Outdoor learning possibilities

Summer term week 6 

Biodiversity 

Biodiversity, short for biological diversity, means the amount of different living things within an area.  

The more biodiversity there is, the stronger an ecosystem is. Trees share valuable nutrients and information with not just their own species but those around them because the wellness of our neighbours affects all of us. 

This is a wonderful resource on gardening for biodiversity which is adult and child friendly.

This is also true of our school community and our country.  We thrive when we respect and celebrate diversity within our living communities; when we respond with an ‘isn’t it interesting?’ or a genuine ‘I wonder’ to someone who is behaving differently to how we normally behave or when we choose to create spaces in our gardens for wildlife.  Even though some of these ‘growth or learning opportunities’ can be challenging; when we support life in all its diversity, we are stronger together.  

Curriculum – Environment based learning 

Another of the principles of the primary school curriculum is environment based learning.   Everyone of us are getting to know our environment better these days and sometimes it’s helpful to be reminded that this is a wonderful support to your child’s learning.  

“The child’s environment is an important context for his or her development. First-hand experience that actively engages the child with the immediate environment and with those who live in it is the most effective basis for learning. This will be centred in the home at first. Later it will be extended to include the immediate environment and the school and, as the child matures, will encompass an ever-widening context. This first-hand experience provides a reference framework for the understanding of more abstract concepts. A rich experience of different aspects of the curriculum outside the classroom adds enormously to the relevance and effectiveness of children’s learning.” (Primary school curriculum)

Things to notice this week

Elderflowers

One of the most delicious of the tree flowers and it’s just coming into bloom at the moment.  

Guelder rose flowers

How do these flowers look the same and different to the elderflowers?  

Cleaver flowers 

These tiny white, four petalled flowers become sticky seeds later in the year.  

Buttercups

Can you see the flower and then the petals falling away until there is just seed head left? If you pick a buttercup, can you test if someone in your family likes butter?

Speedwell

Have you seen this little flower creating beautiful patches of blue in lawns or hedges near you?

Willow fluff

Once pollinated by wind, female catkins develop into woolly seeds.

Optional Activities

Backyard bioblitz

Make a mandala

A mandala is a circular structure with a design that radiates out symmetrically from the centre. You can find mandalas in flowers, tree rings, spider webs, seashells and more – and you can use materials from nature to make a beautiful nature mandala.

Daily dose of nature

Can you do one of these each day? Your choice of how to do it and which one to do.

Sit spot

Map your sit spot

Other links that might be interesting

Birds and their birdsong

This is Ireland’s biodiversity – video

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/environment/this-is-what-we-need-to-protect-highlighting-ireland-s-biodiversity-1.3801871

Pine pollen

A little information video from an amazing teacher of mine.  

TedEd biodiversity

Summer term – Week 5

As always, the following ideas are offered to be useful rather than to be a burden. We hope you enjoy spending time outdoors playing and noticing and being curious. In the primary school curriculum the first principle of learning is ‘the child’s sense of wonder and natural curiosity’.

Taken verbatim from the curriculum guidelines: “The impulse for such learning is the child’s sense of wonder at the complexity of the world, the desire to understand it, and the spontaneous impetus to explore it through play. This sense of wonder, together with the child’s natural curiosity, is at the heart of the learning process and provides the purest and most valuable motivating factor in the child’s learning. It is in cultivating the sense of wonder that the curriculum can provide the most fulfilling learning experience for the child and foster an appreciation of the value of learning.”

This is the first picture in the Primary School Curriculum guidelines!

We aim for these activities to add to your child’s sense of wonder and natural curiosity.

Possibilities of things to notice this week

Ribwort plantain – slánlus

Its name in Irish means healing herb but most people know it better through playing a game of soldiers with the flower heads where one person tries to knock the flower head off the other person’s ‘soldier’. I have also used these leaves as a very effective plaster for sore fingers during Forest Friday sessions!

Perhaps you could play a game of soldiers with ribwort plantain? If you don’t know how to play, could you ask your grandparents or an older neighbour?

Can you see the ribs on the leaves?

http://www.askaboutireland.ie/reading-room/environment-geography/flora-fauna/selected-wild-flowers-of/ribwort-(plantago-lanceol/

Sycamore flowers – seiceamar

Sometimes we only notice the flowers on the ground and forget to look in the trees. The Sycamore tree currently has lots of beautiful flowers dangling from it which will become keys (or helicopters) in Autumn.

