Nicola from The World is Their Classroom is a home educator to her five children aged 15, 12, 9, 7 and 4. She is passionate about making learning fun and often takes her lessons outside, capturing the importance of learning outdoors. You can find ideas for educational products and activities on The World Is Their Classroom, a website bursting with creative and engaging ideas for children of all ages.
In celebration of Walk in
the Woods Month, Nicola has written a post about the importance of learning
outdoors and what the benefits are. read more
Do you have a
set of these bears in your classroom or in your home? Perhaps your children
recognise them from their school, or maybe you played with them in your nursery
back in the 90’s.
Did you know that it’s thanks to
these little coloured
bear counters that Learning Resources is able to celebrate 25 years of
providing hands-on learning to schools and homes throughout the UK, the rest of
Europe and beyond?read more
The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional
Learning (CASEL) defines
social-emotional learning (SEL) as:
“… the process through which children and adults acquire and
effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand
and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for
others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible
decisions.” read more
This month we are taking part in The Wildlife Trusts’ #30dayswild campaign! We took a trip to Cley Marshes Nature Reserve on the north Norfolk coast to meet with their Community Education Officer, Rachael Wright. We asked her all about the campaign, why it is so important and how you can get involved!
Tell us about Cley Marshes Nature Reserve:
It is Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s oldest and best known nature reserve and was purchased in 1926. The reserve includes an award-winning visitor centre, a gallery and a Wildlife Education Centre named in memory of the naturalist, Simon Aspinall.
We are well known for the birds on site. The shingle beach and saline lagoons, along with the grazing marsh and reed bed support large numbers of wintering and migrating wildfowl and waders, as well as bittern, marsh harrier and bearded tit.
[Image of Marsh Harrier, credit: Norfolk Wildlife Trust Website]
What does your role at the Norfolk Wildlife Trust involve?
I organise our events programme and exhibitions. We work with local community groups and I take school groups and other education visitors out on the reserve. The Cley Marshes provides school groups with great opportunities to explore both coastal and wetland habitats!
What’s your favourite thing about your role?
Working with school groups and inspiring the next generation to explore wildlife and have fun outdoors!
What is #30dayswild and how can people sign up?
30 Days Wild is a Wildlife Trust campaign aimed at getting people outside enjoying the living landscape. We encourage and support people to take a little bit of time every day to do something wild! People can sign up on their local Wildlife Trust website and will receive a digital support pack with ideas, inspiration and information on local events and places you can explore! You can share your wild adventures using the #30DaysWild hashtag.
What do you have planned for #30dayswild during June?
We have crafts and activities in our education centre throughout June and events on throughout the month. From nature walks to pond dipping there’s something for everyone, take a look on our website for events this June!
What is a Random Act of Wildness?
A Random Act of Wildness is about making time to connect with nature around you, or doing something small yourself to help nature. Random Acts of Wildness are all about experiencing, learning about and helping your local wildlife. They can be simple, small, fun and exciting too. You can use our ideas as inspiration or get creative and make up your own!
Why is getting out into nature so important?
It’s important to stay in touch with the natural world and appreciate all that nature does for us. It’s also incredibly important in our busy lives to take time to relax and exploring nature is a fantastic way to do that. A recent poll of 101 people in Norwich revealed that 90% of Norwich’s city-dwellers feel that nature is important to them but 86% of adults in Norwich don’t think that they spend enough time in nature.
What are the educational benefits of exploring nature?
Many people learn more effectively through hands on activities and nature provides so many great opportunities. Watching nature events creates memories that will last forever. Every subject taught in a classroom can be taught outside in a more fun and engaging way that will inspire children for a lifetime!
A trip to the beach is often filled with excitement as young learners take on the role of adventurers and explorers! The beach environment sparks their natural curiosity and provides the freedom to explore nature in a fun, creative and practical way. Rich in different textures, smells, sights and tastes, a trip to the beach can ignite the senses and is perfect for all types of learners.
If you have time to prepare before your trip, a beach scavenger hunt will keep little ones entertained and learning all day long! Create a checklist of things for them to look for including:
A stone with a hole in
Shout each one out as you go along or create a checklist to attach to a bucket for them to fill with their discoveries.
2) Water relay race
This is a great activity if you are at the beach with a large group of children. Mark out some check points in the sand and stagger each team along them. The first person to set off balances a full bucket of sea water on their head and passes it to the next person at the first check point. The aim of the game is to have the most sea water in your bucket by the end of the race!
3) Sand Portraits
Creativity can be found in lots of places, especially at the beach! This activity can be done individually or as a competition in a group. Ask your young learners to create a self portrait in the sand. They can use their hands or spades to draw the main image and then use beach materials such as seaweed and shells to decorate!
