Completing our Universe Story Year with St Johns

After 12 months of travelling through the journey of the universe with children and teachers from St John’s Primary School in Wallingford it was natural to finish with our responsibility for the future. To do this we chose to tell the story of the bees, writes Jane Riddiford.

During the morning assembly we learnt about the earliest bees who inhabited our planet 130 million years ago and now like the canary in the mine, bees are telling us we need to start paying attention to them and all of life on earth.

We set the children a task to research and express through words and pictures what we could all do to help bees.

By the end of the day the classrooms were full of colour and commitment.

Bee campaign artwork (pictured above and below)

Meanwhile in a nearby field another kind of research was occurring with Years 3 and 4 (8 and 9-year-olds) GG’s Universe Story Educator Rod Sugden, gently guiding them...

“I would like you to stand up very slowly without making a sound ...and now you are going to walk in the way ancient people’s walked. They needed to walk this way when they hunted animals, if the animal heard the sound of a broken twig or a leaf rustling they would run away. We don’t need to hunt animals anymore but now we need to learn to walk this way , so we can learn about nature and in this way we can help to save the planet. As you walk I want you to use all of your senses, feel the ground under your feet, the wind on your face, the sound of the birds... notice the different grasses and the creatures that live amongst them.”

                                                                   Sitting still

                                                                   Sitting still

In silence the group spread out and found their own ground, “now cut your pace in half, go as slow as you can go” said Rod.

As we came together again and shared our experience, it seemed the world had opened itself to us a little more that day – “I tasted the air” ... “I saw two dragon flies”...”I noticed the swallows gliding”...”the grass was as soft as a sofa”...”the ants moved like lightening”... ”I felt that I was a hover fly” said the children.

The session was to be about bees, where they came on the evolutionary timeline and their current predicament. As the day progressed it became clear that to learn about bees we had to experience the whole of nature and the wider cosmos.

In the freefall writing different threads of knowing braided together, one onto the other, what did you feel, what did you see, hear, taste and touch?... what do you know scientifically and what is your imagination dreaming up about your experience? Not one over the other but all together in a layered story. The children’s writing amazed us as they expressed why they think nature is amazing...

Even things like trees have their own special job. When there is wildlife around me I feel free and relaxed. When I hear birds I sometimes think they are talking to each other, like the way nature adapts to its habitat. Nature has its own talents and jobs that are important to us, as well as itself.
— Hannah
I think nature is amazing because you can hear, feel and see nature. Today I saw a butterfly and bees, I could hear bees buzzing and butterflies fluttering when I am in the wood I feel so free I love nature!
— Grace
I think nature is amazing because there are many different types and you can learn if you just let your mind go free, some of them are colourful but it does not matter what they look like, they still may be friendly.
— Brooke
When I did the slow walking I noticed the wind is only blowing gently but it still makes the trees sway.
— Sam
I think nature is amazing because it can all communicate and work together. It’s lovely to watch it all. Nature is also amazing because wherever you go you can’t miss any. Ants are really amazing at building homes in one big group. Nature is amazing because it can make songs and it has a variety of creatures and plants, some big and some small.
— Un-named Year 4 Participant

As we left the field, the children lined up and silently went into the woods.

Raiesa, GG’s Universe Story project assistant, was waiting beside a small wooden table fashioned out of logs, nestled into a hollow in the ground. Slowly and carefully she gave each child a gift from the bees, Skip Garden honey was poured onto a slice of apple, which the children held as they thought about the pledge they would make to help create a flourishing future for life on our planet.

                                                    Wild flower seed bomb making

                                                    Wild flower seed bomb making