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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30 Days Wild: Day 3-Butterfly printing

Welcome to day 3 of 30 Days wild. After our leaf man picture, we carried on with our nature experiences with a walk in the park. A row of trees was planted last year in the park. They were planted as a result of most people having that vague awareness that we need to plant trees to help tackle climate change. Like a lot of these schemes, several local celebrities came along made a great deal of fuss about what a good deed they were doing and then they’ve been left to slowly die. With the drought, several of these trees are probably past saving. We’ve started to take a few extra bottles of water to give them a drink to help them establish. If future years remain as hot as this one we will really appreciate the shade from these trees if they get the chance to establish as well as their benefit to climate change and wildlife. If you have any newly planted street trees or park trees near to you they will appreciate a drink.

Preaching over, we enjoyed seeing squirrels while out. Even if it is the invasive grey it’s always a thrill to spot a wild mammal.

Alice is getting older but still no better at hide and seek.

The wilder area, mentioned previously, gave me some of the best butterfly photos in a while. Here is the tiny common blue.

The scientific name for the common blue is Polyommatus icarus, meaning the many-eyed one. When you see the wings closed you can see why.

Then yesterday we carried on with some craft fun working on some symmetry butterfly printing. I printed off a couple of butterfly outlines. These are then folded in half and a piece of paper placed over one half. We painted the one half and then folded it over, rubbed, and then opened. Alice enjoyed the painting and we had a good conversation about the patterns she was making.

“They get the nectar from the flowers and I like flowers” Alice.

It’s a joy to see that she is taking in lots of what we talk about each day and she is developing a good understanding of the natural world at such a young age.

Then cut out, a nice bit of cheer for the windows with decorating your windows being all the rage currently.

If you fancy looking and IDing butterflies check out butterfly conservation’s handy print out. Get to know them before the big count next month. We’ve got a few more butterfly ideas for over the month and a lot more wildness to come. Enjoy your Wednesday whatever you are doing.

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Edward Thomas-Spring thaw

Today have been the birthday of Edward Thomas. With the state of the UK weather it seems appropriate to remember him through one of his poems.

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Spring-Thaw

Over the land freckled with snow half-thawed

The speculating rooks at their nests cawed

And saw from elm-tops, delicate as flower of grass,

What we below could not see, Winter pass.

Thaw

Nature Book Swap

The arts and humanities research council have announced the short list of the UK’s favourite nature book.

Here

The list is an interesting mix of fiction and non-fiction and old and new. The books are all ones that have touched people in different ways. They all have some emotional impact.

I read a lot of nature books both fiction and non-fiction and as part of this blog I have shared many I’ve enjoyed. Following on from the dark is rising book group, the AHRC book list and the seed swap I wondered if anyone was interested in a secret nature book swap? You may have ended up with duplicates for Christmas. So here is a use for them.

The concept was done during the 30 days wild. Emails of interest are collected. People are sent an address to send on a nature book too. In this way people encounter new nature books and share their love of the written word.

If you receive a book you own or have read pass it to a friend or family member you think might like it. If you can’t think of anyone give it to charity. No harm having charity shops filled with quality nature writing. Someone will enjoy it.

So initially just looking for who is interested. If you are email me your name and address. All information will remain confidential except who you are sending a book too. I can’t except any liability for anyone who doesn’t receive a book. This relies on trust and goodwill. UK only so no one has excessive postage.

I’ll set a deadline of interest to next Friday 12th January. So anyone interested email: natureswap@mail.com

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#naturebookswap

The nature principle-Richard Louv

I have just finished listening to Richard Louv-The nature principle on audible. Since Alice came along my reading time dropped, so I like listening to audio books on my journey to work. I’ve worked through a lot of nature books over the last year, so even with lack of time I’m still learning new things. I’ve reviewed Last child in the wood, Richard’s previous book. Last child is something of a modern classic for educators wanting to get children outside. The nature principle has more of a focus on adults and how connecting to nature can benefit us in many ways.

