Wednesday 6 June 2018

May 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 has been so exciting. We got some baby caterpillars and observed the butterfly life cycle for the first time. We have been enjoying studying this curriculum with a group of other homeschoolers which makes it even more fun! 

Here is what we got up to this month.

Weeks 1 and 2 - Caterpillars

We kicked off the month with a super exciting activity - observing our own caterpillars! We had never gotten our own caterpillars before so the children were thrilled when our baby caterpillars arrived. We got four altogether, one for each of the children. I couldn't believe how tiny they were - only a few millimetres long.

They came in individual, little tubs with some food substance at the bottom which had all the nutrients they needed to grow, so we didn't have to feed them. The children enjoyed observing them each day for signs of growth. They grew to around 4 cm long before they hung upside down from the lid and formed chrysalises. This was fascinating to observe. 

Once they had formed chrysalises, I moved them to the butterfly cage and we eagerly awaited the day they would emerge as butterflies. I will tell you more about what happened next in the butterfly section below. 

Next, we went on a nature walk to see if we could find any caterpillars. We looked long and hard in our nature spot but only managed to find one caterpillar!

However, later in the week we managed to find this very hairy caterpillar in our garden, crawling on some stinging nettles!

We enjoyed reading 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar" and got out a felt storytelling board I made a few years ago. You can see the tutorial HERE.

We also made some caterpillars out of sticks we collected at our nature spot. The children wrapped pipe cleaners round the sticks and stuck on a pom pom for the head and googly eyes.

Finally, we learnt about how caterpillars protect themselves. The children made posters explaining the various defence mechanisms from being covered in hair and spikes to being protected by ants!

Week 3 - Black Garden Ants

Week three was all about black garden ants. These are something we do not take much notice of unless we have them crawling in the house! We started off looking at the ant life cycle and the children filled in a worksheet about this. Above are two of the books we found useful this week. 'Ant cities', gives a detailed insight into ants whereas, 'One Hundred Angry Aunts' is a fun mathematical story with rhyming verse.

The children created some ant artwork using black paint and leaves. They dipped their fingers into the paint and finger painted ants all over the paper. Then, they stuck leaves to the paper to represent the leaves ad grass the ants carry.

We took a more detailed look at the anatomy of ants. D made this clay model of an ant, using the picture above.

Finally, D wrote a poem all about ants which she then illustrated with pen and watercolour paints.

Week 4 - Butterflies

Our caterpillars emerged as butterflies almost two weeks after they first formed chrysalises. They were beautiful! Unfortunately we did not manage to catch one emerging but saw one of them soon after when it's wings had not yet fully unfolded. 

We released the butterflies soon after the last one emerged from the chrysalis. They were so friendly, some staying on our hands for 10-15 minutes after we got them out of the cage. They hung around the garden for a while and we saw some of the in the garden the next day and even managed to hold one of them again. It was such a wonderful experience being able to observe the whole of the butterfly life cycle and I am sure the children will ask to do it again next year.

We learnt about the butterfly lie cycle and the children made a craft to represent this using a paper plate and different shaped pasta.

Then the children did some butterfly symmetry paintings. They painted one side of the paper and then folded it in half while still wet. When they pulled the paper apart, both side of the paper looked the same.

Here's some of the artwork the children created.

We learnt more about symmetry using the book 'What is symmetry in nature?' The children then created their own flying butterflies out of paper. They left some plain paper in the middle which they stuck together. This stiff paper in the middle can be hep to allow the butterflies to fly.

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 June. To take a look at the curriculum you can use the links below.

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