In 2015 there was an outcry from a group of 28 authors, when the Oxford Junior Dictionary removed fifty nature words, including kingfisher, otter and minnow, and replaced them with modern, technological terms.
The group, which included Margaret Atwood, Andrew Motion and Michael Morpurgo, wrote to the OUP, stating:
“We recognise the need to introduce new words and to make room for them and do not intend to comment in detail on the choice of words added. However it is worrying that in contrast to those taken out, many are associated with the interior, solitary childhoods of today. In light of what is known about the benefits of natural play and connection to nature; and the dangers of their lack, we think the choice of words to be omitted shocking and poorly considered”
Inspired by this issue, one of the authors, Robert Macfarlane, has worked with artist and illustrator, Jackie Morris, to create a beautiful children’s book that celebrates this lost nature language. You can watch a short BBC film here, where Macfarlane and Morris discuss their book and talk about the importance of keeping children in touch with nature and it’s language; after all ‘We find it hard to love what we cannot give a name to, and what we do not love, we will not save.’
In the introduction to The Lost Words, which contains a series of wonderful acrostic poems (where the first letter of each line spells out the subject of the poem), Macfarlane describes the magic of the nature language that follows:
‘You hold in your hands a spellbook for conjuring back those lost words. To read it you will need to seek, find and speak. It deals in things that are missing and things that are hidden, in absences and appearances […] it holds not poems but spells of many kinds that might just, by the old, strong magic of being spoken aloud, unfold dreams and songs, and summon lost words back into the mouth and the mind’s eye.’
Why not try to create some winter-themed acrostic poems with your KS2 class? Some possible subjects could be:
Mountain Hare Snowdrops Bittern Woodlark
New Forest Ponies Red Squirrell Robin Redbreast Pinkfoot Goose
Roosting Rooks Woodpecker Mistletoe Ptarmigan
We’ve created an acrostic poem about murmurations, a brilliant winter phenomenon, so that you can see how it’s done.
Moving swiftly in perfect harmony,
Undulating together, over land they pass,
Reeling and wheeling, continuous churning,
More and more join this dancing mass.
Unison they strive for, protection and connection,
Roosting their ultimate intention.
Aerial acrobatics for our entertainment,
Tumbling and turning without intervention,
Iridescent, their wings catch the sunset.
Only dusk will end this dreamlike display,
Night draws them in, settling until the new day.
For younger KS1 pupils, we have created a great ‘match the picture’ activity, that you can download by clicking the link below:
Did you know that we stock beautiful nature themed reward stickers? Click here to find out more.