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.

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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30 Days Wild: Day 9-Beetles maths

Last weekend was World Coleoptera weekend so I thought I’d make a focus of beetles. Beetles are one of the most diverse forms of life on the planet. They are the largest order of insects and makeup almost 25% of all known life forms. So worth spending a bit of time on.

We had a look at a couple of different beetle books, which I’ll comment on later in the blog. Then we had a look at the ladybird lifecycle models and stag beetle life cycle.

For those of you who don’t know a ladybird is a type of beetle and its lifecycle is much like the butterfly. We start from eggs, usually laid on leaves. Out of the egg hatches the larvae. These are particularly useful for gardeners as it is these that eat a mass number of aphids, yet a lot of gardeners don’t recognise them. The larval stage is when the beetle puts on most of its growth. When it has matured enough it forms a pupa. Later in the year, you will often find these hanging off leaves. From the pupa, the ladybird emerges as the mature beetle capable of reproducing and thus the cycle can continue.

After covering part of the science and answering the many questions we moved onto an activity designed for pushing the craft and maths. I had made up ladybirds, but with a problem, they had lost their spots. On the back, it had a calculation for Alice to represent.

We added the spots with paint and a sponge brush.

Once made we ordered the numbers and counted the doubles. Then I taught Alice the ladybird doubles song.

“This ladybird has 2 spots, 2 spots, 2 spots, this ladybird has 2 spots, 1 + 1 makes 2.”

Then in the afternoon, we headed out to the park.

And I’m pleased to report we found the key stages of the ladybird. A mass of ladybirds, though many were the invasive harlequin we did see some 2 spots. The following photos are courtesy of Amy and her macro skills. We have the larvae first. There were lots to be found on the nettles and buttercups.

Followed by the pupa.

Then a handful of ladybirds.

And I found one in our own garden.

The two main beetle books I used today were the beetle book by Simon Jenkins and a beetle is shy by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long. I’ve reviewed A nest is noisy previously by the same team. Both these books are beautifully illustrated and show the great variety in beetles as well as a chance to talk about different body parts, wing cases, mandibles, etc. For older children, there is the beetle boy series but Alice isn’t quite ready yet.

I hope you’re enjoying our 30 days journey so far. I’ve added a contents page if anyone wants to look for ideas. There are also lots of ideas used in previous years here.

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30 days of wild: day 30-woodland stop

Today saw the rain hold off for some of the day. At breakfast I could see more of the birds venturing out again. The housemartins were swooping for bugs. The blue tits were hopping in the trees. Blackbirds were pecking in the wet soil. While I don’t mind being out in rain it brought a greater variety of life out for the last day of this years 30 days.

Today I wasn’t at school as I was attending training on Ofsted inspections. So I got a bit more time with Amy and Alice before heading out. On the way I caught up on the RSPB podcast. This months was discussing project puffin. The RSPB is looking for photos of puffins feeding to track what their eating.

The Ofsted training was a fairly unwild activity taking place in a sterile new build academy. The room we were in fitted the cream song.

In the white room with black curtains. 

It wasn’t the nicest room to spent a day, a featureless white expanse, but the training was useful. I am more prepared for the Ofsted menace. It did however finish early as we had a short dinner and few breaks.

As I was out early I stopped in one of the laybys for a quick pause to take in the wildlife. It is a nice spot I’ve walked properly before, but today just pulled in and took a minute to look round. There are a few picnic tables then a path made from the old railway line.

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The path is surrounded by trees with gaps every so often to see the fields.
 

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The path is lined by wildflowers. It’s remarkable how much life one flower can support. Just a single buttercup out on its own was supporting a wealth of pollen beetles.

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Cow parsley thistles were swarmed with bees and hoverflies and a range of snails around the leaves.

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Red admirals criss crossed the path. I struggled for a photo. They landed on my head, my shoulder and briefly on my hand, but couldn’t get a photo. With a little patience I managed a shot with the wings open and closed.

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Then returning to the car I spotted something amazing. Something from the land that time forgot. A beast at almost three inches. From the field guides I think it’s possible a common hawker. Although looking at I can’t say its something I see commonly. Damselflies I see regularly, but fantastic beasts of this size are not a daily occurrence. 

So thank you 30 days for this last currioisity. If it wasn’t for the 30 days I may not of stopped for a brief pause and seen these wonders. The lessons from 30 days, to continue to enjoy nature, will carry on through the year.

Mandela Gardens

On Wednesday I spent an afternoon at Hull Heritage Learning finding out more about their proposed Hull Curriculum. They have put together a set of resources on 20 Hull histories ready for Hulls year as the city of culture. Some wonderfully enthusiastic people leading the way.

