Friday 5 January 2018

December Nature Studies

If you have read about our homeschool curriculum or follow my instagram account, you will know we are following a nature curriculum this year called 'Exploring Nature With Children'. It is a wonderful curriculum that covers different topics each week of the year. For each week, there are activities to do, recommended reading, poetry and a piece of art to study. The curriculum incorporates science, English, art and nature studies so it is really varied. You can check out the curriculum here.

This month we slowed down a bit as the holidays approached. We had a lot of fun following the first three weeks of December in the nature curriculum and then had a week's break during the fourth week as we do not celebrate Christmas in our home. As a Muslim convert, Christmas can be a challenging time for me and you can read more about my thoughts on it here.

Here is what we got up to this month.

Week 1 - Winter plants

We started the month learning about winter plants. I recently purchased this books which has a nice section on winter plants.

The children enjoyed using the book as a guide to painting some winter flowers in their nature journals.

Holly seemed the obvious choice for the study of winter plants as it is well known and easy to find. We went on lots of nature walks this month and were delighted to find some holly in our nature spot. We took a few branches home and displayed them in the house.

We also went shopping to purchase some winter plants for the house. The children chose a poinsettia plant and a cyclamen plant. The children had the job of looking after these plants and had to water them and care for them. They did a good job with the poinsettia and it looks wonderful in the kitchen. The cyclamen, however, is not so good. It was over watered and died as a result.

The children then made holly from hama beads. They have an obsession with hama beads at the moment so this activity kept them occupied for a long time.

R decided to make white holly leaves and explained that they were covered in snow.

Finally, it was time for some cooking. We made holly wreaths out of white chocolate and cornflakes. These are very simple and easy for children to make. Simply melt some white chocolate and add some green food colouring. Next, stir in some cornflakes. Then mould the cornflakes mixture into wreath shapes on some greaseproof paper on a tray. Finally, add a few cranberries.

We enjoyed our chocolate holly wreaths with some mint tea during our afternoon reading sessions.

Week 2 - Winter birds

Week two was all about winter birds so we started off by visiting Slimbridge Wetlands Centre to look at the birds there. The older children attended a home education workshop there. Meanwhile, K had such a lot of fun running around with the birds and even tried to feed one some chocolate. To his astonishment, the bird did not eat it. 

I told the children about bird watching with the help of this book by the RSPB. This is a really interesting book for children that explains how to bird watch as well as providing useful information about different birds. 

Next, the children decided to paint some winter birds in their nature journals. We did not spot any Blue Tits during the week but did manage to spot a robin.

We decided to make some treats for the birds using yoghurt pots, bird seed and vegetarian lard. We hung them up in the garden on some braches. The children spent time in the garden seeing if they could spot any birds.

On our nature walk that week, we spotted a robin in a tree. The children then decided to spend some more time learning about robins and wrote a poem together about them.

Finally, I try to get my toddler joining in with our topics of learning as much as possible so we made an activity just for him. We turned egg cartons into robins with holes for a beak. Then I gave him some pipe cleaner worms to feed to the birds. He loved this activity! Each robin is numbered so you could teach young children the numbers by asking them to feed a certain numbered robin each time. Also, by using different coloured pipe cleaners for the worms, you can teach your child the colours too. Feeding the worms to the birds is a great way for your toddler to practise their fine motor skills. 

Week 3 - Winter solstice

The final week we learnt about the winter solstice. We used this brilliant book that was recommended in the nature curriculum and it was perfect for my children's age group. The book talks about the seasons and how they occur. Then it explains what the winter solstice is and about how different cultures have celebrated the winter solstice over the years.

We are lucky to live not too far from Stonehenge, an ancient stone circle with special stones to mark the winter solstice. We learnt about Stonehenge back in the summer so we went back over our learning to refresh our knowledge about the famous site. You can see our pictures from our Stonehenge trip and the activities we did to learn about Stonehenge here.

The book mentions that in Sweden they celebrate St Lucia's day which is around mid-December. On this day they bake some special buns called Lussekatter and I thought it would be fun to try and bake these. We followed a recipe from the BBC Good Food website and the children had a lot of fun making these, particularly rolling them into the curly 'S' shapes. They are quite plain buns but still delicious fresh from the oven.

Finally we did a practical activity to learn how the seasons work. We took an orange and drew a line around the middle to show the equator. Then we drew a black dot to represent England. We shone a lamp onto the orange and the children took it in turns to spin the orange on its axis and find out how when our country is tilted towards the sun it is summer and when it is tilted away from the sun it is winter.

We have had a lot of fun with nature studies this month and have enjoyed spending more time outdoors. I am really looking forward to the topics we will be covering in January. To take a look at the curriculum you can use the links below.

Have you been following this curriculum? What activities did you do during December?                                                

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