Instead of looking at the planet as humans have divided it up (politically and artificially), these maps and materials allow children to explore the world using the much more intuitive categories of desert, grassland, temperate forest, tropical forest, wetland, mountains, polar regions, and ocean.
Here is what will be coming to my house:
Parts of the Biome Jars
Six glass jars, wooden labels, and a wooden carrying case for collecting the parts of the biome: water, soil, air, plants and animals, and an energy jar that has a built-in solar panel with lightbulb that collects the sun's energy.
** UPDATE **
Although as an adult I think the solar jar is the coolest, the favorite jar of the children is definitely the one where they get to collect an animal!
An Introduction to the Biomes with Curriculum - Elementary
This curriculum is also available as a free download at the link above.
I already had the Map Legend Stamp for children who want to make their own maps. For each animal I will be asking the children to label their reports with the continent(s) and biomes(s) where their animal can be found, as well as whether it is an invertebrate, bird, fish, amphibian, reptile, or mammal. This is what the wooden stamps are for. There is also a stamp for plants.
These materials are open-ended and can be used to support all kinds of geography learning. The biomes of the world mat comes with three sets of cards giving three levels of specific follow up work as well. The paper control charts (Montessori for "answer key") will serve as our biome maps of each continent until I can afford the wooden puzzle maps. At $25.00 instead of $600.00 they are quite the bargain! You can also find the black line masters of each of these puzzle maps online. I was thinking it would be wonderful to photocopy each onto graph paper and create a pattern for a counted cross-stitch map of each continent, using different colors of embroidery floss to match the colors on the map key! Regardless, the black and white side of the control chart can be photocopied and children can examine the biome maps and then color in on their own copy where each biome is located.
** UPDATE **
PDFs to print a b&w copy of the biome map for each continent, so that you can color them in and keep them, are now available on their website under A-Z PDF Library; click on the name of the continent and choose "Biome Puzzle: Guide to Presentation and Blackline"
Then, when we can afford all of the three part cards for each continent ($270.00 for the set), the students can learn more about animals from each biome on each continent AND the indigenous peoples from each biome on each continent and how they met their fundamental needs (food, shelter, clothing, transportation, etc.) based on what was around them. It's wonderful to choose one continent and lay it all out and see the variety... or lay out animals or people from the same biome across different continents and look at their similarities!
If you are familiar with the Montessori color coding for the continents, you will see these colors reflected in the borders around each set of cards.
North America - Orange
So, exciting things are on the horizon here!
In the past few days we have enjoyed Farm Day and yoga, continued our read-aloud about time travel to Miocene Maryland (and encountered ancient whales and dolphins, a pelagornis, and a giant great white shark!), done some more complicated form drawing (the top form of the two shown below), had two different levels of lessons on alphabetizing and guide words, and learned about the "Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus" and the perils of using just ONE source when you do your research!
We have also learned SWBS (Somebody... Wanted... But... So...) as a tool for writing summaries of our stories, added our stories to our main lesson books, heard "The Crow and the Pitcher," acted it out using shadow puppetry and joyfully observed the principle of water displacement first-hand, discussed onomatopoeia in this week's poem (burble) and shared our personal favorite examples of onomatopoeia (murmur, squeegee), listened to the beautiful poetry in Hailstones and Halibut Bones: Adventures in Poetry and Color, wrote poetry in Morning Pages, continued our Philosophy conversations about Nature, and read Galapagos George by Jean Craighead George.
Our newest Handwork choice is weaving potholders.
This has caught on like wildfire and is a very appropriate choice for when there are five or ten minutes before we get together to do the next thing. I ALWAYS emphasize students being responsible, self-aware, and taking control of their learning, which is why they record and color code their work and monitor how balanced their day is, and are expected to make good choices with their "little bits of time." Handwork, reading a chapter book, practicing math facts, and other quick activities are encouraged as choices.
Another value to color coding your work is that it helps make students aware of -- and forces them to articulate -- WHAT they are learning when they are doing something. Is our read aloud History, Geography, Science, or all of the above? Is weaving Art or Handwork or both? Is writing a summary of an Aesop's Fable a language work or a cultural one? Or both? Students love these discussions, and enjoy the challenge of putting as many colors in their daily plan as possible.
Our math facts during circle time focus on mental math and, just like memorizing a poem each week, this helps to strengthen memory and flexible thinking. Friday's mental math was to think of as many math problems as you can which have the answer of 7. Can you think of an addition problem with an answer of 7? Subtraction? Multiplication? Division? How about a math problem that uses fractions? You can have multiple addends (3+3+1=7) or combine operations (3+3+3-2=7). How big can your numbers get (3+3+1+1,000,000-1,000,000=7)? What is the most beautiful way to make 7? All of these questions review math facts but in a fun and lively way. And this is a great game to play with your child in the car!
For more Philosophy-Science-Nature (that's an orange dot and a green dot, by the way) at home with your child, consider joining Nature's Notebook and becoming a Citizen Scientist in your own backyard!