This photograph of my bees was taken on Sunday 24th January. The bees should be forming a cluster deep in the hive; instead they are as busy as they were in the summer. They are not alone; there reports up and down the country of wildlife from daffodils to slow worms, which is out of season, confused by the mild weather.
This muddies the water somewhat when looking for signs of spring with younger children! However, whether signs of spring are very early or at the expected time, noticing them can be a wonderful opportunity to involve children in ‘Citizen Science’. This is when data is collected from a large number of ‘ordinairy’ people and used by scientists. A good example of citizen science is the Big Garden Bird Watch (this weekend and until February 2nd in schools) which has been running for nearly forty years and has been used to track the changing fortunes of British birds.
The Woodland Trust also collects data from as many people as possible about the first signs of spring and autumn. They ask that people look out for certain signs such as the first snowdrop flower or the first ladybird and record them on their ‘Nature’s Calendar‘. They then use this information to track the progress of spring accross the country and to monitor long term climate changes. If you live in the UK I think that this would be a lovely thing to do with your class and perhaps involve families too
When I went out to check the ice mobiles late nast night they were melting fast; you can see the water dripping from the bottom of this one.
However, I was surprised to find that the one with brown leaves was still considerably largely than the one with green leaves and berries! “Why would that be?” I asked myself. After all, they were both exactly the same size; I had hung them out at exactly the same time and both were equally frozen solid.
In this photograph you can see how much bigger the lower one is than the higher one.
Surely a few inches in height hadn’t made any difference? I looked back at the picture that I took when I first hung them out.
Mmmmm….. Could the orientation of the ice mobiles have anything to do with it? The higher mobile is facing almost directly South. How could I find out if this is what made a difference?
This surprise finding got me thinking. What if I had followed the instructions on the Nature Detective site and boiled the water to make a clear mobile? Would that have made a difference? What if I had dyed the water I used so that the mobiles were different colours? Would that have altered the speed that the ice melted? What about the height that I hung them? What if I made ice mobiles with salty water? What if I made them with sugary water?
So many ‘What Ifs’. I think that the best science lessons start when children generate lots of ‘What Ifs’ for themselves and then think of their own ways to find out. How do you encourage the children in your class to ask “What if……?”
This morning the ice mobiles were gone. There was no sign that they had ever hung in the apple tree; my experiment was over. Tomorrow I’ll tell you about an icy experiment with my class that lasted for more than a fortnight!
Yesterday I was writing about signs of spring. Today, the predicted cold night has led to a frosty world and I am writing about ice mobiles. I originally got the idea from the Nature Detectives web site. When I did it with my class we froze the mobiles outside overnight. It was very exciting coming into school in the morning to find that it had worked!
Will the ice have frozen hard enough to hang the mobile up?
Phew, it worked! Doesn’t it look beautiful?
I made mine in the freezer and have been waiting for some cold weather so that I can hang them up.
I wonder how long they will last?
I suppose I should have hung them in different places in the garden and tried to predict which would last longest as that would have been a good opportunity to make predictions and to observe over time.
Instead I hung them both in the apple tree. How are you enjoying this frosty weather?
The weather here has certainly turned a lot colder! However, as Early Years teachers are fond of saying “There is no unsuitable weather; just unsuitable clothing!” The trouble is there
may be will certainly be some children in your class who are reluctant to put on coats, however cold the weather becomes. Conversely, even in the middle of a heat wave there are a few children who need to be forced to take their sweatshirts off!
To help develop children’s awareness of the importance of choosing suitable clothing it can be worth having a class mascot and a selection of clothing which children need to dress for the appropriate weather each day. In the early years classroom this could be a significant part of the welcome routine; for older children it is likely to be a bit more light hearted. In all classrooms it is an opportunity for children to think about why we wear the clothes that we do, and perhaps to take more responsibility for the choices that they make.
I hope that you are enjoying the seasonal weather wherever you are, and managing to keep warm.