School Visits: Wildlife Superheroes
The garden is temporarily closed, so we won’t be running any school visits for the moment.
Instead this page is transforming into a blog of activities and ideas which you can do with your children at home. We want to give you all the support we can and also direct you to activities which are fun and enjoyable for both children and their parents and carers. We will also be posting on our facebook page.
Friday 3rd April 2020
We are really sorry, but this is going to be our last blog post, as the Education Team is being furloughed from Monday 6th April until the end of May. This means we won't be working during this time.
Please do read through the previous weeks and explore some of the great links to other organisations’ resources.
Stay safe and we hope to see you all back at the garden once this is all over.
Harriet and Rosie
Friday 3rd April 2020
Making natural paint brushes
So this week our talented artist colleague, Natalie Reid http://www.natalieraereid.co.uk/, has put together a lovely activity for you to do with your children.
Take a wander in your garden or local park** and collect a variety of small sticks. These sticks will become paintbrush handles, so find some that feel comfortable in your hand. Notice the difference in the colours and textures of the bark.
**Please note - If you need to go to your local park or neighbourhood to collect sticks and resources, then please ensure you only do this as your daily piece of exercise and keep a distance of 2 metres away from people who are not in your family. Also don’t forget to wash your hands after handling things you have collected from the ground.
Also gather natural things. These will become your brushes, so look out for interesting textures. Pine cones make wonderful bristle marks, feathers make sweeping brush strokes and buds on beech twigs draw like pens. Flowers like dandelions and coltsfoot can be found at the edges of pavements and paths and are fun to use as stamps.
Back at home, gather materials for attaching the brushes to your sticks. Elastic bands or sticky tape can make this stage quick and simple. However, if you prefer to practise your knots then string, wool, wire or even a shoelace is perfect for tying your paintbrush together.
Create your nature paint brushes. You may need a partner to help with this stage - one person can hold the materials in place and the other person can tie it together. Don’t they look amazing!
Now you can use your paint brushes to paint! You can use water based art supplies such as poster paints, gouache paints, water based emulsion or watercolours. Drawing ink also works wonderfully. Why not try making some paint of your own? Use instant coffee or tea bags steeped in a small amount of warm water to make golden brown, beetroot skins steeped in warm water create a beautiful pink colour and even mud can make the perfect natural paint!
P.S. Stop after stage 4 and you have made some beautiful magic wands, or perhaps some mini broomsticks for your favourite doll or teddy? Have Fun!
Ospreys are one of the birds you can watch nesting through the Wildlife Trust’s webcams I mentioned in last week’s post. They were once extinct in England but in recent years have returned.
They are birds of prey, which means they feed on other animals. Ospreys feed on fish. They live here in the UK in the warmer months (and nest here). Then they migrate to West Africa during our winter, returning to the UK in late March and early April. So now is a perfect time to start watching them as they build their nests, lay eggs and raise chicks. This is a link to the Cumbrian ospreys live webcam https://www.cumbriawildlifetrust.org.uk/wildlife/cams/osprey-cam but there are lots of other pairs you can watch too. Here’s a very recent news article about this pair of Cumbrian ospreys https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cumbria-52116950
Don’t miss this link below. It shows an animated version of the incredible journey they make from here to West Africa. Please watch it, it’s amazing. https://scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk/things-to-do/watch-wildlife-online/osprey-tracking/
For younger children, there is this article about ospreys from the BBC. It includes some interactive parts where children can pretend to be ospreys and mimic their call. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0493q81
Now the clocks have changed, it’s a great opportunity to listen to the birds as the sun comes up. Sunrise this week will be between 6.10 and 6.20am
The dawn chorus usually starts about an hour before sunrise, although its peak is half an hour before and after sunrise (so you don’t have to get up so early!).
At this time of year, birds are calling to attract a mate. The females tend to choose the males with the strongest song. Once they have found a mate, then the males tend to call less often. So if you and your children happen to be awake early (by choice or bad luck) then just take a moment to listen to the birds. You can get your children to record the calls on your phone and maybe see if you can identify them afterwards.
