• New School, Canterbury

The Human Being and the Animal Kingdom


Our Rowan Class (Class 4) have just completed their first Zoology Main Lesson block - The Human Being and the Animal Kingdom. This Main Lesson began to work with their emergent capacity for observation and comparative analysis (a 'stepping back' to see the world) which by Class 6 becomes grounded in the study of scientific phenomena.


A deeper layer of this Main Lesson block is to accompany the Children in finding their place in the world anew as they come to terms with the loss of a 'oneness' with the world that they had previously, as younger children, happily bathed in. The overarching picture of this block is therefore one that explores what it means to be Human and contains an underlying thread of Animals as specialists, specially adapted to 'do what they do' in contrast to the Human Being as nature's creative 'all rounder'. It is a picture of human potential and possibility.


The Class explored the similarities and  differences between Minerals, Plants, Animals and Human Beings. The Children were amazingly insightful and articulate and spoke about how we have the capacity to discover and invent things, how we have language and how we can ask ourselves questions like 'who am I?'.


We then moved on to the threefold nature of the Human form. The stillness of the head that takes in sensory impressions, the action of the limbs that do and serve, and the rhythm of the trunk (breathing, heartbeat) that balances these poles and helps us to regulate ourselves. The Eagle, Bull, and Lion in turn gave us images of each of these soul qualities.


From there we went into zoology 'proper', meeting the Snail -  A master builder. Alongside its 'secrets' the Snail lends us an image of slow and steady diligence. The wisdom of Nature in the way ecosystems maintain balance arose organically out of the Snails life cycle, again coming almost entirely from the Children themselves. 


The Seal -  A hunting mammal, exquisitely adapted to water, was the next stop. The Class looked at both the Brown (Common or Harbour) Seal and the Grey Seal to see how some creatures take longer to learn and be at home in their environment than others. 



The children then met the Octopus and its intelligence and extraordinary ability to hide and mimic. This allowed us to implicitly explore the human head, human thinking and the contrast between its solitary nature and the sociability of the Seal. Later when we looked at how collective nouns for Animals give us an impression of their character we discovered that there is no term in the English language for a collection of Octopi - they are almost always on their own!


The last Animal the children met during this Main Lesson was the Squirrel who demonstrates the alert, nervy, vulnerability of Rodents, whose senses are keenly attuned and awake. The expressive and cleverly adapted tail of the Squirrel led the Class back to Animal specialism and the creative potential of Human hands. 


When we meet again after our half term break I am looking forward to exploring 'Problem Solving and Pattern Spotting' in our numeracy Main Lesson.


Mr Shaltiel - Class Teacher, Rowan Class

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