The Wildlife Around Us

This is the winning theme from Facebook last week – so make sure you’ve turned on notifications to enter the next one!

Nature seems to be healing itself and slowly creeping back to where it used to belong – with cougars in Santiago and goats moving down off the hills and wandering through people’s gardens in Wales, I thought this would be a pretty great time to have a look at the wildlife in our own gardens (and if you don’t have a garden then you can simply take part from your window, balcony or daily walk).

Wildlife Facts

  • The red squirrel is the UK’s only native squirrel species
  • Ospreys live in Scotland for the summer and Africa for the winter – they make the incredible journey twice a year!
  • Scotland has two types of seal – the harbour (common) seal and grey seal
  • A group of foxes is called a ‘skulk of foxes’ (however they only live in groups when raising young)
  • Badgers belong to the Mustelidae family which also includes otters, ferrets, polecats, weasels and wolverines
  • Squirrels can find food buried beneath a foot of snow
  • When a frog swallows its prey, it blinks so that its eyeballs push down on the top of its mouth which helps it to swallow its food
  • Butterflies taste with their feet
  • The Goldcrest is the smallest bird in the U.K.
  • 25% of Britain’s endangered species live in the Cairngorm’s National Park
  • The Adder is Scotland’s only poisonous snake
  • Baby hedgehogs are called hoglets
  • The Wildcat is the rarest mammal in Scotland
  • Baby otters stay in the holt (den) with their mother before venturing out (they are raised without help from the male)
  • Soprano Pipistrelles are the most common bats in the U.K. (and the ones you’re most likely to see)

Videos for this week

Activity 1

Homemade Binoculars

This is such a fun activity to get children excited to go looking for local wildlife.

You will need:

  • 2 x toilet roll holders
  • Sellotape
  • String/ribbon
  • Pens/crayons/glitter
  • Hole-punch (or something to make two holes)

Instructions

Simply tape the two toilet roll holders together, colour or paint or glitter them until your heart is content, pierce two holes in the outer edges of one end and thread and tie the string through. My two loved all the imaginary role-play that comes with some pretend binoculars! Happy playing!

Activity 2

Biodiversity Around Us

A great way to explore just how many living things live around you.

You will need:

  • Paper
  • Pens
  • Magnifying glasses
  • Binoculars
  • Biodiversity study PDF (see download below)

Instructions

Ideally this biodiversity study can be done in your garden, however if you don’t have access to a garden right now you could simply do it from your window or on a daily walk.

Biodiversity represents the total diversity of all life on Earth. It is how everything interacts and relies on each other to survive.

Watch the clip on Biodiversity and use it as inspiration to learn more. You could:

  • Research an ecosystem and display your findings on a poster
  • Research 1 species and draw a web depicting all the different species that rely on it and that it relies on
  • Carry out a local biodiversity study using the PDF above

If you carry out a local biodiversity study then it is a great opportunity to discuss local plants (if your plant/animal knowledge isn’t great then try downloading the SEEK app – it’s absolutely brilliant as it takes a picture of the plant/animal and identifies it for you).

Here is some guidance for using the biodiversity study PDF download:

Describe the area

  • Explore texture of plants
  • Heights of plants (shrubs/trees/mixture of both)
  • Any gaps/holes
  • Names of species of plants

What sources of food are there?

  • Berries?
  • Leaves?
  • Water source?
  • Flowers?

What wildlife can you find?

  • Look under rocks
  • Look up into the sky
  • Check bark on trees
  • Look in nooks and crannys
  • Try to name each species
  • Can you draw a picture of the animals you find?

Talk about what time of day you complete your survey- would it be different at a different time of day? What about at a different time of year? Would you get different results in a different part of your garden/daily walk/window view?

Use this time to ask questions and to slow down and just explore. Think about bigger questions – and don’t worry about having all of the answers. You’ll be very surprised at just how many living things you can find!

Activity 3

Food Chain Mobile

A simple visual for learning about how everything relies on each other.

You will need:

  • Stick
  • String
  • Paper
  • Pens
  • Scissors

Instructions

As we learned above in the biodiversity study, absolutely everything on Earth relies on everything else to survive. We cannot survive if we eradicate entire rainforests, or prevent bees from pollinating plants.

Watch the fun clip below and create your own food chain to depict one very simplified version of the complex world around us.

We simply drew each of the 4 living things (carrot-caterpillar-hedgehog-fox) and then pierced holes in the paper, tied them into a row and hung it up to show the direct line of the chain. We then discussed what would happen if all the caterpillars were to disappear.

Activity 4

The Lifecycle of a Frog

A nice way to introduce lifecycles since several of the stages are so different looking.

You will need:

  • Playdough (ideally green)
  • Googly eyes (optional)

Instructions

Watch the video clip of frog lifecycles and then have some fun exploring the different stages using playdough. It’s great fun, reinforces what you’ve just learned and strengthens finger muscles (which contributes to writing skills).

Could you look for tadpoles on a daily walk? Track their progress? Hop like a frog?

Activity 5

The Lifecycle of a Butterfly

Another easy-to-follow lifecycle which is fascinating for children & adults alike.

You will need:

  • Pasta of varying shapes
  • Green paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Pens

Instructions

Have a watch of the butterfly lifecycle video and then have a go at using pasta (or any objects) to create your own version. Mix up the order and see if your kid can re-order them. Go outside and see if you can spot any of the signs of the butterfly lifecycle. Can you create a metamorphosis quiz for other members of your family?

Activity 6

Fox Tangram

A fun activity which can be challenging even for adults!

You will need:

  • Tangram printout (or paper,ruler & a pen)
  • Scissors

Instructions

Print out and cut out (or draw your own) fox tangram and allow your kids to play around with the pieces and see if they can sort the pieces into the shape of a fox. This is a great engineering activity which challenges the brain to figure out shape rotation in space. Can you create your own tangrams? Share them with us over on the Facebook page.

Family STEM Learning Challenge

Squirrel Assault Course

Can you out-smart a squirrel?!

You may need any/all of the following:

  • Rope/string
  • Wood/sticks
  • Sellotape
  • Anything lying about your garage/storage room
  • Supporting structures
  • Food for squirrels

Instructions

This is a really fun activity to complete either indoors or outdoors.

I appreciate that this squirrel assault course video seems absolutely nuts, but I hope it gives you a laugh and some inspiration!

There are 3 options (you can choose do to any or all of them):

  • Create an outdoor assault course for a local squirrel to complete
  • Create an indoor/outdoor assault course for your favourite teddy to complete
  • Create an indoor/outdoor human-sized assault course for members of your family to complete – you could incorporate number into this task by timing each participant

This is a great task that could start with drawing a plan on paper, discussing ideas before building the best design. It requires planning, teamwork, negotiation skills and a good working knowledge of basic physics (i.e. will certain items support other items?). Can you leave out an enticing food that encourages a real squirrel to have a go? Did the squirrel manage it? Was the course too easy? Why?

There is a lot of rich discussion that can be used around this one simple activity – one that creates many learning opportunities for future engineering challenges.

Hope you have a fabulous time learning this week! xx

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