Knowledge and Understanding of the World relates to children’s everyday lives, their homes, families, other people, the local environment and community, and the wider world. There are three main areas in this area of learning -
- Places and people (Geography)
- Time and people (History)
- Myself and other living things (Science - Biology)
- Myself and non-living things (Science - Physics)
Through different types of play, active, and experiential learning opportunities as well as practical activities, children will be provided with meaningful experiences. These will stimulate their senses as well as encourage them to ask questions, explore and wonder at their environment. They will undertake investigations that engage their interests, and develop awareness of the beliefs and views of others.
The spiral curriculum reflects a belief in children’s learning as a process of revisiting and building on previous experiences, skills, knowledge and understanding as children develop. This model is particularly appropriate to children’s learning and development between the ages of 3 and 7 years and supports the ethos of the Foundation Phase. Some topics or themes may be pursued by children across the age range at their own level; for example the cross-curricular theme of ‘Where I live’ could be undertaken by any age group and would involve different learning activities depending on prior knowledge.
Children will learn through the process of experiential learning, which:
- is central to good practice in education for young children
- starts with the children’s present or past experience
- encourages curiosity and exploratory play
- provides an opportunity for children to recall and draw upon their experiences
- requires children to question their learning experiences
- enables children to explore and investigate their learning environments
- enables children to communicate, interact and talk about what they want to do
- enables children to feel they are valued
- relates learning to themselves, their own lives and the real world
- allows for new learning
- allows practise of skills
- allows opportunities to record their findings in a number of ways
- incorporates opportunities to evaluate learning
- imitating others, for example in role play and imaginative play
- being taught specific skills directly, for example how to use specialist tools or measuring equipment.
Development of skills
The following skills are essential to this Area of Learning and can also be developed across the curriculum.
- Observing • Sorting and grouping
- Comparing • Sequencing
- Classifying • Asking/answering questions
- Enquiring • Investigating
- Exploring and experimenting • Thinking
- Listening • Solving problems
- Making decisions • Recording
- Predicting and testing • Communicating
- Reflecting • Evaluating
Places and people
To support the development of children’s skills and knowledge of ‘Places and people’ the following are key areas and experiences that could be planned for.
- Starting with knowledge of their own home children might talk about where they live, make a model with construction equipment or draw their house, progressing to different types of transport, describing and recording their journey to school pictorially.
- A walk in the local area can be followed by sequencing the journey using photographs, expressing preferences for particular features of the environment and drawing a plan of the local area with symbols to represent particular features.
- Children should start with knowledge and understanding gained from visits in their locality when comparing and contrasting places such as the beach, town or country.
- Visits to contrasting places should allow children to develop their skills of enquiry, become competent in identifying and discussing geographical features, and have first-hand experiences of a range of different environments.
- Children could create small world scenarios or record their experiences by drawing, painting, model making or using appropriate computer software.
- Aerial photographs of the locality will help children to begin to understand how different places relate to each other and how to use relevant geographical terms to describe particular features.
- Programmable floor toys and remote-controlled equipment can be used to enable children to learn to follow directions and routes, as well as promoting skills at using technology.
- Building on earlier recording skills children should progress to producing their own maps, and using large-scale maps and plans.
- Through listening to stories, examining photographs, and asking and answering questions, children can learn about places that are further away, the people who live there, the types of food produced, the different types of travel and transport and how to use atlases and globes to locate places.
Time and people
To support the development of children’s skills and knowledge of ‘Time and people’ the following are key areas and experiences that could be planned for:
- Children can learn to sequence events in their day by using evidence from photographs, and by recording their ideas in pictures and booklets. Through stories, songs and rhymes children’s sequencing skills of the passing of time will be reinforced.
- Using photographs they take themselves (both indoors and outdoors) children can progress to sequencing events in the week and for longer periods. When appropriate, the events can be recorded using a time line. Children should become familiar with vocabulary that describes the passage of time, starting with events in their own lives.
- Photographs of earlier generations can provide a good stimulus for children to explore and ask questions about past times and events, as well as also engaging parents’/carers’ interest in the curriculum. Photographs might also contribute to a class museum of old/new household items or toys that children can handle and compare, while at the same time learning relevant vocabulary to describe the characteristics that identify artefacts from different periods of time.
