Tag Archives: farm

Learning about life on a farm – Readilearn

Learning about life on a farm holds great interest for children and many opportunities for integrated learning across the curriculum. Most of today’s children are town-dwellers and have little experience with rural and farm life. Many have no idea where their food comes from beyond the attractive supermarket shelves.

This week I have uploaded some new resources which support an early childhood K-2 unit of work about farms. However, they can be used as part of a literacy program, independent of a farm unit. Sight words and phonic skills can be developed through reading in a context that is both meaningful and interesting to children.

New resources include:

On the farm Who am I? This interactive digital story is great for use on the interactive whiteboard. Children are presented with a series of clues to help them identify an animal that lives on a farm. Children select the answer from those provided. The resource includes both domestic and “wild” animals.

Continue reading: Learning about life on a farm – Readilearn

Learning environment


gardeningIn last week’s post I shared information about research projects students could become involved in to be scientists in real life. Some of the projects such as Project BudBurst and BudBurst Buddies encourage junior scientists to observe and record changes in plants throughout the changing seasons. Many commenting on the post agreed that projects such as these would make the learning of science come alive. Pauline King the Contented Crafter even commented that she may have to reconsider her opinion of schools if children were involved in projects such as these.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

Shortly after posting I read an article on Co.Exist describing a preschool that doubles as urban farm where Kids learn among the plants and animals in this design for a radically different education environment.”  A bit like my concept of an early learning caravan, the school does not actually exist. The design was entered into and won an architecture competition. It is an interesting concept and I especially like the suggestion that children spend more time learning about nature through experiencing it in wild spaces in the outdoors rather than only through classroom activities and books, both of which do have their role.

Jeannie Baker - planet changing

I have previously shared the wonderful books of Jeannie Baker which have strong environmental themes encouraging children to care for nature and appreciate the natural wonders and beauty of the world around them.

2015-09-19 11.09.45 2015-09-19 11.11.04

This morning, thanks to a recommendation from Sarah Brentyn who blogs at Lemon Shark, I received another lovely book in the post that will sit among my favourites. The Curious Garden by Peter Brown tells the story of how a curious boy helps transform a city from a drab grey concrete jungle to a one filled with gardens and gardeners. The story affirms the belief that the actions of one person can make a difference.

Never-doubt-that-a-small - Margaret Mead

I am currently listening to Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment and the Human Prospect, an interesting and thought-provoking book by environmentalist David W. Orr who challenges the focus of schools and advocates for learning outdoors in the natural environment. He may approve of the preschool farm, but he’d probably be more in favour of a forest preschool.

This, however, is only a small part of his position and I do not wish to misrepresent it. In an article, which reads like a chapter from the book, Orr describes “Six myths about the foundations of modern education, and six new principles to replace them”. The part of me that strives towards meliorism is seriously challenged by the picture Orr paints. The picture books, stories, and research projects are fine; but there’s much more to be done if we want to do more than simply wish for a greener future.

I agree with Orr wholeheartedly that education for, with and through the environment is essential; and that many of our problems are caused by miseducation. However, I had not thought about education in the way that Orr explains. I think I’ll be sharing more of his work in future posts.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.



20 Lifetime changes

My big sister and me © Norah Colvin

My big sister and me © Norah Colvin

When Bec was little she would often say, “Tell me a story of when you were a little girl.” She would listen in wonder (in my dreams!) as I told her about life on a farm, holidays with relatives and funny things that happened in a large family.

One day, with perfect comedic timing, she followed her request with the question, “What were the dinosaurs like?” We laughed at the time, and still do, but I think that question may have signalled the end of her interest in my childhood, for a time at least. Some aspects of my childhood would have been as unrecognisable to her as the world of the dinosaurs. It is even more so for the children of today.

 © Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

Learning about the past from parents and grandparents is one way of piquing young children’s interest in history. When I was in primary school we learned a little of history in what was then called Social Studies. Both ancient and modern history were available as discrete subject choices in high school but seemed to be primarily a list of dates, names and wars with little relevance to my teenage experience. Historical fiction brought otherwise remote and unfamiliar situations to life.

I have touched a little on the topic of history in previous posts, I’m new here, Understanding family relationships and Whose story is it anyway? including mention of an early childhood unit Getting to know you, which is available in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

 © Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

It amuses me now when visiting museums, particularly small local historical museums as opposed to large national museums, to see artefacts from my childhood on display. Although I don’t necessarily consider myself “old”, definitely not passed my “use by” or even “best by” date, I do realise that to younger ones I am probably a relic from the past, holding as much interest for them as the objects on display. (I am not too old to remember what it was like to be young.)

