend planting 64 million trees by 2020. They are offering free seed packs for: rowan, dog rose, alder buckthorn and holly.

The selection of what is sent to you is random, so until it starts growing won’t know for sure what I’ve got. I don’t really have space for a rowan tree, so if I find I’ve got one of the larger species it may need planting at school or elsewhere. All the selected trees offer good benefits to wildlife with significance for caterpillars and birds particularly.

Having had the free Kew Gardens wildlife seed pack last year that is now starting to grow I quite like these random surprise packs. It’s a nice idea but the various organisations offering them to help wildlife.

http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/seeds/winter-moment-banner-860x250

 

Taking the story out-Little Red Riding Hood

Having written previously about taking story books out I’m now going to look at one that I particularly enjoy using in the outdoor provision: Little Red Riding Hood. Little Red Riding Hood is an all round good story for Foundation Stage and year one. It can be done quite dark, it’s got a good villain, a brave hero to come along and rescue the heroine or their are alternate versions with Little Red saving herself. While it has lots of less than suitable interpretations for the younger years it still has a basic moral about listening to parents and not talking to strangers that still has as good a place today as when it was written.

Three of my favourite versions are:

Little Red Riding Hood-Lari Don

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This version tells the traditional version with granny and Little Red getting eaten by the wolf. No messing about with wolves putting granny in cupboards this wolf does what fairy tale wolves are meant to do, eat people. Then the huntsman comes along to find a snoring wolf in the bed. While the wolf is asleep the huntsman opens up the wolfs belly and releases Little Red and Granny then sews the stomach back up filled with rocks. The wolf then drowns at the end. I’m not a fan of the many toned down modern versions of fairy tales as they generally lose something in the telling. This one engages children well. It has lovely illustrations and details the children remember.

The wolf’s story-Toby Forward

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This version of the story comes from the wolf himself. It’s delivered in a Del Boy style tall story with the wolf explaining unconvincingly what he was doing at Grannies cottage. Better towards the end of F2 and year one as the children understand the story more and get the jokes. There are quite a few alternative versions of Little Red, but this remains one of my favourites. It provides lots of good opportunities in the class for further development of the story. For follow up work this story really helps with hot seating with the children playing the part of the wolf and getting into the characters head. It has good possibilities for PSHE and writing. I’ve used it as a lead in to the children writing letters as the wolf apologising to Little Red and trying to explain to her what happened.

Revolting Rhymes-Roald Dahl

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Roald Dahl’s version is full of humour with Little Red as the heroine. She later turns up in the three little pigs to take on another wolf. It has wonderful rhymes that stick in the children’s heads.

The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers.
She whips a pistol from her knickers.
She aims it at the creature’s head
And bang bang bang, she shoots him dead.

Little Red makes an ideal story for telling outside as much of the story takes place outside. The parts in grandmas cottage are easy enough to set up a role play area for outside. Reading a story outside and practicalities around this were discussed previously. Once the children know the story it is one they have no problem finding areas outside to roleplay the story. if you are lucky enough to be working in forest schools you have a perfect setting for Little Red to meet the wolf. If you are within school hopefully you have at least one tree to be your wood, but even if you don’t a hedge or fence is enough for most children’s imaginations. For parents a trip to the park maybe with Little red’s basket seems a good excuse for a picnic. Children are good at assigning settings that look nothing like the actual ones. Within my school playground. They assigned three small trees as the forest, a stump as the woodcutters spot and the stage as they cottage. In small groups they successfully acted out the different parts of the story. Role playing and acting out stories makes up an important part of learning to make their own stories. By becoming familiar enough with lots of stories they can then draw on the different elements to make their own stories or change existing ones.

Extending it beyond the role play back at one of my previous schools we had a mud kitchen where the children were encouraged to make cakes for Little Red to take to granny. We had a fairy tale post office with the children writing letters to different characters from stories. The example from the wolfs tale given earlier was the starting point done as a lesson with the class, but they quickly started to expand to do their own ideas. The wolf sidetracks Little Red sending her off the path to pick flowers, so it is an easy step from the story to explore wild flowers. While I’m not in favour of sending classes off to find and pick wild flowers I have taken them around the school field to look and see what we can identify. It’s usually little more than daisies, buttercups and dandelions, but they enjoy it and it does form part of Year Ones science curriculum. We have also planted small pots of wild flowers to sell at our school fairs. Den building is a good way to set up granny’s cottage. Many units have a home corner outside already or one that is wheeled out each day, but often these are ignored much of the time. Building a new cottage each day sustains interest over longer periods than the same home corner day in day out. Story mapping is nice for an outdoor activity in warmer weather. Some large scrap card some pencils, felt tips and crayons and you’ll find many children will enjoy mapping out, drawing the different events of the story.

So ideas summary for outdoor play with Little Red:

  • role playing.
  • Letter writing to characters.
  • Cake baking (mud kitchen, playdough).
  • Wild flowers (planting and exploring).
  • Den building (making granny’s cottage).
  • Story mapping.

Props are good for telling stories, although not necessary it does add to the story telling. My Little Red contains:

  • A basket
  • Little Red’s hood
  • Wolf ears
  • Wooden food
  • A wooden axe
  • A shower cap (for granny’s night wear)

Cheap enough items that add an extra level of interest to acting out the story. The children particularly like putting the cap over the top of the wolf’s ears. _dsc0984

I won’t be going into my park though to tell Alice this one though at the moment as the trees have become a duck pond with all the rain.

