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.

Find me on Twitter.

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.

Find me on Twitter.

Find me on Instagram.

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.

Find me on Twitter.

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.

Follow me on Twitter.

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.

_DSC0328

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.

 photo IMG_1459_zps2xvzsgel.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_1322_zpsrpevl9ev.jpg

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

 photo IMG_1320_zpsnnh0g1hd_edit_1498506006573_zpsklnnzoun.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_1319_zpsn5b4ysax_edit_1498506113287_zps8soufuo3.jpg

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.

IMG_1105

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.

IMG_1132

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.

IMG_1128

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

IMG_1130

The mud kitchen ended up covered.

IMG_1129

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

IMG_1134

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.

IMG_1131

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.