Outdoor Learning

The children in 4M and half of the Reception class joined me for our first outdoor sessions this week. We had a lot of fun. We were noticing how much nature is on our school site. I loved watching the children take care of each other in the hammock, decide their own safety rules with the rope swing, build their own den, make marvelous mud pies and take on the challenge of a new knot!

We got to know Hazel a little better – keep your eyes peeled for those tall straight shiny poles that often grow in clusters (see pic below).

Here is a picture and video for the knot that 4M tried out together, round turn and two half hitches, a super useful one for lots of tasks.

This week, CAN YOU SPOT?

May – Bluebells

April – Greater Stitchwort

April – Goat Willow Catkins This week, can you spot some Salix Caprea catkins?

Gathering male twigs as ‘palms’ on Palm Sunday is an old country tradition. In March, silver male catkins swell out of their bud scales and turn gold as their stamens elongate. Female trees have spiky green catkins but both sexes produce nectar, attracting bees, butterflies and blue tits. As one of its names suggests, goats like to eat the catkins. Willow bark infusions contain salicylic acid, the active compound in aspirin, and are an old remedy for aches and pains.

12/4/21 – Sorry, I was so busy on outdoor adventures that I forgot to update here!

5/4/21 – Young Hawthorn Leaves This week, see if you can spot the young leaves of the Hawthorn coming out. It is another plant that you will often find used as hedging. Below is a picture of the young leaves coming out. You can eat these leaves and they were often know as ‘bread and butter’. There is a lot of folklore surrounding the Hawthorn. Superstition says that you should not bring it into the house, and there is evidence of roads and sewers being diverted so as not to cut one down (see link below for some memories).

March – Blackthorn blossom Blackthorn is often grown as hedging so see if you can spot its blossom in a hedge this week. The blackthorn has long spikes coming off its stems. You can tell the difference between Blackthorn and Hawthorn (another blossoming shrub often used for hedging) because the Blackthorn produces its blossom before the new leaves come out. Hawthorn is the opposite and the leaves grow first.

March – A bird carrying nesting material (a feather, a twig, grass)?

March – Birds fighting (they are battling for territory before nesting)?

An Easter holiday activity

Here is my Coastal School tutor, Laura from Essex Wildlife Trust explaining how to dye eggs using natural materials. If you have a go, send me a picture to zlaughton@millfieldsprimary.com and I can post them on this page.

Nest building season is here!

The birds are busy building their nests at this time of year! Here is a link for a birds nest identification chart if you you should come across a nest in a tree or hedge.

Please remember to leave the nest in peace so the parent birds or babies don’t get disturbed.

Good websites for Wildlife Spotting!

The Wildlife Trusts have lots of really exciting DIY, art and craft activities to help you engage with the beautiful British wildlife we have around us! https://www.wildlifewatch.org.uk/activities

The National Trust also has useful information to help you spot or wonderful wildlife! https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/prior-park-landscape-garden/features/top-tips-for-spotting-wildlife

The Countryside Classroom has great wildlife spotting sheets to download: https://www.countrysideclassroom.org.uk/resources/705

Spring is on the way!

The days are getting longer, the birds are starting to sing – Spring is very much on its way. Maybe you’ve also noticed that the New Life you were spotting a few weeks ago is getting taller, plumper and in some cases colour is bursting out.

This week can you spot a snow drop? A crocus? A daffodil? Maybe even a primrose? A primrose comes from the word prima, first, the first rose. I’ve attached images of these February/March flowers below. The others on the spotter sheet will be out soon so keep your eyes peeled.

As an activity this week, how about making a Journey Stick? The indigenous people of Australia made these to mark their long journeys and help them to remember them to retell when they got back home again. I’ve attached a picture below. You will need some pre-cut lengths of string, ribbon or wool (maybe 10cm each), or some elastic bands. Head out on a walk. Lead your adult and choose the way that you will go. The first thing that you need to find is a good stick. For this task a stick just a little bit shorter than your forearm works well. It might be good to find this stick on one walk and then use is as your Journey Stick on another so you can start adding things straight from home? You decide. Next look along your path and find interesting things to add on to your stick. Start at the bottom and attach a leaf, a feather, a petal, a catkin, a pinecone, whatever you find along the way. Try to only take things that have already fallen and are on the ground. If you really love something and can’t find a fallen one, then make sure that it is in abundance on the tree/plant before you consider taking it. Flowers, seeds and leaves are all needed by insects, birds or the plants themselves.

Continue along your journey adding things on to your stick. When you get home you can tell the story of your journey to those that did not come – maybe Zoom call your Granny and tell her your story? That might just make her day…

Ice decorations

It’s going to be below freezing for the next few days. Here’s an activity that you can try in the icy conditions.

You will need;
– a cupcake tray, or any small container (the bottom of a plastic bottle, food containers, old yoghurt pots)
– water
– string or wool
– eagle eyes

Hunt around a natural space for things of interest. Leaves, twigs, feathers, berries, cones. It’s best to only take things that have already fallen. If you choose to take berries, remember that they are food for the birds so only take a few and check with an adult that you know what they are first.

Arrange your items in your container, cover with water and drape a loop of string in the water, leaving a section outside that will be your loop to hang your decoration. Wait for your decoration to freeze (or pop in the freezer if temperatures rise), use warm water to release and hang up your decoration from a tree or plant to enjoy. How long will it last before it melts? Remember to collect your string again and dispose of it in the correct way.

Happy decorating.