Gorse flowers

The gorse is blooming all around us and the smell of the ‘coconut’ is sometimes overpowering.

Can you find a flower bud, a flower in bloom, the start of a seed pod and the peas inside a seed pod?

Clover flowers

I keep seeing bees around the clover flowers. Clover is part of the pea family and helps to keep our soil healthy by converting Nitrogen in the air into something other plants can use in the soil.

Can you get the scent of the clover that the bees like so much?

Butterflies in May – Feileacáin

Have you seen any of these?

Activities you might like to play with this week

Get to know a tree near you

Get to know the different parts of it.  Can you find the trunk? The leaves? The bark?  The branches? Twig? Bud? Seed? Flower? Root?

Visit it each day and see what has changed.  What is growing around it?  Can you find any other living things on it?  Insects? Flies? Fungus? butterflies? bees? galls? 

Ask it a question in your mind.  Put your hand on it, close your eyes and see what if it answers or what it says.  

Willow Tree story

See if you can find a willow tree.  They like to live near water.  At the moment the catkins on a grey willow near me are turning fluffy. Grey willow is dioecious, meaning male and female flowers grow on separate trees. The catkins arrive in early spring – the male catkins grey, stout and oval, becoming yellow when ripe with pollen; the female catkins longer and green. Once pollinated by wind, female catkins develop into woolly seeds. Most willows can also propagate themselves by lowering their branches to the ground to develop roots.

Here’s a famous story from our Irish mythology which features a willow tree.

Wonder game

This is much harder for adults than children!  It needs no preparation or equipment and the more it’s played the more it gives.

Choose one natural object that you can observe near you.  e.g ants, clouds, a leaf, a rock.  Each person has to start a sentence about the piece of nature chosen with “I wonder”.  For example, “I wonder how the ant knows where to go” or “I wonder if the ants are telling each other jokes”.  It doesn’t matter what the wonder is and you’re not allowed to answer any of the wonders whilst in the middle of playing the game!  Keep going until you get to at least 20!  At the end, each person chooses their favourite wonder.   You can then investigate or try to find out the answers to some of your favourite wonders.

Family biodiversity treasure hunt

Daily sit spot challenge 

Choose the same place to sit quietly in nature and go there each day. Get comfortable and stay as still as you can for about 5 minutes (or longer if you can). Share what you noticed at the end.

Day 1 – Notice what you notice.

Day 2 – What do you hear? What’s the furthest away sound you hear? What’s the closest sound you hear? How many different types of birds can you hear?

Day 3 – What is moving? Keeping your eyes facing forwards, what do you notice each side of you?

Day 4 – What body sensations do you feel when you sit still and quietly?

Day 5 – What different colours can you see in the flowers around you?

Day 6 – What’s really close to you? What’s really far away?

Day 7 – Notice what you notice.

After your sit spot you could draw a picture of something you noticed during your sit spot. Perhaps you’d like to make a map of the area around your sit spot.

Other links that might be of interest

Liz McMahon’s blog of the last five years of our Forest Friday sessions. Though it takes a bit of time to scroll down through them, there are amazing ideas and stories that we have shared with the children. Look for things to do in May. https://dlrcreativityintheclassroom.wordpress.com/category/dalkey-school-project/

The Heritage in schools website has a lot of wonderful information and tutorials about varying aspects of our heritage. http://www.heritageinschools.ie/online-tutorials/learn-to-sign-na-blathanna

http://www.heritageinschools.ie/online-tutorials/music-of-the-plants-part-2-beech-tree-marina-levitina

http://www.heritageinschools.ie/online-tutorials

The National gallery has some lovely creative activities. https://www.nationalgallery.ie/what-we-do/education-department/early-years-children-and-families-programme

A tree identification aid from Leaf Ireland https://leafireland.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/AnCB-WS5-Tree-ID.pdf

Storytelling at home – great resources for creating stories at home https://www.storieswithchris.com/new-stories-together

Wild things at school – probably my favourite resource for learning about our native plants and animals. http://www.heritageinschools.ie/content/resources/Wild_Things_at_School.pdf

Summer term – Week 4

Isn’t nature amazing?  Every day I step outside, I’m noticing things changing and growing.  Just like we are changing and growing every day.  It’s really amazing to think about how each flower transforms into something else.  The horse chestnut flowers become conkers.  The apple blossom becomes an apple.  The dandelion flower turns into the fly away seeds.  (It’s really helpful to point this out to children as a lot of children don’t make the connection of the full life cycle.)

