A summer project on jungles provides many exciting and creative opportunities to explore a habitat very different from our own.
In and out
Start with an activity that will allow you to assess children's understanding of the jungle as they create their own jungle background through weaving.
Key learning intentions
*To develop sensory perceptions by exploring textiles *To express and communicate ideas, thoughts and feelings *To be able to manipulate objects with increasing control *To develop an awareness that the world extends outside their locality Adult:child ratio 1:1
*Green plastic netting from a garden centre *strips of 'jungle-coloured'
material *atlas *books and pictures of the jungle (see the Nursery World poster) Preparation
* Cut a piece of garden netting large enough to allow each child to weave at least one line of material. Cut a smaller piece for practice and demonstration.
* Choose a large enough space - weaving is hard work for children this age, and they will need to be able to move around. Use a square table without chairs, for example.
* Weave a couple of lines yourself to give the children an example to follow.
* Find out basic facts and figures about the rainforests (see the back of the Nursery World poster).
* Decide how you will use the weaving. In the home corner. As the background for a display of jungle animals? On the wall to encourage the 'jungle feel' of the classroom? The activity must be purposeful and have an evident outcome in the classroom, and you will need to be able to tell the children why they are weaving.
* Use a 'jungle' book or the Nursery World poster to stimulate discussion about the rainforests. You could, for example, start by sharing some of the poetry in Rumble in the Jungle by Giles Andreae and David Wojtowycz (Orchard Books, 4.99).
* Ask the children to look at and point out the colours in the book illustrations.
* Explain that you are all going to weave your own jungle background for the classroom. Compare the colours of the strips of material with those found in the illustrations.
* Ask the children to choose a strip of material. Model the weaving technique on a smaller piece of netting and ask the children to have a go on the bigger piece.
* Allow the children to dictate the pace and stay with the activity as long as they want. Some will want to leave as soon as they have finished one strip of material, others will want to do several. Do not 'correct' their weaving. It is important to praise and accept all efforts as valid.
* During the activity talk about jungles - where they are, who and what lives there. Use the atlas to show the children countries where jungles are found, such as India, and of course the tropical rainforests in South America.
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Questions to ask
What colours can you see in the illustration or on the page? Are the strips of material the same colours as the ones in the book? Can you match them? Do we have jungles in this country? Why not? What lives in the jungle? What would it be like living in a jungle? Have you ever been to the jungle? Would you like to go? Why/why not? Would we ever see a jaguar/toucan in this country? Where? Have you ever been to the zoo? What animals did you see?
* Leave out a fresh piece of netting for the children to work on independently. This will encourage the children to work together in small groups.
* Cut much smaller pieces of netting and allow each child to weave an animal skin - such as snakes or tigers.
* Turn your home corner into a jungle (see below).
* Read jungle stories with the children. (See the back of the Nursery World poster.)
* Ask the children to bring in cuddly jungle toys from home to make a display. Add non-fiction books.
* Do some marbling with 'jungle' colours to create an alternative jungle background.
* Use Julie Lacome's Walking Through the Jungle as the stimulus for a movement session. Familiarise yourself with the story and share it with the children before the session. Remind the children of the story at the start of the session. Explain that they are going on a jungle walk, sometimes as themselves, sometimes pretending to be animals. Use a drum beat to indicate the change to an animal, and two beats to indicate stop. Explain and practise the code.
Begin your walk. Be dramatic as you read the story. Encourage the children to listen to the words and interpret them creatively - for example, looking out for strange animals and struggling through long grass. Make the relevant animal noises with the children. As you make them, bang the drum and change into that animal. Praise children who listen well to encourage others to do the same, and praise all their efforts. At the end of the story have lots of fun running away from the crocodile!
To settle the children down, stay sitting on the mats and encourage them to remember all the animals they found on their jungle walk and produce them from the basket. Can the children remember the order in which they found them?
Alternative introductory activity
Turn your role-play area into a jungle. Involve the children in the transformation. Brainstorm with the children about what they would find in the jungle, and what they would need to explore it. You could make vines that hang from the ceiling, and get the children to paint jungle animals to put on the wall (be clear about which animals do actually live in the jungle). Provide binoculars and water bottles, magnifying glasses and a compass so that the children can go exploring. Make a canoe from a large box, with a paddle. Put some soft-toy animals among the vines. The children could also cut leaves for trees. Allowing the children ownership of this activity will provide many opportunities for discussing the jungle habitat; talking about the jungles of the world and their conditions, conservation issues, finding out about the canopy of a rainforest, weather conditions and how we could travel to jungle areas.
