Saint Andrew's Orthodox Church School

Nature Studies

O Lord, how magnified are Thy works! In wisdom hast Thou made them all; the earth is filled with Thy creation.

So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, creatures small and great.

– Psalm 103:24

Nature Studies is intended for students from primary 1 to 3. It runs in parallel with our Foundations in Science course. In Foundations students study the created world in abstracted scientific terms. Nature Studies gives our learners a more direct knowledge of the natural world by acquainting them with the animal and plant kingdoms. Where in Foundations children study food chains and plant life cycles, Nature Studies teaches them about particular animals and plants. Much of the content is drawn from zoology and ecology.

The purpose of the course is to increase children’s familiarity with and love for the natural world that we are a part of. Classes aim to show up the beauty, the awesome complexity and the grandeur found in creation.

Each lesson introduces a particular animal, plant species or habitat. The lessons will be structured around three aspects:

  1. When they study an animal for example (say a lion or the bee) they will learn something of their characteristics, their lifestyle and their habits, their habitat and what they need to thrive.

  2. The plant or animal studied will then be place in its context in nature. An emphasis will be given to understanding how animals contribute to earth’s cycles of life. In the study of birds for example students will learn about how birds carry seeds. In their study of bees they will learn about the importance of bees in pollinating flowers. Studying trees they will learn about their role in holding soil in its place, preventing floods, cleaning the atmosphere and providing crucial habitats. These incredible facts from the lives of creatures will give learners the data they need to make sense of the various ecological systems of interdependence that they study in Foundations.

  3. Nature and Society: Something will be learnt about how this animal has interacted with human societies across time. In the case of a lion students may learn about Kenya’s Maasai tribe where boys killed lions as part of their initiation ceremony. In the case of horses they may learn about their role in pre-technological food production and travel. The lesson on bees will look at beekeeping around the world for wax and honey.

Alongside flora and fauna children become familiar with the main types of habitats around the globe: including deserts, forests, rainforests, oceans, mountains, grasslands and so on. The study of these follows the same patters looking at the characteristics of these types, their function in the earth’s ecosystem and their relationship with human societies.

Particular emphasis is laid on British and Scottish habitats. The purpose is for students to grow their appreciation for and knowledge of the nature that surrounds them. For the purpose of making their relationship with their world richer the study of Scottish habitats includes learning about edible plants, toys that were traditionally made using natural materials, beautiful hillwalking routes and popular outdoor activities such as mountain biking.

The methodology used in the classes will include a variety of types: presentations from the teacher; worksheets; colouring sheets and craft work; presentations from the students themselves; fieldtrips and guest speakers.

Fieldtrips are an important element of the lessons. Children are given regular opportunity to go out into natural environments and observe nature ‘happening’. The class will go on bimonthly outings to observe how habitats and animal behaviour change with the seasons. They will then bring these observations back and refer to them in their other learning in Nature Studies, Foundations, Project Work and Art class.

A range of Charlotte Mason style ‘observation games’ are used to make children more attentive to detail. These are simple games such as: seeing how many species of plants and flowers the children can spot, how many different bird songs they can hear, how many colours of flowers each team can find, finding insects, I Spy (nature) with my Little Eye, and more.

Together with the regular nature walks children have the opportunity for other fieldtrips that bring their learning to life. These include visits to places like: the Scottish Owl Centre, The RNLI (Lifeboats sea rescue) and local Midlothian working farms.

Guest speakers are also invited to bring their real-life experience to the classroom. These include guest visits from organisations like: Guide Dogs Scotland, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Forestry and Land Scotland, the John Muir Trust and others.