Things to look for this week:

Horse chestnut flowers

These are a conical spire of white flowers sitting on top of five to seven separate leaflets.  The leaflets are widest near the end, the largest leaflet being the middle one.

The white flowers have 4 to 5 petals and a touch of yellow and red within. Yellow un-fertilised flowers turn red after fertilisation.  If fertilised these flowers will transform into conkers in the autumn.  

The bees love these flowers so see if you can find any bees fertilising them.

Dandelions

The seed heads of dandelions are flying all around us the moment.

Daisies

Can you make a daisy chain?  

Possible Forest Friday activities

Nature check in.  Look around you and find something that is like how you are right now.  Share in what way you are like that object.  For example: I’m like a dandelion seed head because I feel I’m flying around the place and not sure where I will land.  Or I’m like this twig because I’m feeling strong and useful.  

Game: Try and catch a dandelion seed blowing in the wind!  

Explore and observe: See if you can make a dandelion x’s and o’s.   

Free play: Children learn through play.  Let them play as much as possible.  Enter into their play if they invite you.  Or feel free to play with what’s around you.  

Creative Focus: Dandelion magic

1) Dandelion invisible ink.  Make a drawing or write a secret message in invisible ink.  Use the sap inside the dandelion stems to write or draw little messages!  Choose a strong stem with lots of sap to ‘write’ straight on to a white piece of paper.  The sap will dry brown which will allow the picture or words to slowly become more visible.  You might need to keep trimming your stem to keep the sap-ink flowing! 

2) Dandelion Clock Pictures 

Take the age old dandelion-clock-blowing to the next level with the addition of double sided tape, glue and paper!

  • Locate some ‘ready to blow’ dandelion clocks in your garden
  • Carefully create a letter or design on your piece of paper using double sided tape or glue (using dark coloured paper gives the best result)
  • Hold your dandelion clock close to the paper and blow!  The little dandelion seeds should attach them to the sticky part!  Have fun racing around the garden finding more dandelion clocks to add to your design.

Take a break: Wash hands, have a snack, share a nature story.  (The story about the dandelion who wanted to see the world below is one option.)

Sit spot:  Pick a sit spot in nature and stay there quietly for 5 minutes.   What are the birds saying?  How many different ones can you hear?

Gather and share: 

What did you notice? – Share what you noticed (what you saw or heard or felt) with each other.  

What are you grateful for from this session? 

Close

StoryThe dandelion who wanted to see the world

Once there was a dandelion who wanted to see the world. 

It may seem strange to you that a dandelion should have such notions. But consider her situation. A small circle of leaves in the middle of a large lawn, and all she had ever seen was the dirt beneath, a forest of grass all around, and a patch of sky above her. This didn’t satisfy her.

She didn’t know what else there was to see, but she was sure there must be something. She was determined that sooner or later she would discover it for herself. And she certainly tried.

The thought naturally came to her quite early that she should grow her leaves above the surrounding grass. Then she would be able to see whatever there was beyond her immediate neighbourhood. And this she tried to do.. 

But every week something terrible happened.

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr . . . . . . .And then suddenly the mower comes to life. 

Those were the sounds that brought awful fear to the heart of the dandelion. For a while the noise would keep its distance: Brrrrrrrrrrrr . . . . .. 

Then it would come close and very loud: BRRRRRRRRRRRR . . . . . Then it would move off again. But always, at last, it would happen. A shadow would suddenly come over her. There would be a whirring and a smashing and a mangling in the midst of incredible noise. A second later, when it was over, her leaves were gone, and she had been chopped back to the level of the ground.

It was a dreadful experience. 

For two days afterwards the dandelion was in a state of shock. Then, when she began to get her wits back, she said to herself: “Why do I bother?” But then she would take courage and begin all over. She would send up young leaves and try again. She thought to herself that it had to be worth it 

And then, one particular week, it didn’t happen. The horrible noise didn’t start up. Her leaves were allowed to grow higher than they had ever gone before.

The reason for that, though the dandelion didn’t know it at the time, was that the family whose yard she was living in, had gone off for their summer holiday. All she knew was that this time no dreadful shadow descended on her to chop and crush and mangle her, reducing her back to the soil. 

The dandelion believed she had a chance and that she could still do it. So she did. 

She pushed her leaves higher with excitement and determination. It was then she saw things that she had never seen before. She saw other growing things besides blades of grass. She saw flowers in beautiful colours. She saw shapes that we would recognise as fences and sheds and houses. It was all very exciting, even if it was a little bit hard for her to understand.

