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EYFS: How would an earthworm and a bird use this place? Sensory investigation


This activity encourages children to consider places from different perspectives. It provides an opportunity for multi-sensory exploration of familiar places. Children can observe and collect information by taking photographs, describing feelings, drawing what they observe or by collecting found materials.

Links to Understanding the world

  • Frequency and range of experiences increases children’s knowledge.
  • Making sense of the physical world.
  • Using observation to learn about the natural world.
  • Enriching and widening vocabulary.
  • Developing spatial and location awareness.
  • Developing empathy and understanding how animals share and use spaces.

Links to other areas of the EYFS

  • Links to storytelling and imaginative play.
  • Opportunities to use fiction and non-fiction texts alongside this activity to develop knowledge and understanding.

Starting points

You will need:

  • Access to an outdoor area, or photographs of outdoor spaces.
  • An earthworm and bird toy/puppet (or children can create their own versions from card or paper).
  • Camera or recording device.
  • Mapping software or aerial photograph.
  • Binoculars (optional).

Activity idea: ‘How would an earthworm and a bird use this place? Sensory investigation’

Select three contrasting places in your school grounds, such as a wooded area, the playground or the school field.

Ask the children to look at each of the spaces and think about what they would do in each space: how do they use that space and why?

Now introduce the children to a worm character and a bird character. These can either be soft toy characters, made by cutting out outlines from card, or even a photograph, but it will be useful to have a physical character to take with you outdoors.

Look at each of the spaces again and consider how an earthworm would use each of the places – consider where a worm would be. Is there any soil in this place? Would the earthworm be able to live here?

  • Earthworms sense the world through light and dark and feeling the vibrations in their bodies – use a non-fiction text to find out more about earthworms. Visit each of the spaces and use your senses to get close to the earth and think about how the place would look and feel from this perspective.
  • Notice scents and smells.
  • Notice what you can hear and feel here.
  • If you lie on the ground in this place, how does it feel – for example: hard, spongy, muddy, flat, bumpy, rough or smooth? Create a shared list of words to describe what you feel.
  • What can you see when you look up?
  • Do you think an earthworm would use this place, and why?
  • Is this place light or dark?
  • Children can be supported to take a photograph from close to earth to see how the world looks from this perspective.
  • Collect materials from the ground to create a collage of an earthworm’s perspective.

A bird sees the world differently to humans. Use a non-fiction text to find out more about a bird’s view.

  • Look at an aerial photograph or mapping software to view your school or setting from above.
  • Compare this view to the photographs you took on your visit to the three locations – what is the same? Colours? Features?
  • What can you see from above that you couldn’t see from the earth – tree-tops? A roof? Branches? A nest?
  • Go outside into each place and watch for how birds are using it; are they flying up high or looking for food near the ground? Remind the children you will need to be quiet and still to observe.
  • How do you think it would feel up high? Wobbly? Breezy? Colder?
  • Draw what you think a bird can see.

Create a whole class collage of the three places, using materials collected, words gathered and photographs or drawings from the places, invite other classes to come and see your display and explain how you collected ideas and images of the spaces.

How to make this successful

  • Consider the prior knowledge children will need for this activity, children will benefit from pre-teaching of vocabulary and facts.
  • Model and scaffold imagining the view from different perspectives, children are likely to need to support to do this successfully and will need the experience of physically being in the space and lying down to view the place from a different perspective.
  • Collect all feelings, observations, and ideas about the spaces. Recording these as a whole-class collage will support all learners to notice the differences between the three places.

Ideas to build on knowledge

  • Children could make their own worm from craft materials to take home and explore other spaces.
  • Share link to mapping software (such as maps available on mobile devices) with families/carers so that they can view aerial images alongside children and see spaces from a birds’ eye view.
  • Display an aerial view of the school and grounds in your small world area so that children can refer to this in their play.

This Teaching Resource was written for the Geographical Association by Sarah Sprake.

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