Tag Archives: education

10 Hungry Caterpillar Inspired Activities

To celebrate the 40th birthday of one of the world’s most famous picture books, I have 10 Hungry Caterpillar inspired activities.

  1. clay caterpillarMaths: Build caterpillars from dough or clay. Count the number of segments that make up the caterpillar. Play a matching game – place the correct caterpillar on the leaf with the matching colour or number of segments.

2. Imaginary Play: My eldest followed an enveloping schema for years. She would hoard things in little bags and containers and if you ever left anything around that she could climb into, you would find her inside. On one occasion I left a fabric storage bin in her room. She promptly climbed inside declaring that she was in her cocoon and soon emerged as a beautiful butterfly. Provide material, boxes, play tunnels, blankets, wings and deely boppers.

3. Song and Rhyme: Sing the caterpillar on a leaf song or sit behind your child and pretend to crawl a caterpillar up their back.  Teach them to ask ‘Whose that climbing up the garden wall?’ and you reply in a caterpillar like voice ‘It’s me’ said the caterpillar ‘I’m learning how to crawl’.

4.painting butterflies Paint symmetrical butterfly pictures: I’m sure we all remember these from school days. Paint on one side, fold the paper over to create a symmetrical print on the other.  This can also work well by painting a piece of string, placing it between the folded paper and then pulling it out whilst the paper is still folded.

5. Movement: Read the Hungry Caterpillar and give the children movements to follow during the story. Egg – curl up in a ball, caterpillar – crawl along the floor moving to eat different types of food,  big fat caterpillar – stretch out wide, cocoon – spin slowly then hang their head between their legs, staying very still, butterfly – flap their wings and fly.

6. Discovery – it is a little cold yet but once the weather is warmer, grow your own butterflies. We have done this very successfully using kits from Insectlore. It is fascinating to watch how quickly the tiny caterpillars grow and then instinctively hang upside down. You soon get to recognise when the butterflies are ready to emerge and can feed them indoors for a day or 2 before releasing them into the garden. The species that they use tend to stay within your local area for a few days after being released so you can spot them in the garden.

Find out about the butterflies and caterpillars that can be found in your locality, and print pictures of more exotic species.

7. Food: Make a fruit salad using the fruits eaten by the Hungry Caterpillar or taste some of the more unusual foods he ate.  We are a big juicing family so we are going to make Hungry Caterpillar juice using:

1 apple

2 pears

3 plums

4 strawberries

5 oranges

 8.finger caterpillar Maths: Turn your finger into a crawling caterpillar and measure things in caterpillar steps.measuring caterpillar

9. Outdoors – Grow a butterfly garden. I saw some amazing butterflies in our garden last year that are fairly commonplace in this area. I’m definitely going to learn about how I can attract them this year.

10. Visit a Butterfly Farm. I can highly recommend the butterfly house at Bristol Zoo and Felinwynt Rainforest Centre in West Wales.  In Seattle there is the Butterfly House at the Pacific Science Centre . Feel free to add any recommendations in the comments.

And don’t forget to read the book……

The ParaNorman Local Legends Schools and Libraries Initiative

Right From the Start will soon be reviewing this new DVD and offering readers the chance to enter a fantastic giveaway. In the meantime I wanted to share an initiative for schools and libraries in association with the release.

ParaNorman is a stunning animation which is the 1st ever stop motion film to utilize full-color 3D for replacement animation. The marvel concerns the misadventure of a young outsider called Norman who becomes a hero and saves his town.

The School and Libraries Initiative is targeted at children aged 7 – 10 years and aims to promote the opportunity that the film provides to explore the themes of local legends and individuality.

The initiative will provide a complete, high calibre teaching solution (creative, exciting and fully integrated into the National Curriculum) for Year 5 & 6 teachers that seamlessly works ParaNorman into a week of cross-curricular lesson plans
Additionally it will provide a complete library event that engages 7-10 year olds, encourages research and promotes ParaNorman. The event is linked to their local community and cements the place of the library within the children’s locality.
This is based around the idea of each community having its own local legends, ghost stories, folklore, oral history or unique characters.

In the classroom children will research or create these (e.g. you could create a school legend of your own) using history, geography, creative writing, art and drama.

In the library setting this will take the form of an event using local stories and history as a starting point, inviting local historians, museums, actors and writers in to take part.
Throughout the process, teachers and librarians will be using Norman’s tale as an example and using ParaNorman resources to illustrate their teaching/discussion points.
Participating groups will showcase their creative work (work that runs with the themes of ParaNorman) to Universal for a chance to win £1000 of media equipment  for schools and  funding for a children’s reading area makeover  for libraries.

