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Noah’s next mission

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By Lizzy CourtneyYear 1 teacher at Christ Church Infant School, Bristol

Challenge your class to help Noah re-home the animals after the flood for an engaging cross-curricular unit of work

Noah's Ark illustration

Image © lenm/

Two years ago, having grown weary of teaching the same topics year in year out, the Key Stage 1 teachers at my school decided to move back to a more cross-curricular, creative style of teaching. We wanted to teach topics that were completely fresh to us and exciting for the children.

The story of ‘Noah’s Ark’ is one of the most well-loved Bible stories. Noah and his family undertake the colossal job of building a wooden ark so that when God sends rain to flood the Earth, two of each species of animal will be saved. However, have you ever considered what happened when the floods subsided? That is the question posed in Where Next, Mr Noah by Mike Dickinson (Little Hippo Books). Mr Noah opens the doors of the ark and yells, ‘Everybody out! Scat! Shoo!’. The bemused animals look at him and ask, ‘But where do we “shoo” to?’.

So begins Mr Noah’s next challenge, to relocate all the animals to the environment most suitable for them. Armed with maps and a packed lunch, supplied by Mrs Noah, the animals depart on their journeys to find their new homes. Where Next, Mr Noah? sounds initially just like a religious education lesson, but this 12-week topic enabled us to combine all the curriculum areas under one umbrella (if you’ll forgive the pun).

1 Investigating rainfall

Aim: To make rain catchers to monitor rainfall over the course of the topic.

Curriculum links: Sc1 1, 2f.

You will need: Plastic bottles; rulers/homemade gauge; chart to record rainfall on.

What to do

If possible, read the book Where Next, Mr Noah? by Mike Dickinson to the children, or else retell the story of Noah’s Ark. Talk about the animals’ dilemma on leaving the ark. Discuss where rain comes from and make a simple flow diagram of the water cycle. Give small groups of children a plastic bottle with the top cut off, turned upside down and placed back in the bottle to make a funnel. Put some tape on the join as cut plastic can be sharp. Give each group a ruler and a chart to measure and record the rainfall. Invite the children to place their water catchers outside, take regular measurements and record them on charts.

2 A new home

Aim: To investigate the animals, art, music and food of different continents.

Curriculum links: Geography 2c, 6b; music 5d; art and design 4c; ICT 3a, 3b.

You will need: Art materials; information books, CDs and websites; souvenirs and images of different continents.

What to do

Encourage the children to make their own pretend passports. Set up two rows of chairs, facing the whiteboard, to create an aeroplane. Invite the children to take a trip around the world, visiting all the different continents. Use maps and globes to locate the destinations and then stamp the children’s passports as they ‘board’ the plane. While ‘flying’ show the children different images of the continents they are ‘travelling’ to on the whiteboard.

Encourage all staff and children to share souvenirs and experiences from around the world, contributing to an interactive display for a new continent every two weeks. Having recently spent half-term in Kiruna, around 200km north of the Arctic Circle, this part of the world became my speciality. Below are some of the activities that I enjoyed teaching as part of our Noah topic.

The Arctic: Countries with territory above the Arctic Circle include Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Russia and Scandinavia. Moose, caribou, Arctic foxes, snowy owls and, of course, polar bears are all inhabitants of this snowy wilderness. The Inuit, Sami and Nenets are among the indigenous people of the Arctic, each with their own fascinating culture and all respectful of the creatures that live there.

Ask the children to imagine what it would be like to sleep in an igloo like the Inuit. Challenge them to make miniature stone sculptures (inukshuks) or bake some bannock (traditional bread made with yogurt).

The Sami of Lapland used to lead a nomadic lifestyle, herding caribou and living in kåtor (similar to tepees). Invite your class to make kåtor from construction materials, design traditional Sami costumes and make Sami flags.

The most fascinating phenomenon of the Arctic is the Northern Lights that light up the sky during the winter months. Provide your class with plenty of images of the Northern Lights to inspire some artwork. Encourage the children to look carefully at the different patterns and colours. Then, using dark wax crayons, ask them to draw silhouettes of an Arctic landscape, including wildlife, hills, igloos, pine trees, and so on. Finally, let the the children use watercolours to create a wash on top of the crayon to represent the Northern Lights. Encourage them to paint with a swirling action to blend the colours.

Australasia: Invite the children to learn about marsupials unique to Australia, listen to aboriginal stories, design boomerangs, turn cardboard tubes into didgeridoos and paint Australian animals in an aboriginal style.

Asia: Challenge the children to find out why animals such as the Sumatran rhino, sun bear and clouded leopard have become endangered species and fundraise for a project such as the RSPB’s Save the Sumatran Rainforest appeal.

Further ideas

  • Conduct a survey of the children’s favourite animals and make a pictogram to show the results (numeracy/ICT).
  • Create a wonderful rainbow from a range of materials and explore the different colours (art).
  • Sing classic songs like ‘Who Built the Ark?’ and ‘The Animals Went in Two by Two’ (music).
  • Experiment with different materials and their properties to make a waterproof coat for Mr Noah (science).
  • Investigate objects that float and sink, and predict how many plastic animals can float in a sandwich box before it capsizes (science).

The Americas: Help the children learn about the Andes, the world’s largest chain of mountains, and the animals that live there, such as llamas. The Andes extend over seven countries, including Peru. Encourage the children to create Peruvian-style artwork by weaving brightly coloured wool, and listen to Paddington Bear stories and pan-pipe music.

Africa: Read Handa’s Surprise by Eileen Browne (Walker Books) and invite the children to find out more about the animals in the story and to taste some exotic fruit. Arrange for an African drummer or dancer to come to your school – great fun for children and adults!