Nature Curriculum: Garden Ants

After all the excitement of caterpillars over the last two weeks, the thought of studying the humble garden Ant seemed a little deflating. I was happy to be proved wrong. These creatures are absolutely fascinating. As well as an amazing work ethic (these guys just do not stop) they are wonderful to study up close.

As always we started the week with a look at its life cycle. I purchased the Ant Life Cycle figurines which added another dimension to our learning. We also took a little trip to Tropical World for a very specific reason…. to see the tiny little leaf cutter ants at work!

Our poem of the week was the proverb at Proverbs 6:6-8 and to visualise our reading we made fingerprint ants in the line busily working away. Our reading book of this week is Hey Little Ant, a beautiful book, this tells the story of a conversation between two creatures, large and small. To squish or not to squish?

Next week our caterpillars should hopefully finally turn into beautiful butterflies and we have two glorious weeks studying them. We cannot wait.

Nature Curriculum: Caterpillars

The first two weeks in May in our nature curriculum are dedicated to Caterpillars. This is so exciting for us because a few days ago we purchased our very first butterfly garden complete with 5 live baby caterpillars. They are indeed very hungry caterpillars because they spent the first week just eating, eating and more eating. The whole experience is fascinating to watch and something I think every child should experience.

We are keeping a butterfly journal so we can closely monitor these beautiful creatures. Neiva has even given them names. Say hello to Leo, Betty, Corbie, Arthur and George. Unlike the tadpoles from our previous months that are more slow growers, caterpillars literally grow right before your eyes. We also studied the life cycle of a butterfly and no-one is ever too old to reread the classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Our reading book for the week was the very simple worded and informative book From Caterpillar to Butterfly. Each day the children in the classroom watch in amazement as the caterpillar eats and grows, shedding its skin several times, until it disappears inside a shell that it creates for itself. For a long time nothing seems to be happening. But one day the chrysalis breaks open, and a beautiful Painted Lady butterfly flies out of the jar. We also looked at the beautiful illustrations in the book A Butterfly Is Patient

For poetry reading we looked at two very short pieces of poetry. One aptly named Cabbage Bite by Geoffrey Summerfield and the other by NC Wickramasinghe simply titled Butterflies. Both pieces can be found our very well used book I Am The Seed That Grew The Tree, a nature poem for every day of the year.

Do check in with us in a weeks time for our week dedicated to butterflies where hopefully we have documented successfully the transformation of our caterpillars to beautiful Painted Lady butterflies.

Next week…..Ants!

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.