Monday, January 11, 2021

Photos from the Timeline of Life Calendar

I have decided that I like best to do the Timeline of Life as a 4th grade main lesson block (in Montessori, this is called the Second Great Lesson and it is done every year with ages 6-9 in the Lower Elementary classroom) AND do it again with a focus on "How Life Came to Be" in 7th grade as a Microbiology main lesson block. Neither of these are standard Waldorf main lesson blocks. These are my own invention.

I am writing a Montessori teacher manual with a Microbiologist colleague, a professor at SIUC, and we have been working out the stories and activities for the First and Second Great Lessons and The Coming of Life.

One of my favorite activities is the Timeline of Life Calendar. Our idea is that making the calendar always comes first because it is an artifact you can use to frame all of the questions and it gives you a physical way to order things — where/when did that happen — and children can flip back and forth through the timeline of life physically instead of having to carry it all in their minds. It is a key teaching tool and it's a lot of fun to make. Plus, then you have a 2021 calendar (or whatever year you want)!

I strongly recommend watching this TED talk by the amazing nature photographer Franz Lanting as a family, as a follow up to this topic in general and the Timeline of Life Calendar project in particular. It is wonderful!

Timeline of Life Calendar

Use a blank calendar, such as a scrapbooking calendar, to create an artifact around which all of the lessons and explanations will revolve

The scale of this calendar will be such that January 1 is the day the Earth formed and Dec 31 is the present moment (each day = approximately 12.5 million years)

Key moments in evolution will be written on some of the days, and the artwork for each month will show what was happening on the Earth at that time as life changed

As new discoveries are always being made, teachers are encouraged to look up the latest scientific understandings and adjust the day on which things evolved

For example, sponges are currently thought to have evolved 600 MYA (million years ago). 600 divided by 12.5 is 48. Therefore, “sponges” would be written 48 days before the end of the calendar. 365 - 48 is 317. Day 317 of the calendar is Nov 12

You can make a large collaborative classroom calendar, or children can work in pairs or individually.

Create Your Own Calendar, 8 inch

Suggested Artwork for the Calendar

Front Cover: toothbrush spatter white paint on black paper to show the universe

January: drawing of the swirling molten earth with water-soluble oil pastels or watercolor pencils

February: construction paper collage of squares ie. the building blocks of life

March: divide into four quadrants and leave blank except for the title “The Endless War” at the top (this piece of artwork will be completed during one of the lessons)

April: formation of land, earth, and sky (clouds in the sky and endless rains falling OR endless bombardment of space rocks OR black smokers under the ocean)

May: hot glue squiggles on green paper to show microbes using photosynthesis

June: paint splotch symmetry to show how microbes reproduce themselves (put a bit of paint on one side of the paper, fold it over, and unfold to see the print made)

July / August / September / October: many kinds of microbes drawn or painted, beginnings of new designs including cilia and flagella

November: Jellyfish in watercolors or chalk pastels OR Fish Printing

December: even more artwork possibilities! Anything that evolved in the last 375 million years can inspire the artwork for this month. One of our favorite art ideas is the giraffe:

In making these links, I just learned that Crafters Workshop also makes an awesome 6 x 6 inch stencil of a microbe colony. So perfect! I have to get it!

I've also written a post of Rubber Stamps for the Timeline of Life Calendar.

Here are some photos of our past artwork (click on any image to enlarge it):

Front Cover
outer space
white paint toothbrush-spattered on black paper

molten Earth
water-soluble oil pastels

building blocks of life

ancient war of Membranes vs. Machines (cells vs. viruses)

endless rains
cloud stencil, acrylic paint

construction paper collage

hot glue squiggles inside a drawing of a magnifying glass

July / August / September / October
more microbes of many designs
mono printing on a gelatin plate
using a brayer to spread acrylic paint, making designs with a cotton swab

A Beautiful Way to Do Jellyfish Paintings blog post

India ink mixed with glue to draw the lines, chalk pastels to fill in the colors

fish printing
rubber fish, acrylic ink, foam sponge brush, newsprint

fern forests and giant insects of the Carboniferous
fern stencil, acrylic paint, pen & ink insects

oil pastel and watercolor resist

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