Another eventful and again chilly week at Free Rangers has seen the children on their hands and knees, armed with magnifying glasses and collecting jars scouring the nooks and crannies, under stones and logs and through Vince’s hair for a variety of bugs, creepy crawlies and mini beasts. The goal of this week was to look at the differences between the insects we found, as well as how they differed from ourselves (EYFS: Understanding the World). They utilised a range of different tools and equipment to fulfil this including jars and tubes, spoons, and magnifying glasses. Once the children had found a good selection, we brought them back to a 9 section specimen tray (see gallery below), so it was easier for the children to identify any differences between them.
Before embarking on our travels, books were skimmed for inspiration and there were extensive conversations over snack about what bugs we thought we could find, where we would find them and how they thought they could be found. Whilst some children thought pouncing on them would give them the edge, others felt the “softly softly, catchy wormy” technique would secure them a bug or two. Normally winter is a torpid (dormant) time for many creepy crawlies (until we woke them up that is) but there were still many finds on the ground to delight the children with: a range of beetle larvae with their menacing mandibles, the stripy Brandling or Tiger Worm (no they don’t growl), earwigs, slugs & snails and several different caterpillars. Also, thanks to the children, I now know 13 different comical names for Woodlice and Pill Bugs.
We also took the children down to the Pond to see what aquatic invertebrate we could net out. There is a great sense of nostalgia for me with this activity and I was quickly transported back to summer days with jam jars fishing out tadpoles from the pond at home. Here, we found pond snails, freshwater shrimp, Caddis Fly & Damsel Fly Larvae, a common frog, Greater Water Boatman and a beautiful but ominous dragonfly larva. The added element of fishing these from the murky depths only added to the activity, whether they found anything or not. Having Vince on board for these sessions is also invaluable as his knowledge of all things bug related is second to none. What Vince doesn't know about the slimy, the creepy and the wriggly, isn't worth knowing.
Another part of this activity which I am very keen to stress is of respect for what we found, and handling the mini-beasts with care. By instilling these values into their learning at this foundation stage when the children are still so open to new ideas and experiences, we hope to create a generation of naturalists that will continue the work of caring for their local habitats. If only a handful of children decide to take steps to better the environment and lives of all things great and small, and pass these values onto their children then surely it has all been worth it? I hope so. Similarly, I hope their time at Free Rangers Forest School will conjure heartfelt memories in their futures that will stay with them into their adult lives, and will inspire them back into the outdoors as it did for me, whether as a weekend pursuit or even a career.
Fingers crossed the children have been telling you about what they found. If not ask them what they can remember. Have a great weekend and see you all next week for more mini-bug adventures.
p.s. Why not go on your own mini beast hunts in the garden or park? Let us know what you find or even draw us picture!