Teaching Fun with Nature – Part 1

Summer is one of the terms within primary school that becomes a series of events and jobs that before you know it the end of July is here and everyone is breaking up for the summer holidays. It is during this time that the majority of school trips are organised and classes or, in some cases whole schools, embark on coaches to museums, farms and historical settings. While working within school, it came to our attention that although the children knew things about rivers and coasts, mountains and platectonics and countries both far and wide, they did not know anything about their local wildlife. Acknowledging this, and wanting to do something about it, we started a series of lessons entitled ‘Fun with Nature’. After spending some of my childhood as a ‘twitcher’ I eagerly grabbed the topic of birds. This waffle is about some of the activities that we completed together as a class.


Me holding binoculars, if you were not sure.

Me holding binoculars, if you were not sure.

The idea of the topic was that we would visit our ‘subject’ twice a year, once in the spring and once in the summer. Each topic would consist on the children engaging with a range of activities which could be completed either on a dedicated day or throughout the week. It was also decided that there would be a ‘special’ activity for the children to engage with. This could be anything from going on a local trip to some woodlands or, in the case of the class who had the topic of fish (yes I did say fish!), having dead fish in from the local fishmonger to dissect and explore….that was a very smelly day! The special trip for ‘birds’ was, of course, a bird watching trip! After writing this waffle, I realised that it was too long for a single waffle so I have split it into part 1 and 2. Consider the next one to be a second helping of waffles next week.

I encouraged them them to ‘fly’ (yes arms a-flapping) around the playground

  • Bird Bingo!– At the start of the topic, there was a mental/oral starter type of activity involving common birds. This was essentially a ‘What do you know?” activity. Using the Smart Software, images of birds would appear on the screen and the children were asked to identify them. The trip to the local university would allow the children to see water birds, so these were in the game as well as common ‘town and garden’ birds and countryside birds such as magpies and crows since our walk to the university would take us through some open farmland. The children were, shall we say, creative with their responses. I remember most saying that the first black bird which appeared on the screen was a Blackbird, despite it being a crow, and the one after that was conveniently identified as being Mrs blackbird. We did have to have a talk about the Tit Family of birds, after one child suddenly exclaimed “You can’t use that word Mr Wilson!!” when I first mentioned that the image was a Blue Tit.

  • Label the bird – Within my waffles, I often talk about the importance of vocabulary in teaching, and this topic was no exception.Knowing the terminology for the different parts of the bird would be important for identification. So the following day’s activity was based on looking at the basic parts of the bird (wing, head, beak) and also terms such as rump and wing bar which would be important for identification. This activity was completed labelling a drawing of a bird as well as an image of a real bird, so the children could see the parts in ‘real life’

  • How clever are birds! – The week before starting the topic, I had mentioned what we would be doing to the children and I remember a few of them commenting ‘oh no, not stupid birds!’ After further discussion with them they admitted that they wanted to learn about wolves, bears and dragons…maybe that would have to be postponed to another lesson :). I wanted to create an activity to demonstrate that, despite having the saying ‘bird brain’ related to them, they were quite dextrous and could complete various tasks that we, as humans, would find difficult. Encouraging the children to try and fly off the school building was out of the question so I went to plan B – nest building! After viewing a range of different nests from images from the internet and discussing the purpose of a nest and the difference between a nest and a bird box (the latter being a question from a child) the children, in pairs, embarked on building their own nest. These were of course to be bird size nests and not human size. There was was a lot of laughter as I encouraged them them to ‘fly’ (yes arms a-flapping) around the playground and field in pairs collecting suitable materials. When thy arrived back in the classroom each pair was allowed to use a pair of tweezers (a beak) and one finger from their other hand (a bird’s foot) to create their nest. As you can imagine the results were quite…diverse. I remember at the end of the lesson asking one of the boys what they thought about birds being stupid now…and his response was simply – “Ok, I’ll give you that one!” Maybe being able to complete pub quizzes is not the only measure of intellect.

  • There was an infographic that I tweeted onto my Pinterest Boards earlier this week, which shown the ‘ideal’ length of blog posts etc. Although I never count the words in my waffles, I do try and keep to a similar format – introduction, three list items and then the conclusion. In part two of this waffle I’ll let you know what happened in the lessons for the rest of the week…including the expedition into the wilds! In the next waffle, or maybe part three, depending how long it gets, I will consider the use of technology within the activities. As previously mentioned in various waffles, today’s technology was not available then, so I will, and don’t quote me on this, have to be creative with its application.

    I look forward to hearing your comments and ideas, please add them in the comments below or send me them to be via twitter(@iwilsonysj), Facebook, google+ or email.

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    Have fun, engage and I’ll catch you later