Suggested ways of doing this are creating an online album, writing a class ‘local’ newspaper, writing a play about their local legend, creating a mural, creating a storyboard or flick book for a stop-motion short story.
Resource packs will be mailed out to participating schools and libraries. These will include the following:
o Covering letter with hints, tips and a drive to online resources for the teacher or librarian
o Poster for classroom/event poster for library
o ParaNorman giveaways (stickers, bookmarks, postcards, masks)
o ParaNorman Local Legends Reporter’s Notebook – a fully branded 8pp notebook with space for children to write their findings, draw and map their discoveries. This will also include an incentive to purchase the DVD.

Schools and libraries can register by visiting http://www.paranormanlegends.co.uk . Lesson plans will be available to download from the site from 14th January.  The first 100 schools to register will receive a complimentary DVD pack and a hard copy of the lesson plans.

The DVD is released in the UK on 28th January Blu-ray, 3D and DVD pack RRP £24.99, DVD RRP £19.99.

Why Use Technology in Education? Professor Tanya Byron

In the above video from Tanya Byron’s keynote speech at the 2011 FOSI conference, she explains her response to the government when faced with this question.  She speaks with such passion and conviction and I found myself nodding with excitement all the way through.

I think there are 2 key points to this argument.  Firstly that education needs to be made more relevant to children’s everyday experience. Children live in a multimedia world and are excited by it.  Bringing this multimedia world into their education will make learning more exciting and when learning is exciting we achieve better results.

My 7 year old often says school is boring and she hates writing.  She is one of the brightest children in her class, if she finds it boring imagine how the least able children feel. Which brings me to the second point.  Education in this country is about whether or not you are academic, if you are academic you are clever , otherwise you are not and pushed down a seemingly less important vocational route. This notion of what ‘clever’ is forms from the very beginning of school and unfortunately it is often boys who are not academic and would prefer to do something more active. Unsurprisingly the gap between boys and girls widens.

When children lack motivation they misbehave and eventually give up on school altogether ( as happened with my younger brother). Technology has so much promise as a way of engaging children and raising standards.  It is relevant to their lives and gives them skills for their future.  My own daughter’s teacher recognised that children of this generation will be unlikely to use pen and paper as a main source of writing in the future.  Yet there is still fear about doing something different and worries that they have insufficient equipment .

This is why we need inspirational leaders, with ideas, energy and enthusiasm to show teachers what can be done. If enough influential people share this message, perhaps one day we will be heard.

TEDx London 2011 The Education Revolution

I was fortunate to attend TEDx London this weekend. This event was born from issues raised in Sir Ken Robinson’s 2010 TED talk and was designed to raise the question ‘ How can we bring on the Education Revolution?’

What can all those involved ACTUALLY  DO to ensure that the old and irrelevant in education is thrown out and  that we can build a new model of constant reinvention to ensure that  education provides what industry requires and more importantly what   young people need to flourish in today’s world.

I returned from TEDx London, my head buzzing with ideas, questions and things to explore.  Many of the underlying concepts were not new but were reiterated by passionate individuals and illustrated by exciting examples from the world of education. These were some of my highlights:-

The talks were split into 3 sections

  1. What’s Wrong / What’s Happening
  2. What’s Right
  3. What’s Next.

The first session began with a live feed from Sir Ken Robinson.  He discussed his views on the purpose of education

Economic – Education underpins the modern economy and for a modern economy there is a need for creativity and innovation.

 Cultural – Helping to understand each others cultures and relieve the problems of cultural mistrust.

Personal – Education is about individuals, it cannot be mechanistic and should encourage students to become engaged.  For this reason education should be personalised.

Sir Ken Robinson’s vision for change includes

  • Education that is personalised
  • Improvements in the motivation of both students and teachers
  • Education that is customised to the needs of the particular community or individual school
  • Education is about diversity and standardisation offends diversity.
  • Education is about partnership with great institutions and the community.

A number of these points were a common thread throughout the talks.  The importance of recognising children as individuals and encouraging, rather than stifling their talents and interests, came time and again. The need to motivate children and encourage them to think for themselves and the many possibilities that technology offers  also kept reappearing.

I consider myself fortunate to work in Early Education.  Active learning, teaching that stems from children’s interests and strengths and listening to the child’s voice are fairly widespread.  Learning is fun in the early years and it would be unusual to find a pre-school child who grumbled that school was boring. I hope that all education can take lessons from early education at its best.

