Nature Curriculum: Wildflowers

In Spring, one of the best things we look forward to is seeing woodland turn into the most beautiful violet carpet of bluebells. They seem to spring up from nowhere, even in our garden which is in the middle of a small noisy town. I was determined for Neiva to learn more about these beautiful flowers in more detail. Wildflower week in our nature curriculum was something we were really looking forward to.

Firstly we concentrated on finding some kind of guide to help us identify wildflowers in a way that is appealing to children. I bought the book A Little Guide To Wildflowers, a beautifully illustrated child-friendly guide by colour, includes keynotes on plant parts and the seasons, along with a tick-box index for keen spotters. Flowers to Spot a beautiful little pocket book identifying 60 flowers, from cornflowers and poppies to honeysuckles and harebells. The pages are organised by location, showing flowers you might find in towns, by roadsides and in hedgerows, marshes and meadows. There’s also a spotting chart and stickers to add so you can keep track of flowers you’ve spotted. Finally, British Wild Flowers (Nature Detective), shows concise and clear descriptions of more than 50 of the most common wild flowers found in the UK today. Beautiful large colour photographs make identification easy.

Our science project for the week was to make little seed bombs. You can find the Wildlife Trust’s recipe here. The idea is, once they have dried into little hard balls, to carry them around with us and throw them into bare ground or any place where a pop of wild flower colour would be appreciated.

We incorporated a little flower petal maths into our week too. There were lots of worksheets on Pinterest and our Twinkl subscription to help with this. For Neiva, who isn’t a great fan of maths at the moment, counting flower petals was something she enjoyed very much.

Our Art study of the week was the still life painting, Spring Flowers by Norman Rockwell (USA 1969) I had never heard of this painting or the artist before this week so it was nice to study something new. Rockwell’s wife, Molly, was an avid gardener so Rockwell used her sunhat, gardening gloves, sneakers, and tools as props for the painting. It is a portrait of a woman who stays in touch with nature through the medium of her garden. Including the little robin in the doorway to signal Spring was Molly’s idea (source: Norman Rockwell Museum)

We took a little trip to a quaint little place called York Garden Gate. Not necessarily for the wild flowers since this was home to a series of beautifully arranged gardens, more for garden inspiration for the summer. We did get lucky however, since to get to the entrance of York Garden Gate you have to go through a churchyard, a churchyard filled with bluebells and other wildflowers. I think it was meant to be!

We also took a little walk to our local woods to see the bluebells up close, under strict instructions not to pick them. You can find out more on the UK wildflowers code of conduct here.

We ended our week with a baking day. I had purchased some edible pansies on rice paper earlier in the week to place on top of our peanut butter shortbread (a Deliciously Ella recipe exclusive to her app) but you can make regular shortbread in the usual way.

Next week….. Grasses

Nature Curriculum: Plant Life Cycle

This week in our nature curriculum is dedicated to the life cycle of a plant. Do you remember being a small child looking at a beautiful flower or looking up at the tallest tree and wondering how it got there? The plant life cycle is absolutely fascinating and we got to experience this first hand.

Our reading book for the week was The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle. The tiny seed survives the hazards of the journey and finally falls onto fertile earth. It grows and grows, becoming the tallest, biggest flower for miles around. Then one day the wind blows and thousands of the flower’s seeds begin their own journey. A wonderful tale beautifully told.

We were very excited about seeing the plant life cycle in action so we placed damp cotton wool pads into a zip lock bag and placed a broad bean seed inside and taped the bag to the window of the school room. The idea of this experiment is that we will be able to see the plant germinate up and the roots grow and push downwards. We also purchased a bean sprout maze from amazon. The idea was the show the effort the plant goes to to get light. (This post has been updated to include the picture below showing the bean spout reaching the top of the maze)

Our poem of the week was the very beautiful Flowers In The Crannied Wall by Alfred Tennyson. A simple thoughtful poem which Neiva was able to act out as she read with a small flower she picked from the garden.

For our Art of the week we decided to change the piece that had been selected from the curriculum. The reason for this was Neiva was really keen to re-read Jack and the Beanstalk. It had been a while since she’s chosen this story. To complement her bedtime reading we looked at the children’s illustrator Jessie Wilcox Smith’s very beautiful artwork of Jack and the Beanstalk.

We have also started to incorporate classical music into our curriculum as suggested. Neiva is not new to listening to classical music, it is regularly played in the background most days. However, we concentrated on the Vivaldi “Seasons” violin concertos “Spring”. I started to play the piece and Neiva said it sounded like a wedding party. It is a very jovial tune, so a happy spring wedding in the sunshine it is. She also said she could hear birds “tweeting and singing” in the song. If you listen carefully….. it really does.