The day was hosted in the cities museum quarter with a marque set up in the Mandela gardens. While only a small walled garden they are looking beautiful at this time of year. For those who haven’t ever been it’s a lovely secluded area in the old historic part of the city. You have the museum for William Wilberforce (top rate slave abolisher), the street-life museum (many old vehicles for the young uns to rampage on) and the history museum (giant woolly mammoth and super Roman Mosaics). Best of all it’s all free and I think we have a better collection than the York museum which charges a small fortune for a family day out.

We still have one of the Phillip Larkin toads on display.

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A lovely collection of roses.

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The pond is full of mighty beasts in the depths.

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Gandhi adds an element of calm to the garden.

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Two of the residents at the museum.

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A few of the vehicles on offer in the streetlife museum.

Some more pollen beetles.

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On the way home I tracked down another moth for Amy.

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Beetle update

The darkling beetles started back at day 15 are now reaching maturity and changing from the light brown to black. The children have enjoyed having them in the class immensely.

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On a side note we managed to capture our first photo with Alice smiling. She has been starting to smile the last few weeks, but changes to serious face when the camera is on her.

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And a less cheerful message, but worth watching, from Chris Packham.

A new garden

Me and my partner, Amy, are set to move house. While we’re very happy in our current house it just isn’t going to be big enough as Alice gets bigger. Amy has a house in Hornsea, a small seaside town on the North East Coast. It has been rented for the last few years while she was living in Indonesia and then at mine. Her tenant has now moved out and we are set to move next month. We went to check out the house today. I’m excited to get to work on the garden. The flower beds are a bit heavy on the dandelions. It needs a bit of love and attention to encourage a greater variety of wildlife than the mass number of slugs and snails currently.

It already has some lovely flowering bushes. A good collection of roses and a small apple tree.

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The roses are looking good.

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With a bit of love and attention maybe get enough apples for a crumble.

The back is a bit bare currently. We need a rail around the decking for when Alice is walking. A few pot plants will add some colour and get some wildlife closer to the house. I reckon one of the bird feeders can go up this end close to the house so I can see through the windows in the kitchen.

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There are two bays for vegetables at the side of the house, but there pretty shaded. Considering a mud kitchen for Alice.

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Various flowers.

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The shed has been overtaken by a rose currently. Unfortunately we need to replace the shed at some point so it will need cutting back but currently it is festooned with pollen beetles (identified thanks to the 30 days of wild facebook group)

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Being a wet grey day the snails were out in force.

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I’m looking forward to getting to work. We’ve got a good compost heap at the bottom which looks like it has some compost ready at the bottom for me to use. I’d like some trellis to put some more wildlife cover along the edge. The trees need a bit of care to encourage some upward growth. I’d like a small water area somewhere. I don’t want to go for the full pond while Alice is little, but can at least have a small water feature somewhere. I’m hopeful for a greater diversity of birds than my current garden gets. There is a nice passageway behind of hedges, so there is the possibility of hedgehogs or foxes. Within Hornsea there is a mere where bats sly, so may look at getting¬† a bat box up. A whole new world of wildlife possibilities.

Day 12-homes for wildlife

Today I am working on planning for school, so have limited time for anything major. I’m having a focus on feeding and homing wildlife in the garden.

In a corner of the garden near the shed I’ve added some more leaf matter and some twigs around my small log pile to help out the detrivores. Hopefully help out some of the beetles discussed yesterday.

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I’ve set up a bowl of over ripe fruit for the insect life in the garden. As my partner Amy is breastfeeding I think she’s finding peeling the bananas and oranges too much effort, since much of the time she only has one hand free. So I’m getting left with plenty of fruit for the garden. I was hoping to see a few butterflies, but mainly just seen blue bottles. But it’s all important wildlife.

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I’m hiding in a new bug house amongst one of the bushes. I’ve seen quite a lot of bees buzzing around this spot through the last two days. At one stage there were 8 bees just on this one bush. So hopefully it will serve a purpose.

The bird feeders have been topped up with a feast of seeds, nuts, meal worms, fat balls and suet blocks. I’ve also put a new jar of mealworm peanut butter in the wilco’s feeder. Thus feeder and jars is probably the most popular part of my bird feeder set up. It took the birds a while to get the idea of it, but now they snaffle it all up in a few days.

I’ve moved a few sunflowers into the flowerbeds that I’ve been cultivating inside on the windowsill the last month. Hopefully they will attract insects and later on the seeds will be a good source of food for the birds.

As we’ve had lots of visitors seeing baby Alice I’ve saved the tea bags and loose leaf tea to use for fertiliser in the garden. Ripping open the tea bags I’ve added the tea around the bases of several plants to put nutrients¬† back into the soil. I’ve been doing this over the Spring and have noticed a greater abundance of worms in my normally worm low clay soil. Apparently tea is also good for spreading around root vegetables for stopping maggot damage.