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 Wild: Day 2-Leaf man

Yesterday we read the lovely story Leaf Man by Louis Ehlert. All the pictures are made from leaves. Leaves from different trees and different colours. Some were used as they were. Others are cut.

It injects life into what starts as just a pile of leaves.

We headed out in the garden to collect a variety of leaves.

We collected a variety of leaves of different shapes, sizes and colours.

Back inside we assembled the leaves to make a person. Alice used some of the circle hole punches for eyes and a nose.

We assembled it all together using glue and double sided tape.

We then scanned it on the computer and printed so Alice could see how the book had been made.

A nice simple craft activity that didn’t take very long but encouraged her imagination.

As well as it being 30 days wild it’s also growing for wellbeing week. The lovely Anabelle Padwick has put together a pack of activities ideal for teachers or home schoolers. Worth a look of you’re in need of some ideas for teaching your children.

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Grow Wild: free wildflower seed

It is time for registration with Grow Wild to see if I can get a wildflower kit. Grow Wild is an initiative through Kew Gardens to grow native wildflowers. It brings people together to create community¬†spaces to help the environment and bring cheer to spaces. By growing wildflowers, it offers food sources for pollinators and can help people’s mental wellbeing through planting and maintaining or just through seeing and enjoying.

The previous packs have been excellent. Grow Wild put together different seed mixes depending on your location in the UK. They then have different packs for different situations: woodland wonders, sensational, field flowers, nighttime bloomers and pollinators. This is an excellent project for teachers. Even if you can only provide a small space, a few planters or pots, it all adds up. Teaching children the significance of the individual plants will help prepare a new generation to take better care of our world. Vitally important work.

Previous mixes did well. The cornflowers brought in the bees and the goldfinches. Registration is open and people will find out if they have been successful next month. So if you work as a teacher or have a community space to grow it is well worth checking out.

Registration open here.

Even if you are ineligible it is worth browsing the website for ideas on collecting seeds and how to help pollinators.

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School Garden Update

Today the sun was shining. We had one class out of the three in F2 out. So I took this perfect opportunity to get children into the garden.

The garden area of my outdoor provision is split into essentially three allotment plots. The end plot I designated for a pear tree.¬† It has a dwarf apple tree, then a pear tree that will grow to a larger spread. So this plot I’m just giving the tree space to grow and under planting with a few flowers to bring in the pollinators. Apart from the potential for a fruit crop I just wanted a few trees that would have blossom for the children to build their seasonal knowledge. We have an apple tree planted outside of the garden area in addition to the pear. In the corner the mini pond has seen a few birds using for drinks. The children helped dig in a plastic planter within a tyre. We then filled around the edge with gravel and soil and heaped wood around the edge to create ramps. I doubt it will attract the frogs the children would like for a while, but the log pile and water will provide many insects a home.

Within the plot at the other end the children helped mix a rich soil mix using the leaf mulch from last year with compost to fill three of the tyres. Into these we planted two Glen Moy Raspberry bushes. I’ll need to add in supports for them to grow along, but I’ve got a lot of suitable material for making a frame in the shed, so should be possible. The raspberries are meant to be ready for June or July. One of the issues with growing for a school garden is many of the veg or fruit we might harvest would be during the school holiday or the children don’t see the culmination of their work as they have moved up a year. That said I have planted some red champagne rhubarb which will need at least a year to settle in, so my current children won’t see any results from this any time soon, but if it establishes it will keep going and going.

The middle plot the children planted up with daffodils in Autumn. I’m not a massive fan of daffodils, but wanted something to fill the space after I cleared the head height thistles.

As the garden won’t get as much of a water over Summer I’ve chosen drought tolerant plants. The rosemary is developing into a good thicket.

Then we have a number of mini hebes. I’ve gone with a number of evergreen options along the back portion of the plot to keep some greenery through the year. Between lavender, conifers, hebes and rosemary we’ve got a mix of foliage colour and leaves.

Before I started there was a willow tunnel. However much of this had been damaged by children to a point where there was one solid arch. I took cuttings last year that have been sat in the water butt developing roots. The children helped plant them in. This will hopefully gradually extend the arch back to a tunnel. I’ll have to see if they get a chance to root or whether the temptation to pull them is too much for the children.

Two visitors to the outdoor classroom.

I’ve registered for the RHS school gardening awards and hopefully will work through some of the levels to gain a few rewards. Even if I only complete the first few I think the children will enjoy seeing a certificate for their work. The garden may not look like very much, but I’ve tried to do as many jobs as possible with the children. This slows progress down. But they enjoy it immensely and are learning a mass amount of scientific knowledge. They are developing better grasps on plant biology and as the year goes on the seasons. Then as the garden develops we are seeing more wildlife visitors. From where I started last year with head high thistles across all three plots I feel immense progress has been made.

Nationale Tulpendag

Today is National tulip day in Holland. This is an event within Amsterdam in preparation for the tulip season. The event takes place within Dam Square. Over the morning people can see the tulips displayed, then in the afternoon they can pick the flowers for free. A rather delightful celebration of the unofficial National flower.

I never bothered with tulips in my last garden. Thin borders and clay soil gave me limited space. The soil in the current garden is still clay, but with slightly better drainage. So this year I’ve got a few varieties on the go. I went with black parrots in a container on the patio. These are rich, black tulips with frilly petals. These have been planted round a red stemmed prunus angustfoilia. I’m hoping the red stems and fruit will contrast nicely with the tulips. Then mixed in the border are a dark scarlet variety called red riding hood and the ever popular queen of the night tulip. This should flower around April or May, so hoping for a solid display around Alice’s birthday.