With great daring, she then began to do something she had never done before, something she had only just realised she could do. She sent up a stem with a bud on the end. 

“Goodness,” she thought, “I’m going to have a flower! I wonder what colour it will be!” When the flower opened she found it was a beautiful golden yellow, and she was pleased. 

Now she could see all sorts of things, and she just wished she could go to explore them more closely. The fence, the house, the flowers, even moving things – butterflies and birds, cars passing beyond the fence. It was all very strange, and a bit confusing. But it was wonderful.

After a while the petals of her flower began to dry up, shrivel, and fall away. But the dandelion didn’t mind that. Because she suddenly realised there was something else she could do, something else she could become, just as lovely in its own way as the flower. 

Soon, on the end of the stem where the flower had been, there was a marvellous round, white, fluffy ball. The once blossomed flower of hers had now turned to seed.

The dandelion was delighted! 

But meanwhile, just then the family came back from holiday. 

“Goodness!” Father said, as he stopped the car in the driveway. “The very first thing I must do is put the mower through the lawn.” 

“Oh look!” said one of the children, “There’s a dandelion!” She ran over. 

The dandelion found herself plucked from the ground and lifted up higher than she had ever imagined she could go. 

The child blew… and the dandelion’s downy seeds danced away on her breath, flying higher still and spiralling up upon the soft summer winds. 

And the dandelion was free at last, free to travel in a hundred directions. 

She was off to see the world, finally experiencing what she had always dreamed of and knew she could. 

Other links:

  • Celebrating ‘weeds’ with the national gallery

https://www.nationalgallery.ie/art-and-artists/exhibitions/drawn-nature-irish-botanical-art/wonder-weeds

  • Really useful information on making your garden more wildlife friendly. 

https://laois.ie/wp-content/uploads/Garden-Wildlife-Booklet-WEB-17MB.pdf

  • No mow May – how to increase the flowers and biodiversity in your lawn 

https://www.gardensillustrated.com/feature/lawn-mowing-when-flowers-may/

Summer term – Week 3

This Covid time has given a lot of us the opportunity to pay attention to what is happening in the natural world. We’d love to hear what you notice. This week we’ll focus on flowers and all the creatures that love them.

Things to notice this week:  Flowers and all the creatures that love them!

Dandelioncaisearbhán

  • The dandelion flower opens to greet the morning and closes in the evening to go to sleep.
  • Every part of the dandelion is useful: root, leaves, flower. It can be used for food, medicine and dye for colouring
  • The name dandelion is taken from the French word “dent de lion” meaning lion’s tooth, referring to the coarsely-toothed leaves.
  • Dandelions have one of the longest flowering seasons of any plant.
  • Seeds are often carried as many as 5 miles from their origin!

Bees – beacha

On a sunny day, spend some time watching some bees as they go about their day.  Which flowers do they like best?  How long do they stay there?  Can you see any differences between any of the bees you see?

This is a 3 minute video from the All Ireland pollinator plan called blooming bees.  It has information on bees and the challenges they face and what we can do to help them.  

Lots of information on pollination for upper primary children here.

http://www.heritageinschools.ie/content/resources/Newsletter-EIP-farming-kids-Good-res.pdf

Cuckoo flower / Lady’s SmockLéine Mhuire

You may have seen this flower and wondered what it is.  

There is a campaign in the UK called “No mow May” to encourage people to let the flowers bloom on your lawn which helps to provide a vital source of nectar for bees and other insects.

  • The highest production of flowers and nectar sugar was on lawns cut once every four weeks. This gives ‘short-grass’ plants like daisies and white clover a chance to flower in profusion, boosting nectar production tenfold. 
  • Areas of longer unmown grass were, however, more diverse in their range of flowers, with other nectar-rich plants like oxeye daisy, field scabious and knapweed increasing the range of nectar sources for different pollinators and extending nectar availability into late summer.

Whitethorn/may bush/fairy tree/hawthorn Sceach geal

The hawthorn is just starting to bloom.  It has a strong smell and is very beautiful. 

There are lots of traditions and folklore associated with the hawthorn.   Perhaps you could research some of them.  It is one of the trees said to make up the “fairy tree triad” of Ireland and Britain – “Oak, Ash and Thorn” – and where all three trees occur together, according to legend, fairies can be found! Other legends associate the tree with witchcraft, and it was once believed that gnarled old hawthorn trees were really witches who had magically transformed themselves into trees.  

