Friday, March 6, 2015

Montessori Botany Lessons When There Are No Leaves on the Trees

Week 10, Part 2 March 2, 2015

It WAS 70 degrees here earlier this week. Now it is in the low 40s and Wednesday we had freezing temps and icing that made schools and government agencies close. Nevertheless, the trees are still flowering outside and we are pressing on with our botany lessons inside.
These are the butternut squash seeds D let germinate the other day. They germinated. And I didn't have any place to put them. So I put on my rain boots and rain jacket and went out to the garden and took some soil (from the part the cat didn't mess up) so we could plant these in something. 

D was pretty surprised that the seed had changed. He also said that they felt slimy and slippery. He was also pretty excited that this was HIS work apart from T and S. 

So after these grow and root in the cups, I have no idea where we are going to put them. Anyone want some butternut squash plants?

I thought about growing the seedlings in toilet paper tubes, or something else biodegradable, but I settled on these plastic containers so that we would be able to see the roots if that were possible. Now that I think about it, I will need to cover the outsides of the containers because roots don't like light. At least we'll be able to take the paper off now and again to peek. There are holes in the bottoms of the cups and we filled the bottoms with about a 1/2 an inch of perlite before adding our soil (which is 1/3 compost, 1/3 vermiculite and 1/3 peat moss.)
This was that lima bean he sprouted. And now I am going to have to find a use for a bunch of limas. Maracas anyone?

I don't know why he had this face when he was watering the seeds.

I am not following album pages for these primary focused botany explorations. I don't like that I am not following album pages. It makes me feel itchy. I am just doing what feels natural for us, is logical in sequence, and follows the child's interests. 

My thought process went something like: 
Oh, we should be planting the garden in the next month or so. What should I do to prepare D for this experience. I'll Amazon search for books about gardening, seeds, and plants.

Books about seeds and plants and gardening came in the mail. We read them. D noticed that the book had an illustration that looked a lot like our Montessori flower puzzle. We compared the book and the puzzle pieces. We looked at a real flower specimen and compared the parts to the book and to the puzzle.

After reading the book, we wet some seeds in hopes that they would germinate. (There was an activity about germinating seeds in the back of the book.)

I felt that the rose we examined didn't match our puzzle very well so I made a note to buy lilies over the weekend.

I instructed my husband buy lilies and "seeds" at the grocery store. 

I remembered I wanted to incorporate a bit of formal art into our scope and sequence. On Monday, we did a little bit of art, and sketched and rendered watercolor illustrations of the lilies that had bloomed. We compared the parts of the lily with the Montessori puzzle and the picture in our book. We talked about the parts of the flower and what purpose they serve in perpetuating the plant species. We talked about pollen and pollination and who pollinates. We watched YouTube videos of bees, butterflies and humming birds drinking flower nectar and pollinating flowers.

We also examined the seeds my husband brought home and put some of them in water with the hope that they would germinate. 

We dissected a flower, named each part, and examined some parts more closely under our microscope and drew illustrations of what we saw. 

We talked about which flower blooms had opened and which were still closed. We talked about which buds might be getting ready to open next. And we talked about how long it takes for a bud to open. Then we watched time-lapse videos of different flower species opening.

We found that some of the seeds we wet germinated and we placed these seeds in soil so that they could root and grow into plants. We read more books about growing garden vegetables and flowers and about some of the animals that are attracted to gardens. We talked about garter snakes and that they are friendly snakes as snakes go.

Yesterday, we looked at some of our nomenclature botany books and learned about some of the differences between perfect and imperfect flowers, pistillate and staminate flowers, and about some different corolla shapes. For S and T, this was more of a nomenclature lesson, and for D, this was more of an observation lesson. 

After these activities I don't know where we will go next. I figure we will probably open a not-yet-opened bud and see what is inside. Maybe we'll continue observing different flower species and naming the different leaf, stem, and flower formations we see.

Right now, I am waiting impatiently for the lilies to live out their cycle so I can dispose of them because their smell is giving me a headache. 
S didn't help D with the seed planting (though she did go outside with me in the rain to the garden to rip out weeds.) I showed her these "parts-of" cards and she got right to work. She already knew all the names of the parts of the plant which helped. (I downloaded these blackline masters from Helpful Garden a long while ago. I think that this site also has all the "parts-of" nomenclature cards for plants and animals as well. I made the folders and the folder labels myself.)
We went back to the watercolors to do a few more illustrations of other flower species. You can see our botany nomenclature books from Montessori R&D on the table. 
I think that D is observing his sister and not his specimen.

S spent a lot more time this time observing her specimen. The paper is never going to tell what you see.

S's first first illustration.
S's second illustration. (Somehow D's and T's watercolors disappeared.)
 S finished up the Australia animal biome readers and...
 ...swapped them out with the Europe animal biome reader set. This will be her last set. (These are from Waseca, if I haven't said that enough.)
D was able to do this game! I was quite surprised. T got this from Ammy and Gramps a long while ago but I dragged it out of the closet and put in the classroom for those "rest-your-brain" times.

