Learning about Snails

We don’t follow a curriculum or textbook of any kind when it comes to science. This is not because we don’t think science is an important subject, it is because we believe that like other subject areas, deep, meaningful learning will occur when it is interest-led. I have previously written about The Nature Curriculum and how my children have learnt a vast amount just by being immersed in nature and having the freedom to explore and develop their interests. Science is one of the most frequently discussed subjects in our home and it develops through my children’s interests and their natural curiosity as they engage and interaction with the natural environment. And this is how we came to learn about snails.
At the beginning of this year we moved from northern Australia to the east coast (NSW) of Australia and with this new location came a new variety of animals for us to discover and learn about. In our new front yard, hiding in our mail box, was a large group of snails and these mail-eating molluscs quickly became a daily topic of discussion as an interest and curiosity began to develop

We spent, literally, many hours observing the snails crawling around our garden and eventually brought some inside so we could observe them closely. The first questions to arise was about the appearance of the snails body and how they move along.

We went straight to our growing book collection to see if we could find any information about snails. We had some simple books Creepy Creatures: Snails and Snails: Amazing Pictures and Facts about Snails that were perfect for my girls. For my son, we searched through The Wonderland Of Nature and our DK Animal Encyclopedia, putting in stick notes as we went, to find information we were after. I used this opportunity to reinforce the use of index, references and contents when searching for particular information in a book.

For my daughters who are six and four years old, I purchased a Snail and Nomenclature Cards and Definition Booklet for them to use and learn about parts of a snail. I presented the cards to my girls and we talked about the different body parts while using our vineyard snail figurines to get a closer look. For my son who is a little bit older (10 years old), I purchased this 4D Vision Snail Anatomy Model from Mad About Science (Australia) for him to learn about the different parts of a snail. Here is a link to the same  snail anatomy model available on Amazon. The model came with a booklet so my son was able to independently explore the anatomy of the snail at his own pace and interest. 

After observing the parts of a snail, questions developed about the snails shell. We went hunting around our garden and found lots of shells which no longer had snails living in them. This sparked questions about did the snails die, did they grow out of their shell (like hermit crabs do) and why do they die. My children developed an hypothesis that snails in our garden had died because they were old and maybe there wasn’t enough food for them or it might have been too dry for them to survive. All really great questions!

 

We collected some of the shells and took them inside to observe them further. The shells were of different sizes with different shades of brown. Most of the patterns were the same so my children thought that this might be because they were the same type of snail. 
 

We took a closer look at these shells under a microscope to see the detail further. Questions continued to develop about how hard the shells were, does the shell get bigger as the snail grows or do they need to find a bigger shell, and what if snails didn’t have a shell. This led our conversation towards molluscs and what other creatures were apart of the molluscs family.

After looking at the shells, the interest in snails seemed to slow down for a few weeks until my youngest child found a very tiny snail in our garden. This sparked questions about the life cycle of snails and how they have their babies. We read our books which told us that snails lay their eggs in the dirt so of course, we went exploring further. Unfornately we did not find any snail eggs but we did spent lots of time watching these baby snails.

Most of our questions were answered in the books we had and some of the questions we were able to find and answer for ourselves through observation. One such questions was asked about snails sleeping during the day. We thought maybe they were nocturnal so this took our learning into the late hours of the evening. After a passing rain shower we were able to observe the snails come to life” and it was awesome! My children weren’t the only ones who were amazed to see how busy snails are at night time.

Although it is wonderful to read about information in a book, it is even better to actually see these facts and information in full action right in front of our eyes. You can find more resources and information over on my Pinterest and follow along on our adventure over on Facebook and Instagram

Hands-on learning about Honey Bees

Spending time in nature and observing the little things like bugs, insects and birds have provided my children with so many learning opportunities. I have previously talked about The Nature Curriculum, as we call it, and how nature can inspire an interest and lead you on a learning adventure. This is exactly how my children’s interest in bees came about.

Developing an interest

Earlier this year we had a Bee Hawk Moth visit our garden so we spent a few days observing it buzzing from flower to flower. During this observation time it brought up lots of questions; what it was, did it have a stinger, what was it doing here and was it apart of the bee family. These questions were investigated and answers were found.
A few weeks later, we observed a honey bee visiting our garden. Again the process of observation and questions occurred. One of the first questions that we investigated was whether or not this was a “mummy” bee. 

