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“They so hungry!” - Feeding the birds and other encounters with nature

“Nature connections made in early childhood are instrumental to the construction of values, development of an ‘ecological self’, and can be viewed as a lifelong resource. But, under what circumstances do these connections materialise?”

(Sobel, D., 2008, p 10)

  • Feeding the birds

Early childhood is often described as a unique and critical time for connecting children with nature. 

“Nature connections made in early childhood are instrumental to the construction of values, development of an ‘ecological self’, and can be viewed as a lifelong resource. But, under what circumstances do these connections materialise?”

(Sobel, D., 2008, p 10)

We have made a commitment to spending as much time outdoors each day as we can, ensuring that children have time to explore and develop a relationship with the outdoor environment. The time we spend in our playground  each day enables the children to slowly observe, interact with and enjoy the natural world they live in.

David Attenborough once said that, 

“People are not going to care about animal conservation unless they think that animals are worthwhile.”

The children and adults have made efforts this year to encourage encounters with nature. The children have designed a bug hotel which Mr Roy skillfully constructed in line with the children’s plans. This has been a centre of curiosity as the children frequently investigate the insects inhabiting it. Bugs are frequently rescued from other parts if the playground and bought to the bug hotel where they can sleep, play and eat. Some of the children are strong advocates for the care and protection of insects. Recently some ladybirds come to the hotel, which sparked more questions and careful observations.The children have been surprisingly gentle with the creatures and believe they are friends and have families of their own.

The EY2 children have been studying some caterpillars and developing their understanding of change and transformation. They sit and watch the caterpillars intently, using magnifiers to see more clearly and then record their observations. Again there is an eagerness to find out more and an unquenchable thirst for further inquiry. 

Anna, who is five years old, had intentionally and carefully made a construction from a tire, a crate, sand and grass. She called me over to show me and explained what she and her friends were making together. She described that they were making a home for the caterpillars. Then they will be in a cocoon for two weeks and then we’ll let them fly away so they can be with their friends. They will go to butterfly school and learn about humans and learn how to fly better.

One of our two year old children, Farah, rushed up to me in great excitement as I entered into their space, 

“Clair come and look at the bird.

They eating food.

It cold.

We need to go back.

How can bird eat food?

I don’t know.

They so hungry.

It dinner time, need give food.

Bird need food.

Finish all up.

Eating pine cones.

Need more.”

I was so touched by the care and concern shown towards the birds that we share our spaces with. These children had been making different types of bird feeders and had hung them  on the trees outside in front of their window. This had generated lots of conversation and inquisitiveness as the children viewed and, continue to study, the birds daily. So keen were these very young children in feeding the birds that they have made replacement bird feeders once the birds had eaten all the food.

To me these encounters offered to the children are filled with optimism as we can not expect children to take responsibility for the natural world if they never had a chance of experiencing it in delightful ways. 

Clair Wain

Director of Early Years