Saturday, January 5, 2019

Montessori Second Great Lesson - Notes

Montessori teachers for Lower Elementary -- and I'm no exception -- casually toss off references to the Great Lessons all the time. "Oh, that's part of the Fourth Great Lesson." It used to drive me crazy when I was new and couldn't tell them apart, and other veteran teachers would do that. Now I talk like that and don't even notice. They're as familiar to me as breathing!

There are tons of comments about the Great Lessons sprinkled all throughout the 1400+ posts in my blog. So here I'm trying to put some more precise, and chronological, notes together. This post is a continuation of my Montessori First Great Lesson - Notes; I have each of the Great Lessons as a tag in my blog posts so you can search for ideas that way; I also have book suggestions on my website under My Montessori Library.

week 1
NAMC binder with demonstrations

barren earth


bacteria, not dissolved minerals, cause the colors in the Grand Prismatic Spring at Yellowstone National Park

early simple sea animals:  jellyfish,

crinoid and coral fossils from the Timeline of Life Fossil Collection 
available at Montessori Services
if you buy these be sure to get the Geologic Periods Book Set as well

trilobite fossil from the Timeline of Life Fossil Collection 

my sweet little model trilobite; there's also a great picture in
The Drop in My Drink by Meredith Hooper
Early Cambrian

Nautilus Hand Puppet from Folkmanis
Late Cambrian

Parts of a Fish nomenclature from Waseca Biomes
the first vertebrates!
and we head into the Devonian

insects evolve

I finally purchased a few pieces of fossilized insects in amber!

fish evolve into amphibians and head onto land to take advantage of this new food source... insects

fern fossil from the Timeline of Life Fossil Collection 
hello, Carboniferous Period... one of my favorites!

Parts of a Reptile nomenclature from Waseca Biomes

fossilized dinosaur feces from the Timeline of Life Fossil Collection
Mesozoic Era 

Parts of a Bird nomenclature from Waseca Biomes

conifers evolve

flowering plants evolve at the end of the Mesozoic

Parts of a Mammal nomenclature from Waseca Biomes
and we head into the Cenozoic

week 2
use the Geologic Periods Book Set to review the Timeline of Life and continue to work on calendar project artwork

my notes on what evolved when are from Early Humans by Michelle Breyer, where she condenses the entire history of the Earth to 365 days...
the science on this will surely change but it's still a great hands-on way to make the abstract more concrete for our students!

week 3
continue calendar project artwork

  • October - black india ink glue, chalk pastel on blue 12 x 12 paper
    trilobites in the style of these Georgia O'Keeffe flowers
  • November - fern stencil, green paint, Sharpie on white 12 x 12 paper
    giant insects in the fern forests
  • December - oil pastel watercolor resist on white 12 x 12 paper
    How to Draw a Giraffe art lesson

week 4
read Prehistoric Actual Size by Steve Jenkins

go out into the field and stretch out my Titanosaur finger knitted string to its full length (35 meters!)

    Note: It's really hard to pick a dinosaur and then make a finger knitted string of the corresponding length. Instead, make the string first and then pick the dinosaur! Have your students work together to finger knit a long piece of yarn. Then wrap it around a meter stick until you've measured the length of it. Use Google to find a dinosaur whose length matches your yarn. Make a fact card about the dinosaur, read the fact card to the class, and then take them outside to unroll the gigantic ball of yarn and see how long that dinosaur was!

metric measurement activity:

  • choose eight prehistoric animals from the book by Steve Jenkins
  • prepare eight envelopes, each with the name of the animal, how long ago it lived, and its measurement (in METRIC please!)
  • review the difference between a yard stick and a meter stick
  • use a meter stick to measure a piece of yarn in each length and organize the yarn pieces into the animal envelopes for the student to take home
  • This works best if you use eight balls of yarn in different colors. Write the name of the color on the envelope in case they get mixed up! It's also nice to number the envelopes in the order the animals lived in. My student chose to do protozoa, sea scorpion, dragonfly, cockroach, millipede, Dsungaripterus, baby Protoceratops, and Leptictidium.

week 5
review the names and positions of the modern continents using the Montessori Globe of the Continents, discuss continental drift

look at the map of This Dynamic Planet by the US Geologic Survey (I have the paper map and it's HUGE and big enough for many children to look at, but they do also offer free PDFs)

find the edges of the plates, discuss plate tectonics, review the layers of the earth from How to Dig a Hole to the Other Side of the World

do the Plate Tectonics Puzzle from the American Museum of Natural History and figure out how the continents once fit together to make Pangea

float several canning jar lids in a large casserole dish of water and watch them bump into each other

week 6
look at picture of Illinois state fossil (the Tully monster) in L is for Lincoln by Kathy-jo Wargin, look at a piece of shale and how it splits

do the Tree of Life Puzzle from Waseca Biomes and discuss scientific names

debate where the Tully monster might fit in the Tree of Life...
(this is hotly contested by scientists, who aren't even sure whether it was a vertebrate or invertebrate)

make a Tully monster model out of modeling beeswax

Here are some pictures of sample artwork; click on any photo to enlarge it:


the sparkle of life beginning!


blue-green algae


life in the ocean diversifies with the Cambrian explosion


I can't take credit for this amazing trilobite... this was my friend Jessica from Libre Unschool


the giant fern forests of the Carboniferous Period are one of my favorite images from the Paleozoic Era
this piece of art was also done by Jessica


my sweet giraffe
soooo much happens in December, including the entire Mesozoic Era, the rise and fall of the dinosaurs, the rise of mammals, and the arrival of humans on the evening of December 31st

The Colorado River starts forming the Grand Canyon on December 29th. Another great book for the Timeline of Life is the Caldecott Honor book Grand Canyon by Jason Chin. As the little boy hikes up from the bottom he passes layers and layers of fossils and imagines walking through time. A grown-up version of this book is the wonderful The Man Who Walked Through Time: The Story of the First Trip Afoot Through the Grand Canyon by Colin Fletcher.

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