Tuesday 26 February 2013

Reasons to... explore the great outdoors

Followers on twitter will know that we just had an excellent birthday party where the kids went out exploring. No running round a Church hall for us and playing party games, good fresh air and getting grubby, girls and boys. I've written a review about the party but something at the party made me think.

The group consisted mostly of school friends, and 2 old friends from nursery who have gone onto different schools. At Princess C's school one day a week, no matter what the weather, they go out to the wooded area of the school field and explore. I'm not sure what they get up to but it involves a lot of mud judging by the state they come home in. The kids love this day, they play hide and seek, listen to bird songs and make bird feeders, learn about fungi and moss. I'm sure the teacher can go into more details but 4/5 year old's are very short on feedback at the end of the school day.

So when all the kids went out exploring at the party they really got into it, they almost seemed upset when it was time to go in and the cold didn't seem to bother them. Except for the 2 girls from different schools. Both complained about the cold, neither got into exploring or wanted to take home what they made that day. I don't think it was down to them not knowing anyone in the group as they were made to feel welcome and mixed well. But I do know neither child goes to a school with a wild outdoor area that they can explore every week.

Sadly in school their outdoor exploring day doesn't extend beyond reception, from year 1 I think it focuses more on sports. But I'm so please she has had this time to develop a love of getting out there, getting grubby and learning things.

Schools are being forced to expand to make way for extra classes, this means valuable outdoor areas are being concreted over. Some parents didn't even know the place we visited existed, yet it's right on their doorstep and can be seen for some miles. If parents don't take their children out, and schools get concreted over what chance do children have to know what is out there... watching Bear Grylls on tv.

In April it will be a year from when the National Trust launched their 50 things to do before you're 11 and 3/4. I do hope this has made an impact, we did a blog post on how to complete some of your 50 things within Oxfordshire.

Monday 25 February 2013

Natural History Museum, Tring, Hertfordshire

 Everyone knows of, and quite possibly visited, the Natural History Museum in London. In Tring is their sister museum which was started by Walter Rothschild over 100 years ago.
The history of the museum and Walter is amazing. The NHM website has excellent video which is fascinating viewing and puts it all a lot better than I can write it.

The museum is quite unique in that the cases and animals are still displayed as Wrothchild left them. The cases are quite close together. Not like the wide open spaced museums we often find now. Animals are also grouped as they were 100 years ago, by type lion, monkey, fish etc these days we have a variation on this theme. Some cases are also very cluttered, the animals are posed and displayed in a way you wouldn't find now. These aren't negative points at all... its just a very different museum to what we see a lot of now. It reminds me slightly of the pitt-rivers in Oxford. A low light museum with so much to see at every turn, and you see something different every time. It all adds to the atmosphere.

There is such a variety of animals, and such an amazing vast selection, yet this is only some of it. Some were sold and some used for study. Walter used to keep animals on his land in Tring, popular animals being tortoises and zebras. The zebras he harnsed up to a cart and he was pulled past Buckingham Palace. These zebras can now be seen on display.

There is a really big display of dogs, not something you would expect to see in a museum. Some of the breeds were unusual yet some we recognised the names but as cross breeding has continued the animals looked different to the ones you will see today.

There was a video on taxidermy .. we skipped this. Sorry. Just could not watch. You can read the display next to it which we did and look at the types of eyes used.

We brought a worksheet from the shop before we went in, and it was fun to find all the letters and spot the different animals in the display cases. We also grabbed a bite to eat from the cafe, its very compact and the food was ok, if the weather was nice it would have been good to take a picnic and eat it outside.

NHM Tring was an excellent few hours of exploring, its free to enter and has free parking. It was really busy when we went, with kids of all ages having an excellent time. Some areas were a little cramped with large pushchairs but every area is accessible with lifts.