Bringing Life to Lessons: Creepy Crawlies Come to ECE

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At the end of May, Yew Chung International School of Beijing’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) students were paid a visit by some extraordinary insects. Visiting scientist and expert in entomology, Dr Jacob Wickham, led a brilliant session with a variety of living and preserved specimens. The whole of the ECE including our very youngest children were invited to attend and handle the creatures.

Dr Wickham has a Masters in Biology, a PhD in Entomology and Chemical Ecology, and completed his post-doctorate on the longhorn beetle. He is based at the Institute of Zoology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Nevertheless, “my fascination for biology and insects began when I was just four years old”, he explained, “so I really think it’s never too early to introduce children to the world of insects!”

Overcoming Fears


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For many of our ECE children these insects were unfamiliar and a little frightening. However, Dr Wickham explained that the species weren’t dangerous and wouldn’t hurt. Students were given the opportunity to hold the creatures and by the end of the class, several had large beetles resting in the palms of their hands.

“It’s always rewarding to see our children overcome their fears. This is a really valuable lesson” said ECE Teacher Miss Danielle Li.

Complementing the Curriculum


This term ECE students have been studying insects, butterflies and other common creatures such as snails. They’ve been learning to identify the different parts of the creatures and they’ve been exploring habitats. When Dr Wickham arrived, this was brought to life – quite literally!

Handling the specimens, our students were able to locate the antennae and abdomens and describe their appearances, and they enjoyed a fascinating discussion about habitats when Dr Wickham unveiled a segment of tree trunk that was swarming with insects.

Respecting our Environment


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Through our frequent trips to Honglingjin Park, our students are cultivating a strong respect for nature. We don’t pick flowers or harm anything living, and Dr Wickham’s visit was a brilliant extension of these important lessons. Our students learned how to handle the insects gently, and appreciate their beauty and incredible features.

Instilling this sense of respect for nature is an important grounding for the lessons that students will go on to learn in Primary and Secondary. At YCIS Beijing, a responsible and sustainable approach to the environment is embraced as a core feature of Global Citizenship.

Development Matters

The ECE curriculum at YCIS Beijing is built around the British Early Years system Development Matters. This encourages children to grow and learn in an environment that enables play, exploration and critical thinking. Dr Wickham’s visit is part of this approach: when children jump in with questions and observations they start to develop a perception of themselves as “explorers” – competent, confident learners who are able to make discoveries.

Learning from a Professional

“There is real value in learning from a professional scientist such as Dr Wickham”, commented Miss Li. “Not only is he able to offer expertise and knowledge that even we as teachers do not have, but he also sets a fantastic career example. When children are young, ideas of profession tend to be limited to Teacher, Doctor, Fireman etc. But for our children to see that they can pursue an interest in insects and even become a Doctor of insects – that’s invaluable!”

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