Seasonal approaches to RE for Early Years and KS1 pupils

Gill Vaisey

Gill Vaisey is a Consultant and an Innovate My School Expert in Religious Education.

Gill is a qualified teacher and Religious Education Consultant specialising in primary and early years education. She provides training and support for LAs, Church Dioceses, Schools and Nursery Settings across England and Wales.

Gill has written and produced a range of exciting books and cross-curricular resources (Books@Press) designed specifically to support RE for Early Years and KS1 pupils. For a wealth of free downloadable resources for the classroom and comprehensive teachers’ topic webs and planning material for the EYFS (England) and Foundation Phase (Wales) simply visit Gill’s website below.

Through her training and resources, Gill makes RE fun for pupils and easy for teachers!

Tel: 01594 516490

Website: Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Religious Education for our younger pupils is often associated with exploring festivals but, with a bit of imagination and some good resources, RE can be much more than that.

Spring is the perfect time to make the most of the outdoor learning environment. With many nursery settings and KS1 classes enjoying topics linked to the natural world at this time of year, it is important to recognise that religious education can make an enjoyable and worthwhile contribution. Popular topics such as Mini-Beasts, Gardens, Our World, The Park, Animals, Birds, New-life and Spring all lend themselves well to RE.

However, to ensure that we are properly including RE in our topic planning, we must first identify what makes RE distinct from Personal, Social, and Emotional aspects of learning and Cultural understanding – areas with which RE often gets confused!

Whilst aspects of PSE may be a good starting point for RE, we need to extend these ideas and explore explicit aspects of religious beliefs and practices. Religious education is about developing an understanding of people’s beliefs, and how those beliefs affect their everyday lives. However, examples of such beliefs and practices need to be selected appropriately to match the developmental stage of the children. Aspects of RE explored at this phase of education will be further developed through primary and secondary school. Therefore, whilst RE for early years and KS1 children should be appropriately challenging, most importantly, it must be age appropriate, relevant and meaningful for our 3–7 year olds.

Try some of these ideas for fabulous cross-curricular topic work on the natural world:

First, encourage children to consider their own attitudes towards the environment and living creatures. What do they like / dislike? What are their favourite animals and creatures? Share some popular stories about animals and the natural world. Share some stories from faith traditions that illustrate beliefs about creation of the world and responsibility towards living things. Even the youngest children in our nursery settings can grapple with these ideas if explored through stimulating age appropriate material. Give children exciting first hand experiences of the aspects of the natural world that the stories explore. Linking the content and messages of the stories with the real world brings the stories alive and illustrates the relevance of the stories to the everyday lives of the children.

  • Arrange a trip to the local woods, park, garden or the setting’s / school’s own forest school area for a real adventure. All the skills of recognising, investigating, identifying, observing, comparing and describing can be deployed. [Knowledge and Understanding / Mathematical / Language]
  • Arm the children with digital cameras, binoculars, factual reference books and wellington boots to observe and identify a variety of wildlife. [Knowledge and Understanding / Communication]
  • Develop mathematical skills through opportunities for sorting, matching, sequencing and comparing objects and events, collecting data, and interpreting information presented in simple graphs or diagrams. [Knowledge and Understanding / Mathematical / Language]
  • Join the RSPB Bird watch scheme and enjoy the wealth of resources available from the website. [Knowledge and Understanding]
  • Listen to the sounds of nature and in particular bird song and sounds. [Knowledge and Understanding / Creative]
  • Support children in making bird food to hang as feeders so that they can watch and observe the birds that use it. [Knowledge and Understanding]
  • Create a bird hide within the nursery classroom [Knowledge and Understanding / Creative]
  • Provide opportunity for children to look at books, videos, photographs of different types of min-beasts, plants, animals and British birds. [Communication, language literacy]
  • Compare mini-beasts, plants, animals and birds found in Britain with those in different parts of the world. [Knowledge and Understanding]
  • Enhance the art and craft area with materials for children to make pictures, collages, masks etc. of different min-beasts, plants, animals and birds. [Creative]
  • Share some traditional religious stories about caring for the natural world. Encourage children to reflect on the messages of the stories and on their own actions and consequences in relation to the natural world. Encourage the children to think about specific religious beliefs about the natural world (from one or two religions as examples and as simply illustrated by the stories). Encourage children to think about their own beliefs and attitudes about and towards the natural world. [Knowledge and Understanding – Beliefs and Culture, RE, Personal, Social and Emotional – Beliefs and Culture ]

So, go outside, enjoy the season and allow children the opportunity to reflect on the awe, wonder and mystery of the wonderful world in which we live!

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