Next week…. Wildflowers

Nature Curriculum: Tree Study

This weeks topic in our nature curriculum is all about the wonder of trees. Anyone who knows Neiva knows she has an all consuming love of trees. It is so heartwarming to watch this beautiful connection she has with them. Since this week fell over half term, we planned to make a special trip to Neiva’s favourite spot and to see her favourite forest friends.

Our reading book of the week was an absolutely delightful story book called The Things That I Love About Trees. This beautiful and gentle book describes how the buds of the plum tree bloom in the spring and how its leaves grow green and lush in the summer. Time goes by, and soon we see those same leaves fall in the autumn – now the branches are bare for the cold winter-months.

Our art of the week was Apple Blossom or “Spring” by Sir John Everett Millais. Since Neiva is only seven, we just discussed the colours and what she thought the young women were doing (“having a lovely picnic with the girls” was Neiva’s interpretation rather than the actual slightly darker underlying theme). The painting symbolises a carefree youth with this serene spring scene, wildflowers in the hair etc… but the scythe on the right of the picture reminds us that youth and life is fleeting, a little deep for Neiva to look into at the moment, but our weekly art interpretation is something I am looking forward to delving into more thoroughly as she gets older.

Our poem of the week was again taken from the book I Am The Seed That Grew The Tree. The poem Every Time I Climb A Tree was perfect for its nostalgic relatable lyrics and great for rhyming words practice.

We spent the rest of the week in the very beautiful Yorkshire Dales. We usually venture here in October so it was nice to see the daffodils and hear the new lambs bleating in the fields. Neiva picked out the leaves from the various trees around her favourite spot and when we got home we made a leaf print for her nature journal.

Next week.. the life cycle of a plant.

 

Nature Curriculum: Garden Snails

This weeks topic in our nature curriculum was all about garden snails. I must admit I wasn’t all that enamoured by this subject on first glance, given that they descend en mass to feast on my beautiful plants. I could not have been more wrong. These are truly amazing creatures (still on the fence about the flower thing)

Our poem of the week was again taken from the beautiful book I Am The Seed That Grew The Tree. In fact we choose four small poems relating to snails since they were all so special we couldn’t decide. It was just what we needed to get our snail learning off to a flying start.

Our art this week took us in a different direction. We studied The Snail by Henri Matisse. After 1948 Matisse was prevented from painting by ill health but, although confined to bed, he produced a number of works known as gouaches découpées. These were made by cutting or tearing shapes from paper which had been painted with gouache. Matisse himself said ‘I first of all drew the snail from nature, holding it. I became aware of an unrolling, I found an image in my mind purified of the shell, then I took the scissors’. He has combined pairs of complementary colours – red/green, orange/blue, yellow/mauve – to create a particularly vibrant effect”  (source: The Tate Modern) .

This was an interesting one for Neiva because its modern art and is subject to individual interpretation. In fact, whilst preparing this art project for Neiva, my mum called in to see us. I asked her to look at it and see if she could see a snail because I couldn’t. My mum who has no interest in art, looked at it for a few seconds and proudly exclaimed “yes, its here look” and showed me where the head started and the tail ended.

I carefully copied and cut out the shapes and numbered the back of them. Neiva’s job was to match the numbers (incorporating a little maths into our art study) and carefully stick them down. When she had finished, I asked Neiva if she could see a snail, which she could, and using her fingers duplicated exactly what my mum had said she’d seen earlier that day. I must admit, now I cant see anything else. There is definitely a snail there!

Our reading book of the week was the very heartwarming tale by Julia Donaldson, The Snail and the Whale. One little snail longs to see the world and hitches a lift on the tail of an enormous whale. Together they go on an amazing journey, past icebergs and volcanoes, sharks and penguins, and the little snail feels so small in the vastness of the world. But when disaster strikes and the whale is beached in a bay, it’s the tiny snail’s big plan that saves the day!

To supplement our learning about the different parts of the snail, we used Twinkl to find some amazing support sheets. The weather this week has been beautiful so we were lucky enough to spend most of our learning on a blanket in the garden.

We ended this beautiful study of snails with a yummy treat (now definitely a Friday tradition). Given the success of the of the very yummy yet extremely sugary flower tarts last week, I thought we’d better find a health(ier) bake! Once again Pinterest saved the day and we made these wonderful “fruity-veggie-snails” (we are still working on their official name!) You can find the recipe below.