Trees trees trees

Trees trees trees!
I love trees. We give them the gas that they need, and they give us what we need, how cool is that? Unlike us where we might have a house that is home to 3,4, maybe 5 people, a mature oak can be home to thousands and thousands of creatures. The oak provides food in the form of millions of acorns over its life to badgers, deer, jays, rooks wood pigeons, pheasants, ducks, squirrels and mice. The thousands of bugs that live in oaks can be food for birds such as nuthatches, tree creepers, pied flycatchers, woodpeckers and tits. Bats roost in old woodpecker holes or under loose bark. An old oak can be home to more than 300 species and subspecies of lichen, that grey patchy stuff that can grow on trees or stone walls. Some oaks can live to 900! In one year a mature oak will produce 700,000 leaves!! They say it takes an oak 300 years to grow up, 300 years to live, and 300 years to die. There will be some species that like to live in young oaks and some, like some mushrooms, that will only grow on it when it is over 600 years old. Do you see why I love trees? They are amazing, and a whole world of life can live in and around them.

Notice the trees in your neighbourhood when out on a walk. Where are the biggest trees growing? Can you see any baby trees (saplings)? Go up close and feel the bark, do you notice differences from one tree to another? Choose a favourite and talk about why you like it. Identifying trees in winter is soooo much harder because they do not have their leaves on. But the Hazel has dingly dangly catkins on right now and shiny bark, maybe you will spot one of those? I’ve attached a picture.

Activity: Get your hands dirty and make a mud face on a tree (see pic below)! Or a snow face like Dylan in Year 4 did! Great thinking Dylan.

Game: Nature Traffic Light Game. I sometimes use the Traffic Light Game as a warm up in PE. When I shout ‘red’ everyone must be still, ‘yellow’ is walking around the room and ‘green’ running. I change the colours quickly back and forth to make lots of darting around and changing speed. Create your own version of this with nature. Think of things that are still, or maybe just move in the wind for red, Oak, Hazel, Mushroom, Daisy? Something slow moving for Yellow, snail, beetle, slowworm, a wood pigeon on the ground? Then something speedy for green, blue tit, jay, deer, rabbit, mouse? Get an adult to shout out each creature and swap them quickly to get you nice and warm while out and about.


This week let’s notice the birds. Head outside, look and listen. What birds can you see? Can you hear any? Are they singing or giving off an alarm call to warn others that you are approaching? Can you recognise any of the birds that you see? Do they fly around alone or in a group? Are they flying in a V formation?

Each bird has a different type of behaviour and personality. Canada Geese usually fly in a V formation, in a group and their groups support each other well. Other birds like the Robin are mostly spotted alone. Watch how the birds that you spot fly. This is often different too, some bob up and down in flight and others glide smoothly. If you wanted a creative activity you could research birds, copy one accurately and attach it to a long stick to fly about in the same way that it flies in nature. Attached below are some photos of children that have created birds on sticks and are flying them out and about.

Also attached below are links to a website where you can listen to the call of different birds to find out how they sound. If your parents are happy, download the app Chirpomatic on to one of their phones and you can record birdsong while you are out and about and it will help you to identify what bird in may be.

Instead of a game this week, see if you can complete a Sitting Bird Meditation. Head out with a long waterproof coat on, or a plastic bag to sit on. Find a peaceful spot in nature and sit down like a bird in its nest. The adult that you are with can join in with this activity with you but maybe they will choose a different spot on their own not too far away. Set a five min timer on a phone. See if you can spend the whole five mins sitting still, just like a bird, just observing the nature around you. Try to stay focused and in the moment. Notice thoughts when they come up and then go back to noticing what is happening around you. Look at nature close up and far away. What can you see moving? What is happening? See if you can be quiet and still for the whole five mins. Notice how you feel afterwards.

Happy outdoor adventures this week everyone.

Mrs Laughton

New Life
Winter is a season when things can seem quiet outside, where the trees have lost their leaves, the flowers and fruits have mostly gone and we wait quietly for things to come to life again. There is however, lots and lots of new life out there. As a focus for an outdoor adventure this week, go in search of New Life. Maybe you will find some snowdrops or winter aconites (snowdrops are the white flowers below and winter aconite the yellow one), I found both of these this week? Lift up a piece of dead wood on the ground and see if you can spot some new life below. Look at the end of twigs and branches, can you spot some new life in the form of buds coming through there? Look for spring bulbs popping up getting ready to flower in a few months time.

Tip: Due to the lack of pesticides and undisturbed soil, a churchyard is a great place to nature spot. I spotted my snowdrops and winter aconite in one.

The lack of fruits and seeds means that winter is a really important time to feed the birds. I’ve attached a link below to different types of bird feeder that you could make. I know it’s CBeebies, the simplicity makes it nice and easy!

A game to keep warm outside this week: You’re Only Safe If.

Adults and children can play this game together. The leader states ‘You’re only safe if… you’re touching something green/soft/wriggly/living/manmade/off the ground…’, then it’s a game of tag – with the leader trying to catch everyone until they’re touching the safe thing. We love playing this to keep warm on winter walks – it’s amazing how many categories you can come up with!


Sensory Winter Walk
Go on a walk in nature where you use all of your senses. What can you see? What can you hear? What can you smell? What could you touch? Tasting is not so easy at this time of year as many plants have lost their leaves or their fruit has all fallen. Maybe you have a mint leaf in your house or garden that you could try, or another edible plant like lettuce, spinach or cabbage. Or you could munch on a root like a carrot? 
When you are looking, see if you can spot any moss? Moss LOVES this wet time of year. I have attached some images and information about moss for those of you that are interested. 

Also attached a sensory game to play outside this week. Here is a picture of the game in action!


Zoe Laughton Class Teacher (Mon-Tues Yr 4/Wed Yr3)

Would you like to find out more about the Natural World – here’s a fun investigation into Marvellous Moss!