T is back at banging down the math lessons. These are game 2 and 3 in the Squares and Cubes of Numbers sequence. We set up the beads from the decanomial box in the arrangement you see above. In the top left corner, it is 1*1 is 1, under that is 1*2 is 2, and then 1*3 is 3. He did this for 1*1 to 9*10. Then he swapped out squares, one for each column. (This is what he is doing in the photo above.)
Then we examined the "rectangles" below each square. The red beads represent a rectangle 1x9. The dark blue beads represent a rectangle 9x1. We know from our commutative property of multiplication, and because we can count the beads, that these two rectangles are equivalent, or equal. The green rectangle is 2x8, and the brown rectangle is 8x2 and these are equivalent as well. 4x6 and 6x4 are also equivalent. T got a big smile on his face when he figured this out.
Then we got down to paper and pencil. I wrote, and then T took over, the values of each of the bead columns we had built in the photo above. All together the red beads equal 1^2 + 9. Then we figured out the difference between the values of the rectangles below each bead square. Notice that there is a pattern? T noticed this too an thought that this was pretty funny.
Then we did Game 3 on paper, notating the squares of each number from 1-9, their squared values, and the differences between the squares. Again there is a pattern.
This is T playing around and putting his face really close to his foot.
After that we did the same exercise with the cubed values, notating the cube of each number from 1-9, their cubed values, and the differences between the cubes. Again there is a pattern.
This is Squares and Cubes Notation game 4. Basically it is the Pythagoras square, or the decanomial, with beads. We used a lot of commutative and squaring and cubing knowledge here.

In the shot above T laid out the decanomial with individual bead bars. (We got our decanomial beads from Montessori Outlet.) 
Then he switched out all the squares for bead squares. So, 2 two-bead bars were switched out for a 2 bead square, and so on. (This step is not shown.) Then, he applied some commutative property and figured out that 2x3 is the same as 3x2 and then switched out the beads accordingly making "elbows" if you will.
Then he did some grouping and figured out that the rectangles of bead bars could be swapped out for squares.
And finally, he figured out that the squares could be stacked into cubes.

I'll happily note that T just needed some prompts, but no step-by-step instructions for this lesson. I simply said that there was another pattern to look for, or there was another exchange he could make, and he figured out what it was. Another note is that he has already done this lesson, but did it more than a year ago before I started really writing on the blog. This time he didn't mention anything to me about recognizing this work.
We also continued looking at the Work of Air lessons from the geography album. 

In the photo above, I created some labels we used to label one of our geography charts. (I created these labels, and this isn't in the album lesson.) There is a script that goes with this part of the lesson that explains the doldrums, the trade winds, the westerlies, and the horse latitudes. But I felt that the script is action packed and we needed to unpack things a little bit. So we "labeled" our chart, and we viewed a couple of YouTube videos about the winds.

We also pulled out our Atlas to look at the winds that run around the earth at 40 degrees south latitude and hypothesized why they might flow very quickly. (They flow over a lot of water and not much land slows the winds down.) And we also talked about why the horse latitudes are called the horse latitudes. The kids are pretty sensitive to dead or dying things and didn't like that the Spaniards might have shoved dead or dying animals off their ships as they were stalled out in the variable winds of the Atlantic on their way to the Americas.

The lessons that come next explore about how the winds flow toward and away from land and how the seasons affect the winds and the rains around the globe. Anyone have some good ideas about science-like demonstrations, or books, or videos that could be good follow-up activities to these lessons? I think my kids are going to want to explore these lessons further.
T is still working with D on the sandpaper numerals. I talk more about starting the math sequence here.
 After the sandpaper numerals they moved on to number rods.
This is how the boys do number rods together. I think this is a function of their age difference (about 5 years) and the fact that D is an instigator.
They were able to do a little bit in the way of the traditional number rods lesson. T would ask him, "please show me the rod of four" and D would pull out the rod of four and count it to verify it was indeed the rod of four. D is now able to count the red and blue bands just fine with his hand. At this point he has shown improvement from about a month ago, and can pull by sight alone the 1-rod, 2-rod, 3-rod, 4-rod and the 10-rod. Seems as if we are right on track here age-wise. (He should be hitting this work at around 4 years of age, and he is almost 4.)
D would fall on T, who had to hug him to keep him from rolling off into the bells cabinet, and then D would kick his feet, get up, and sit on T's chest and squish his nose. Then he would go back to the number rods and choose the rod T asked for.
 S thought that this entire process was hilarious.
D voluntarily did a little bells work. He grew a little bit since the last time when I was afraid that he was going to catch a bell in the armpit and knock the whole lot off the table like a string of dominoes.
I had been thinking of acquiring a Spanish fan and a Japanese fan for our cultural object collection. Without mentioning it to S, she came up with this design. The first fan was blank but then she decided to decorate it.

Things are always connected. I am trying to point out these connections more and more within our curriculum and between the seemingly isolated lessons we work on each day. 