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Previous years I’ve had bulbs for school through uk.bulbs4kids.com/ They supply bulbs and planting kits for free. I moved schools though before as the shoots were coming up, so didn’t get to see them flower. The registration is past for bulbs for this year, but worth following if you are a teacher for next years registration. They supply a good set of tools and a healthy quantity of bulbs.

School garden

This week the gardening club have helped dig over the last of the plots. They’ve planted tomatoes, beans, chillies and courgettes. The children keep asking are the courgettes bananas, so probably a a good thing for them to see growing. There a bit wilted at the moment, but if I let the F2s in to water a few times next week they’ll flourish in no time.

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While in the garden we had a drafonfly visiting. This fascinated the kids. Looking in the field guide I think it’s possibly a common darter. The lavender is bringing in the bees and seeing quite a few ladybirds in too.

We had a local authority visit come to check my provision in my Foundation Stage. We got a positive report, commenting how children were focussed and how much mark making was going on outside. A lot of the boys were mark making too. In a city where this is an issue that was nice to hear. The outdoor provision has been my focus, so nice to know it’s improving.

30 days of wild: day 28-log pile house

“Where are you going to little brown mouse, 

Come and have tea in my log pile house.”

Today has been a very wet, soggy day. The heavens opened as we set up the outdoor area at school and hasn’t really stopped. We’ve done some powder paint mixing in the puddles, which the kids have enjoyed. The kids have collected rain water in an assortment of pans from the mud kitchen. An awful lot of potions were made.

For nature I built up a small log pile in the garden area in the shade. I’d like more spots for beetles, woodlice, etc. Unfortunately with rain I forgot to take a photo.

I have however found quite a few moths sheltering under the canopy. I’ve been discussing the difference between moths and butterflies with the kids over the last few weeks since we released the butterflies. This moth kindly obliged staying still for me to discuss it with the kids.

So the kids could see the charteristic fur, club antennae and the wings out at the side.

On my journey home my audio book, Watership Downs, is almost finished. Its looking to reach an exciting conclusion in line with the end of the 30 days.

30 days of wild: day 26-sharing

Today has seen me sharing my wildlife passions. The morning has been the culmination of several months of hard work. I changed schools this term and took a promotion to become am EYFS coordinator. We’ve had local authority moderation looming over us. So we’ve had a frantic couple of months collecting evidence and teaching the children to the level we needed. This morning we had the moderation and it went really well. Everyone of our assessments were signed off by the LA. So this lunchtime I spent a bit of times enjoying the children’s company.

On the main playground where the kids go out at dinner there is a wildlife garden. There is a ponds and planters with wildlife attracting species of flowers: lavender, rosemary and nettles.

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The kids currently are worm obsessed. Second in their interests are ladybirds. So at lunch I spent the time finding a ladybird larvae.

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And found a good few pupae. Both larvae and pupae ate probably the invasive harlequin menace, but children have a fascination with naming and understanding these things.

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Teaching natural history and the names of animals, birds and minibeasts has been shown to teach care for the environment. Then from this deeper empathy for other people. A useful lesson for a calm school.

Returning home my passion has rubbed off on my partner. She’s been taking photos while I’m out. This one stands out as pretty good and I like the subject matter too.


This is all part of what 30 days is all about though. Enjoying wildlife for your self is great, but getting more people to enjoy nature gives me an even greater joy. 

Who will you inspire?

30 days wild: day 16-den day

Today has been Save the Children den day. We took part at school as my first stay and play as EYFS coordinator. Before the kids came in we got out the kit. We had lots of tarps and curtains. We got the crates out and tables out.

We have dividers designed for splitting areas inside up. We assemble these into frames for the children to use as a starting point for dens.

 

We covered the picnic table with a tarp and set up a pop up tent for the lazier children.

 

One of the other teachers had come up with the idea of having knot examples.

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We just aimed to provide enough of a starting point for the children to take it and build a den with a degree of independence.

The children and parents were wonderful working nicely together and coming up with lots of different dens.

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Using the room dividers worked well as a frame for the dens. The kids were able to use these and pegs to make decent dens with just a small support.

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The parachute made for a big den for lots of children at once.

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The mud kitchen ended up covered.

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This was a pop up football goal put to better use.

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The most solid award goes to a den built by one of the older brothers who came. He was great with the kids and helped build a whole run of dens.

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Both kids, staff and parents have had a great morning. I think a lot of the parents were a bit disappointed to see their dens dismantled at the end of the day. We had some really positive feedback, which is nice to hear. A lot of prep goes into these days, so it was good to see it appreciated. Many of the parents were talking about carrying on with dens at home. This was lovely to hear and hopefully means moreover more children outside.

30 days of wildlife 2017: day 14-lunch in the wild

Today is just a short update as Alice is ill with a fever, so only managed a few wild acts at work. It has been a baking hot day today, so I decided to take my lunch outside in the outdoor classroom rather than the stuffy staff room.

I did a bit of weeding with the kids in the garden area. The weeds and potatoes have come back strong after the holiday. So we got some dug out and some seeds put down and compost scattered over. We’ve got some night scented stock, poached egg plants and alyssum. The night scented stock and alyssum are good for insects, so hopefully draw in some more life.

We got Alice to sleep despite her fever, but, expecting a bumpy night with her waking up several times.