4) Sorting Seashells
This activity encourages children to explore the details of shells and sort them in different ways. Start by collecting as many shells as possible. Six of the most common shells in the UK are:
Once you have collected them, think about the different ways you could sort them. Here are some ideas:
5) Four in a Row
Draw out a ‘connect 4’ grid in the sand which is 7 squares horizontally and 6 squares vertically. Collect stones and shells from the beach and gather together to use as playing tokens, one player uses stones and the other uses shells. Take it in turns to place your token in the grid; the first person to connect four is the winner!
6) Pebble Decorating
Take some paint pens with you on your trip to the beach for some pebble decorating fun! Go on a scavenger hunt to find as many large flat pebbles as possible, once you’ve collected them think about how you would like to decorate them. A fun idea is to write on their name and the year and hide it in a secret place. Can you find it again when you return?
Rock pools are the perfect place to discover mini beasts! When the tide goes out you can find all sorts of creatures such as barnacles, mussels, shore crabs, hermit crabs, shrimps, prawns, starfish, sand hoppers, common whelk, dog whelk and razor shells. The plants and animals that live in rock pools have adapted to live in challenging conditions such as changing water temperatures and oxygen levels. To take a close up view of your discoveries pour some sea water into a clear container and carefully place your mini beast inside. Make sure the container has air holes and that you are very gentle when placing them in.
Great for active play, beach bowling is simple to set up and creates hours of fun! Start by marking out an area for your game to take place and then dig some small holes at one end of the area. Using tennis balls take it in turn to bowl, aiming for the holes you have dug!
10) Post Card
Following a trip to the beach, a simple postcard exercise can help children to reflect upon the activities they did and help them to practise spelling, punctuation and descriptive language. Provide them with a structure that includes:
Putting a stamp in the top right corner
Writing the address on the right hand side
Starting the postcard with ‘Dear xxx’
Including information about where they went and what they did
Signing the card with ‘From xxx’
World Ocean’s Day is on the 8th of June, play your part by helping to keep the beach clean and tidy after your visit!
This month we are getting wild about learning and taking to the great outdoors to spend time surrounded by nature. The outdoors offers rich learning experiences and inspires creativity and imagination! Nursery educator, Margaret McMilan, once said ‘The best classroom and the richest cupboard is roofed only by the sky’ and we agree!
We’ve put together =&0=&, ranging from butterfly spotting and nature trails to raft building and flower pressing.
We even have some free downloadable spotting sheets for you to try too!
What will you discover?
1) Butterfly Spotting
There are 59 species of butterfly in the UK with some of the most common being Brimstone, Speckled Wood, Comma, Holly Blue and Peacock. Butterflies are found in a variety of habitats all over the world and are usually easy to spot in the warmer months. Try our Butterfly Spotting Sheet to see how many you can find!
Birds and wildlife are often closer than you think! Watching and identifying birds is a fun activity that you can do in your garden or when you’re out and about. Can you spot a robin? Can you see a seagull?
Explore a new outside space by going on a nature trail! Take time to observe surroundings and keep your eyes peeled for trees, plants, animals and insects! Can you find different habitats? Can you draw your discoveries? Use a child-friendly magnifier to see if you can discover new details that are invisible to the naked eye.
4) Dinosaur Habitats
Create a habitat for toy dinosaurs in your garden! Collect grass, sticks and stones to build a Jurassic themed adventure within a tray or sandpit. Talk about the different habitat each dinosaur would like and don’t forget to leave out food and water!
5) Garden Olympics
If the sun is shining, why not encourage active play with some fun outdoor games? Obstacle courses are a great and simple way to get the whole family competing and having fun! Lay out challenges in different areas of the garden such as:
Composting is nature’s way of recycling biodegradable materials. Go on a scavenger hunt around your house and local area to collect as many biodegradable items as possible.
Things like paper, food scraps, wood, grass and leaves are biodegradable and will easily decay.
Things like aluminium cans and plastic bottles are non-biodegradable and will not decay.
Create a compost heap in a bucket by layering the biodegradable items you have collected with newspaper, wood cuttings and leaves. Add water as needed to keep the compost moist and make sure the lid is kept on, mixing the compost every few days to keep it aerated.
Ask your children to predict what will happen and in 2-4 weeks examine the contents of the bucket. Are any of the items you collected recognisable?
7) Hedgehog House
Did you know you can make a hedgehog home with a few simple materials such as a plastic box and a carrier bag?
Take a look at this activity sheet from the Wildlife Watch for some useful hints and tips. Once you have made your hedgehog home, try using binoculars to find out if you have any prickly new residents!
8) Digging for Nature’s Treasures!
Fill a large tray with sawdust and bury several items from nature such as:
Ask your young learners to place a blindfold on and see what they can find in the tray. When they find something encourage them to use their senses and comment on the texture and smell. Can they identify all of the objects?
