Seasonal Change Wellies at the ready!
Seasonal change is the Year 1 unit that aims to develops children’s understanding of how the seasons change throughout the year. It also enables them to become familiar with their local environment – often in the form on the plants and habitats on the school grounds around them.
To teach this unit most effectively lessons need to be allocated within each term as stand alone lessons alongside other units. It sounds obvious but I have heard stories of it being block taught. However, seasonal change needs to be taught as the seasons change so that children can experience them first hand. This unit is a great way to develop children’s observational skills – which are essential in science. I tackle this unit in a number of ways. The first is through seasonal change walks.
The first walk we take is about eliciting what children already know about the environment around them. Can they identify what season we are in? What do they know? We have fun doing things such as tree rubbings and collecting flowers/ plants to press. You can pick up flower presses for not much money but thick heavy books you no longer want work just as well. Avoid using texts you don’t want damaging as even when enclosed in tissue paper the plants will stain the pages of the books. On the walk they make recordings, often pictorial, of their observations and I record what they tell me (I use my own observation record sheets for this but post-its work just as well). I’m often surprised about what children know and always find I have a future botanist or David Attenborough in my class.
I then select some key points of interest; trees are great, especially if you have different varieties, and I get the children to draw a representation of what they have observed. We also use ipads to take photographs and gather physical evidence where possible on our walk. I then repeat this walk each half term and always return to the selected points of interest to make recordings and monitor any changes. It is great to see how the children develop their observational skills and independence each time we go out.
If you have space it is great to have a nature table or shelf in your classroom that reflects the current season. I have resources children can explore, good examples of work we have done and I encourage children to bring in seasonal evidence to share with the class. Pinterest is full of inspiration for your own nature table. I try to give the children as much ownership as possible over this and treat it as a living museum. During the Spring it becomes overtaken by plants the children try to grow. It is important when allowing children to gather physical evidence we teach them not to disrupt the environment by breaking off living plants or disturbing habitats. This is where I encourage the use of technology to capture evidence of things we can’t take with us. At this time of year I get children to start hunting for conkers and autumnal leaves, which can be quite a competitive enterprise!
Finally, we look at a scientist in role (I will have a future blog about how we role this out within every unit to bring science jobs to life). For this unit I choose to focus on a meteorologist. It is a great fit with the unit and also introduces children to real life scientists through a role they should be familiar with – the TV weather reporter. We build up a picture of what this person’s role involves throughout the unit. We think of what equipment and skills they will need each lesson. One way to do this is as part of a science working wall that gets added to as you learn or children can build this picture in their books. . We also act out these roles by building data collection skills. During Autumn term we learn how to create rain collectors and have set weeks throughout the year when children monitor rainfall. This also allows us to learn about how to represent our data using graphs and charts. We then use data loggers to gather information about how bright the days are and how warm.
There are many others areas you could explore if you have the time as seasonal change fits in well with a number of other science units. In helping to find real life links try to get the children to visit a local allotment or invite a gardener in to explain how they have to adapt to the seasons. Children could then have a go at turning their own hand at a bit of gardening. We often explore how we can help wildlife during the winter months as part of this unit. The children create bird feeders and bug hotels to help them through this season. We also study animals such as hedgehogs and why they hibernate during the winter. A few years ago my class really enjoyed exploring a botanist volume I got from the local library and in art we had a go at creating flower line drawings and water colour paintings to go along side out own observations in science.
Don’t be put off if you are not green fingered, I’m not at all, but I have worked alongside the children at school to get to know the plants and trees found on our school grounds. The Woodland Trust is an excellent source to brush up your subject knowledge if needed.