Life Cycle
We used our FREE life cycle of a honeybee nomenclature cards  to look at how a bee develops and grows from a tiny little eggs to a completely grown honeybee. We also used our Life Cycle of a Honey Bee figurines that I previously purchased from Mini Zoo.

We quickly learnt that the “Mummy” bee is called the Queen bee and she is the only bee in the hive that lays the eggs. I found this visual on How Bees Work Life Cycle for my children to see how the bees develop and grown as well as who looks after them.

Bee Anatomy
We had talked about the Queen bee and how the worker bees look after the larva and pupa as they grow. This had brought up questions about which bees collect the honey and how they carry it back to the hive. I designed and made a felt puzzle for learning about the parts of a honeybee and found these FREE parts of a honey bee nomenclature cards to go together. I presented the cards first and talked about the different names for each part of the bee. My children chose to label the felt puzzle and have been back many times to explore it on their own.

You can download my FREE Honeybee Anatomy Template that I used to make our felt honeybee puzzle from here.

Bees Home
While we were out on one of our many nature walks, we came across what we thought was an old, unoccupied wasp hive. My children were immediately fascinated by this hive which looks so much like a bee hive. We took the little hive home to make further observations and see if we can learn who might have built it.

This discovery led us to research about bee hives and what they look like. My daughters became inspired to make their own bee hive and got to work putting together their beehive from different recycled items we had before adding paint to it.

This self-constructed bee hive became the centre of play-based learning for my daughters as they role-played and made up stories about the life cycle of the honey bees and the work that the different types of bees do (such as collecting honey and caring for the pupa). By listening and watching them play, I could see how they were recalling the information we had talked and read about. Play is such an important process of learning that all children need.

Pollination 
We had talked about the important job that bees do making honey as well as how bee pollinate our flowering fruits and vegetables. Miss 5 made the connection between bees and our own watermelon that we had grown in our garden. She spent a number of hours watching the flowers on our watermelon vine till she finally saw a bee arrive and begin pollinating. We spent sometime trying to identify this little bee who we think is a native Australian honeybee.

Beeswax
We know that bees make honey but my children discovered, by reading The Life and Times of a Honey Bee by Charles Micuicci that bees also make wax. We have a local beekeeper who is going to talk with us next month so in the meantime I purchased a Beeswax Candle Making Kit from Spiral Garden for my children to explore.

Resource and Interest Shelf
As an interest in bees has grown, so has our interest shelf. We like using an interest as away of giving our resources in one place and it helps things organized. Some of the resources we have on our shelf I have already mentioned above. Books, together with google, have been used a lot during our learning and some of the books we have used are:

We also watched a few different documentaries from YouTube as well as Bee MovieMaya The Bee movie and the Magic School Bus In A Beehive which is available on YouTube. As this interest in honeybees continues I am sure our interest shelf will grow as my children’s knowledge will deepen and expand, all through interest-led learning.

You can find more resources and activity ideas about Bee and other insects, over on my Insect pinterest board

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Favorite Things Friday
Learn and Play Link Up 

Why camping is necessary for kids (and parents)

I have always loved camping especially when I was a child. The unknown adventure, the freedom and the endless learning possibilities that camping in nature offers us is truly priceless. So to give my children the same opportunities that I had as a child, we are making the most of this dry season by camping every chance we get. We have been camping a few times now at Kakadu National Park and on our recent trip, this past weekend, I got thinking about why camping is necessary for my kids and us as a family.
Unplugging
Our lives are busy and full of distractions from things such as television, Internet, ipads and phones to work comments, study and more. Kids can be just as busy and distracted so by unplugging and getting away from these distractions, allows us to reconnect with each other as a family, reconnect with nature and really de-stress from our hectic life. 

Freedom
With camping comes a freedom to be spontaneous, a freedom to shout and be loud, a freedom to get dirty, really dirty, a freedom to explore and play. This freedom is only found in the outdoors. 

