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Science - The seven ages of gran

A photographic timeline can illustrate the human life cycle

A photographic timeline can illustrate the human life cycle

"All the world's a stage,And all the men and women merely players," says Jaques in Shakespeare's As You Like It. And just to prove it I have been given a photo of Amy's grandmother. She might not be sans teeth, sans eyes or sans taste yet, but she's embarrassingly sans something.

"It was taken after she had her boob job," Amy says.

I break the news as tactfully as I can. "It's lovely, Amy. And I can see exactly why she won the Glamorous Gran competition in Magaluf two years running. But the thing is, we want grandparents who are a bit older than 38 and preferably not topless."

We are sorting through photographs that the children have brought in as part of our study of human life cycles in science. The aim is to make a display that shows older members of children's families through all the stages of their life. The purpose is to label the different stages in the human life cycle and talk about the physical changes that take place during our lifetime.

The children have been asked to find a selection of pictures of one grandparent or great-grandparent. The rule is that it has to be someone over 70 and there has to be an example of them at every stage of life - from infancy to their present age.

It turns out to be more difficult than I had anticipated but we eventually end up with five complete photo-timelines. Two depict the lives of grandfathers and three the lives of grandmothers. After we label all the stages of Rebecca's grandfather's timeline, I tell the children that Maddy's grandmother has agreed to come to school to talk to us through hers.

When she does, Maddy's grandmother cannot recall what it was like to be a tiny monochrome blur in a christening shawl but the good news is that she can remember everything from 5 upwards. The bad news is that she can remember everything from 5 upwards. Particularly her shock at being pregnant with Maddy's mum at the age of 46 after a wild weekend in Blackpool.

The revelations get worse. And the older she gets the more explicit her descriptions of age-related illnesses and declining bodily functions become. Eventually I'm forced to say, "Oh, look how late it is! Any last questions for Maddy's gran?"

"Have you got any topless photographs?" Amy asks.

"Not since I had my mastectomy," she replies.

"What's a mastectomy?" asks Jack.

"It's a sort of boob job," says Maddy's gran.

Next time I might just stick to the photographs.

Steve Eddison is a teacher at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield

What else?

Discover how early man lived with a presentation from Make Me Genius.


Or explore life cycles with HamiltonTrust's lesson plan.


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