9) Flower Pressing
Start by taking a trip into the garden and asking your young learners to select some flowers that they would like to press, making sure you have permission to pick them. Arrange them on a piece of card how you would like them to be presented and leave them within the press to dry out. The Nancy B’s Science Club® Nature Keeper and Tree Diary is complete with flower/leaf press, craft punch, tweezers and journal, perfect for creating decorative artworks inspired by nature.
Take a look at the night-sky using a telescope and see what you can discover. Is it a full moon? Can you find the North Star? Write down in a journal what you can see each night, are there any patterns?
11) Colour Scavenger Hunt
Create a worksheet that has a sample of seven different colours in the margin on the left hand side. Next to each colour, stick a horizontal strip of double sided sticky tape so there is a sticky surface on show. Go on a nature trail and collect things that match the colours, sticking them to the sheet as you go!
Plants can be categorised by analysing and describing their characteristics. The majority of plants and trees will fall into any of the following groups:
Orchids and related plants
All other flowering non-woody plants
You can work out which group your discovery falls into by taking a closer look at the leaves, stems, flowers and habitats.
13) Raft Building
It’s a raft race! Collect sticks when out and about or from the garden (you’ll need approximately 50). Once collected lay them out on a table with some string, scissors and craft materials. A perfect activity for a large group, ask each child to build a raft that floats and has a customised flag! Once completed, take them to a stream or pond and test them out!
14) Shadow Painting
Find a spot in a garden or outdoor area where shadows of the branches of a tree are clear on the floor. Place a giant piece of card on the floor so that the shadow fills most of the page and colour it in using pens or paint!
“Shelly is a Chartered Accountant who is now a home-educating mum to two kids. She blogs about the learning activities that they do at home and shares resources that they have used and enjoyed on the OFamily Learning Together blog.”
What were your first thoughts when the resource arrived?
I initially thought it was snap cubes with some activity cards added. But my son immediately noticed the different shapes on each side of the cubes.
How did you use it?
We started off using the activity cards but the kids quickly branched out into using the cubes for their own activities. My son used the cubes to create his own sums and after completing the 3D shape cards both my kids played around with the cubes creating their own shapes and tried to find ways of combining smaller shapes into bigger shapes.
What are the educational benefits?
It’s a brilliant maths manipulative! When the kids are starting to learn about addition and subtraction it really helps if they can use manipulatives that they can pick up and move around. If they can physically add three objects together, the sum 2+1 makes a lot more sense. Also, my kids tend to work for longer periods of time if they are using objects and not just writing an answer on a worksheet. So for us it means longer, more productive maths sessions.
What did you like/dislike about it?
We love that the cubes have the shapes on them. Also the activity cards are really helpful as it gives you some great ideas on how you can use the cubes. My son did comment that he finds the Mathlink cubes a bit harder to separate and add together than his snap cubes but I actually liked this as it was a good finger strengthening exercise for him.
What is the long term appeal?
The cubes can be used in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. They can be used to explain simple sums and more complex sums so there is definitely a long term appeal for me.
These cubes definitely help ensure that kids understand what they are working on and it makes the maths more hands-on and fun!
Is it unique?
They’re similar to the snap cubes but have the added benefit of the shapes on the sides.
Cubes, Right: Snap Cubes)
Would you recommend it to a friend?
Yes. I have already recommended it to a number of friends.
Fibonacci’s real name was Leonardo Pisano Bogollo. He was born in Pisa, Italy, in 1170. History states that Fibonacci was his nickname which roughly translates as “Son of Bonacci”. His father was a merchant named Guglielmo Bonaccio.
He travelled widely and traded extensively.
Maths was incredibly important to those in the trading industry, and Fibonacci’s passion for numbers was cultivated in his youth. He spent his childhood in North Africa where he studied the Hindu-Arabic arithmetic system and learnt of decimal numbers.
In 1200 he returned to Pisa and used the knowledge he had gained on his
travels to write Liber Abaci (published in 1202) which roughly translates as ‘book of calculations’. The book introduced Indian mathematics to the west and shared his knowledge of Arabic numerals which went on to replace the roman numeral system.
The first chapter of the book states:
The Golden Rectangle can be found in many Renaissance art works including the Mona Lisa!
Fibonacci in Nature and Human Design
The Fibonacci sequence and Golden Rectangle appear surprisingly often both in nature and human designs. In nature, Fibonacci numbers manifest themselves in lots of places from the numbers of petals on a flower to the number of spirals in the seeds of a sunflower. The relationship between the Fibonacci sequence and the arrangement of things in nature is highly efficient as it allows flowers to pack in as many seeds as possible into a small space or branches to grow in such a way that allows leaves to receive equal amounts of sunlight.
