Friday, January 6, 2017

Early Humans - Montessori Third Great Lesson

This post contains affiliate links to the materials I actually use for homeschooling. I hope you find them helpful. Thank you for your support!

We have already covered the Montessori First Great Lesson and Second Great Lesson this school year. Now it is time for the Third Great Lesson (The Coming of Man ie. How Humans Came to Be). Love this lesson! BUT... I am extremely torn as to where this would fall in Waldorf education.

    Brief Digression:

    I have heard that there's nothing that isn't Waldorf; it's just a question of when. Ok, so when? Would it be high school? In Montessori, this is done in first, second, and third grades (Montessori has mixed age classrooms spanning three years... in Lower Elementary, the Great Lessons are told every year). In Waldorf, real history is not supposed to begin until 5th grade, yet "Local History & Geography" is a topic in 4th grade. My understanding is that it is a look at landforms and water features in your region and the history of what has taken place there. Yet, landforms and water features don't seem like they would be covered until Geology, which is in 6th grade.

    Therefore, I am extremely confused.

    If in 3rd grade you do shelter building and look at houses around the world, including Native Americans in various parts of North America, you would be learning about the Native Peoples in your area. If in local history you cover the Revolutionary War and Civil War, etc, you are jumping YEARS ahead, since Modern History isn't covered until grades 7 and 8. So what would you do in this Local block? If you're going to cover mountains and glaciers and rivers and valleys, etc. wouldn't kids ask how they are created? If you cover Native Peoples, aren't kids going to ask how they got there and who existed before them? And if kids ask a reasonable question, shouldn't you answer it?

    Until I know the "Waldorf-authorized" answers to these things, I'm simply going to do what makes sense to me.

    And that is hitting the Third Great Lesson in 4th grade to kick off Local History & Geography. Early Humans, right up to people crossing the land bridge and arriving in the state in which we live now, and visiting archaeological sites and learning about the Mound Builders (or whatever is appropriate for where you live).

Since I can't figure out where to put it, I'm not going to put a page on the site yet. But for anyone who would find them useful, here are my notes.

Here is my Local History & Geography Pinterest page.

There is a wonderful Montessori Timeline of Early Humans material!

My favorite main text for this is actually the Teacher Created Materials book Early Humans by Michelle Breyer. Even though I always tell my students that the latest scientific discoveries mean this is an ever-changing field, there is so much useful basic information in here that this book is a great starting point. It's really comprehensive, and well organized.

This time around, we did Early Humans for one week.


    review Second Great Lesson / transition into Third Great Lesson by reading the fabulous The Pebble in My Pocket: A History of Our Earth by Meredith Hooper

    Cupcake Geology activity (pp.55-57)
    *** THIS MUST be prepared the night before ***
    you will need white cake mix, foil muffin cups, food coloring, and a bag of clear drinking straws

    ask how we know there were early humans... my student needed a review of Darwin because he knew Darwin had said something but he was a little fuzzy on the facts

    The Tree of Life: Charles Darwin

    by Peter Sis

    trace Ape Skull (page 111) and Australopithecus Skull (page 112) on tracing paper - overlap to compare

    read Australopithecus information (page 110) - get out meter stick

    read together the short dramatic piece "Reconstructing Lucy" (pp.116-119)

    ask students to fill out an exit slip (give each one blank slip of paper, have them anonymously write down a question they still have)

    HW: ask students to research the origin of the scientific name "Australopithecus"


    review Australopithecus from yesterday - scientific name means "southern ape" - early scientists weren't sure whether Lucy was an ancient ape or an ancient human - scientists today still disagree on how the tree of evolution unfolded

    cut a six foot long piece of paper from a three foot wide roll and tape it up to your wall - make a pencil mark to show how the Australopithecus height

    use a measuring cup to measure the size of the Australopithecus brain (500 cc volume = 500 mL rice) and pour the rice into a ziploc gallon bag - label it

    use a measuring cup to measure the size of the modern human brain (1400 cc volume = 1400 mL rice) and pour it into its own bag and label it as well - compare the brain sizes

    add Australopithecus information to graphic organizer

    FOR ALL EARLY HUMANS, trace skull, add height to wall chart, measure size of brain and compare using bags of rice (I bought two 5 lb bags of rice), and add information to graphic organizer