D and I sat down to read this book. I picked it as a cultural book about Mexico, pottery, and a real person, Juan Quezada, who is an amazing potter. (He has a website here.) I've been trying to find a large collection of stories about people and practices of other cultures. This is a rhyming story similar to "the house that jack built" and is a wonderful accurate tale of how Juan makes his pottery. The illustrations are really beautiful too. Like some of the other books we've been reading, in the back of the book there are a few pages, with pictures!! of Juan and how and where he makes his pottery. D was really interested in the process Juan goes through to make these really, really fine pots. (They sell for thousands of dollars!!) D said that he wanted his house to be near Juan's house in his neighborhood. 
After reading the book, and learning that D wanted to live right next door to Juan, I mentioned that our state isn't that far from Mexico. He gave me a look like he didn't believe me. So we pulled out the North America puzzle map and did a little political geography. 

We took out the United States first, and Alaska, and D said he wanted to live there too. Then he forgot about Juan and his pots in Mexico and took out Canada and asked, "what is this?" I told him that country is called Canada and that there are a lot of maple trees in Canada and that they are able to produce maple syrup there. I also noted that this time of year, early March, is the exact time when the sap in the trees is able to run. Then we got out the iPad and looked at a few videos about maple syrup production. Afterward, T came over and asked what we were doing and D said that they make maple syrup for pancakes all over the brown country.

Then we moved south and I mentioned that Juan lives in Mexico. He barely heard what I was saying because he was busy constructing the map part of Central America outside the puzzle map form on his rug. He did this successfully and then put all the pieces back in the puzzle map and put it away in the map cabinet. I guess he was ready for that work.
S still has a thing for compound words. So she took out this little booklet and started collecting compound words. I think the word on the bottom is "mush-room."
I FINALLY finished the sound cards, all 234 of them. These are them. We started exploring some, asking for first and final sounds at random. Then we came upon the card for "harp" and D didn't know what a harp was. So we looked it up on YouTube. (What did people do before YouTube?)
This is a BBC video documentary, hosted by world renowned harpist Catrin Fitch, about different types of harp-like instruments and their histories. This is a LONG video, but the kids got through a large enough portion to learn something about harps. Then there is this amazing young Russian performer, Alisa Sadikova, and we watched her play the harp.

After D had enough harp music he picked out a few more cards to explore. So we watched helicopter take offs and landings, and rescues. And then we watched the space shuttle Discovery blasting off. D REALLY liked this one. His lips were making extreme blast off sounds the entire time. We also watched someone make a treasure map craft and baby chicks hatching.

I do believe that an in-person first-hand experience is always better than a video. But there are some things that are too difficult for me to seek out, can't be sought out immediately, or are too gross for me to want to seek out, and I intend for us to begin to explore these things via video. I am always quick on the pause button when there is a video that is quickly becoming inappropriate. In a best-scenario situation, I'd have vetted these videos before-hand, but most of the time, topics come up, we want to explore them more, so many times we are viewing videos on the fly. This kind of introduction really pulls them in and there is quality content out there. It is just that you, as the adult, need to wade through the nine fluffy, stupid videos to get to the one that is going to hit home.
And that was our pretty full week. Hope you all are having a wonderful start to your weekend!


  1. I always love reading your updates! You all have been so wonderfully busy and we've - well - we've been doing life and I am thankful we are getting that done lol! For S - there is a link on my Printables page, I think, for some compound words work I made. The two of mine that have used it loved it immensely. I don't think I've actually blogged about it, but.... it's there :) However, if you email me, I can send you the links to it - if you want them :) My husband is in your great state right now, and I understand the weather has been less than wonderful - hope it gets better for you soon!

    1. Good to hear from you!! I totally understand about life, being well, life. I hope that you all are able to get back together as a family very soon! You are certainly a trooper for doing so much on your own. I wouldn't be able to do that.
      I'll go on over to your printables page soon and take a look at the work you posted. S would love anything new!
      Ahh, our freezing state. My rain barrel about back was frozen this morning. It is supposed to thaw a bit soon. I am keeping my fingers crossed that we will be able to go out back and plant something by the end of the month!
      Good luck to you! How many more weeks is he gone?

  2. Both printables are there under language! One I cut, laminated, cut and they matched the two root word pictures to the compound word picture then wrote down what they found. The second B&W is a follow up of doing the opposite, seeing the compound and separating it to find the roots :) They loved it! It's one day at a time here, but thankfully we've marked a few weeks off the calendar! He will be back early summer(ish) :)

    1. Thank you for the resource!

      I thought that you guys were going to be apart for a month....but returning early summer!! is a long time! (Or maybe I got you confused with my BIL who is overseas right now.) Day-by-day is the way to do it. :) Praying for you all in the mean time.

  3. Awe, such a good mama and Montessori teacher! Can I just drop my kids at your home each morning and pay you a bit?Just until Swiper is ready to start school. I just cannot get us going. My brain is dead and tired and Swiper just interrupts EVERYTHING! Maybe I just need to loosen up a bit. The kids are always trying to be playful and I'm always ruining it for them trying to keep them on task! Ugh, I need Spring break to be here like now :). Anyway, on a good note, I finished my History Charts! Yay for finishing something!