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I’m sure there are many other ideas that can be done with Little Red. If you do anything else with it, please share in the comments.

Big Garden Birdwatch 2017

This years Big Garden Birdwatch saw me more hopeful than last. Our previous house had a regular species drop in of three: blackbirds, wood pigeons and starlings. While I am actually fond of all three it doesn’t make for the most exciting hours viewing. However our new garden sees a much greater diversity with over ten regular species dropping in and a handful of irregulars.

I had planned to try to do the watch early morning or just after dinner, but marking, planning and parental duties took priority. But we now have a good storage unit in the sitting room for Alice’s toys and books.

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Man duties done I settled in to monitor the birds later than I’d intended, so I did think I’d miss out as late afternoon/early evening isn’t an amazingly active point and next doors cat sitting on the fence for a while won’t of helped, but haven’t had too bad a time. I’ve missed out on a few of the finches who have been regular visitors and the collared doves, but still managed double figures of species.

The survey works by taking the largest number of each species you see at once, so you don’t count birds coming in and out. My results were as follows:

Eleven starlings

Six blackbirds

Four wood pigeons

Three blue tits

Two great tits

Two chaffinches

Two house sparrows

One robin

One wren

One crow

One common gull

I managed to capture many on the trail cam with a number posing nicely for the mugshots.

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Taking the story out

Today I’m going to be starting a series of articles covering ideas for 30 days wild for teachers and parents. Fairy tales and traditional tales are a key part of childhood. They capture children’s imagination, teach moral lessons and prepare them for the hardships of life. The vast majority of these stories take place outside and often in woods and forests. The backdrop of the forest makes up a large part of our fairy tales and folklore going back to a time when people were worried about the perils of the forest.This idea was well covered in gossip from the forest-Sara Maitland

Now we have the reverse situation if we don’t get people outside we face dangers for their mental well being and physical health. Teaching and taking the children out has been shown to be beneficial for children’s health and developing their education. Whether you subscribe to forest school practises or just the ideas in Richard Louv’s-last child in the woods, outdoor play is important. It promotes health, helps tackle childhood obesity, but more importantly for me it develops a love of nature and creates imaginative children.

A key message in last child in the woods is that a lot of the best imaginative play happens outside, seeing as many of the best fairy and traditional tales happen outside it is a perfect chance for going out of the classroom, out of the house to tell them. This might only be a basic as taking the picnic blanket out in the garden, to the park on the school playing field, but it changes the engagement with the story. It makes it more than just a story at hometime in school. Some parks have dedicated story spaces to go and read a story in or a story chair.York Museum Gardens have a storytelling area hidden away.

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For some teachers reading in this way may be a worry. The children will be too excited, their focus will be elsewhere. At the start of the year I explain to classes these times we are going outside to learn have the same expectations as the classroom. We are still going out to learn and the same expectations to listen are still required. It is made very clear that children who can’t follow instructions will miss out next time. I am fortunate in that my school has a large playing field (it is one that hasn’t been sold off to make a new housing estate)  with trees along the back giving us nice spaces to go out onto, but even going out a concrete playground will add interest to the kids.

In terms of practicalities in Summer going out to read a story on the field or playground is straightforward as most of the time the grass is dry enough to sit on. Currently though it is not. I have a large tarpaulin that we take out. The children take the edges and stretch it out and then sit on the edges while I peg it down. If you have a nice spot under a tree or maybe a stage on the playground it again adds to the feeling of the story being more of an event than just home time story.

I like telling stories orally, but that requires an element of performance and acting some teachers may not be comfortable with. For stories I don’t know as well I generally stand to read the story with the children sat on the tarp. When it’s a story I know well it can be told orally acting the story out. This allows more fluidity and movement, moving amongst the children keeping their attention better. It’s a good way to engage the children in their topic. By reading the story outside it encourages the children to continue the story during their break time as they connect their story with outside. So I find stories read or performed outside will be re-enacted during break and dinner time extending their learning into these times. Becoming familiar with stories and having the opportunity to act them out is a vital element in children becoming story writers. Pie Corbett refers to this as imitation. Through this stage of imitating stories they then come to innovate and change the stories to make their own versions. By reading and performing stories outside it widens the possibilities of a story. For example a chase between the wolf and woodcutter in Little Red Riding Hood can stretch over the field rather than being squashed in the classroom.

For parents just taking the picnic blanket to the park with a story again has an added element of excitement, taking the story beyond just reading it for bedtime.

So key reasons for reading outside:

  • Create excitement and engagement.
  • Extend the learning beyond the classroom, children will often continue their story games into break and dinner time.
  • Time outside benefits health and mental health.
  • Space to roleplay stories with no limits on running, jumping, etc that you would have in the classroom.
  • Boy engagement. It always makes up an element of school improvement plans now. The boys in my class like getting out and generally end up following close behind for outdoor stories so they can spread the tarp. This then ends up with many of them sat at the front for story rather than trying to hide at the back not listening.
  • Creating a love of literature and the outside.

 

I will be following this blog up with several examples of stories I like to use outside and what additional activities I do alongside reading the story. If you use any stories outside currently or decide to take your class or children out please comment below. I’d love to hear others experiences.