Websites of the week
How did you get on with the penguin counting last week? Are you keeping an eye on the nesting bird webcams?
https://www.rspb.org.uk/fun-and-learning/for-families/family-wild-challenge/activities/ is the family activity part of the RSPB's website. They have lots of activities linked to birds, but also ones relating to nature and wildlife more generally. The activities cover all the seasons, but there are plenty you can do at this time of year.
If you celebrate Easter and you have children at home, then you probably won’t have been able to forget that it’s this Sunday. Aside from decorating egg shaped cut outs or drawing faces on egg shells, have a look at this video for something a bit different https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyZ8PP892ng. ***Adults please supervise the boiling water part of this activity.
By the way, you don’t need old tights, you can just tie things onto the egg with string or scraps of fabric. Onion skins work really well, just boil the eggs with the onion skins for 10 minutes as you would for hard boiled eggs and the eggs will take on a reddy brown colour.
In Cumbria they call these eggs “pace eggs” and the Cumbrian side of my family play a game similar to conkers with them (tapping one egg against another) on Easter Monday and then eat the hard boiled eggs afterwards. Why not give it a try? Have fun!
https://creativestarlearning.co.uk/early-years-outdoors/100s-of-wonderful-outdoor-and-nature-based-ideas-from-around-the-world-wide-web/?fbclid=IwAR2oIS4QTbVTwjvK0xc9z7HZ5bv3TyGWYiwD4uFttoft2V9AJv6RVNN6hUs is packed with outdoor activities for you to do during the weeks ahead.
And finally if you are interested in space and astronomy, what about checking out the Kielder Observatory facebook page https://www.facebook.com/KielderObservatory. They have great updates on the night’s sky and also are running various events for children. Last week it was “astronomer on call” where you could ask an expert a spacey question. This next one is “Locked down Astronomy”.
Blackbird image credit to Malene Thyssen (User:Malene) / CC BY-SA (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)
Monday 30th March 2020
Welcome to our second weekly post of things to do at home with your children. We hope you are all doing OK.
Spring is sprung
The grass is ris
I wonder where
Them birdies is…
Well, spring has definitely sprung and now is an excellent time to watch wildlife on your doorstep. Birds are busy building nests, bees are starting to forage for pollen and nectar, and blossom is breaking out on trees.
At this time of year, watching nature couldn’t be easier. It can also give you a few minutes of calm in your day (something we could all do with). You can watch nature from a window, your front door or from your garden. Encourage your children to keep a little diary of what they see, or with younger children they can use a spotter sheet. Here is a little spotter sheet about signs of spring.
Remember if at first you don’t succeed, try again. Sometimes you don’t see anything and other times you can see lots!
Greenfinch on a feeder at Scotswood Garden
Birds are good things to spot in the garden at this time of year. They are busy pairing up and preparing their nests. The RSPB has some great resources for wildlife watching. See below for some advice about bird watching.
Once again, children can keep a little journal of birds they see or record them on an id sheet.
See here for an id sheet for garden birds (it’s double sided)
If you see something and you don’t know what it is, try and look it up with your children. You could also join iNaturalist which is an international online resource where other people can help you to identify unknown plants and animals. If you are stuck, send a photo to us and we will try to identify it for you!
Lots of things have changed or been cancelled, but wildlife is carrying on with their usual spring preparations. The Wildlife Trust has brilliant links to lots of webcams which are watching nesting birds around the country. You can check these out here https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/webcams.
It even includes a webcam watching our local Kittiwakes on the Baltic building at the quayside. Can you hear them calling? Their call is supposed to sound like their name, kitti-wake, kitti-wake, kitti-wake.
You could even set a reminder on your phone to check out these webcams at regular intervals to see how the nests are doing. It will mean you can watch birds nest, lay eggs and take care as the young chicks as they grow and eventually leave the nest.
At the end of the day
Another lovely, relaxing thing to do is to watch the sunset. The clocks have changed so the sun is currently setting at about 7.45pm. This could be a nice calming pre bedtime activity for younger children. You could talk to them about the colours in the sky. With older children encourage them to take a few arty photos, capturing the colours but also the light and shadow of the end of the day. All of this could lead into some nice art activities, maybe drawing some long shadows or colour mixing sunset colours. Again, you could do this from a window or outdoors. Here are some photos I took the other evening whilst out for my daily bit of exercise.
