Wow! learning in EYFS and KS1

Wow! learning in EYFS and KS1
We all love to follow through children’s personal interests, such as the universal fascination of wild animals.  Take giraffes.  Here are some Wow! facts with child-appeal (some  for EYFS and some for KS1).

Giraffes are the tallest animals in the world.
A giraffe’s tongue is about 45cm long.
They are browsers, and eat mainly acacia leaves.
Giraffes are covered in fur, and each has a unique pattern.
A baby giraffe is 2 metres tall when it is born.

Giraffes are mammals.

But  how can we make this knowledge  accessible and meaningful to young children, and use it to truly develop and extend their learning?

As teachers, we all like to follow the maxim ‘I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand’ (I only found out today that this is from Confucius), by using, as far as possible, a wide range of first hand, sensory experiences in engaging cross-curricular ways that take account of children’s different learning styles. However, when a child has, say, a huge fascination for giraffes, how can we best nurture this when first hand experiences (i.e. a trip to a Safari park or zoo) are not always possible, either for a family, in these difficult economic times, or for a school? Obviously, we don’t want to ignore children’s interests because it is not always possible to provide a direct experience , but we do our best to find as many ways as we can to make a child’s learning meaningful.

For this reason, Katy Jones and I decided to develop Child’s Eye Media, to produce documentaries for children that would make the world accessible to them, because the films would be from a  child’s perspective. The films give a real-life context to children’s learning, enabling them to assimilate knowledge and make connections, sewing the seeds for lifelong learning.

The moving image is extremely powerful, but we didn’t just want to make visually appealing films that would lead to passive viewing, but films that would inspire children to do, and so understand.  The films complement children’s learning experiences in nursery and school by providing a real world context that may not always be possible, shot from a child’s point of view, and by also featuring children learning with one another in a school setting.  Here are a few examples of how one of our films work, and some ideas you can try.

In ‘A Child’s Eye View of Safari’, six year old Ellie and Nishaan become assistant safari park keepers for the day, helping to look after giraffes, elephants, rhinos, meerkats and baboons, and asking the keepers lots of their own questions.  The film brings to life the giraffe facts above in  a ‘child sense’ way. So, for example, we see just how tall giraffes are, by seeing them both in the grasslands of Kenya, and at the safari park.  The children feed bananas to a giraffe and we see its amazingly long purple tongue.  Ask your children to make a paper tongue 45cm long and to think of items the same length!

The Wow! photography by an award-winning wildlife cameraman makes you feel as if you’re right next to the animals.  Pause the shots of a giraffe’s coat so children can carefully observe the markings and paint a baby giraffe, using potato prints, like the children in the film. There are intriguing scenes showing Ellie and Nishaan ‘hoisting the browse’ with Gary, the giraffe keeper – dragging branches of leaves on a rope and pulling them up on a pulley to the top of an artificial tree in the giraffe house!  Find out how your children can do this in the teachers’ notes, which include background information on all the animals in the films – to save you valuable research time.  We also see Gary filling in his ‘giraffe diary’.  Encourage your children to create a safari park and to ‘jot down notes’ about the animals e.g. name, food eaten, behaviour , illnesses or accidents, and babies born. Place a laptop next to your carpet area, so your safari vets can use the scene of the Knowsley Safari Park vets bandaging a deer, to immediately inspire their own role play.

The film  helps children learn that when a baby giraffe is born it’s as tall as a door! And also how tall ‘two metres’ is, as the children measure and  stick their picture of a baby giraffe onto the door. They also compare its height with Jinda, a four year old, who is one metre tall. We see a baby giraffe drinking milk from its mother and the whole film makes clear to children what a mammal is, with the help of Denise, the educational director of Knowsley Safari Park who leads the children’s fun activities in the ‘Safari school’ section, with Jack, a KS1 teacher.  Jack helps the children think of animal movement words and to move like animals.  Play the footage of the real animals moving, through a projector, onto a wall, as a wonderful backdrop for your children’s animal movements.  There is now a set of animal role play outfits available to accompany the film, including a meerkat – as well as an elephant, rhino and baboon, to further help children’s creative engagement with learning about wild animals.

Whether you’re a teacher in EYFS looking for a really flexible and practical resource to build on your children’s love of wild animals that encompasses all the six Areas of Learning and Development, or a KS1 teacher looking for Wow! contexts in which children can explore say, animal classification, coverings, movement, or an Africa theme, then do check out the excerpt of  ‘A Child’s Eye View of Safari’  at or click the link  A Child’s Eye View of Safari

About Linda Mort | Early Years Learning

Early Years Learning is a blog by Linda Mort, a published early years specialist and Educational Director at Child's Eye Media.
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