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It’s A Bug’s Life for Year 4

Sir David Attenborough would be proud of our Year 4 students, as they excitedly explored the gardens of the School campus last week, as part of their latest PYP Unit of Inquiry into How the World Works.

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“Spider! Beetle! Ant!” shouted Year 4 with glee. Even the self-confessed entomophobes were delighted to uncover bugs in the dirt and cracks of the Hooke House garden beds and plant pots, enthusiastically pointing out every little creature they could find to Ms Gordon and Ms Monk.

As part of this term’s Unit of Inquiry, Year 4 are pursuing the central idea: The Earth’s natural cycles influence the activity of living things. As part of their approach, they are exploring the following lines of inquiry: regular changes happen in our environment; things occur as a result of the interaction between the Earth and the Sun; and changes in the environment can be tracked.

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Before they began their research, the students read the beautifully illustrated book, Step Gently Out by Helen Frost and Rick Lieder, which asks us to think about what might happen if we walk outside very quietly and take a closer look at the natural world. Using beautifully evocative language, Frost hints at the many tiny creatures that live all around us, just awaiting to be discovered. For example, we might see a cricket leap, a moth spread her wings, or a spider step across a silken web.

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Inspired, the students headed outside with their notebooks, determined to use all of their senses to observe, explore, question and discover all the living things they could find. With their new-found powers of observation, the students noticed that the birds and cicadas appeared to be singing louder. They were delighted to ‘discover’ flowers in the cracks in the paving, as well as butterflies, bugs, bees and ants… and tiny spiders with delicate webs strung between the flowers that were so small they’d have missed them if they hadn’t been looking so carefully. There were big whoops of delight when they uncovered a family of beetles sheltering under the pebbles in the plant pot too.

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They then headed over to the Senior School campus, where they were very excited to see fish swimming in the pond and insects buzzing around the water lilies. Having such a rich and varied opportunity to experience and explore the living things in the School gardens really made Year 4 appreciate their immediate world. It made them realise that if you take a moment to look closely, nature can be found everywhere.

The students then started to think about other important concepts, such as the interrelationships between living things and their habitat. And they started to think more broadly about the effect of the seasons on living things.

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Over the coming weeks, Year 4 will be investigating what happens as the Earth moves around the Sun, and thinking about what happens to living things as the days become shorter and the average daily temperature drops. They will also examine the difference between the traditional four-season calendar of spring, summer, autumn and winter to the way in which Australia’s First Peoples use their knowledge of the changes that occur in the natural world and link them to a cycle that predicts seasonal changes. In particular, they will look at the calendars of the D'harawal Peoples here in Sydney, as well as the Murrumburr seasonal calendar from the Kakadu area, to better understand that these natural barometers are not uniform across Australia, but instead use the reaction of local plants and animals to gauge what is happening in the environment. They will be presenting all their learning to their peers later this term.

In the age of Netflix and YouTube, it’s great for our students to discover more about the natural world beyond what they learn on a screen. And if as a result, they develop a love of nature – and a better understanding of how the environment impacts on living things – they will care more about its survival.

In the words of Sir David Attenborough, "It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living."