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills declares herself a history buff who digs “hanging out in cemeteries where history reads in the names and dates carved in stone.” I confess that I have rarely visited a cemetery other than to farewell a loved one and haven’t taken to reading gravestones to feed an interest in history.

The teaching of history in my early childhood classrooms involved helping children to discover and record their own personal histories and the more recent histories of their families and local environment. Celebration or commemoration of historical events such as Australia Day, ANZAC Day or Remembrance Day required some elaboration, without too much detail, of their significance.

Many of the experiences of children growing up now in the early part of the 21st Century are vastly different from those I experienced growing up in the mid-20th Century. Some of the differences are subtle and others more significant.

Since I grew up in the 20th Century, as part of my historical record I decided to list 20 (random) changes that have occurred during my lifetime:

  1. I listened to music on vinyl records on turntables with manual arms. The records needed to be turned over after each side was played. There were no CDs, iPods, Youtube or streaming
  2. I spent hours in the sun, getting burnt to a crisp, without the protection of sunscreen.
  3. Polio was still a major threat and I knew children who suffered it. Now, thanks to immunisation, it is almost eradicated worldwide.
  4. We could purchase fireworks and set them off in our backyards and parks. I have no memory of huge firework displays such as are now part of most community celebrations.
  5. Shop opening hours were very different with shops closed half day Saturday and all day Sunday. No shops opened on Public Holidays and planning was required to ensure there was enough food in the cupboard to last the four day Easter Weekend.
  6. There were no huge supermarkets selling everything, mainly smaller grocery stores and some “corner” stores that sold a few “essential” items. Air conditioning was not common and chocolate was not readily available as it melted in the heat.
  7. There were no theme parks or water parks; just a few amusement rides such as merry-go-rounds and dodgem cars at local and state shows and fairs, and council swimming pools. Very few people had pools in their backyards.
  8. There were no computers, tablets or smart phones. When I started school I wrote on a slate, a tablet of a different kind.
  9. Fish and chips was the most popular and one of the few take-a-ways. There were no McDonald’s, pizza stores and few Chinese restaurants. There were no eateries in large shopping malls. In fact, there were no large shopping malls!
  10. We had an outside dunny with a pan that was collected and replaced weekly.
  11. Telephones were not in every home. They were attached to the wall and had a circular dial. Calls were manually connected by operators at telephone exchanges.
  12. Televisions first became available in Australia when I was a young child but my family did not own one until after I left home. I used to visit an aunt, who lived close by, to watch on her set after school some days.
  13. Cars ran on leaded petrol. I remember my Dad using a crank handle to start the car. The seats were hard and uncomfortable and there was no air conditioning (unless you count winding down the window).
  14. We would go to beach or the park to swim or play all day, without adult supervision. The only requirement was to be home before dark.
  15. Photographs were taken with a box camera and a roll of film which needed to be sent away to be developed and took weeks to be returned. It could take months to fill the roll and often the occasions were well in the past before the photos were received. It was expensive and multiple shots of the same image were not encouraged.
  16. There was little traffic and cars were slow so children often played in the street, which were sometimes still dirt and mostly without kerbs. It seemed to take forever to get from one place to another.
  17. To keep food cool we had ice boxes for which an ice man would deliver a large block ice daily.
  18. We used imperial standards of measurement including pounds and ounces, inches and feet; and shopped with pounds, shillings and pence before converting to decimal currency in 1966 and other units soon after.
  19. Smacking by parents and corporal punishment in school was the main form of discipline. If children were in trouble at school (I never was!J) then they were usually in more trouble at home.
  20. In school we sat in rows of desks nailed to the floor. We listened to the teacher and learned by rote lists of facts which were often chanted repetitively. There was definitely no talking in school and no group work.

old school room

I add one wish for another change I’d like to see in my lifetime in the 21st Century:

For friendship, understanding, tolerance, empathy and peace to rule a sustainable and equitable world!

I don’t ask for much, do I?

Now back to the cemetery and Charli’s flash fiction challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a final resting place. I have taken Marnie to the place where her parents rest as she discovers more about them and their history than she had before realised.


She wasn’t sure why she was here. Miss R., Annette, had suggested she come. So she did. What struck her most, as she read the grave markers, was their ages. She’d never thought of them as young but their life spans were short; both a mere 49 years, going within a year of each other. She worked it out. They were younger than she was now when she’d left home. Who’d have thought? She felt a strange sadness, a familiar hollowness, not for the loss of their lives but for the absence of love, love which had never been.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.


Home or away

Many people look forward to a holiday away from home; an opportunity to escape the routines of the everyday and enjoy new experiences.  Many people look forward just as much to the return home, to familiar comforts and routines.

During the past twelve months I have enjoyed a few escapes away.