Adam Roberts an 18 year old human rights campaigner talked about  critical thinking and how his mother’s encouragement to ask questions set him up for life. As young children we instinctively ask questions, but as we grow older children are often discouraged from questioning. This point was made even more strongly in Ewan McIntosh’s talk. Ewan explained the need for children to be problem finders rather than problem solvers.  He showed a group of 7 and 8 year olds who were asked to put on their own TEDx event.  The children were inspired to come up with their own questions, prompted by ‘have you ever wondered?’ The children came up with wonderful philosophical questions and the excitement and animation shown by the children was truly infectious.

Another common thread was the potential for  embracing social media and technology in the classroom.  By doing this we are bringing the real world into the classroom rather than viewing education and school as separate to other aspects of life. Dan Roberts  believes strongly in education through technology and demonstrated some of the things his students at Saltash.net Community School are doing.

The What’s Right sessions showed a number of inspirational projects including:

History pin – building a history of real people and places using photographs and video footage.

A workshop from Seeper with a school for children on the autistic spectrum, showing how technology can motivate and engage children.

Dr Matt Whitby  showing how awe-inspiring science can be, through his off the wall science experiments.

Tim Exile – a musician who has invented a machine to create spontaneous electronic music using a variety of sounds.

The Final session involved speakers who are thinking in a new way and their pleas for like-minded individuals to join them in this journey.

Dougald Hine was inspirational.  He talked about change  with determination and self belief, a firm believer in making things  happen.

Emily Cummings the 24 year old inventor has been named Barclays woman of the year in 2009 and one of the top ten outstanding young people in the world in 2010.  She explained how her passion for designing began when her grandfather taught her to make things in his workshop. Teachers recognised her talent and entered her for competitions, harnessing her enthusiasm and giving her new goals.

Sir Ken Robinson closed the day with a plea to make alternatives a part of the mainstream.  A new vision for education including personalised learning, group activity, the closeness of the community and using and sharing talents.  Many of the case studies from young people at the conference showed that talents were often discovered and utilised outside of school.The community then has an important role to play in educating children.

The closing lines resonated with me

New technologies will make change possible.

Technology alone doesn’t do much, it’s what we do with it that matters.

There were some wonderful examples of what we do with technology and creative thinking.  I came away with lots of ideas and things that I wanted to share but also a feeling of uncertainty about what I can do to make a difference.  I want to share inspirational ideas and inspire others to try new ways of teaching.  Why?  I believe that we need to be able to use the tools that children are used to at home and that will form a large part of their future rather than sweeping them under the carpet .  Technology will not replace traditional play but will enhance it if we use it creatively. It gives opportunities for awe and wonder, for raising questions, self discovery and creative expression. My endeavour is to show this in practice and inspire others to do the same.

You can join the discussion here. Further videos of the conference can be viewed here

My Grown Up Weekend part 3 – Festival of Education Bob Geldof

Besides the fabulous weather and the chance to chill out in the sunshine in beautiful surroundings, the highlight of the festival was Bob Geldof’s Speech.

He was relaxed, engaging, funny and above all passionate. He used a rich intelligent vocabulary, peppered with a few swear words and held the audience in the palm of his hand.  The speech began with recollections of his own experience of education which he described as ‘ a horror’. The 2 saving graces were radio and poetry.  Radio helped him to see other possibilities – the possibility of change.

He talked of a key message that he had learned from Africa

Only the educated are free.

Inequality is a signature feature of today’s society and in an asymmetric world instability is inherent.  42 million children went to school for the first time as a result of the G8 cancelling national debt, these children have an entrepreneurial spirit far greater than children in our own culture. Similarly in China 400 million  people have been pulled out of poverty enabling them to become world market leaders. In the UK education has become a given right and therefore children derive little inspiration from it – perhaps then it is time for a shift in the purpose of education.

Bob Geldof talked of the role of education in this country.  He described values as shaping our future.  Britain is the most tolerant of all countries and we will only keep to that through education.  The cliché is that children are our future, but how do they become our future? The UK is full of creativity, it has fostered many creative geniuses from musicians to poets and the creative arts was the 6th greatest industry in this country for many years.  Of course creativity is not only about the arts but also about creating new technologies and inventions and recognising genius early on.  He encourages the importance of spreading these values throughout the world ‘or black darkness faces us’.

Boldness has genius, power and magic in it

The talk ended with a story of a time in the Congo when he rested from the heat and was fanning himself under a tree.  A Bicycle came by and rang a bell and a multitude of people came from their huts clutching laptops and plugged in to download email.  The world’s ideas will change as a consequence of such people.

all progress depends on the unreasonable man – George Bernard Shaw.

In my opinion the most important skills we can teach children is to ask questions, think for themselves and believe that they can make a difference.  Bob Geldof was so passionate and articulate about what he believes in, that you can clearly see why he has been able to make a difference and will continue to do so.

If you ever get a chance to see/hear him speak don’t hesitate his talk was truly enthralling.

