At Chertsey Nursery School, we decided to organise a special Design and Technology Fun Week as part of the whole-school project that we have each term. The aim of the week was to:
* encourage more innovative work in design and technology
* involve parents, governors and members of the local community more in the children's learning, and
* involve Year 6 pupils from the local primary school, so that our children could benefit from working alongside older children.
Above all, we wanted to create a magical world for everyone to enjoy.
Our school is an LEA nursery school in Surrey, with a roll of 77 children in three classes, one of which is a special needs unit.
The children have opportunities to work in each classroom every day, so we decided to base our project on Eric Carle's books and use a different book for each room to maximise the children's learning experiences. These were:
* The Very Lonely Firefly in the hallway
* Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? in the classroom
* A Home for Hermit Crab in the classroom
* Why Noah Chose the Dove in the special needs unit.
The themes of water, boats and animals were carried throughout the school, both indoors and out, and I kept a diary throughout (see below).
The Very Lonely Firefly
The Very Lonely Firefly tells of a little firefly who, all alone, goes in search of others like him, and so opens the way for discussion about feelings and belonging.
Unfortunately, the book is now out of print in the UK, but it should still be available in libraries. Alternatively, settings planning a project like ours might like to use another book by Eric Carle, The Bad-tempered Ladybird (Puffin, 4.99), as a stimulus, because it contains a wonderful array of animals, including some fireflies.
* This project was based in the hallway, so we decorated its walls and ceiling with black fabric cut into zigzag shapes. Some of the children were frightened by the darkness but were captivated when we hung 'fireworks' (see page 20) and hundreds of flashing fairy lights from the ceiling and stuck on hundreds of computer-generated stars.
* We illustrated the story clockwise around the hallway, starting just inside the doorway with the birth of the firefly. Every part of the story had two labels in fluorescent card in the shape of a firefly. One said, 'Are you a firefly?', the other said 'No. I'm a ...' until the end, where the label said 'YES'.
* The final part of the story, when the firefly met all the other fireflies, had one big firefly surrounded by hundreds of smaller ones, hanging from the ceiling and stuck to the walls.
* Everyone who visited the school drew a firefly - I told them be as imaginative as they liked. They stuck their firefly to the wall in the place of their choice and I hung a laminated copy from the ceiling. The characters in the story were painted/drawn or made from collage and stuck to the fabric.
* We created a display table of the story.
* We began to count the fireflies in the hallway and the children discovered they could not count that many. We talked about hundreds, thousands and millions.
The Very Lonely Firefly presents many opportunities for exploring science, history and geography, as well as design and technology. For example, we:
* set up a circuit board with a light bulb to create light
* turned off all the lights in the hallway and lit torches, candles and oil lamps
* shone ultraviolet light on objects
* shone a torch through a prism to show refraction
* predicted whether or not we would be able to fly with carboard wings. Children flapped and jumped off low boxes and we discussed why they could not fly.
However, much of this topic revolved around creative work, both individual and co-operative. Here are some of our activities that worked well and that you might like to try if you plan an Eric Carle project.
* You need to start this activity at least a week before you want the hats because the papier mache takes a long time to dry.
* Give each child an inflated balloon and a medium-sized flower pot. Put the balloon in the pot with about two-thirds sticking out, to make it easier for the children to work with the papier mache.
* Talk though the story so that the children know what the activity is about. Look at the picture of the firefly's head.
* Let the children dip the paper in paste and apply about four layers to the balloon, then turn the balloon the other way round and cover it in the same way. Remember, the thicker the layer, the longer it will take to dry. However, if it is too thin it will bend and tear after it is finished.
* There are wonderful opportunities for language development in this activity. Use words such as wet and sticky and papier mache (tell the children that it is a French word meaning mashed paper).
* Leave the papier mache to dry, turning the balloon once the top is dry. Let the children inspect their balloons and estimate the drying time.
* Once dry, see how many children remember what they are making and why. (We agreed that all visitors to the school should wear the hats).
* Let the children guess how they could get the balloon out from inside the paper. Burst the balloon with a needle and let the children pull the balloons out from the end.
* Cut the balloons in half with a sharp knife. After the first cut it may be better to continue to cut with sharp scissors.
* The children then decide with which friend they will ask to share one half of the balloon and cut or tear tissue paper into shapes to glue on to their hat.
* Make two small slits in the top of the hat and let the children thread a pipe cleaner into the hat and out the other hole, then bend the pipe cleaners into antennae shapes and leave to dry.
* You will need marzipan, food colouring, cloves, chocolate Matchmakers broken in half and pieces of card about 15cm square.
* Colour the pieces of marzipan in different colours and mould it into firefly shapes.
* Attach wings, use cloves for eyes and Matchmakers as antennae.
* Lots of lovely language can be used in this activity. You can talk about the properties of paper and card.
* You will need card, the children's pictures of fireflies, PVA glue, wooden lolly sticks, masking tape and scissors.
* The children stick their pictures on to thin card and cut them out (with adult help when necessary), then attach the lolly stick with masking tape.
* Start by looking at patterns on a firefly's wings.
* To make firefly wings, mix PVA glue with cold-water dye, paint the wings on to white card, and then cut them out to demonstrate what symmetry is.
* Alternatively, paint the solution on to thick polythene and when dry it can be peeled off and stuck to windows. The mixture of dye and PVA produces a translucent effect.
* To make collages of the animal characters in the story, you will need card, feathers, fur, wood shavings and fabric.
* It is important to let the older children draw the animal if this is not going to be just another 'cut and stick' activity with little learning experience. It does not matter if it is not as 'pretty' as an adult's work. Let the children do it on good quality paper or thin card.
* Have the materials cut into reasonably-sized pieces. It is very tedious for the children to spend hours sticking millions of tiny bits on to paper. They will lose interest long before the work is finished.
* Allow everything to dry. Cut out around the child's outline of the animal. Don't be tempted to try to make it look more like your idea of what the animal should look like!
* You will need lengths of wool, large sewing needles and items such as sweet wrappers, coloured cake cases, pieces of crepe paper and milk bottle tops.
* Thread items on to wool and hang from the ceiling.
See the topic web on the back of the Nursery World poster for more details of what was covered in our project.
Sue Chambers is head of Chertsey Nursery School in Chertsey, Surrey
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* If you have a project that you would like to share, then send a short summary to Nursery World, at the address on page 3.