“Forest Friday” style learning opportunities

The ideas below are just there to support you; not to restrict you.  Go with the flow of your child’s interest and your own. 

Inspire: Rose Review – Try starting with a rose review of your week so far.  Share a flower (nice thing) , a thorn (difficult thing), a seed (opportunity) with each other.  If you’d like to, you could send the rose review to your teacher via your class seesaw account.  

Game: Busy bee. Bees go out from the hive everyday and come back with reports from the world to the hive.  Be like a bee and within an agreed space, take about five minutes to go out and explore the space.  Bring back the three favourite small things you find (if it is safe to do so!).   Show each other what you’ve found and share your information with the others ‘bees’.  Now go back out from the hive and see if you can find what the other person brought back on their first foraging trip.  

Explore and observe: Dandelion clock – Find a dandelion clock to tell the time with.  Blow on it and however many blows it takes for all the seeds to disperse is the o’clock time!

Free play: Children learn through play.  Let them play as much as possible.  Enter into their play if they invite you.  Or feel free to play with what’s around you.  “Play is freely chosen. Play is led by the child. Play connects us.”  

Creative Focus:  May bush

There are many different variations and traditions around the May Bush which you hang above your door to welcome Summer, and it has been said it keeps away the cheeky fairies!

– Gorse or Whitethorn was traditionally used.. but you can also decorate a branch/stick and hang it over your door!

– Traditionally egg shells from Easter would be painted. So save a few of your egg shells and paint them brightly!

– You can also tie ribbon/wool/cut some old fabrics/old veg bags/pipe cleaners/streamers… see what you can find!

Then add them to your branch and put it above your door. 

Take a break: Wash hands, have a snack, share a nature story.  (The story about the dandelion below is one option.  See if you can find any of the other flowers mentioned in the story.)

Sit spot:  Pick a sit spot in nature and stay there quietly for 5 minutes.  What flowers do you notice?  What can you smell?  What’s moving around the flowers?

Gather and share: 

What did you notice? – Share what you noticed (what you saw or heard or felt) with each other.  

What are you grateful for from this session? 

Close

Dandelion story

Long, long ago, the flowers had a huge argument about which of them was the most beautiful, the most special, the most loved by the humans and by the fairies. The argument lasted for weeks, with each flower claiming to be the most beautiful and the most loved. Finally, all of the flowers agreed to let the Flower Fairies decide.

The Flower Fairies sent they’re gentlest and kindest of spirit fairy to settle the problem and to give one plant her blessing and the title of the “most perfect” flower. The little Fairy decided to test each flower by asking them one question.

The first flower the Fairy talked to was the Rose. 
“Where would you most like to live?” she asked it.
“I would like to climb the castle wall.” said the Rose. “And then kings and queens and nobles would pass by everyday and exclaim over my beauty, my scent and my delicate nature.”
The Flower Fairy walked sadly away from the Rose.

Next the Fairy came to a tulip, standing tall and proud. “Where would you most like to live?” she asked the Tulip. 
“Oh, I want to live in a public garden” said the Tulip. “Where everyday people would come and admire my wonderful colors and see how straight and tall I stand.” Once again, the Fairy walked a way feeling sad.

She walked until she came to a forest. There she found some Violets. She asked them “Where would you most like to live, little Violets?” “Oh” said the violets quietly “We like it here hidden in the woods where no one can see us and where the trees keep the sun from dulling our beautiful color.” The fairy thanked the Violets and walked on looking for more flowers to talk to.

She talked to the Tiger Lily who was much too wild and fierce.
She talked to the Sunflower who barely answered her because all she wanted to do was be warmed by the sun.
The little Flower Fairy talked to the Orchids who only wanted to be taken out to dances and she tried to talk to the Narcissus but it was too busy looking at it’s reflection in the water to speak to her.

The little Fairy, with tears in her eyes, was ready to give up and go home when she came to a field with bright fluffy yellow flowers on long thin stalks. The leaves were long and jagged and very close to the ground. But the flowers….oh how happy and cheerful they looked in the field!

“Little one” said the Flower Fairy “What are you called and where would you like to live?”
“I am a dandelion” said the little flower.”I’d like to live where ever there are children. I want to live beside the road, and in the meadows, and push up between the sidewalks in the cities, and make everyone feel happier when they see my bright colors.” The Dandelion chattered on happily saying “I want to be the first flower that the children pick in the spring and take to their mothers. And I could tell if a child likes butter by being rubbed under their chins, and if a child makes a wish and blows my seeds, I could carry that wish on the wind.”