My Grown Up Weekend part 2 – Festival of Education : Technology and Education

As regular readers will be aware I am very interested in the use of new technology in early years classrooms.  I was pleased to see therefore that the Festival of Education at Wellington College Crowthorne had a number of sessions relating to education and technology.  As usual at these events most of the content was aimed at working with older children but I found a number of ideas/materials that could be adapted for use with younger children.

Jan Webb (http://Janwebb21.com)  from Microsoft gave an interesting talk outlining many of the free resources available to teachers and the ways in which she had used them in the classroom.  Many of the resources were used to link up with schools in other countries to add another dimension to project based learning.  This could be used really successfully in an early years classroom, using video chat to talk about and demonstrate concepts such as snow to young children who may not have seen it before.

Jan explained that the Partners in Learning Network provides free downloadable software for use in the classroom.  I got up and showed off my singing talents to demonstrate Songsmith – for creating music (ok it was only Happy Birthday). 

Shireland  Collegiate academy demonstrated  their learning gateway .  Though this is a secondary school and would be used very differently in an early years setting, I saw merits in the way that staff could share planning and assessments, as a means of getting parents involved in their children’s learning and making learning visible to them.

There was an interesting discussion at the end of the day about what we could teach the Facebook generation.  There were some interesting points regarding worries about the ever growing use of technology and social media.  On the positive side was the idea that worries about technology are similar  to worries about the novel in the eighteenth century and that whatever children are interested in will become the dubious thing.  I think that is an interesting view and that we should be using children’s interests to stimulate meaningful learning , rather than threatening to ban things. Another point made was that in this generation the most important skill we can teach children is to take charge of their own destiny. Some felt that this generation were in danger of losing social skills and that technology should be limited to allow children to spend time reading.  A straw poll was taken as to the preference between physical books and reading them electronically.  Personally for me I would much rather have a kindle with hundreds of books in one place than have to find or carry real books.  I suppose there is still some sentimentality about having books on a shelf, but is that because they are precious or because we want to show others what we have read?

I have many links and inspirational practice to look up as a follow up to the festival, these will appear on the blog in due course.

Turning 40 Part 2 – Is Eeyore in his 40’s?…. and more thoughts about Eeyore.


I picked up a book in my doctor’s surgery , ‘Forty-fied – How to be a Fortysomething’ by Malcolm Burgess.

I loved this quote

Eeyore is probably 40, seeing that his stuffing is falling out, he’s terminally depressed and surrounded by annoying energetic younger things who know that the only way to cheer him up is to give him a nice jam jar with a burst balloon for his birthday, about which he is expected to be sadly euphoric

I don’t feel like my stuffing is falling out but after having 3 kids,  I look at pictures of myself when I turned 30 and compare it to the tired woman with grey roots, developing wrinkles and a post baby tummy and wonder if we are the same person.  I love the stuff about presents which are also discussed elsewhere in the book.  I keep getting asked what I would like for my birthday but I don’t really want or need anything.  I’d quite like a boob job but at £5,000 that’s a bit above most budgets, permanent hair removal,  decent hair cut, a trip somewhere?  I’m doing quite well with presents from my husband, I have a spa day, haircut and photo shoot and tickets to see Rufus Wainwright and my neighbour has bought me tickets for the ballet – so I’m far from Eeyore’s realm.

To be honest I’m actually not that depressed about turning 40 – it’s a turning point for me.  The end of my childbearing days hence a chance to get my figure , career and social life back on track.  Maybe not straight away (I still have 2 children under 5) but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

I hope I’m not an Eeyore.  In Benjamin Hoff’s wonderful book ‘The Te of Piglet’ ( a follow up to the’ Tao of Pooh’), he describes the Eeyore effect.  Those in life who enjoy being unhappy, who are so obsessed with the bad things in life that the good things pass them by.  The most poignant part of his Eeyore discussion  is that of the Eeyore educators.  These try to force too much inappropriate information on children too soon, so that children get stuck.  An Eeyore educator’s answer to failing test results would be to send them to school earlier,  taking away their creativity and play .


picked a large bunch and trotted along, smelling them, and feeling very happy, until he came to the place where Eeyore was.

‘Oh Eeyore’, began Piglet a little nervously, because Eeyore was busy.

Eeyore put out a paw and waved him away.

‘Tomorrow’ said Eeyore. ‘Or the next day’.

I think we all recognise this in our busy lives, how we often say ‘In a minute’ but for the child who lives in the moment, that moment becomes lost. Hopefully turning 40 doesn’t mean turning into Eeyore, but rather being a Piglet or a Pooh.  As Piglet says in the closing line of ‘The Te of Piglet’

For me, it also seems like a beginning.