Next week, our local schools are on half term and we did say we would have the same holidays for Neiva. However, next week is tree study and we didn’t want to leave it out since Neiva adores trees. She is such a tree hugger (literally) So we decided to plan some learning for the beginning of the week and take her on a little holiday somewhere special, somewhere she loves, somewhere she is surrounded by her favourite trees later on in the week.

This is what I love about a nature curriculum, you never tire of learning… even in the school holidays!

Veggie Snails

A quick and simple child friendly recipe served on a bed of rocket
Prep Time10 mins

Ingredients

  • 1 whole Celery or Carrot (sliced into batons)
  • 1 whole Orange (thinly sliced)
  • 1 whole Apple (thinly sliced)
  • 1 whole Cucumber (thinly sliced)
  • 1 tbsp Smooth Peanut Butter (per snail) you can substitute this for Houmous or even Almond Butter

Instructions

  • This couldn't be easier. Using the peanut butter as glue, assemble all the pieces to form a snail. 

Nature Curriculum: The Spring Equinox

This week’s theme for our nature curriculum was the study of the spring equinox. March 20th signalled the spring (vernal) equinox here in the Northern Hemisphere and as the Earth is finally starting to wake up from its long winters sleep we were hoping for some lovely spring sunshine.

What exactly happens during a spring equinox? The word “equinox” means “equal night” so the vernal and autumnal equinoxes are the two days in the year where the hours of light and dark are almost equal. We had planned a spring picnic on this day. I did worry that we would miss this given the unpredictable weather in the previous days, but I needn’t have worried. It was a gloriously (unusually hot) day.  So with a quick M&S stop for food supplies and picnic blanket in hand, we headed to our favourite spot in the grounds of Nostell Priory and laid amongst the daffodils under the trees.

Our reading book for the week was a beautiful little book called Crinkle Crackle CRACK It’s Spring. This is the story of a child that during one winter night awakes to a bear in the back garden. They journey together through the snowy forest as other animals eagerly join in, creating a parade to welcome the spring, the ground thaws, and the icy pond breaks, trees begin to bud and more animals join in until… CRACK! Spring bursts! Perfect for our spring themed week.

Our poem of the week was again taken from the book I Am The Seed That Grew The Tree. There were a couple of really lovely poems in the book signalling the start of Spring, but after careful deliberation, we chose the very beautiful Daffodils by William Wordsworth. I found the words and style of writing a more advanced learning level for Neiva. Her hyperlexia means she is a very advanced reader so she does need challenging in this area.

When it comes to maths work, we put aside our paper based maths work this week and signed up to some really wonderful websites specifically catered towards primary school age children. There are quite a few websites ranging in costs, from free to subscription based to suit all budgets.

Our routine now has slightly adapted as the weeks have progressed. Instead of going out to the school house in the garden first thing, we sit in the house and do some maths work on the laptop first. It saves me taking the laptop back and forth and saves a lot of preparation time once we are in there. We downloaded math based apps on her iPad so even in her leisure time she wants to play these games which only enhance her learning experience. As there are so many apps and programs to choose from I should really do a separate post for this, so if that is something that you are interested in finding out more information on, please leave me a little comment below or via Instagram.

The art of the week (as it turned out) is one of my favourite paintings. Well, actually Claude Monet’s entire springtime collection is. He absolutely loved painting outdoors ‘en plein air’ – in the open air and you can feel his love of the outdoors in every one of his creations. An Orchard in Spring by Claude Monet, 1886, features Monet’s daughter sat reading her book in his Orchard. What a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.

One of the extension tasks to complete in the curriculum this week was to plant wildflowers. I had seen a post on the Nurture Nature Kids Facebook group on planting flower seeds using a newspaper potter. The newspaper is biodegradable eliminating the need for plastic pots. Since we had mountains of Neiva’s old Charlie & Lola magazines lying around the house, it seemed the perfect excuse to reuse them. We purchased some sunflower seeds and a small bag of soil and got to work making our newspaper plant pots. I have to say, this was an absolute hit with Neiva. She loved doing this activity.

We finished our study of the Spring Equinox by making these wonderful flower tarts (like jam tarts except flower shaped and filled with lemon curd). We used Jamie Oliver’s sweet short crust pasty filling which I find works every time, and the flower cookie cutters were from Wilko

Once again, I am finding that this curriculum is enhancing Neiva’s learning experience so much. She really is going from strength to strength. Friends and family have noticed in the last few weeks she is so calm, happier and much more conversational. It really is the most wonderful way to learn.

Next week….. Snails!

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