In 2015, Te Papa is creating a science teacher resource to support you to ‘do science’ with young children in your own backyard environments – with a focus on the invertebrates who make these places home.
One of the three ECE centres working with us on this project is Raumati South Kindergarten.
After an initial visit from Te Papa Education, the tamariki (children) and kaiako (teachers) have been busy indeed. I recently received this HUGE collection of learning stories in the mail, showing all their mahi (work) to date!
Raumati Kindy have approached the project in a different way to Imagine Childcare (another partner in this project); building their five key scientific capabilities more through individual and small group investigations of various insects.
It is a real pleasure to be able to share some of their journey through this update.
Gathering and interpreting data:
Given their small and delicate bodies, it can be very easy to hurt insects. For this reason, the children and teachers at Raumati South Kindy have made sure to have group korero (talks) around caring for insects, and have come up with their own ‘code of ethics’ for gathering of data for this project.
A commitment to using humane techniques for collecting study specimens (e.g. pitfall traps) comes through strongly in the learning stories. As does the understanding that insects should only really be kept in containers for a relatively short time (2 days max), before being returned right back to their home.
The lifecycle of the Monarch butterfly has been followed with interest by many. From the tiny creamy eggs found on the leaves of their swan plants hatched tiny white, yellow and black caterpillars. But the caterpillars didn’t stay small for long! The children noticed that they munched and munched at the leaves, and grew longer, bigger and plump. Raumati South have taken photographs, and drawn pictures to help document this behaviour, and its effects.
When one of the caterpillars started to hang upside down, and curl up its body, it was decided to bring it inside. This is so the children and adults could observe the metamorphic process more closely. The photo-journal below was one way in which they captured the changes occurring.
Careful observational drawings of the butterflies (and other insects) have been done in the classroom. Lieza was one child who showed a great eye for detail, ensuring that she had the colours, and anatomical features (number of legs, antennas, winds, eyes, spots) down pat.
Unknown species have been encountered while doing fieldwork too. Mia, for example, saw something quite different on a leaf. She looked really closely at the creature (a type of caterpillar it was thought) using her magnify glass. She noticed features she couldn’t see with just her eyes alone. This caterpillar had many hairs on its body, as well as black dots. She even saw its head and eyes! Looking in available reference books didn’t help solve the mystery this time. Mia decided to draw a picture of her findings instead; carefully ensuring that all the body parts were accounted for. This record could prove useful in identifying it at a later date.
Then again, with an estimated 4700-6500 unknown insect species roaming around Aotearoa (according to the NZ Inventory of Diversity, Vol 2), maybe Mia’s mahi is the first documentation of a brand new caterpillar! Wouldn’t that be exciting!?
Tamariki and kaiako have also looked to technology to help them find out more. One learning story details how Tash (kaiako) and Nerys watched a video online all about a new design for honeybee hives. Hands-on experiences with the products of insects have helped to make connections too. When Tash showed Nerys a piece of beeswax, she linked its smell to another more familiar bee product: “Honey! It smells like honey!” she said.
Using the OHP to blow up copies of photographs and images from exhibitions allowed the children to take an even closer look at the anatomy of insects. This practice transitioned into making silhouettes, and through problem solving, working out how to distinguish or find insects based on their shape.
The NatureWatch NZ website has been utilised for tricky cases. Asking for help from other knowledgeable people is all part of the fun of science! Books are another great resource for learning more. Andrew Crowe’s The Life Size Guide to Insects & Other Land Invertebrates of New Zealand has become one of Raumati South’s favourites. Other non-fiction titles have also been a hit in the book corner too.
Raumati South Kindy have engaged in a lot of theory building; using their observations as their evidence. Here are some examples:
Lucas spent some time one morning looking on the swan plants in the garden for a chrysalis he had seen previously. When he and his teacher couldn’t find it, and instead saw a butterfly high up on top of a nearby plant, he explained to her that “[he] knew it had come from the chrysalis.”
Nerys used her first-hand knowledge of bees to construct her theory that bees use nectar to make honey and that they mix this substance together in their bottoms. Her indirect observations from stories and film footage added to her explainations too. She went on to test the validity of her thoughts by doing more research with her teacher.
Rose’s insect focus was ladybirds. She theorised that like Daddy Long Leg spiders, the ladybird needs to be able to come and go to get their food. She thought that being trapped and kept as a pet would not work long term for a ladybird. With further research she discovered their favourite food is aphids and that they do not eat leaves too.
Tash (kaiako) wondered about the monarch caterpillars tentacles. What is their purpose? After watching the caterpillars for a while, and consulting a book, Grace and Oscar proposed that the two sets might help them to move around. They also agreed that the holes in the leaves confirmed that the swan plant was the caterpillar’s food source.
Arlo, Aria and Mia were very interested in a shiny blue beetle that turned up at Kindy. It was quite different from anything they had seen before and so they decided it most likely wasn’t native to the Raumati area. Arlo thought it might be from Auckland, but it was discovered that the Steely Blue Ladybug had actually come all the way from Australia!
“How did it get here?” asked kaiako Tash. Mia pondered this question, and came up with this theory: “…they fly for three or four weeks, then they crawl under a stone and have a rest.”
Raumati South Kindy has been thinking carefully about their methodology – i.e.. the way that they go about their observations.
They decided that looking in just one area every time would not necessarily give them a very good knowledge of all the insects that are out there. As a result, they have made sure that they visit many different places within their environment whilst out on their scouting missions.
Likewise, the children and teachers have decided that visiting a particular area just once is probably not enough to get a good survey either. Insects lead busy lives just like us, you know! On revisiting the harakeke (NZ flax) bushes one morning, the children discovered an unexpected taonga (treasure)…
Raumati South Kindy have represented their ideas and processes in a variety of ways, just like other scientists do.
The pictures below detail how caught specimens have been kept in jars; highlighting that separate containers were used for different species (I suspect in case someone got hungry…).
Briar saved a Bumble bee from being stomped on by helping it to fly away. She drew this diagram below to outline all the things that this insect needs to live.
Nathan built a model of a locust to communicate how their bodies work. Did you know that they listen with their abdomens, and talk to each other by rubbing their legs together?!
Engaging with science:
Making insect houses has been a real world application of the children’s growing scientific knowledge at Raumati South Kindy. Kaitlyn spent a lot of time on this particular activity. She thought about how an insect needs a refuge from the “weather” so to keep warm, safe and dry. Her creation would help to meet these requirements.
Educating whānau has also been important for the children. Sam and some of his friends made a real point of showing his Dad all of the pitfall traps hidden around the garden, and explaining how they worked. Kaiako Jo reported that by the end Sam’s Dad was just as excited as the boys, and said that they could set pitfall traps at home too. What a great outcome!
Learning how to be kaitiaki (guardians) on a daily basis is another way the children have ‘engaged with science’. Aneke and Hollie found out through helping with morning kai preparations that feeding the worms (as well as the guinea pig, rabbit and chickens) is something they could easily take responsibility for. By giving to the worms, the worms give back. This is in the form of their vermacast and worm wees which feed the soil; making the plants grow.
Raumati South – kua hanga e koe he takoha nui ki tenei kaupapa kua (you have made an important contribution to this project already). Te pupuri ake te mahi nui! (Keep up the great work).
The ‘It’s a Bugs Life’ resource should be ready for distribution nationwide in Term 4, 2015.