Thursday, 12 October 2017

Hedgehogs and Autumn Fun

Autumn is my absolute favourite time of year! The colours, the clothes, the change in weather, the dark nights, the celebrations and all of the cosiness. I think some of this has rubbed off on the girls and we've been exploring lots about this beautiful season.

As with all of our projects, they are largely art based. Mainly because this is the medium the girls enjoy the most. At this age I really don't see this as a problem. This is how they choose to express themselves. I just listen to their ideas and roll with them.

To kick off our Autumn learning we were talking about seasonal changes and the creatures who are preparing to hibernate. The girls had lots of questions about our prickly friend the hedgehog.

We made some playdough hedgehogs, read about them in our encyclopedia and watched lots of YouTube videos about hedgehogs. Whilst watching we discovered that they are critically endangered in the UK, either due to badgers eating them or a loss of habitat. The girls wanted to know if there was anything we could do to help, so I had a look.

I found a local hedgehog hospital, about an hour away from us, so arranged a visit. I was overwhelmed when we got there. Elaine, the lady who runs it, does so from her own home. There are literally hundreds of hedgehogs here. The ones in the house were in critical condition and needed lots of rehabilitation. There were many more in the outbuildings who are almost ready to be released back into the wild. The staff are wonderful and Elaine is just an amazing, selfless lady. Our visit enabled us to hold them and get up close. We also learnt lots about their diet and how to care for them. They run entirely on donations, so if you fancy it you can do so via their website here.

We also made some hedgehog rolls using this recipe. They were so cute the girls didn't want to eat them. But they soon changed their minds when they were offered up fresh from the oven with lashings of butter.

We've read lots of books about Autumn, this is a new purchase. 'The Night Box' by Louise Greig and Ashling Lindsay. It's a sweet story about welcoming in the night and all of the nocturnal animals.

We've spent lots of time outdoors; where better to experience all this glorious season has to offer! We've collected leaves, conkers, pinecones and acorns. We've jumped in leaf piles and splashed in puddles.

We looked at the leaves we've collected under the microscope. Which lead to a discussion about the veins and how the leaves work. We talked about how the leaves transport the food and water into the rest of the tree. This then lead onto a discussion about trees releasing Oxygen into the atmosphere I was amazed when they said "trees breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen, that's why they are so important." We have discussed this in the past, and I was surprised that they remembered. Just proves that they don't need to write stuff down, or complete a worksheet to remember vital information. If it's relevant and engaging they'll store the knowledge away for future use!

We did an experiment to see why leaves lose their colour in Autumn. We crushed up a fresh green leaf from a tree, then put the bits into a glass. We then poured in an inch of white spirit, covered with cling film and left it for an hour. The water turned green. I explained that this was the chlorophyll leaving the leaf, and in Autumn the chlorophyll breaks down and this makes the green colour disappear and turns the leaves the colours of Autumn. It's a quick little experiment which perfectly explains the scientific process.

I set up this little invitation to paint using the light panel, things we've collected and I also put some leaves in an Ikea frame so the girls could see all of the patterns and veins. I think the leaves look really effective on the light panel.

We rounded off the topic with some wet felting. The girls love felting we all find it so therapeutic.

Little Bean made the hedgehog in a pile of leaves and Big Bean made an Autumn tree. I love watching their different processes. Little Bean made squares of felt, then cut them once dry and assembled them together. Big Bean sculpted hers when wet without any cutting. I love the finished products so much and I'll definitely be framing these so I can treasure them forever.

We've loved our Autumn learning so much, as usual creativity and being immersed in nature, with a little bit of science thrown in is the way to go for my girls.

I hope we've inspired a little bit of Autumn learning, art and play.

We're looking forward to the next few weeks of bats, bears and habitats. And of course lots of celebrating with Diwali, Halloween, Dia de los Muertos, and bonfire night just around the corner.

Happy Autumn Folks!

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