- Visitors might be asked to talk about their own childhood or school days with the children. This will enable children to develop their knowledge and understanding of ways of life in different times, to engage in two-way conversations as well as examine photographs and artefacts and listen to stories. This will help children to interpret evidence and understand why people did things, why events happened and some of the consequences.
- These visitors’ accounts can be compared with books, DVDs, museum displays, and so on, to help children understand that there are different ways of interpreting the past.
- Stories can also help children to understand the concept of old and new, and the influence of past events and characters (for example characters from Welsh history).
- Visits to local museums and historic sites can help children to gain a greater understanding of the buildings and ways of life in Wales in past times.
Myself and other living things
To support the development of children’s skills and knowledge of ‘Myself and other living things’, the following are key areas and experiences that could be planned for.
- Starting with themselves, action rhymes and songs will allow children to build their understanding and vocabulary for describing the main parts of their bodies.
- Children should learn about their features by observing their reflections in mirrors, making comparisons and talking about the visible similarities and differences between themselves and other children.
- As they progress children should observe and make comparisons between humans and other animals. They should discover that animals, including humans, move, need food and water, as well as grow and reproduce.
- Through experimenting in a range of structured activities children should learn to use their senses to discriminate between different sounds, tastes, smells and textures, as well as to recognise differences visually.
- Through using magnifiers and observing other living things such as minibeasts collected in the local environment, children should learn about other living creatures and sort and classify them according to their own or agreed criteria.
- As their skills develop children should be able to record the data from their investigations using tables, charts, graphs, pictorial representations and ICT as appropriate.
- Practical activities such as digging, planting, and looking after seeds and observing their growth, will lead to knowledge of parts of a plant as well as understanding that plants are living things that need water to grow.
- Children could explore a sensory area or display (a sensory garden might be set up outdoors for them to investigate). Outdoor learning should also provide children with knowledge of conservation and sustainability.
- Building on earlier experiences children should be able to carry out investigations and make predictions about the best conditions for growing seeds. As they become more sophisticated in their investigations children should be able to recognise the conditions for a fair test.
- Observations, investigations and topic work linked to growth should enable children to learn about the process of change in animals and plants over a period of time, as well as the effects of weather and the seasons.
- Opportunities should be available for children to select different recording systems.
Myself and non-living things
To support the development of children’s skills and knowledge of ‘Myself and non-living things’ the following are key areas and experiences that could be planned for.
- In exploratory play and through problem solving children should discover the different properties of the natural materials sand, water, wood and clay.
- When engaged in creative play with malleable materials children should discover, by stretching, squashing, bending or twisting, that some materials can be moulded into different shapes.
- There should be many opportunities to explore and investigate the properties of materials from which everyday objects such as toys or clothing are made, and to acquire relevant vocabulary to describe them and begin to link the materials with their uses.
- In early investigation work children should obtain information by using their senses to explore natural and made materials. They should communicate their experiences and what they have learned about the properties of the materials, progressing to testing materials, recording observations and measurements accurately.
- Children will learn from first-hand experiences (such as cooking activities) to observe and describe the changes that occur in some everyday materials when heated or cooled, or when materials are mixed.
- In physical play with large- and small-wheeled toys, children experiment and begin to learn that a push or a pull can make something speed up, slow down or change direction. Children begin to use appropriate vocabulary that relates to forces.
- From an early age children learn to use switches to control electrical devices and they will need to be taught directly about the dangers of electricity.
- Children who are able to follow instructions and assemble electrical circuits will be particularly interested in doing it if this is linked, for example, with lighting up models, especially those that they have made themselves.
- By observing the effects of sunlight and investigating the effects of light using torches and lamps in darkened spaces, children will develop understanding of light, darkness and shadows, and will begin to predict about the possible effects of different conditions.
- Games and experiments with sound will enable children to begin to understand how sound travels. They will enjoy creating their own ‘telephones’ with recycled materials, making decisions and solving problems together.
- Children of all ages can experiment at an appropriate level with sound-making objects or equipment, recording their discoveries in an appropriate form.
- Children should be encouraged to use a variety of different information sources (such as books and information technology) to increase their knowledge and understanding of the world around them.