Ada Lovelace’s birthday

Today (10th December) would have been Ada Lovelace’s birthday. Sadly, a lot of people don’t know who she was but when you do a bit of research she is quite an amazing woman. It is well worth setting her as a research project for your pupils.

Poppy Art

An interesting dilemma today – year 1 children, using 2Paint a Picture teach them to use different size brushes, improve their mouse skills and, as it was Remembrance Day at the weekend, draw some poppies.

And what is the dilemma? Should I just let them loose and see what they produce or should I show them how they can very quickly produce a poppy with a few quick “blobs” of different sizes. Do I let them be creative or do I direct their artwork?

The answer? I’m still not sure. Five year olds need the opportunity to play and be creative but we also want them to learn skills. I hope I enabled both. Click on the picture below to have a look at their results and see what you think.

Sliced heads

Imagination and knowledge

I was at an ICT conference yesterday and during a talk on the proposed new curriculum for computing I was reminded of something Einstein said:

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

Early Years – Profiling

2Simple have done it again! They have produced an early years record keeping app that will run on iPhones, iPads and Android devices. It is called 2Build a Profile and is described as:

“A simple and fun way to log children’s achievements against the EYFS profile. Every child has an individual portfolio of achievements. Take photos for evidence, then tag them with children’s names and Foundation Stage targets.”

The app is very simple to use, saves time and reduces paperwork. It is a finalist in the 2013 Bett Awards and like all 2Simple software it is “simply the best”!

More details about the app can be found on their website and you can try it free for 30 days.

Fifty things to do before you’re 11 3/4

50thingsOne of my first blog posts on this site was about how little contact children have with nature these days and the impact it can have on their health and wellbeing. Last night the Country File TV program on BBC referred to the National Trust’s campaign to encourage children to get out of doors, they have published a list of “Fifty things to do before you’re 11¾”, a quick Google this morning brought up the list on the CBBC Newsround site along with a video report and the site that the National Trust have set up for their campaign.

The list is quite exciting and the activities would lend themselves to all sorts of classroom activities as well including literacy and numeracy. I’m sure that with a little imagination teachers would be able to tick off some of their required boxes whilst the children are happily ticking off some of their 50 boxes!

Of course, one of the big questions is, which ones have you been able to tick off, either before you were 11¾ or since then?

Me, I’ve got a couple to do still – where’s my GPS?

Scientific investigation

What food do birds prefer?

If you have a classroom that looks out onto a green patch, flower bed or hedge why not help your children to do a scientific investigation into what types of food each type of bird prefers? The children can help to plan a fair experiment but at the simplest level the experiment involves putting out piles of different bird food or filling different feeders with different foods and seeing which birds go to which food. Some suggestions for different types of food are:

  • fat or suet balls (you could make your own or buy them)
  • fruit such as apples, pears, etc
  • sultanas and raisins
  • peanuts – these should be in a proper peanut feeder, young birds can choke if they try to eat a whole peanut
  • bread crumbs
  • porridge oats
  • different types of seed eg sunflower (compare hearts with unshelled), Nyjer, etc
  • grated cheese

And don’t forget to supply some water as well! You will also need some bird identification charts -the RSPB do some excellent wall cards.

The children will need to plan the experiment, or a series of experiments (they may compare the same food but put one on the ground and one in a feeder, etc), how to record the results, how they present the results (tables, graphs, pie charts?), how to write a report and how to interpret the results. They also need to identify who their report is going to be for.

Once they have done this why not publish it on your school website or blog, publicise it to other schools and to parents, give a presentation to other classes or parents, send details of the report to the RSPB, bird food producers (they might send you some free samples!), the local press or local shops that sell bird foods. Send me details of your online report and I will publicise it for you.

Having identified the best foods for particular birds why not make some advertising leaflets promoting the feeding of birds, give them out to parents, leave some in your school entrance to show off your work or take them to your local bird food suppliers?

A search on the Internet should also identify other schools and organisations who are reporting about their bird life and nature studies, maybe you can connect up with them and compare results.

If you need help with identifying birds why not ask the parents, most schools will have one or more “twitchers” amongst their community – just warn them not to give all the answers away!

If you do any of this, sit down at home with a cup of tea looking out of your window at your own bird feeders and reflect on what changes have occurred to your class since you introduced them to birds …. And to you!