Websites of the week
Why not try these:
https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/penguintom79/penguin-watch/classify This is certainly something different. Help Penguin Watch by counting the penguins in photos taken by drones over the Arctic. There’s a tutorial showing you how to do it and it is strangely addictive once you get into it!
https://thimbleandtwig.com/category/outdoor-activities/ Some of these activities are out of bounds now, but have a look through we particularly love the Hapa Zome, any flowers will do, but please only take what you need.
https://theimaginationtree.com/15-spring-activities-for-kids/ This is full of great crafty ideas for spring activities.
Just a word about resources - Remember if you haven’t got any coloured paper or card, then maybe you can use a cereal packet, pages from a magazine, junk mail or something else you might otherwise recycle. You can make your own glue by mixing flour with warm water (slightly less water than flour). Store it in an airtight container (an old jam jar or plastic tub) in the fridge. Good luck!
Monday 23rd March 2020
Hello everyone. Hope you are all ok. While children are off school we will be sharing online resources and ideas to help children connect with nature.
Idea number 1 Closely observe a plant or flower and try and draw or sculpt it. Really focusing helps us notice the detail and can help us enter a flow state that drowns out worry and allows us to relax. Draw a plant in your garden, yard, pot plant or you could pick a dandelion leaf from outside and bring it in. You can use anything. Biro is great (see the bramble leaf) or pencil, charcoal or felt tip. If you have clay, plasticine or play dough you could make a model like these wonderful daffodils from pupils at Seaton sluice first school. Send us photos of what you make.
Idea number 2 The Woodland Trust has lots of lovely activities for families to do. Check out this link to see blogs relevant to children and families.
It's also worth browsing their website for other activities. If you want to feel reassured that you are linking in with the national curriculum, have a look at their "Tree tools for schools" where you can browse activities by areas of the curriculum.
Idea number 3 Try some sky bathing! If you have some outdoor space, a balcony or even just an open window, put on your coat and just have a lie down outside. You can open your eyes and watch the clouds and trees if you like, or close your eyes and listen out for sounds. Use it as a time to relax and reconnect with nature. You may hear birds calling, animals rustling, or traffic or other people nearby. You can ask your children beforehand what they think they might hear and use it as a starting point for talking about signs of spring. Enjoy!
We are not running sessions in the summer term due to school closures and the closure of the garden, but feel free to look through the examples of workshops on offer below - maybe there is something you could do with your children at home?
Outdoor Workshops for Schools
A big THANK YOU to everyone who has visited us so far this school year. Since Christmas, the weather has been cold and unpredictable, but we have enjoyed lots of minibeast hunts, winter seasonal specials and even a Stickman day!
The good news is that spring is here! We are fully booked until Easter, but we still have space available throughout the summer term (although we usually find that everything books up very quickly at this time of year, so please book as soon as you can to avoid disappointment).
From now onwards, all sessions will be charged at our usual rate of £50. This rate is still heavily subsidised by our funders, the Postcode Local Trust and Northumbrian Water's Branch Out fund.
Summer term highlights
Pond dipping is another summer favourite. Children across the age groups love pond dipping. Please see some ideas for pond dipping sessions below. Our favourite is pond dipping along with our newt treasure hunt where children learn about the newt life cycle in a fun way - great for Year 5.
Summer is also a perfect time to learn about flowering plants and bees. We have our own beehives here and we love teaching children across the age range about the importance of bees, their amazing life cycle and the interdependency between plants and pollinators.
Teachers’ comments from the Summer term 2019:
“A fantastic day with lots of lovely activities.”
“The day exceeded my expectations and matched our objectives for Science.”
“The session was perfect, Rosie was fantastic. Thank you for a brilliant day.”
“A very interesting and fun visit. The children learned lots and enjoyed themselves while doing it. Thank you!”
“They absolutely loved it! Remembered so much from last year, so it was great to build on knowledge and develop further with completely different content.”
Comments from children:
“It was my first visit to somewhere like this and it was fun.”
"I liked looking at creatures I've never seen before, like the water scorpion."
“It was good to learn about bees. I’m not afraid of them any more.”
“I think nature is cool.”
Examples of workshops on offer:
Meadows and Pollinators
For Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1
- Be a bee: A chance to explore the garden through the eyes of a honey bee. Visit our bee hives and learn some fascinating facts about bees. Collect pollen. Plant a sunflower to take back to school.