I travelled overseas and far away for my first visit to London.

Whitehall, London © Norah Colvin

Whitehall, London
© Norah Colvin

My visit to the UK included a few days at Saxmundham to the north

Cottage at Saxmundham © Norah Colvin

Cottage at Saxmundham
© Norah Colvin

and a visit to Dinosaur Adventure at Norwich for Grandson’s fifth birthday.

Dinosaur Adventure, Norwich © NorahColvin

Dinosaur Adventure, Norwich
© NorahColvin

I travelled to Cairns and Port Douglas in northern Queensland,

Port Douglas © Norah Colvin

Port Douglas
© Norah Colvin

and from north to south through Tasmania from Hobart to Launceston.

Hobart © Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

I visited Alice Springs and Uluru in Central Australia.

Uluru © Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

I also visited some seaside locations closer to home, including Hervey Bay and Marcoola to the north and Coolangatta to the south.

Hervey Bay © Norah Colvin

Hervey Bay
© Norah Colvin

Just last week I enjoyed a few days at a farmstay celebrating Grandson’s sixth birthday.

Farm © Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

Looking at that list, one might think I am never at home; but it doesn’t seem that way to me.

Visiting places away from home can be educational as well as enjoyable and fun; meeting new people, learning about different cultures and ways of life, experiencing new foods, activities and routines, and seeing different geographical features. This is true for adults and children alike. The learning is integral to the experience, not an add-on or a lesson.

However the experiences can be recorded by, with or for children to enhance learning opportunities; for example, but not restricted to:

  • Photo stories with accompanying text provide wonderful opportunities for reading and discussion and for keeping the memories alive over the years.
  • Diary or journal records that include dates, places and events provide opportunities for writing and reading. These entries can be supported with photographs, drawings, or “souvenirs” such as stickers, postcards, entry tickets and brochures.
  • Letters and postcards sent to family and friends provide further opportunities for sharing, writing and reading.
  • Emails can also be used to share highlights with family and friends and provide opportunities for using and learning about technology. I have found that including myself as a recipient for each email provides an effective alternative, or addition, to diary writing.
  • Marking routes and places visited on maps helps develop a sense of location and direction. Combining these with photographs or photo stories or diaries makes them even more meaningful.
  • Using a calendar to count down the weeks or days until departure, mark the days at each location, and the date of returning home helps to develop an understanding of the passage of time as well as the ability to read and use a calendar.
  • Discussion of departure and arrival times, the time until and the duration of journeys or events,  and relating these to time shown in both digital and analogue format helps develop an understanding of the use of time measurement and the passage of time. Use of printed and online timetables, as well as those displayed in airports, train stations and at bus stops provides opportunities for in-context and purposeful learning.
Example of a simple photo story for preschoolers

Example of a simple photo story for preschoolers © Norah Colvin

Books, including atlases and photo books, can be used to ignite interest in places to be visited during a planned holiday or generally to arouse interest in other places. Stories can also be used.


One such story is Letters from Felix by Annette Langen and Constanza Droop. It tells of Felix, a toy bunny who was lost at the airport, as he travels the world on his way home to Sophie. In my version Sophie lives in Hobart, Tasmania and she receives letters from Felix in London, Paris, Rome, Cairo, Kenya and New York. (If anyone owns a different version, I’d love to know the countries included.) In each letter, the information shared by Felix inspires Sophie to find out more about the location. When Felix finally arrives home he has a surprise gift for Sophie: a sticker from every location visited.

Letters from Felix is a great story to read at any time, but takes on extra meaning when one, or someone known, is travelling or returning from travels. It can be used to support or encourage an interest in geography in the classroom or at home. If children are not visiting locations as exotic as those visited by Felix, they may still be encouraged to record and share their experiences in the ways described above.

Of course, when children arrive home, they may be just as excited to rediscover their familiar comforts, toys and books and reconnect with friends and family left behind. As the song says, “There’s no place like home.”

What inspired me to think about holidays and home this week is the flash fiction challenge set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a return to home. I have written about Marnie’s return to the place she had grown up but had never felt was “home”. It also provides a segue to the next post in my series celebrating Australian picture books which includes “Home” by Narelle Oliver. I hope you will join me for that post. In the meantime, here is my flash:

The return

Her eyes looked outward but her gaze was inward, trying to unravel the confusion of tumultuous emotions: anger for what had been, sadness for what wasn’t, regret she hadn’t escaped sooner, fear of her reaction, coldness at their passing. The bus carried her back; some things familiar, some as different now as she, returning “home” after so many years. Home? She’d called it home, back then, but now realised it hadn’t been home, not really; not safe and warm and loving as any home should be. She’d left vowing to never return. She returned now for finality and closure.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.