The grassland path and seating area lends itself to sitting and absorbing the sounds and smells of the habitat.
Sitting on the seating area make a list of the children’s descriptive words. Discuss how many of the words depend upon sight?
Working in pairs, one child close eyes and say descriptive words eg: breeze, buzz, chirp, warm, car other child make a list of these words which can then be used to inform poetry or art work back at school.
When the children have observed some minibeasts in amongst the grasses, along the grass path or at the edges of the mown squared area, ask them how they moved.
3 children stand one behind the other.
Child 2 and 3 hold the waist of child in front.
Ask them to move like an insect.
When they have tried, talk about how they could make movement easier.
Read this poem “The Centipede”
The centipede was happy
Until the toad for fun,
Said, “Hey, which leg goes after which?”
Which worked his mind to such a pitch
He lay down sadly in a ditch,
Wondering how to run. Anon.
Introduces concept of camouflage and warning colours.
You will need: short lengths (about 10 cm) of lots of different coloured wool (caterpillars) a length of rope.
- Mark out area of grass with rope and scatter the wool lengths randomly within area.
- Split the children into 2 groups. One are the swallows, the others are the swifts. Each group now takes it in turns to go into the marked out area and collect one caterpillar each. Collect the caterpillars in each time both swifts and swallows have had a go and lay them on the ground in the order they have been collected. Continue till all are collected.
- Now look at the bundles of caterpillars collected. Do you notice anything? Help them to see that the brightly coloured caterpillars are the ones most likely to be picked first. Hopefully the darker browns and greens will be picked last. There may even be some left inside the marked area that are missed altogether.
- Explain that some invertebrates are very brightly coloured to warn predators that they may be poisonous, taste unpleasant or be able to sting.
Seeds are the result of sexual reproduction, and are the means by which plants maintain genetic variation in a population. Seeds are also the way in which plants spread across a landscape. In most cases they will fall within a relatively short distance of the parent plant. This means they are guaranteed to fall in a habitat which is suitable for growth, but they will have to compete with their parents and siblings for space, light, etc. Many plants have developed clever dispersal mechanisms for spreading their seed over some distance. Some are light and blow in the wind, others have wings and parachutes, and some are sticky or have hooks which allows them to attach to animals.
Children will be surprised at how many seeds they gather on their feet walking the grass path.Many seeds which don’t seem to have any dispersal mechanism become sticky when wet and attach to the feet of birds and other animals.
You need before leaving Velator, to take a trowel + scrape mud from shoes into a plastic bag. Later access to an oven, metal tray, seed tray + soil.
- Sterilise the soil by placing it in the metal tray and heating it in the oven (or use a peat-free potting compost). Once the soil has cooled, place it in the seed tray.
- Empty the mud from the bag on to the sterilised soil or potting compost. Water thoroughly.
- Place a piece of glass over the tray and leave it in a warm place until germination. How many different varieties of plants do you have?
This is best done inside, or outside on a still day.
You will need: some chalk, a hairdryer and a tape measure.
- Collect some dandelion seeds with their parachutes still attached.
- Drop a parachute directly above a cross-chalked on the floor. Measure how far it travels horizontally from the cross. Repeat this 10 times and find the average distance.
- Repeat the experiment but this time use a hairdryer blowing the air from one metre away, and see how far the parachute is carried.
- Repeat with a gentler wind (hairdryer two metres away).
Does the wind strength affect the distance travelled by the seed? Do the seeds always land in the same place? Try this experiment with other parachute seeds. Which travels the furthest?Extracts taken from The Staffordshire Wildlife Trust Grassland Pack