Fibonacci numbers have been used in lots of architectural designs including Cornwall’s Eden Project. The building is an environmental and arts education centre, and is composed of geodesic domes that are made up of hexagonal and pentagonal cells. Designed by Jolyon Brewis, the core of the building is based on nature’s architecture and incorporates Fibonacci numbers and phyllotaxis (the arrangement of leaves) in its design. This approach is labelled as ‘Biomimicry’.
Fibonacci Day is celebrated on 23rd November every year, as it has the digits “1, 1, 2, 3” which are all Fibonacci numbers!
“Emma is a mum of one very inquisitive boy. He is very nearly four and loves anything to do with science. She blogs over at Me and B Make Tea and loves trying anything science related! Her blog started out as a way to document healthy eating but it quickly grew to cover all things parenting and life.”
What were your first thoughts when the toy arrived?
Brandon, my son, wanted to get the spacemen and rocket out straight away. Daddy helped us stick all the stickers on and set up our gears. Another first thought was that this toy looked bright and perfect for inspiring young imaginations.
How did you use it?
First up we followed the instructions and built the space gears as they are shown on the box. We then experimented with different space scenarios over the next few days.
What are the educational benefits?
This toy is ideal for creative thinking and using your imagination. Brandon learnt how energy travels through the gears to move other gears along the space set up. We played with this toy with him and explained what was happening. I think on his own, he would have got frustrated with trying to put it all together properly. Some adult supervision and help is needed for a 3-4 year old.
What did you like/dislike about the toy?
Brandon loves the idea of space. He loves anything to do with space. I like how the base trays slot together well and the product is relatively easy to construct. There wasn’t anything we overly disliked to be honest!
What is the long term appeal?
I think Brandon will use this more when he is a bit older. Right now he needs parent supervision which is nice anyway because we like doing things together like this. As he gets older he will be able to construct his own space stations and scenarios.
Is it unique?
I think so, yes. I haven’t seen anything like it before.
“Selena works as All About STEM’s Web, Media & Marketing Manager. All About STEM works on numerous projects to bring exciting Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics to schools across Merseyside, Cheshire and Warrington. They link schools with business, industry & expert volunteers to inspire the next generation of STEM specialists. As part of their work they have ran The Big Bang North West for the last four years, they manage the STEM Ambassador STEM Hub for Cheshire and Merseyside on behalf of STEM Learning and co-manage the Enterprise Adviser Network in the Liverpool City Region for The Careers & Enterprise Company.”
What were your first thoughts when the product arrived?
We were impressed with the bright packaging and our Mini-STEMmer was excited to open the box after seeing that this microscope plugs into the laptop! There was a lot of excitement about what the images would look like and where we could use it.
The CD included was simple to install and from that point on the hardware was plug and play – top marks for a user-friendly interface!
How did the testers use the product?
During the session, we tried the microscope on various foods, materials and even skin! We couldn’t believe how simple it was to focus as the top of the unit twists to make any alterations you need. The built in light and detachable circular guide allowed us to view three dimensional objects and textured surfaces, there is no need for plates or flat specimens here – jewellery, string, a tongue, all without problem!
There was plenty of opportunity to explore anything and everything without restriction. Well done to our Mini-STEMmer for taking these fantastic shots!
What are the educational benefits of the resource?
Excite interest with regard to science and technology
Examine and explore the world we live in
Suitable for all years
Opportunity for cross-curricular activities
It’s so enjoyable to use!
What did you like/dislike about the resource?
My favourite thing is that Zoomy is tactile, easy to hold and control and the images are awesome!
Children who have issues with fine motor skills can enjoy Zoomy too. Other microscopes can be complicated and fiddly, whereas Zoomy is as simple as holding a ball and pushing a button. It may also be beneficial for children who are visually impaired as the image appears in a large scale on a laptop screen and could be digitally projected.
I couldn’t find fault with Zoomy, I would only say that the USB wire could have been a little longer to reach across a larger desk or for outdoor exploration.
What is the long term appeal of the resource?
This hardware is fully portable and can be used again and again in so many subjects.
Nature walks, baking sessions, playtime, the cross-curricular opportunities are endless.
I think I’ll be taking Zoomy to The Big Bang North West and taking some microscopic shots of our science exhibits! I’ll be running across a pool of custard, I wonder what a non-Newtonian fluid would look like?
Is the product unique?
No, there are other digital microscopes on the market. For the price (£54) however, this is the best I have seen when it comes to quality of image and ease of use. I have to say, I didn’t expect the images to be as impressive and sharp.
The Final Score:
*Big Bang North West takes place on the 4th of July at the Exhibition Centre, Liverpool. Find out more All About STEM and book your free tickets to BBNW using the links below!