- Plant party: Walk around the garden and learn the names of plants, including trees. Find out about the structure of plants and what plants need to grow. Plant a seed to take back to school or make a picture of a plant on fabric.
For Key Stage 2
- Fantastic Flowers: Look at the different parts of a plant and their functions. Learn about the role of flowers in pollination and the importance of bees. Make a potion using plants from the garden. Find out why scents and colours are important to flowers. Plant some scented herbs to take back to school.
- Plant detectives: Be a plant hunter, finding seasonal plants and flowers in the garden. Learn about the life cycle of plants, including pollination, fertilisation and seed dispersal. Plan and plant a miniature garden to take back to school. Maybe play a game of bee tag!
Water and Aquatic Life
For Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1
- Pond dipping: What can you find in our pond? Meet some of the creatures who live in our pond. Make a creature from our pond using natural resources.
- Pond detectives: See how many species you can find in our pond. Record different species in a tally and find out about one creature in more detail. Construct a simple food chain.
For Key Stage 2
- How clean is our pond?: Pond dipping. Use binary codes to identify creatures. Talk about causes of pollution to water courses. Work out how clean our pond is. Talk about the causes of pollution to water courses. Work out how clean our pond is. Find out more about one of the creatures in our pond.
- Newt Lives: Pond dipping. Come and meet our resident amphibians. Find out how they live and learn about their life cycle through our newt treasure hunt. What’s on the menu? Survey the garden for food sources. Play food chain tag!
Trees and Woodland
For Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1
- Minibeast Superheroes: Meet the amazing minibeasts in our woodland and find out some fascinating facts about them. Go on a minibeast hunt of your very own.
- Trees mean homes: Track down some of the different trees in the garden. Learn about parts of a tree and maybe about evergreen and deciduous trees. Think about which animals live in the woods. Maybe find out more about a particular animal? Make your own habitat for a woodland creature.
- Stick Man: Make your very own stick man using natural resources from the woods. Take your stick man on a journey around our lovely garden and explore the habitats, trees and plants. Make a "family tree" in the woods.
For Key Stage 2
- Tree trails: Get to know some of the trees in our woodland. How many different species are there? How could you classify them. Think about native and non native trees.
- Habitat heaven: Find different birds in our lovely garden in our bird treasure hunt. Learn about the wonderful habitat our woods provide. Survey the wider garden for habitats. Think about the interdependency between different species. Construct food chains.
At the end of every session, each child will receive a leaflet to take home about what they can do to help wildlife and the environment. Teachers can also opt to undertake a Wildlife Rescue Task back at school or in the local community. This could be something like designing a poster about saving water, making a bug hotel, planting some bee friendly plants, or surveying trees in a local park. We supply all resources necessary for the Wildlife Rescue Tasks free of charge. We do require schools to feed back to us on their Wildlife Rescue Task. On receipt of this feedback, we will send out certificate to every child in the class.
A note about play:
From September 2019, we are incorporating a minimum of 15 minutes of play time into all our school sessions. Although we aim to make all our sessions fun and engaging throughout for children, we also want to give children the opportunity to play and make their own choices in our lovely garden space.
Play is good for children. It’s vital that children have the space, time and opportunity to do things on their own terms, particularly in a world where things can seem increasingly directed and organised. Regular play benefits children in a multitude of ways. Emotionally it can help them to work through things that are worrying them. Socially it can enable them communicate and negotiate with others. Play also gives children the opportunity to develop intellectually in terms of establishing additional ways of thinking and understanding.
We hope this will be a positive addition to our sessions. We will be monitoring how the play element works, and we welcome feedback from staff and children.
Each class can attend up to three sessions in total at the garden (each with a follow up Wildlife Rescue Task and certificate).
Each session costs £50 (except in the autumn term where all sessions are discounted to £30). Sessions at the garden can be half days (9.45-11.45) or full days (9.45-2.15) and are available from September 2019 until the end of July 2020.
All sessions and Wildlife Rescue Tasks will be planned in conjunction with the class teacher to ensure they link in with the children's learning wherever possible. We are also able to offer free resources and support to each class to complete their Wildlife Rescue Tasks.
This project is only possible thanks to The Postcode Local Trust and Northumbrian Water.