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It covered a lot of similar ground as last child in the woods, sometimes even falling back on the same research or giving further details of events mentioned in last child. So I wouldn’t recommend this without reading last child first, as you may find some of these references annoying. Unlike many nature writers covering the same topic I like Richard Louv as he concentrates on positive steps that can be taken to find a space in nature. Many nature books currently get stuck on the doom and gloom and stating that much of what has happened to the environment is irreversible. But Louv, while he does talk about places that have gone wrong, spends more time discussing what can be done to move forwards to create a better world. He has ideas for embracing both nature and technology. His work isn’t about just reclaiming a past we can’t go back to.

Louv argues for the benefits of time in nature. He covers research showing how recovery time in hospital is shortened in patients look out onto green space. Time in nature can boost creativity, increase immunity and help de-stress. While I’m already sold on the benefits of nature time it’s still nice to hear.

The narration is good. Rick Adamson, who narrates, has a clear voice. Many of the non-fiction audible books have narrators with no intonation suitable for putting you to sleep. Not suitable for me driving, but this was done well.

Having enjoyed this second book I’m now tempted with Louv’s more recent book Vitamin N. May be a future purchase.

 

Haiku

Today is a day for indulging in the traditional Zen activity of creating haiku’s. With Alice not sleeping well my daily acts of meditation help a little towards my alertness and calm. A quick little poem following the traditional haiku subject of the seasons.

Autumn leaves falling,

Drifting down to the wet ground,

Crunching under foot.

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I have managed to get Alice down in her cot. A rare event during the day. We’ll see how long this lasts.

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And on the subject of seasons the Wildlife Trusts anthology on Summer is on offer on kindle at the moment.

From the blurb:
Capturing the high point of the year’s progress, Summer presents prose and poetry spanning eight hundred years. Featuring new contributions by Simon Barnes, Michael McCarthy and Esther Woolfson, classic extracts from the work of Charles Dickens, Mary Webb and Philip Larkin, and diverse new nature writing from across the UK, this vibrant and evocative collection will inspire you to go out and enjoy the pleasures of summer.

Summer anthology-Mellisa Harrison (Ed.)

summer

Autumn is here, but Summer flowers hanging on.

Yesterday took Alice for a walk along the seafront past Hornsea Floral Hall. The hall has spectacular flower beds and there were a good number of Summer flowers hanging on in there.

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Although a few have made the shift to Autumn. The dunnocks were still enjoying playing in the bushes.

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Along the hedges were a few more harlequin invaders._dsc0296

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And a spectacular web.

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My wildflower meadow planted earlier in the year is starting to get going ready for flowering next year.

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Strike day

Today I am on strike. As a teacher my career path is being eroded by the conservative government. George Osbourne froze the spending per child in schools meaning in real terms we have taken a cut with inflation. Their push to make all schools academies has been well publicised. The continual push to make the public sector fail to allow for privatisation. They are pushing to allow unqualified teachers replace teachers. I know who I would rather have teach my child. All of there proposals will further lead to further inequality in society. The poor will end up with a poorer quality of education.  Not that the conservatives will care with their children already in private schools, but I believe in education for all. I work in a inner city council estate. The new push to link exam results will put people off working in these areas where you are likely to see lower results. The parents I work for are a lovely bunch, but they don’t have the same money as leafy suburban parents in terms of providing opportunities for their kids. The children get to see more of the world through school opportunities. The cuts will reduce how much can be done. I have known many of the children I teach from birth and want them to have the same opportunities in life as my own daughter. Under Nicky Morgan that won’t happen. As such I am on strike.

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Normally I have marched on strike days, but with a 7 week old colicky baby I am adding what support I can from home. I have added my name to relevant petitions, emailed my MP and I’m adding to blogs. The press does not generally get behind teachers, so we need as much positive press as we can get. Many people are questioning why strike now? The government and press is caught up in Brexit fever. But it is for this reason pressure needs to be put on the government to push education to the fore. With leadership battles going on in both key parties I want to see promises of better education secured. It is time for unions to be strong while the government are weak.

For now I will continue to take solace from our ineffectual government by continuing to enjoy nature. Alice and myself enjoyed watching the secret life of birds with Iolo Williams this morning on netflix. Alice seemed to like the curlews.

Then some reading I can dip in and out of with her naps.

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