The Animals' Sports Day
One day five small animals in my garden decided to have a sports day.
They were a large, sleepy caterpillar, a busy little ladybird, a long-legged spider, a small, jumpy frog and a slow, slimy snail.
They decided to have a swimming race, a running race, a high jump and a long jump. Who do you think won each event?
Why do you think this?
The next day four of the animals wanted another sports day, but the caterpillar had gone to sleep and would not wake up!
"When he wakes up, we'll have another sports day!" said the frog. The three others agreed.
Some days later the caterpillar did wake up. He crawled out of his sleeping bag. He looked quite different!
What had happened?
Again they decided to have a swimming race, a running race, a high jump and a long jump.
Who do you think won each event this time?
Has the caterpillar's change made any difference?
Why do you think this?
Click here for a poster of this problem.
Why do this problem?
This problem links the general interest about sport with a story for young children about animals. Which animal might win each race?
This is a problem which would be best approached in pairs or small groups of young children along with an adult. The introductory "story line" could be enhanced in a retelling.
After setting the scene you could continue using the pictures and discussing which animals they represent and how that animal moves. If the pictures are printed out onto card and cut out they could be used to order the animals in a particular event.
The idea of this problem is not to reach an "answer" or "solution" but to promote discussion and thinking about how animals move and a likely outcome if they did race, jump and swim.
After the children have had a go at this problem you might like to discuss and correct the non-scientific aspects. Animals do not arrange races. They are too busy feeding, staying safe and producing young. Caterpillars do get sleepy and change into first a chrysalis and then a butterfly and what the story calls a "sleeping bag" is the outer covering of the chrysalis.
How does this animal/creature move?
Would this animal/creature be good at running/jumping/swimming?
Which do you think would do best in running/jumping/swimming? Why?
Which would be next best? Why?
Shall we put the cards into order for the running/jumping/swimming?
Children could think of zoo or farm animals which would do well in these events.
Suggest using the pictures and discussing how the animals move. Which of the animals can swim/run (move quickly)/jump?