The Flower Fairy smiled brightly and said “Little Dandelion, you are the most perfect and special flower of all and you shall have your wish! You will blossom everywhere from spring till fall, and be known as the children’s flower.” 
And this is why the dandelion comes so early and pushes her head up everywhere with such strength and determination. And why she is so loved by children throughout her long life.

Summer Term Week 2

Cocooning

A short letter in the Irish Times on the 4th April caught my eye.

Sir, – My grandson rang to see how I was getting on with being cocooned. To cheer me up, he said, “Think of the lovely butterfly you will be when the cocooning time is over.

”What a picture of colour and freedom and joy. It is something that is worth waiting for. – Yours, etc,

MONICA GRAY, Cabinteely, Dublin 18.

We are all cocooning in some form away from our previous lives.   Nature has many lessons for us on cocooning and much more.  Outdoor play can really help us to healthfully process all that is going on in the world.  

Things you might notice this week

– the wonderful peacock butterfly (it loves nettle patches)

– the bees buzzing in the dandelions (these are really important food sources for the bees)

– the great tit bird song (it sounds like tea-cher, tea-cher, tea-cher,!)

https://birdwatchireland.ie/birds/great-tit/

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/apr/16/home-birds-how-to-spot-20-of-the-most-common-species-from-your-window-walk-or-garden

– the scent of apple blossom (This flower becomes an apple – a lot of children don’t make the link! Notice the five petals and how there is a five pronged star in the centre of the apple when you cut it across the centre.)

– the colours of all the different wild flowers

– the buds bursting on the trees (I’ve been really noticing the ash this year)

Play home forest school

Like we said last week, we are really aware that families are working within different contexts and have access to varying amounts of outdoor space.   You do not need a big space.  Your garden or a small patch of unmown grass or a tree within your 2km radius will work well.  Try as much as possible to use natural, found materials – this is a practice in resilience and helps to teach the children that what they need is all around them.  Restrictions give us opportunities to be creative.  

This type of learning works best when everyone, including the adult, is curious.  Allow the children to be the leaders wherever possible.  Child led learning is one of the aims and deviating from the plan to follow the child’s interest is a sign that you’re doing it right! In fact there is no right and wrong with this if you keep yourself, each other and nature safe and happy. (the three golden rules)

Here is a draft outline of a possible session.  The ideas within it are just there to support you; not to restrict you.  Go with the flow of your child’s interest and your own. 

Inspire: Have a quick game of x’s and o’s using anything you find around you like sticks and stones.

Game: Predator/prey hide and seek. Get the children to choose a (preferably native to Ireland) predator and prey.  Become these animals when playing your version of hide and seek or tag. Let the children come up with the rules. There are great discussions to be had about what’s fair and what would make it more fun!

Explore and observe: The wonder game.  Choose one natural object that you can observe near you.  e.g ants, clouds, a leaf, a rock.  Each person has to start a sentence about the piece of nature chosen with “I wonder”.  For example, “I wonder how the ant knows where to go” or “I wonder if the ants are telling each other jokes”.  It doesn’t matter what the wonder is and you’re not allowed to answer any of the wonders whilst in the middle of playing the game!  Keep going until you get to at least 20!  At the end, each person chooses their favourite wonder.  

Free play: Children learn through play.  Let them play as much as possible.  Enter into their play if they invite you.  Or feel free to play with what’s around you. “Play is freely chosen. Play is led by the child. Play connects us.”  https://www.gov.ie/en/campaigns/lets-play-ireland/

Creative Focus:  Land art – Using whatever is available to you whilst taking care of nature, create a symmetrical butterfly. Colour, symmetry, pattern and shape all come into this.

Take a break: Wash hands, have a snack, share a nature story.  (The story about the creepy crawly or the nettle and the butterfly below are options)

Sit spot:  Pick a sit spot in nature and stay there quietly for 5 minutes.  See how many different types of birdsong you can hear.  What do you think they’re saying to each other?  Can you hear the great tit saying teacher, teacher, teacher?

Gather and share:  What did you notice? – Share what you noticed (what you saw or heard or felt) with each other.  

What are you grateful for from this session? 

Close

Story – Creepy Crawly

At first Creepy-Crawly was nothing but a tiny egg on a blade of grass; but when he hatched out into a caterpillar he was Creepy-Crawly indeed, for though he had about sixteen pairs of legs, they were all so tiny that he could not be said to walk on them. But he crawled about quite happily, and was well content with life as he found it.

