Year 3 Science

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The Cycle of the Seasons


In What Your Year 3 Child Needs to Know, we learn that life cycle has four parts: birth, growth, reproduction and death. For many living things, the cycle of life follows the cycle of the four seasons of the year. Let's look at how the lives of some plants and animals in the UK change with the different seasons.


After the cold winter, nature seems to wake up and come alive. In spring, as the earth grows warmer, the seeds of plants begin to sprout. A sunflower seedling sends a root down from the seed into the warm soil and a little green shoot up into the air. Many baby animals are born or become active. Young badgers born during the winter now have grown so that they can see, hear and start exploring outside of their badger sett. Birds that had flown south for the winter (why do you think they went south?) now return and build nests where they will lay their eggs. Other birds like swans also lay eggs and their babies—called cygnets—hatch. Insect eggs that lay quietly all winter now begin to hatch. From some eggs, out come tiny grasshoppers that feed on the just-budding leaves of the plants.


In summer, when the weather is warm and there's plenty of sunshine, many plants and animals grow larger. The little sunflower seedling grows into a mature, adult plant and begins to make seeds. Fruits like strawberries and vegetables like onions grow bigger and begin to ripen. The baby animals that were born in the spring now grow bigger and stronger. The baby birds that hatched out of their eggs in the spring grow up and learn to find their own food, and stray further from their parents. Tadpoles grow into adult frogs.


In the autumn, many plants become mature, which means fully grown. On an apple tree, the apples grow heavy on the branches and, if you don't pick them first, they fall to the ground. Acorns fall from the oak trees. Courgettes swell and turn into huge marrows. In the fields, stalks of wheat turn brown and bend over, weighed down by plump heads of grain. On many trees, the leaves turn from green to red, gold, yellow or brown, and then fall to the ground. As the weather gets cooler in the autumn, many animals prepare for the coming changes. Squirrels scurry about gathering nuts and storing them for the cold months ahead. Otters eat as much as they can to build up extra fat, and they look for a den to protect them from the cold. Some birds like willow warblers and greylag geese make a long journey, or migrate, by flying south to warmer weather. In the oceans, big whales also migrate to warmer waters.


In winter, the world of living things grows more quiet and still. Many small, green plants have shrivelled up and died, leaving their seeds in the ground. The seeds will sit quietly through the winter, ready to sprout when warm weather arrives again. Trees that have dropped their leaves may look dead although they're really alive. They're just dormant, not actively growing but, in a way, sleeping though the winter. Some animals sleep through the winter, too, which is called hibernation. For example, hedgehogs curl up into spiky balls and dormice sleep in their little nests through most of the winter, living off fat they built up during summer and autumn. Frogs hibernate too: they burrow into the cold mud at the bottom of a pond and wait for spring to come again. Birds that migrated south in the autumn spend the winter resting and eating.

And then, as surely as the earth moves along in its orbit around the sun, spring comes again. The weather warms up and the cycle of life on earth begins again.

This activity is adapted from pages 285 - 288 of What Your Year 3 Child Needs to Know, which can be purchased here. Click below to see related activities:

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