Author: Julia Donaldson, Axel Scheffler | Age: 3+
Join this unlikely pair of animals in their search for the monkey’s mum. Starting with size, the monkey declares that his mum is bigger than him and the butterfly takes him to an elephant. As the monkey continues to describe his mum’s physical attributes, habitat and behaviour, the butterfly takes the monkey to a series of different animals, based on just one of the criteria each time. Eventually, the two animals realise that a big misunderstanding has been hampering their search: While the monkey assumed that the butterfly knew that mother and baby monkey looked alike, the butterfly, based on her own experience, was searching for a mother with a different physical appearance. Illustrating that communication is key, they eventually find the monkey’s mum.
The two animals’ search opens up a wealth of interesting conversation starters: Which animals look like their parents and which don’t? How would you describe your parents if you lost them? What criteria can you use to describe people and animals? The children could describe animals to each other and guess which ones they mean. Can they guess correctly when they’re given just one physical attribute? How about two or three? Does it help if they know where the animal sleeps or whether it can climb on trees? The children will experience that accurate and detailed observations and descriptions are essential to avoid miscommunication and are therefore important tools in scientific research.
The story itself is one of inquiry-based learning. As the educator, you can take a step back and observe the children learning to work together through trial and error, eventually completing their “mission”. Providing a co-constructed learning environment, you will know how to guide the children and scaffold their learning experiences. If you check children’s prior knowledge at the beginning, you can avoid misunderstandings, but it might be worthwhile to wait and watch the situation unfold. Maybe the children can demonstrate peer learning like the animals in the story and work out their communication problems themselves. Discussing their experience in the end will encourage the children to reflect on their thinking processes and help them develop metacognition, one of the pillars of the Little Scientists educational approach.
With our book recommendations, we want to help you spark a conversation that leads children to discover STEM in their everyday lives. Have the courage to go beyond the obvious STEM connections and embrace all questions that may come out of your discussion with the children.