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  • September 14, 2009 11:42 am


Five  years ago, I became a convert of ant-watching. It was really, really my daughter’s fault. It began when she was two and a half.

Joy’s fascination with ants was contagious. She would watch them marching in their lines along the tiles of the kitchen floor and porch. Sometimes she would drop bits of paper, pencil shavings or biscuits in their path. I was as fascinated with watching her as she was of those spindly robust insects trudging here and there and everywhere about the world. Walks to the playground were punctuated by ant-watching, so much so that dinner time arrived too soon and the playground had to wait for the next day. We watched ants scurry in and out of their nests in the soil, sometimes heaving bits of leaf, crumbs, while always remaining in line.

Once we saw a team of them heaving a small roach .

“Will they make it?” she asked.

“Hmmm, they seem pretty determined,” said I. I looked at my watch. “Let’s play on the swings, shall we?”

“Do we have to?”

I was confused. Who was it who wanted to go? But it would take some time for those little creatures to lug the big fella’ to the opening of the nest. So off we went.

I had heard before that children were natural scientists. But I hadn’t reckoned on how much our explorations together would open my eyes and heart to the wonders of our world. Because of these explorations, I have become a more observant person and a more sensitive mother.

As parents, we play such a significant role in helping our young ones to experience the sense of wonder in discovering. Do we need to be experts? No. What we do need, is a keen understanding of our children: What excites their curiousity? What engages their interest? How do they learn best? Then we can use what we understand of them to integrate science experiences that build on their interests.

We don’t need to know all the answers. But, we do need to ask good questions. Questions that probe deeper thinking, keener observation. Questions that will gently guide them to find out the answers.

This takes a lot of learning on our part as parents. It starts with us : How interested are we in our world? How curious are we to discover and to experiment? How motivated are we to learn along with our children?

While knowledge of theories aren’t necessary, a knowledge of the principles of science would go a long way in helping us understand how to make science experiences both meaningful and fun for our kids.

By the way, we did return to that spot after a good time at the park. And those hardy creatures did manage to haul the battered roach into their nest.

The Story of Kakapo

  • September 14, 2009 11:35 am

“The Story of Kakapo: Parrot of the Night ” by Phillip Temple and  Chris Gaskin ,2000 . Longacre Press.  Picture Book. Softcover. Ages 4-8.


The kakapo is an endangered flightless bird, found in New Zealand’s forests 700 years ago.  The population of these ‘night parrots’ have been drastically reduced by the presence of predator mammals such as cats, that were brought in by European settlers. Conservation efforts have focussed on airlifting these birds from their home range to other islands where they are safe from these predators.

This is a story that describes the life of one such kakapo called Kairaki.  It is a descriptive piece, where the reader is introduced to the ways of the kakapo – habitat, food, mating, defense mechanisms.  Kairaki flees from his home range because a cat has killed his siblings. He roams about until he finds a new home. Here, he survives driving rain, food scarcity and violent gales. During the mating season, he performs the kakapo mating ritual ( this is wonderfully described) and succeeds to mate with only two female kakapo. When the mating season is over, Kairaki wearily returns to his home range where danger still lurks.

The writer has skillfully woven the facts about the kakapo into the narrative in an appealing and non-intrusive way. Ornithological notes are provided at the end of the book, and are useful for further research about this bird.

The gorgeous paintings , mostly in hues of blue, green and purple, effectively depict the poignancy of the kakapo’s plight and the lushness of its habitat.

This book won an AIM children’s book award in 1990.

Phrasal Verbs Poetry

  • September 14, 2009 11:08 am


For this writing activity, your child has to think of an incident e.g. football game, a dance, visit to the farm, a picnic by the sea, a day at school. She has to describe the incident purely through phrasal verbs.

Since this may be quite tough, you may want to ask her to write a short paragraph of the incident. Be sure to use phrasal verbs in her short description.

For example, you may want to describe a battle that you have watched on television between  some robots and humans ( this should ring about a a dozen bells!).  The poem would look something like this:

Invasion from the Sky( this is the title)

thrown out

spy on

descend on

hover over

peer into

press upon

slam down

knock over

knock down

smash up

chase after

blast away

blown up

hover over

hover over

clean up.

The title is very important as it enables the reader to make sense of the phrasal verbs.

You could also get your kids to write a few of these poems, without the titles, then ask them to exchange their poems and guess what each poem is about.