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Spotlight on: Pre-prep

Spotlight on: Pre-prep

Our Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 teachers on Pre-prep activities this term

Reception – Miss Natalie Shale

The Early Years Foundation Stage Science curriculum encompasses various discussions on ‘Understanding the World’. The current topic of focus is ‘Homes and Houses’ and the girls have been finding out about different kinds of houses around the world. This week they have been looking at materials that people and animals use to make their homes and their reason for choosing said material.

Last week the girls worked as a team to construct their own ‘house’ in the Spinney, using a mixture of natural and man-made materials to make it: remembering to take into consideration which materials were waterproof and how they could use these to make the walls and a roof. This term, the group will continue to investigate a range of materials and carry out different experiments to find out about the properties of these materials. All Science activities at the Pre-prep are very practical, and the girls are encouraged to be inquisitive and come up with their own questions, ideas and predictions that can then be discussed and tested.

At St Mary’s School, Cambridge we are incredibly lucky to have parents who are scientists and one of them, Anati L.’s mum, visited the class last week. She started off by telling the girls that scientists are always curious about everything, so they are always asking questions. When the girls agreed that they like to ask questions, she told them that they were scientists too, which they seemed very pleased about! Anati’s mum told the girls about how important the heart is and how exercise makes the heart beat efficiently. All the girls enjoyed finding out how fast their heart was beating by putting their finger into a very clever little machine, called a pulsometer, that worked out how many times their heartbeat in one minute. Two girls then did some exercise outside for one minute and re-tested their heartbeat and, sure enough, it had increased.

The outdoor classroom provides plenty of opportunity for scientific activities and the Reception class learns a great deal about animals and insects, habitats, life-cycles, plants and trees from hands-on experience. We also visit the Cambridge University Botanic Garden every half term and travel out to Home Farm at Wimpole Hall in the Summer Term.

Year 1 – Mrs Carol Kew

The girls are studying animal classification as their overarching topic this term: the focus for the first half of term was Beatrix Potter and her love of animals. They had great fun classifying the characters from Beatrix Potter’s stories. This term, they will be learning about senses in relation to animal classification, looking at the Nutcracker and all things Christmassy. They will be looking at Christmas lights and candles, will be listening to bells, robin songs and pulling crackers.

The class will also be tasting and smelling Christmas food and learning to be very careful when we touch holly and to never touch an open fire. There are lots of questions to be answered and predictions to be made. Do you hear what I hear? What happens to our eyes when we look at the bright Christmas lights? How do we know if the mince pie is too spicy? The Year 1 group is already feeling very festive and it’s fantastic for the girls to be tying it into their Science learning too.


Year 2 – Mrs Kerry Owens

Science in Year 2 is an exciting, hands-on and inevitably messy part of the curriculum. The girls learn, right from the start, that Science is about finding out the truth and often involves getting your hands dirty! The girls discussed how scientists address the questions they have by finding ways to test them. It is important for the pupils to learn the basis of investigation early on. They should have ideas and questions, and are encouraged to make predictions before they test them. Practical work is key to making a discovery and in Year 2 the girls learn about how to control an investigation by understanding what is changed and what stays the same. Observations should be frequent and do sometimes take time: the girls learn that making mistakes in Science is an important and invaluable part of the learning.

The girls have also been learning about Alexander Fleming's discovery of penicillin from samples accidentally exposed to mould spores. Asking and answering questions is always encouraged in their Science lessons, to ensure that the girls understand they might need to try and fail before they find the answer... and it might not be what they thought! Recording the process helps them keep track so the correct scientific skills and knowledge are introduced and applied early on. Sometimes that Eureka moment is well worth the hard work.

The Year 2 girls have enjoyed their practical work with mini beasts and are now learning about animal habitats and food chains. Our hands-on work with the snails and visiting scorpion and meerkat will help us understand what animals feed on and how their features help them to live in their habitat. Our Science work also links in well with History as we learn about Mary Anning and her fossil discoveries. We will learn about fossil formation by making clay and plaster fossil imprints. A hot wash may be required on the school uniform after this! As we begin to classify reptiles we will learn about dinosaurs, their habitat and adaptations. I hope that dinosaur food chains will prove very exciting and I will ensure the pupils understand that humans were not alive in prehistoric times before we visit the Sedgwick Museum!