Curriculum, Observations

Down in the jungle…

Overcoming my phobia of the Giant Millipede
Overcoming my phobia of the Giant Millipede

I don’t honestly know where to start describing my day today. Or even how to describe it. But “incredible” is a pretty good place to start.

My Y4 children have loved our “Down In The Jungle” topic. We’ve done loads of map work, investigated the layers and animals of the rainforests, made food chains and looked at skulls and teeth, and yesterday, we made poo to explain how the digestive system works. If you’ve never tried it (in the non-biological sense!), watch this video to see how – it’s amazing! The children were buzzing with talk about the topic.

But today, it all became more real.

Jonathan Cleverly brought his jungle roadshow to school.

Jonathan's Horsehead Grasshopper
Jonathan’s Horsehead Grasshopper

The children got to see tarantulas up close and personal (even more so when the so-far-unnamed Peruvian Pink-Toed Tarantula climbed over the camera that was projecting onto the whiteboard!) and to handle a millipede, leaf insects, geckos, enormous horsehead grasshoppers and Mrs Noah, the rainbow boa.

Jonathan immediately put the children at ease, explaining that there was no pressure to hold the animals, that none of them were dangerous, and by basically talking about poo a lot! His passion for the animals was instantly obvious, and the children so picked up on his enthusiasm and began to see the creatures as the beautiful species they are, rather than being “scary creepy crawlies”. Even those children who were initially apprehensive soon got involved and held everything they were offered. It was incredible to see their confidence grow by handling the animals.

The beautiful Crested Gecko
The beautiful Crested Gecko

Jonathan gave the children an enormous amount of information about the animals, often referring to his website to show them pictures of the animals in different environments and at different life stages. The children (many of whom often find it difficult to listen and concentrate) were completely engaged, asking question after question for Jonathan to answer. I don’t think I have ever seen them so focussed, or be so quiet during “gecko time”. Several members of staff came to see me at lunch time to say they had been bombarded by children wanting to share spider/gecko/millipede stories, all desperate to tell them what they had learned.

For these children, the topic came to life today in a way that I know they will be talking about for a long time to come. Next week, they visit the Living Rainforest so see the kind of environments where these creatures can liv, so they can continue the rainforest experience. I was asked very recently if I thought that topic work ought to take a back seat to make way for more reading, writing and maths. I can categorically say: no way. The children got more from a few hours with Jonathan today than they could ever hope to get in a literacy lesson. The amount of information they took away from today was phenomenal, and they have had an experience that will stay with them for years.

School is about so much more than assessments and work in books. It’s about learning about life and the world around us, and giving the children the confidence to deal with what they find in that big wide world.  And while most of these children won’t encounter geckos and tarantulas on a daily basis, they will know they have the confidence to overcome fears and the obstacles they encounter.


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