Encourage the children to develop their own ideas and interests across the curriculum by adding topic resources to your basic provision.
*Resources to encourage the children to explore the garden, such as binoculars, water bottles, maps, compasses and sun hats.
*Jungle trails for the children to follow. (Provide the children with, for example, a small photograph album of 'landmarks' in your garden.) *Jungle animals. Don't put them exclusively in the sand and water, but let the children play with them on grass as well. Designate an area in which they must be kept to avoid losing them.
*If possible, a tape or CD playing jungle noises in the background.
*Drums and other suitable musical instruments.
Possible learning experiences
* Extending role-play opportunities outside using all the senses through the children pretending to be 'explorers' in the jungle.
* Developing mapping/directional skills by following trails.
* Developing awareness of the natural habitat of jungle animals.
* Developing awareness of why it is necessary to wear a hat outside in the sunshine.
* Playing co-operatively and taking turns when sharing equipment.
* Using appropriate vocabulary when in the 'jungle', such as 'direction'
The practitioner role
* Encourage parents to take part in the 'jungle' trails.
* Hide the occasional jungle animal in the garden for the children to find, such as a monkey in a tree, or a tiger peering out of the bushes.
* Ask open-ended questions related to your chosen garden activities - 'What have you found?' 'What can you hear?' 'Which way do you think we should go now?' 'Where shall we explore now?'
* Support the extension of language opportunities by using appropriate vocabulary with the children - 'Do we need to go left here, or right?'
* Support children's efforts in putting different animals in their 'natural' habitats, such as monkeys in trees (bushes might be a good idea as substitute trees), and crocodiles in water. Think about particular resources that need to be available when presenting children with different kinds of animals.
*Lots of different coloured playdough to represent different animals. Use orange and black for tiger stripes, for example.
*Clay to make real or fantasy jungle animals.
*Small-world jungle animals and a tray of very wet compost in which to make footprints.
*Make large, possibly even real-sized animals from chicken wire and papier mache. Paint when dry and use inside or outside.
Possible learning experiences
* Exploring the texture and properties of materials.
* Using comparative language such as 'longer/shorter/heavier/lighter/faster/slower than' when playing with and making different animals.
* Using the imagination for creative purposes by making fantasy jungle animals.
* Extending fantasy play using life-size animals, and developing their knowledge and understanding of them.
* Counting and sorting animals.
The practitioner role
* Model-making animals through moulding malleable materials such as playdough and clay.
* Encourage problem-solving by asking questions such as, 'How could you make sure the legs are going to stay stuck to the body?'
* Write down any made-up names the children think of, if they make fantasy jungle creatures, and use them in a display.
* Support children in their counting and sorting skills, and encourage and model one-to-one correspondence when they count animal and insect legs.
*Snakes and crocodiles. Use greenery from your garden for them to hide in and colour the water dark green.
*Other small-world jungle animals. Use a log as dry land or create a dry jungle area next to the water. You could also add insects.
*Canoes and boats and rafts with Playmobil people or similar with cargo to carry down the 'river'.
*Bright plastic 'jungle flowers'.
*An atlas or globe.
Possible learning experiences
* Finding out about which animals live in or by the water.
* Sorting animals, for example, according to where they live, such as on land, in water or in the trees.
* Investigating floating and sinking through different weighted cargos on boats and rafts.
* Investigating symmetry in leaves and flowers.
* Talking about the jungle environment and climate.
The practitioner role
* Show the children where jungles are found on a globe or world map. Look at where they are in relation to Britain.
* Support children's learning and respond to their questions by using reference books together to endorse animal and jungle facts.
* Model appropriate language such as hot, humid and dark.
* Sing the song 'Down in the Jungle' with the children (see the back of the Nursery World poster). Ask if the animals would really have clothes. Put some animals and clothes together in the water tray one day!
* Extend children's thinking by asking open-ended questions such as, 'How would you get to the jungle?' 'What would you need to take with you?' 'How far away do you think it is?' 'Which animals do you think are dangerous? Why are they dangerous?' 'How different is the jungle to where we live? What would we wear there?'