These activities look at the multitude of animals found in the countryside, from those which can be seen and those which are very small and often overlooked. They all play an important role in the organic system. Try some of the activities to help explain why.
Play the Animal Farm activity
What animals are found on the farm? Pupils could study a particular animal in detail, making a labelled sketch describing its size, colour, shape, texture and features.
A diagram with captions could be created to describe what the animal contributes to the farm for instance with cows, the milking process, the marketing of the milk, milk products.
- The same… but different
Ask the children to look at a farm animal and see what they can tell you about it. How many legs does it have? How many eyes, toes, ears? Is it covered with fur or feathers? Can it smell? How many features are the same as ours? Consider a number of other animals (for example cow, sheep, chicken, pig, horse, human) and then give each child the name of one of them. Sit in a circle and ask members of the group if they have: fur, two toes, four legs, can hear, a tail and so on. If the answer is yes, they have to run round the circle and back to their seat again. This exercise demonstrates that in many ways, farm animals share a lot of common features with us (evident when all of the group get up and run around the circle) but that they are all individual as well.
- Sound maps
Each child is given a small piece of card. They mark themselves at the middle of the card with a cross and then go and find a quiet spot on their own. They sit and listen to what they can hear around them, marking the sounds of birdsong, rustling leaves, farm machinery and other noises with a symbol in relation to where they are sitting. The activity will highlight that the countryside may appear to be a quiet place but there is a lot going on which you may not be able to see. Pupils responses could later be developed into creative writing of various kinds. Poems could be written on shapes showing the outline of farm animals or other features.
- Chicken run
What do animals need? Food, water, homes, space to move? Are they the same needs that we have? Rope off a pen about 2m by 2m. The children all have to pretend that they are chickens and then they are put in the pen. They are usually a little bit squashed and you can ask them why it isn’t very nice for them (can’t scratch, can’t flap their wings, can’t run). They are then let out to become free range organic chickens. The children then run around and are much happier hens. If you were a farm animal, where would you prefer to live?
- Did you know?
Many bird species are more numerous on organic farms. The total bird population has been shown to be over twice as high. This is probably due to the avoidance of pesticides meaning more bird food, and favourable cropping practices improving habitats.
- Did you know?
Organic farms have high animal welfare rules which mean that farm animals are given the opportunity to express their natural behaviour. They have access to the outdoor environment and pigs and chickens are truly free range.
Mini-beasts fun: The good, the bad and the ugly
- Make friends with mini-beasts…
If you were a mini-beast, where would you live and what would you eat? See what little creatures or mini-beasts you can find living on the farm. Look under stones and dead wood; shake branches to see what falls off onto a piece of white paper; perhaps dig some pitfall traps using yoghurt pots. Look at different areas – the hedges, pasture, arable fields and see if there is a difference between the middle of the field and its margins.
- Mini-beast drama
Sort into spiders, beetles, centipedes and so on. Count the different colours. Why might some colours like brown or black be the most common. Why are some coloured really brightly? Consider camouflage and danger signals. How many legs do different bugs have? See if the children can act like their favourite mini-beast. For example, three could join up and pretend to be a bee with six legs, a whole line could pretend to be a millipede.
- Munch lines – who eats who?
The children are randomly given one of six cards with a picture on it: soil – barley – aphid – ladybird – skylark – fox – fungi. They have to arrange themselves in order to form a munch line (or food chain). When they successfully manage to get the order right, the soil and fungi join hands to form a circle – a cycle of life and energy flow. You then kill off the aphid so it falls out of the chain. This in turn affects the ladybird who also drops out, then the skylark, then the hawk and so on all down the line. This activity shows that all living things make up a complex food web so that by destroying one organism, it has a knock-on effect for other creatures.
- Did you know?
Organic farms have 1.6 times as many invertebrates as non-organic farms and twice as many spiders. Organic farmers encourage a balanced food web by creating habitats for predatory creatures such as ladybirds. This then helps to provide natural pest control rather than using harmful pesticides. This in turn helps to provide more food for skylarks and so on down the line. Research shows that organic farms are much richer in wildlife because of these and other practices.
Pupils can ask questions, carry out investigations and record observations, identify and compare different animals, mini-beasts and habitats, consider the different contributions of animals to the local environment. Look at food chains and the relationship between plants and animals. Consider how to treat animals with high regard to their welfare.
Pupils’ observations can be recorded and developed into creative written work, vocabulary can be developed, links can be made with animals featured in stories and poems studied in class.
Activities can be developed to present stories and to show understanding of different aspects of the relationship between plants and animals.
Pupils can develop observation and recording skills with regard to colour, shape, texture and use responses to different activities as a stimulus for creative and imaginative work.
Pupils can experiment with recreating the sounds heard on the farm and develop them into a piece of music.
There are opportunities for number work and surveys – collecting, presenting and analysing data.
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