Understanding the World: Fresh new shoots

Written by: Claire Hewson, teacher and education writer, Cambridgeshire
Monday, February 4, 2019

It’s time to get ready for Spring and plan outdoor adventures, where children can spot butterflies, birds and wild flowers. Support them to understand seasonal differences, change and the passage of time.

Recommended resources:
Birdsong for Beginners 
CountryLiving wild flower spotting
Create a Bumblebee garden
Bee: Nature’s Tiny Miracle by Patricia Hegarty and Britta
Teckentrup (Little Tiger Kids)
Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring by Kazuo Iwamura (Northsouth Books)
Monkey Puzzle by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (Macmillan)
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (Puffin)
What Can You See in Spring? by Sian Smith (Raintree)
Live Butterfly Garden kit

Key vocabulary
Egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, butterfly, metamorphosis, seed, seedling, bud, flower, leaf, stem, pollination

Key learning points
What birds can you hear in early spring?
Why are bumblebees important?
What do butterflies do in early spring?
Can you name some of the first wildflowers to appear in spring?

Some seasonal changes, such as differences in weather, are obvious but others are more subtle. Children have to use careful observation and listening skills to notice the rst birdsong of spring and to spot the rst buds emerging from the ground. Teaching about seasons also builds respect for the natural environment so that children grow up caring for our world. Many bees, butterflies and wild owers are in decline and it is only by educating tomorrow’s adults that we can hope to save at least some of the species essential for the world’s ecosystems.

  • Playing and exploring
    Children have a go at identifying birds and flowers that appear in early spring
    They investigate why bumblebees are important and how to protect them
    They discover that butterflies lay eggs in early spring and can talk about the butterfly lifecycle

By late February the birds are celebrating an end to winter. Play Birdsong for Beginners on YouTube, pausing to ask children to name and describe each bird. Afterwards help children to match birds to their songs by playing a game. Give each child a picture of a bird and then play a birdsong recording. Children who hear their bird hold up their picture. Later, go outside and identify live birdsong.

In March you see the rst bees. Help to reduce the fear that some children have, and build respect for this endangered species. Share books such as Bee: Nature’s Tiny Miracle. Read silly bee facts (see ‘Resources’) and ask children if they think each is true or false. For ‘true’ they stand in one corner of the room; for ‘false’ they stand in another. Plant some owers to make a bumblebee friendly garden – see the Bumblebee Conservation website.

In early spring butter ies lay their eggs. Grow some Painted Lady butter ies from eggs – you can buy kits online. As children observe the different stages of metamorphosis elicit key vocabulary. Help children to understand metamorphosis by reading Monkey Puzzle and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Snowdrops appear between January and early March. Plant snowdrops in pots, troughs or owerbeds. As children observe the different stages of growth elicit key vocabulary related to the parts of the plant and its lifecycle.

Wild flowers
Go wild ower spotting. Give each child a wild flower world such as the place where they live or the natural world; can talk about some of the things they have observed such as plants, animals, natural and found objects; is developing an understanding of growth, decay and changes over time; shows concern for living things and the environment. Make a wild flower tick sheet which can be made from information on the CountryLiving website. Encourage attention to detail and elicit key vocabulary as children sketch and paint wild flowers.

  • Active learning
    Children take responsibility for their own learning by saying what they would like to know
    They make discoveries which challenge their original ideas
    They take their learning further by deciding what steps they would like to take to protect springtime wildlife

When introducing a new subject, actively engage children by asking them what they already know and what they would like to nd out more about. What do they already know about bees/birds/butter ies? Why do they think these creatures are important? If children have any misconceptions or fears help them to address these through their own discoveries. A child who is afraid of bees might develop a respect for bees as they learn more about them.

Motivate children to take their learning further by asking them, for example, what they are going to do to attract birds to their garden at home. Perhaps they will make a birdfeeder or ask their parents to install cat deterrents? If they have helped to create a bee-friendly garden in the setting they might decide that they would like to do the same at home.

Here are some Understanding the World outcomes you might observe for children aged 30-50 months and older: comments and asks questions about aspects of their familiar world such as the place where they live or the natural world; can talk about some of the things they have observed such as plants, animals, natural and found objects; is developing an understanding of growth, decay and changes over time; shows concern for living things and the environment.

  • Creating and thinking critically
    As children learn about the different species of birds, butterflies and wildflowers they begin to develop ideas of grouping
    Children understand the link between cause and effect by learning about declining species
    They share their own ideas about how we can protect declining species

Encourage children to look at the similarities and differences between animals – how is a robin different from a blackbird? How is a robin the same as a blackbird? How do we know that a bird is a bird and not something else? Set up activities in which children have to group small world animals by type and, as they do so, ask how they have reached some of their decisions. After children have discovered that butter ies develop through a process called metamorphosis, nd out if they can name any other animals that go through metamorphosis? If they don’t know then nd out together using books and the internet. If they want to know more about the frog lifecycle, then grow frogspawn in the classroom. When learning about conservation children begin to develop understanding of cause and effect. For example, if bees disappear then we will lose plants and the animals that eat those plants will starve; but if we create a bee-friendly garden then we help bees and those that depend upon them to survive.

Enabling environments – continuous provision
In your continuous provision leave out animal and plant spotter sheets so that children can continue to develop their knowledge and understanding of spring. Set out gardening resources, trays and seeds in order for children to make their own miniature gardens. If children are interested in birds then bird feeders can easily be made independently by covering pine cones with lard and bird seed. Pine cones can be ready strung so they can be hung from trees. Develop children’s interests through fiction and non-fiction books related to spring. For example, Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring by Kazuo Iwamura and What Can You See? Spring by Sian Smith.

EYFS Early Learning Goals
These activities can be a good starting point to encourage children to explore similarities and differences, meeting the UTW goal: ‘Children know about similarities and differences in relation to places, objects, materials and living things. They make observations of animals and plants and explain why some things occur, and talk about changes.’ You can also focus on listening and attention: ‘Children listen attentively in a range of situations. They give their attention to what others say and respond appropriately, while engaged in another activity.’
This theme also offers lots of creative opportunities for EAD, media and materials: ‘Children safely use and explore a variety of materials, tools and techniques, experimenting with colour, design, texture, form and function.’


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