    • Dates and Place of Existence
      (when and where did they live?)
    • Description of Physical Appearance
      (what did they look like? what was the average height and weight of a male? of a female?)
    • Description of Shelters
      (what kind of shelters did they use? what materials were used to make the shelters? were the shelters meant to be easy to move or long lasting?)
    • Food
      (what type of food did they eat? how did they get their food?)
    • Description of Daily Life
      (how did they live? were they hunters and gatherers or farmers?)
    • Tools
      (what materials were used to make tools? what purposes did the tools serve?)
    • Fire
      (could they make fires? what did they use to make the fires?)
    • Religion and Ceremonies
      (what kind of occasions were special? what did they do to worship or celebrate?)
    • Development of Language
      (how did they communicate? did they have written language?)
    • Clothing
      (what did their clothing look like? what was it made from?)
    • Painting and Carving
      (what kinds of things did they paint or carve? what materials did they use to make the paintings or carvings?)

    trace Homo Habilis (handy man) skull (page 122)

    scientific name means that he was conclusively thought to be an early human - size of skull means he must be smarter - what new things could he do?

    read Homo Habilis information (pp.114, 121) - first to have tools

    exit slip


    review Homo Habilis from yesterday

    stone tool information (pp.124-125)

    add Homo Habilis height to wall chart, add information to graphic organizer

    trace Homo Erectus (upright man) skull (page 129)

    measure Homo Habilis brain size in rice, measure Homo Erectus brain size in rice, compare brain size and compare skulls

    read Homo Erectus information (page 128) - first to stand fully upright, first to have fire

    play Hunters and Gatherers simulation game (pp.133 - 140) - REQUIRES ADVANCE PREPARATION and photocopying

    start read aloud story: The Cave Twins by Lucy Fitch Perkins

    exit slip


    review Homo Erectus from yesterday

    "A Look at Terra Amata" activity (pp.130-132)

    "Journey of Mankind" interactive world map and timeline of human migration put together by The Bradshaw Foundation, synthesizing a wide variety of information (archaeological evidence, DNA evidence, and geological evidence regarding climate) - DO NOT SKIP THIS

    add Homo Erectus to wall chart, add information to graphic organizer

    trace Neandertal skull (page 145)

    read Neandertal information (pp.143-144) - first to have religion

    although the book states that Neandertals were a subspecies of Homo Sapiens (wise man), more recent evidence indicates that this is not true - they were their own species

    there is a LOT of new information about early humans since this book was written, particularly about Neandertal life - you can buy past issues of DIG magazine online (see the whole list here) and I highly recommend The Truth about Cavemen which is available for $6.95

    exit slip


    review Neandertal from yesterday

    height of Neandertal and Homo Sapiens (Cro-Magnon) and brain size are now nearly the same as modern human

    add Neandertal information to graphic organizer

    trace Cro-Magnon and Modern Human's skull (page 154)

    read When Cave Men Painted by Norman Bate, which tells the hypothetical story behind one of the drawings in the caves of Lascaux

    take virtual tour of Lascaux (click on Visite de la grotte) - look for the illustration which matches the story

    read Ice Man information (pp.157-158)

    use Cro-Magnon information (pp.150-153) to complete remaining page of graphic organizer

    watch PBS NOVA Iceman Murder Mystery, 2011
    this is available without ads on YouTube

    exit slip

I think it would be great to follow this lesson with If the World Were a Village, and look at all the amazing variety in human life today.

We had a wonderful week! Other highlights included a field trip to the Science Center and an unexpected snow day! Our poem for memorization this week was "The Hippopotamus" by Ogden Nash. We completed Handwork projects (beanbag and potholder), had our Structured Word Inquiry Session (the origins of "book" and "library"), and played educational board games.

Odgen Nash's Zoo

Art - Easy Birch Trees and Ice Balloons

Math - game (Fraction Fervor), lessons (dynamic addition and subtraction with the Montessori Stamp Game and Small Bead Frame), and homework (Titanic Math and Fill-In Pre-Algebra Puzzles)

I find that the Fraction Fervor game works best if you stop after the denominators have been dealt and require the child to say the bottom of their fraction (thirds, tenths, etc), look at the Fraction Circles, and then say whose pieces are larger. Aha! I have thirds so I have larger pieces.... but, how many do I have compared to you? Then deal the numerators. This helps to constantly reinforce that in a fraction the top number tells how many and the bottom number tells what kind. It also helps to build suspense!

One final note: In Montessori, Elementary children who request a field trip are required to plan all of the logistics for the trip. They call it a Going Out. They are to find out when the place opens, when it closes, how much it costs, how to get to it, etc. After the trip they are to write a thank you note to the business or organization. When I applied this to our homeschool situation, it was very interesting. My student had never used a phone book before. To use the yellow pages, you must figure out what Category the business falls in. Putting things in categories is supposedly the highest of the higher order thinking skills. And, yes, it isn't easy! Between finding it in the phone book and using the phone to call the business and find out the hours and the cost, it took my student a full half hour. But when we got there he was so proud because he felt like he had planned the whole thing himself. All I did was pack the baby's diaper bag, grab the emergency forms, and drive us to where we were going.

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