Photograph of a peacock buttefly on a flower

Watching Summer Wildlife

Photograph of a hoverfly on a poppy head
(c) Kate Howlett

This is the final Nature Classroom post before the summer holidays. We hope you have been enjoying exploring the natural world with us this term. We thought we would finish the term with some fun activities engaging with the wildlife on your doorstep. There is information about a fantastic citizen science project from Butterfly Conservation, as well as wildlife-watching activities as part of Summer at the Museums. We will be posting fun family activities in Crafty Creatures over the summer holidays, so do check those out.

Photograph of a katydid on a leaf
(c) Matt Lowe

These activities support learning in the following areas:

Identify and name a variety of common animals

Identifying that most living things live in habitats to which they are suited.

Different habitats provide for the basic needs of different kinds of animals and plants, and how they depend on each other.

Recognise that environments can change and that this can sometimes pose dangers to living things.

Picturing Nature

How closely do you look at your local habitats? Join us as we explore the animals living near you.

Photograph of a fly on a flower

Task: Use the nature frame to record the wildlife where you are

Image credit: Matt Lowe

First print out the nature frame, or make your own from and A4 sheet of paper. Ask a grown up to help you cut out the middle.

Nature Frame outline

Now discover the wildlife where you are using the frame. Put your frame down on an area of grass and draw what you see in the Grass section of the frame. Do the same for gravel and path.

Now take a white tray or sheet and place it under a tree with the frame on top. Shake the branches and see what falls out. Draw it in the Trees section of your frame. For the Flowers and Water sections, hold up the frame in front of a flower or area of water and take a photo through it. Draw what you see in these sections.

You can find full instructions and other activities for your nature frame by downloading our Picturing Nature sheet:

Why not draw a picture of your summer of wildlife to frame with your new nature frame?

Fluttering Butterflies

Summer is the perfect time to look out for butterflies. On a sunny day you might see them from your window, in your garden or out on a walk. Butterflies are easily frightened off – to spot them, it is best to keep still or move quietly, and try not to cast a shadow over the butterfly you are watching or it will fly off. A bit of patience will be rewarded with a real treat.

Photograph of a peacock buttefly on a flower

Task: Take part in the Big Butterfly Count

Image credit: John Howlett

The Big Butterfly Count is run by the charity Butterfly Conservation. This year it is running from Friday July 17 – Sunday August 9. On a sunny day, find yourself a spot to count butterflies from and do just that for 15 minutes. Butterflies can tell us a lot about the health of our habitats, so your data can help scientists to take the pulse of nature. Here’s our Museum Research Assistant Matt Hayes with some top tips on spotting butterflies:

Here are our top 10 butterflies to keep a look out for this summer:

Photograph of a Holly Blue butterfly on a stem

Task: Keep a butterfly diary

Print off our Butterfly Diary sheet, or create your own in a notebook and keep track of the butterflies you spot this summer: what they look like, where you saw them and when.

Can you see any patterns in where you see particular butterflies? Think back to Matt’s video – can you remember that some butterflies are adapted to live in grasslands, some in woodlands and other habitats. Can you see this in your diary too?

bright collaged butterfly craft

Task: Create a butterfly

Did you know that butterfly wings are covered in tiny scales? These give them their colours and patterns. Take inspiration from nature and have a go at designing and collaging your own butterfly. We have three templates to choose from, each the outline of a different type of British butterfly: the peacock, the comma, and the holly blue.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Print out your outline on paper or thin card
  2. Find some colourful magazines,newspapers or wrapping paper to recycle. Cut into small squares or rectangles to make the scales for your butterfly wings.
  3. Using a glue stick or PVA glue, create your pattern from these paper squares like a mosaic on your butterfly wings.
  4. Cut round your butterfly and you’re finished. You could also add some thread or strips of paper for antennae on its head.
opening collaged butterfly wings

Idea: Why not collage both sides of your butterfly? The undersides of a butterfly’s wings are often very different to the top surface – think of the brown underside of a peacock butterfly, or the green speckled pattern on the underside of an orange-tip butterfly. When the wings of these butterflies are closed they are camouflaged so can hide from predators.

These activities are part of Summer at the Museums by the University of Cambridge Museums. Find activities from other museums on their website.

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