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Teaching The Circle Of Life

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Many children are naturally enticed by the allure of creatures great and small, so it is an invaluable opportunity to begin to teach them about the delicate balance of life within the cycles of nature.

Written by: Early Educational Advisor - Jo Harris  

It's The Circle Of Life…..And It Moves As All

Teaching and learning about the cycles of life are often very evident within an early childhood program. Many children are naturally enticed by the allure of creatures great and small, so it is an invaluable opportunity to begin to teach them about the delicate balance of life within the cycles of nature.

Whether a creature is a land dweller or inhabits the water to survive, each one has its own individual process from birth to death perfectly derived by evolution and the adaptation required to live. 

Learning about ourselves involves connecting to, and living harmoniously in alignment with others who are all important to our existence and that of our beautiful and precious planet Earth. 

 

Why Life Cycles are important

All life begins somewhere within the process of reproduction and (a form) of birth or growth. Naturally inquisitive and curious, children are fascinated by this and educators are fortunate to witness children experiencing change as they change. 

They ask questions and make decisions based on what they see which become tested as they assimilate existing knowledge with new facts and information.

Focusing on the life cycle naturally leads to an understanding and appreciation of growth and change. 

Children can begin to recognise their own growth and development and begin to mark their own personal and shared milestones, including losing teeth, outgrowing clothes and other transitions throughout childhood. 

While not all children and families celebrate Easter, it is an ideal opportunity to examine the physical growth that they all go through during childhood. This could be explored through the metaphor of the life cycle of an animal as it develops within the egg, hatches, and matures to an adult within open ended activities. 

It can be much easier to relate the abstract concept of growth when heard through the perspective of a book or story telling for all children as they experience the same trajectory. Witnessing it through observation and interaction can instil confidence and encourage a sense of mystery and excitement about the process of life itself.

 

Types of Life Cycles

Every living thing is part of a life cycle. Starting as a seed or egg, each living thing goes through a process of change in order to be born and live. The food we eat comes from nature and that too, is evolving in relation to its purpose. 

Some cycles are long, and some are short, but each one is unique to its role and connection to other things.

Whether they are part of a plant, egg or seed cycle the time is the same for each one, and when complete, the cycle starts again.

Completing a puzzle that illustrates the change from a caterpillar to a butterfly, a tadpole to a frog, or a chicken that hatches from an egg are all examples of the stages of a life cycle. Seeing these represented visually as an entire process all at the same time is a concrete way of better understanding what usually happens over several days, months or weeks in a short period of time. 

Each of the stages could invite questions and further exploration within the learning, which could be cross referenced with a story or song as a whole group to reinforce understanding. Including a puppet set when reading the much loved book The Very Hungry Caterpillar book can bring these concepts to life through connection and participation.


 

 

What stages life cycles include

The stages of a life cycle are the same pattern between each living thing, although the time spent at each stage can be different. 

First, an organism is born, either from a seed or egg, and then they mature and grow to reproduce their own offspring and another life cycle starts. A life cycle ends when an organism dies.

The pattern repeats over and over again, sometimes for millions of years. Looking at the pattern as a circle shows us how it repeats.

When exploring the elements of nature during outdoor play it can be an opportunity to look for patterns within the environment. Collecting flowers, leaves and pine cones and studying them under a microscope, magnifier or at the light panel are promoting curiosity and interest in how they are formed with greater understanding. 

Including a selection of tools like binoculars, clipboard, pencils and a tape measure can encourage a different kind of interaction with the environment in which children can be supported to track the changes that are constantly occurring but often in plain sight and document them while encouraging emergent literacy and numeracy skills.

 

 

Similarities and differences between Life Cycles

Although the life cycle process includes the same key elements, the way that life begins differs between animals and plants as do the habitats they live in. This can also influence the life span they could expect to live.

Animals that hatch from eggs can include those that live in water and on land. They can range from microscopic to enormous in size. Even the time they take to hatch can vary between days, weeks and months before they are born.

Discovering more about these similarities and differences, could ultimately lead to further exploration of the life cycles of the habitats they live in - and how we can teach children to protect and conserve them.

 

 

How to make learning about Life Cycles meaningful 

Introducing the stages of life cycles can be made more relevant to young children by exploring it as a whole process, and focusing on one element at a time. 

This can lead to more opportunities to learn how their own bodies work from the inside out as well as gaining a deeper understanding of other living things in the world around them. 

Planning interactive experiences with nature, such as planting seeds, encourages children to learn some of the basic elements for growth to occur.

Studying each element of the life cycle with a practical activity can further embed learning of growth, reproduction and the transformations that take place in between that can be witnessed by the children directly, cementing their experience and level of awareness.

 

How/Where Cycles of Life as a topic within the EYLF

Cycles of Life as an extended area of interest that can be explored as part of the program covers many outcomes of the EYLF including Wellbeing and Learning. The emphasis on wellbeing could focus upon the importance of having a routine which incorporates basic elements of healthy living and how it affects growth in a positive way.

The cycles of life are ever present, though sometimes so subtle it is not until close attention is paid they are noticed. 

There are many animal species whose life cycles are worthy of closer focus and attention. Spending time discovering and exploring these cycles are not only informative but also miraculous as being alive is.

Throughout our daily activities, time spent observing animals and insects in nature could include bird watching, or noticing the change of season, or sequence in a life cycle through the colours of leaves and plants.

We invite you to read more about the benefits of time spent outdoors in our More Reasons To Love Nature Play blog in our Resource Centre.

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