“Why don’t you grow long legs like me?” said the Spider. “It must be terribly slow work crawling about like that.”

Creepy-Crawly did not stay to answer. Out of his body he drew two threads as fine as the spider’s own, glued them together with his mouth into a rope, and dropped by the rope from the branch to the ground. He did not like Mrs. Spider.

“Well, I wouldn’t wear a green coat if I were you,” said an Earth-worm whom he met. “Brown is a much nicer colour.”

“Brown may be best for you who live in the ground,” said Creepy-Crawly, “but green is better for me. The birds would like me for dinner, you know, but they cannot see me so well if I look like the leaves I feed on.”

“You should wear a hard shell on your back.” said a Beetle. “You are absurdly soft.”

Creepy-Crawly wriggled quickly out of the beetle’s sight, and a Butterfly who saw him laughed. She said: “Better grow wings, Creepy-Crawly. They are the best means of escape from your enemies.”

Creepy-Crawly looked wistfully at her as she flew off. “Yes,” he said to himself, “that is what I should like—to fly through the air in that grand, free way. That would be glorious! Ah, well! I have no wings, but I may as well be as happy as I can.”

Creepy-Crawly had been eating hard for weeks, but now he began to feel less and less hungry and more and more drowsy. One day he curled himself up under a dead leaf and went to sleep; there he slept on and on for week after week without waking once to eat.

As he slept his skin turned brown like the worm’s, and hard like the beetle’s; but inside the skin a still more wonderful change was taking place. From his body six slender jointed legs with clawed toes grew slowly out, followed by four wings, which promised to be broad and beautiful when they had room to open. From the head grew two long feelers with little knobs at their ends. Over body, head, and wings a coat of tiny, many-coloured scales spread itself, softer than down, and as beautiful as the rainbow.

Creepy-Crawly woke up at last, but he was Creepy-Crawly no longer. He pushed his way out of his hard shell and stood on the dead leaf to dry himself. He spread his wings in the sun; he shook his six jointed legs one after the other; he turned and twisted himself this way and that in his delight.

“Who would have thought I should have come to this?” he said to himself. “Now I am a Butterfly. I am like the one that spoke to me that day. I will fly through the air as she did, and find her, and show her how I have changed.”

He spread his beautiful wings and rose up into the warm air, and flew away to drink honey from the flowers and to dance with his butterfly cousins.

Story – The nettle and the butterfly

This nettle was feeling really sad because he thought nobody liked him.

Then one day, a beautiful butterfly settled on one of the nettle’s leaves and, instead of saying ‘ow!’ and flying away again, the butterfly just sat there and unfolded her lovely coloured wings and rested there in the sunshine.

Well, the nettle was just bursting with excitement and hardly dared move, in case he frightened the butterfly away.

Eventually the butterfly spoke.

“Why are you so quiet?” She asked the nettle.

“I don’t know what to say,” He replied, ” Nobody’s ever sat on one of my leaves before.”

“I wonder why?” asked the butterfly.

“Because I sting them,” Said the nettle, then added sadly, “I can’t help it.”

“Well,” declared the butterfly, “I think your leaves are very comfortable.”

She paused for a moment, deep in thought.

“I was wondering,” the butterfly said eventually, “If I could ask you a special favour.”

The nettle blushed: nobody had ever asked him a favour before.

“Of course you can,” he whispered.

“I need somewhere safe for my eggs during the winter.”

“Would you like me to look after them?”

“Yes, please,” the butterfly answered, “It would mean taking care of them for the whole winter. Could you do that?”

The nettle quivered with pleasure.

“I’d be honoured,” he said.

And so, that winter, the nettle guarded the butterfly’s eggs. All through the rain and the snow and storms, the nettle kept the eggs safe and dry under its leaves, where no animal would dare try to eat them.

In the spring, as the weather grew warmer, the eggs hatched out into caterpillars and, later, each of these caterpillars turned into a chrysallis. Finally, at long last, in the middle of the summer, each chrysallis hatched into a beautiful new butterfly. It looked so pretty, the nettle could hardly believe his eyes.

“Oh,” The beautiful new butterfly stretched its fresh new wings out to dry in the sunshine, “I do feel hungry.”

“Where will you eat?” asked the nettle.

The beautiful new butterfly flicked its glorious wings lightly. They were a deep red colour, with beautiful patterns along the edges, and had four great big eyes eyes painted on them, blue and white and yellow and black.

