Explorify at home: Learning outdoors - living things
Children love learning outdoors and the positive effects on their mental and physical wellbeing have been well documented. This collection takes your children’s learning outdoors with a focus on living things.
Children exploring and playing outdoors
This collection of activities is perfect for getting your little explorers out in nature. Enjoy a good afternoon of science each week!
Explorify from home is a special series of science activities for parents and carers of primary school children who are now learning at home. We define activities by age and curriculum topics in Explorify, but these collections are also suitable to do all together as a family of mixed aged children. Or if your little scientist just wants to explore further, pick something from the other age sections for inspiration! Teachers can find out about our full (free!) classroom resource at the bottom of this page.
Parents, read on!
This collection takes your children’s learning outdoors with a focus on living things. Children love learning outdoors and the positive effects on their mental and physical wellbeing have been well documented. With summer here and lockdown easing, what better time to have a go at these!
For children aged 5-7
Scavenger Hunt: Living, dead or never alive
First, take a close-up look: have a go at this odd one out activity - Living, moving. There is no right or wrong answer to this activity, but the aeroplane could be the odd one out because it is not alive. All living things move but not all moving things are alive!
Pose the question: How do you know if something is alive? Have a discussion and see if you can come up with a checklist of characteristics of living things. There are 7 characteristics of living things; they move, grow, feed, reproduce, need air, get rid of waste and react to their surroundings. At this age don’t worry about getting all of them!
Now, watch this animation on the BBC Bitesize website. We can classify things around us as either living, dead or never alive.
Hands-on activity: Head to a favourite or convenient outside space with your checklist and any other equipment you think might be useful, for example a hand lens. Look closely at the things you find in that space, comparing them to the checklist. Group the things you find. Are they alive? Dead? Never alive? Can you justify your decisions?
Some things will be easy to classify and others will be far trickier – and remember, some of the characteristics of living things are notalways visible to the observer.
You could repeat the activity in a different environment – how do the things you find vary in the two places? Can you suggest any reasons why?
Watch more about wellbeing on BBC Bitesize Daily.
Leaf it to me!
First, take a close-up look: have a go at this odd one out activity – Making records. Have a conversation about how there are many ways to record the things we find in nature. Recording leaf shapes and textures is one way to document the plants we find. This information can help us to identify unknown plants we come across when we are out and about. What other methods can we use to record or document what we find?
Hands-on activity: Collect together a selection of crayons, paper and a tray or flat surface to lean on. Take a wander into your local park and take rubbings of leaves from five different plants that catch your eye. In order to make a leaf rubbing, place the leaf (vein side up) on the tray with the paper securely held on top. Gently rub the crayon over the paper and the leaf shape and texture will start to appear. Be sure to hold the paper firmly in place.
Once you have your five rubbings, arrange to meet a friend in the location (apply social distancing) and set them the challenge of matching the rubbings to the correct plants. Alternatively, if you are unable to meet, photograph the rubbings and send them to a friend or family member so that they can have a go at finding them when they are next at the park.
Finally, Try to identify each of the plants. Perhaps you know some of them already, or you could ask friends, family or other members of the community if they know.
Watch more about plants and wellbeing on BBC Bitesize Daily.
Find out more about how to draw leaves from Eden Project.
Speed it up!
First, take a close-up look: have a go at this odd one out activity – Get your blood pumping. There is no right or wrong answer to this activity, but children may notice that both the whale and human are vertebrates (have a backbone) and are classified as mammals, whereas the worm is an invertebrate (no backbone). Discuss the role and location of the heart and lungs in the human body.
Hands-on activity: How does exercising at different intensities affect heart rate? Collect a stopwatch (you might have one on your phone), paper and pen and head outside into a garden, park or green space.
First you need to find your resting heart rate. To do this, spend five minutes or so relaxing and being inactive. Use this time to practice finding your pulse (it might help to pen a small dot on your wrist in the correct location).
Now, record your resting heart rate. To do this, record your pulse over 15 seconds. Multiplying this number by four will give your resting heart rate (beats per minute).
Now, spend 30 seconds exercising at a low intensity (e.g. walking). At the end of the 30 second period, immediately record your pulse rate over 15 seconds and calculate the heart rate (beats per minute). Repeat this process at two further intensity levels (e.g. jogging and sprinting). In between the bouts of exercise, ensure that you rest and your heart rate has time to return to its resting rate.
You should now have four sets of data: Resting heart rate and your heart rate after three different exercise intensity levels. Is there a relationship between the intensity of exercise and heart rate? Have a discussion – can you explain your findings using what you know about how the human body works?
If you’re feeling energetic, you could repeat the investigation a second time, recording breathing rate rather than heart rate. Is there a pattern between heart rate and breathing rate at different levels of intensity?
Watch more about wellbeing and health on BBC Bitesize Daily.
That's all for this week!
We hope your little scientists have enjoyed exploring outside this week. We'd love to know how you got on. You can follow us on Twitter or Facebook, or email us if you have any feedback on this collection.
Please note that adults should supervise practical activities, make sure that children use appropriate materials and tools, and wash hands after handling any food items.
Take it further:
- Visit STEM Learning, to explore their support for parents and carers with home learning.
- Watch the BBC Bitesize Daily programmes on health and fitness which are linked above under your child's age. Previous programmes including versions for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland can be found on the iPlayer.
- Browse our other collections – there's are more added each week!
Are you a primary school teacher who has yet to sign up to Explorify?
If you are a teacher who hasn't discovered Explorify before, you can sign up and explore the whole website with over 400 free activities. (It's free, as it's funded by charitable foundation Wellcome Trust. Our mission is to help you enhance your science teaching and get your pupils thinking like scientists!) We provide background science, to help you field questions from your pupils and ideas to take our curriculum-linked activities further. Something to get your teeth into for when you're back in the classroom!
Read more on the Explorify blog from Robbie Kirkman on outdoor learning when returning to the classroom.
Children playing: Marcus Fiske via Unsplash; Living, moving: Shutter Rich via Shutterstock; Jan Martin Will via Shutterstock; IM_Photo via Shutterstock; Making records: Undergroundarts.co.uk via Shutterstock; Edelwipix via Shutterstock, SofiaV via Shutterstock; Get your blood pumping: Seanscott via Getty Images RF; Mikhail Novozilov / EyeEm via Getty Images RF; Gail Shotlander via Getty Images RF
With thanks to Robbie Kirkman for contributing this Explorify at home collection.