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: https://artprojectsforkids.org/how-to-draw-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):
white paint toothbrush-spattered on black paper
water-soluble oil pastels
building blocks of life
ancient war of Membranes vs. Machines (cells vs. viruses)
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
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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