“My favourite place,” She said, her wings shimmering in the sunlight, “is the flower of a Buddleia bush.”

There were lots of Buddleia bushes in the meadow, their enormous lilac-coloured flower-cones waving gently in the breeze. The butterfly flitted gracefully over to the nearest of them.

The nettle watched, then looked down at his own plain green leaves. They seemed so dull and boring next to the butterfly, he felt very humble.

As if reading his thoughts, the butterfly looked up and spoke.

“Thank you,” She said, “For looking after me all winter. I think your leaves are the strongest and safest leaves in the whole wide world.”

The nettle blushed with pride. Suddenly, he didn’t feel sad at all.

“What’s your name?” He asked her.

“Why,” She said, settling down to feed, “I’m called a Peacock butterfly.”

From that day on, every winter the nettle has looked after the eggs of the beautiful Peacock butterfly.

Peacock butterfly (péacóg)

– Peacock butterflies can be easily recognized by beautiful purple eyespots on the hind wings. When looked from up-side down, this pattern on the wings resembles to face of an owl.

– In the case it is threatened or bothered, peacock butterfly will flash its wings and produce hissing sound by rubbing its wings in front of the predator.

– Female lays up to 500 eggs after mating, usually in the sunny areas covered with nettles, which are the primary food for the caterpillars.

Additional extras

There are so many wonderful outdoor ideas and as we don’t want to overwhelm people, we’re keeping this blog as simple as possible. Below are a few extra ideas for those who want more input. Unfortunately in writing this week’s post, all previous posts disappeared. If you have a look at Liz McMahon’s blog of all the sessions we have done in the forest in the last five years, you’ll have more than enough ideas and stories to keep you going! https://dlrcreativityintheclassroom.wordpress.com/category/dalkey-school-project/

And I love this grid of lots of options to try out depending on your circumstances. Perhaps colour in the square once you’ve done that activity. Can you get three in a row? Or five in a row? You could send your favourite piece of work to your teacher via seesaw.

Outdoor learning at home

We are really aware that families are working within different contexts and have access to varying amounts of outdoor space. You do not need a big space to benefit from being outdoors. Your garden or a small patch of unmown grass or a tree within your 2km radius will work well. Try as much as possible to use some natural, found materials in the activities – this is a practice in resilience and helps to teach the children that what they need is all around them. Restrictions give us opportunities to be creative. Saying that, a kit of string/wool/scissors/pencils/journal/clay/magnifying glasses etc is wonderful for being able to adapt to any situation. Let the children decide what they want to bring!

This type of learning works best when everyone, including the adult, is curious. Allow the children to be the leaders wherever possible. Child led learning is one of the aims and deviating from the plan to follow the child’s interest is a sign that you’re doing it right! In fact there is no right and wrong with this if you keep yourself, each other and nature safe and happy. (the three golden rules)

You could play forest school with the children. Here is a draft outline of a possible session. The ideas within it are just there to support you; not to restrict you. Go with the flow of your child’s interest and your own.

Inspire: Start with a story of how you used to play outside when you were a child.
Game: This is not a stick.


Explore and observe: Treasure hunt: Gratitude scavenger hunt (or get your child to make up one that’s more relevant to your location) Try not to answer questions but to enter into the the wonder.


Free play: Children learn through play. Let them play as much as possible. Enter into their play if they invite you. Or feel free to play with what’s around you.
Creative Focus: Using natural found objects where possible create and play a game of x and o’s


Take a break: Wash hands, have a snack, share a nature story. (The story about seasons below is one option)
Game: Choose a favourite running game of yours or the children’s.
Sit spot: Pick a sit spot in nature and stay there quietly for 5 minutes.
Gather and share:
What did you notice? – Share what you noticed (what you saw or heard or felt) with each other.
What are you grateful for from this session?
Close

The story about seasons:
One day, the seasons had an argument. Each one of them said, “I am the best!”
Spring said, “I am when flowers bloom and it is green and fresh everywhere. Birds fly and insects have fun with new flowers.”
Summer said, “Yes, but I am when the sun shines brightly and it feels too hot to do anything. People eat ice-cream, enjoy cold drinks and eat yummy watermelon.
Autumn said, “I am when trees shed their leaves and cover the earth in orange brilliance. The air feels cool.”
Winter said, “I am when people wear woollen clothes, caps and gloves to keep their bodies warm. They get to drink hot chocolate. Birds fly south for the winter because it’s too cold.”

Since they couldn’t decide who was best, they agreed that they were all important because one could not do without the other.