When children are camping they’re not constraint by walls or a fenced backyard or a constructed playground, but they instead have an open space to run and explore with no limits or restrictions letting their imaginations run wild and free. There are no need for shelves of toys or learning resources as nature provides the most authentic learning environment for children as they go about exploring and engaging with nature.

Good Health
Being outdoors and surrounded by nature is so good for children’s health. Camping under the open skies with the fresh air, grass, trees, mud and dirt is not only good for our healthy but also our soul. Having endless hours of play, of exploring and letting your imagination be your guide is exactly what camping is all about.  

Memories
Camping will create wonderful childhood memories that will last a life time. My own childhood memories of camping with my family, exploring and having different adventures are still some of my most cherished memories.

Nature Experience

Although nature tables and nature walks are a major part of our learning, camping in nature is the ultimate nature experience. Camping under the wide open skies and stargazing, watching the sun rise and  chasing butterflies, finding bugs and grubs, searching for birds and watching them fly, building a campfire together, toasting marshmallows…..the list is endless as the opportunities are plenty.
 

The great thing about camping is that it is an affordable holiday (cheaper than hotels) for most families and the experiences you gain no amount of money would be able to buy. When is your next camping trip planned? 

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Australian History – We of the Never Never

As a young child I loved listening to stories my grandmothers told me about their lives in “the old days”. This art of story telling inspired my love of history from a very young age and it has stayed with me to this day. To me, history isn’t about recalling dates and facts but rather more about the story, the people and their lives. So when I was looking at what history we could learn about this year, I wanted to make sure that history came alive for my children, that a story was being retold and a connection was being made.
When we first came to the top end of Australia, we drove through a little town called Mataranka, Capital of the Never Never. Little did I know what amazing history that place held or that it would become a place of historical exploration for us. 

I went searching for more information on the town and what the meaning of “the Never Never” was all about. I quickly discovered Jeannie Gunn’s book, We of the Never Never. This book is an Australian classic which gives an autobiographical account of the year, 1903, that Jeanne and her husband Aenean (also known as Maluka in her story) left Melbourne and spent at the Elsey Station, near Mataranka, in the Northern Territory. 

I got my hands on Jeannie’s book and we read it. The language of the book is very old-fashion so my son found it hard to follow. So I found a copy of the DVD We of the Never Never and we watched this amazing Australian story come alive. You can see my list of 30+ films for learning about Australian History for more history film ideas. 

We made the trip to Mataranka to see a replica of the original homestead from Jeannie Gunn’s book. This replica was build for the filming of the movie however it is located not far from the original homestead site. The items in the homestead were very old and it was amazing to watch my children’s faces as they discovered the homestead had no electricity, no bathroom and no television.
 
 

In Jeannie’s story she talks about having conflicting interest with the homesteads cook. It was no surprise after seeing a replica of what the cooks “house” was like with limited facilities and a fire place for cooking, that made us realise how terrible harsh it was for them up here during that time.

It was easy to see how hard it must have been, over one hundred years ago, living there during the heat of summer and surviving the harsh environment with very little accommodations. It was important to note that the original homestead was built on (and the area around Roper River) the country of the Mangarayu and Yungman Indigenous people. This was the saddest part of the story as the land had been taken from them the traditional owners.

Our history exploring turned into a the nature curriculum as we explored the area around Mataranka. We found dragonflies, golden orb spiders and their HUGE webs as well as the gorgeous little wallabies. I love the Australian outdoors!

We visited Mataranka on a very HOT Northern Territory day and thankfully, right near the homestead, is the beautiful hot springs which are safe from crocodiles during the dry seasons.
We also went exploring at the Mataranka Bitter Springs which is home to an amazing amount of fresh water turtles and fish and other wildlife. It’s such a beautiful place and you can swim there too.

A status of Jeannie and Aeneas Gunn can be seen in the township of Mataranka as their story is ingrained in the history of the town.

I hope this post has encouraged you to make history relatable for your learners. History is everywhere we look and I want to encourage you to head outside and find the history, the stories, the people who live in your area and share the discovery of the past with your learners.

You can find more Australian history resources and ideas on my Australian History pinterest board. Be sure to follow us on Facebook or Instagram as we continued to explore Australian history in the top end of Australia.