In the first week we began by looking at the planet Earth itself. We talked about the Earth from its very core up through all of its layers, all the way up to my backyard. We considered the formation of our planet and the forces which have shaped it, along with the story of our specific state.
This week we looked further at our Illinois rocks and minerals and fossils, as well as deepening our discussion of the Timeline of Life and the Tree of Life.
Next week we will move into more modern time periods with the first peoples of Illinois and the later settlers. We will explore our Grasslands biome with the IDNR Prairies bin. We will also begin to discuss mapmaking.
Monday, September 10
- listen to special guest presentation (and thank you to the parent who shared her collection of Illinois Rocks & Minerals)
- read "Descriptions of Minerals and Rocks" and "Mineral Groups" information from ISGS article
- clarify the terms "Mississippian" and "Pennsylvanian" Periods; I prefer the term "Carboniferous" because it makes more clear the connection with coal as well as the name of our own town, Carbondale
- explain how coal and oil were formed as fossil fuels from the ancient fern forests of the Carboniferous Period; explain why our fossil fuels will ultimately run out
- look at my piece of local shale and read Illinois' State Fossil Tullimonstrum gregarium ISGS article
- read They Turned to Stone by Julian May, which has the best explanation of how the fossilization process actually occurs
- open and explore the IDNR Fossils bin; examine trilobite fossil
Tuesday, September 11
FOSSIL FUN DAY! We spent the afternoon exploring and enjoying items from the IDNR Fossils bin as well as a few extra fun activities...
- review the correct way to use a magnifying glass; look at my piece of Baltic amber with a fossilized insect trapped in it
- explore a variety of Timeline of Life & Fossil books from the IDNR bin as well as my own collection, including Why Frogs Are Wet and others pictured below
- set out and explore my collection of booklets for each Geologic Period with accompanying labeled fossils
- complete Fossil Hunt activity from IDNR bin
- use casting material and molds from IDNR bin to make replica fossils
- listen to special guest presentation (and thank you to the grandparent who shared her collection of Illinois Fossils)
- read March 2016 article Tully Monster, Illinois' Great Fossil Mystery, Solved and discuss the Tree of Life and "problematica"
Thursday, September 13
- set up the beautiful Tree of Life material from Waseca Biomes
- read Mary Anning and the Sea Dragon by Jeannine Atkins
- discuss how much there we still don't know on this planet; if you want to be a scientist there's plenty left to discover and contribute
- unmold the "fossils" we made yesterday
- review how coal forms and look at peat bog illustration on page 17 of The Story of a Nail
- look at peat and coal samples from Rocks and Minerals of Illinois kit from IDNR bin
- review how rocks are more complicated in makeup than elements or minerals (and my fabulous Connectagon model to demonstrate this); scientists decided to classify them based on how they are formed
- read "Rock Types" information from ISGS article
- look again at Rocks and Minerals of Illinois kit and find examples of the three types of rocks
We had a wonderful conversation when it came time for the three types of rocks. We have talked so much about geologic processes that the children were familiar with the ideas of Igneous and Sedimentary, even if they hadn't quite connected them with the terms. Then I paused before explaining the third term and simply told them it was called Metamorphic. We reviewed what metamorphosis means (caterpillar ---> butterfly) and I told them that this term means more than just morphing. Morphing is changing but "meta" means the Big Idea changes. How different a caterpillar is than a butterfly! Its own idea of itself has to change.
So... what kind of force could possibly be strong enough to cause a ROCK to go through metamorphosis?
We brainstormed and they came up with the forces of water, wind, and time. Someone else mentioned that maybe a new element being added in could cause a big change. Finally one child said pressure. Yes! Heat and pressure are extremely powerful forces. Chemical reactions can also cause metamorphic rocks.
At the end of the discussion I introduced the idea of a Rock Cycle. There's a water cycle because water can take different forms and keep moving from one thing to another. Because we have the option of metamorphosis in rocks, there can be a rock cycle. Think about it. What if we only had two groups, igneous and sedimentary? There would be no cycle in that case. It's because of the profound changes that come from heat and pressure that we can have a rock cycle.
Friday, September 14
- read February 2017 article 'Tully Monster' Mystery is Far From Solved, Group Argues
- read first chapter of Life on Surtsey: Iceland's Upstart Island by Loree Griffin Burns
- look at the pumice I brought back from my hike to the top of Italy's Mt. Vesuvius when I was 17
- complete convection experiment ("Exploring Heat in Solids, Liquids, and Gases 1" from NEED Energy Works Student booklet)
- learn about the Rock Cycle with the Waseca Biomes Rock Cycle Mat
During their independent work time students had a chance to examine the specimens in the Rocks and Minerals of Illinois kit from our IDNR bin, read a few rock cycle books (Life on Surtsey: Iceland's Upstart Island and/or The Pebble in My Pocket: A History of Our Earth), and explore the Rock Cycle Mat and its related lessons. The wood veneer rocks are especially attractive and appealing, inviting further exploration of the three types of rocks. This is a brand new material and I'm very excited to have it in the classroom!
I am also so proud of some of the connections my class made today while we were having our discussion. When we talked about the trouble scientists were having placing the Tully monster on the Tree of Life, with some arguing that it is most closely related to the lamprey, a student raised her hand and pointed out that Lamprey was one of the leaves on our classroom Tree of Life material. Sure enough, it was leaf #41 and so I went and got the Fact File Card and we read more about the lamprey, right there on the spot. Just a few minutes later, after I read to the class about Surtsey, a student raised his hand and told me that Iceland must have been one of the Norse places because Surt was the Norse god who ruled Muspelheim (and who plays quite the role during Ragnarok). I checked our book of Norse Myths from last year's main lesson block and, yes, he was correct. They are paying close attention to all that they are learning and I'm thrilled to see them weaving in those deeper multi-layered connections which help information stick.
Of course, many other things are also happening in the classroom as well! Besides our whole group Main Lesson time and our Special subjects, the children have self-directed mornings, where they are free to explore our Science and History/Geography classroom materials, have independent and small group lessons on Montessori Grammar, Word Study, and Mathematics materials, and assign themselves projects of their own choosing (such as needle felting 3D models of the layers of each planet from exterior to core).
Also, please remember that they are creating their main lesson books each day, by adding a carefully crafted summary of the previous day's lesson before we move on. Each of these entries in their main lesson books (summary and illustration) must be rough drafted and go through the editing process with me before it can be added to their personal books.
We also play for an hour each day! This week I taught the group "Sharks and Octopuses" and "Dragon Tag," games #112 and #113 from Games Children Play: How Games and Sport Help Children Develop by Kim John Payne.
Thank you again to all of the families who generously shared their time and hobbies with us this week. The presentations were wonderful.
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