Claudia's Ginko Fossil

What’s Your Favorite Fossil?

Inevitably, when I’m talking fossils, folks drop the name of their favorite. Do you have one? Just one?

My passion for fossils grew out of my love for playing in natural settings. I was one of those lucky kids who was NOT a “last child in the woods”.  I grew up in a place and time where the creek just down the road between my house and the abandoned farm was the best playground through all the seasons.

The creek was where I began to notice, learn, and develop a passion for my favorite leaf-shape variations:  the ones that signaled berries would arrive in a month or two and the ones to be avoided.

The creek was where I found my first rock treasures, filling my shelves with equal quantities of rocks and books. We stumbled across crazy shapes in the rocks, only to learn many years later, that these were the fossilized remains of ancient Ordovician and Silurian sea creatures. Most of our rocks contained common shapes: bryozoan, brachiopods, and crinoids. The trilobite, common during those geologic periods and which occupied my “favorite fossil’ status, but didn’t find its way into my personal collection for many years.

But then I discovered the gingko! A huge old  tree graced the entry to my first Montessori school and captured my heart for its simple and unique fan-shaped leaves and stinky fruit. When I learned it was a “living fossil” whose origins went back as far as 270 million years, I was totally smitten! The ginkgo quickly rose to the top of my “favorite fossil” list. No big surprise that this special find at last year’s gem and fossil show had to come home with me!

Is there a trilobite, a gingko, or ???? in your life?

Morocco at Last!

We were nearly drip-dried after standing in the beating rain to get onto our aircraft in London. The dry, early afternoon heat was a welcome completion to the process. Met by our Italian host for our time in Marrakech, he wove his way to the center of the old city and the oldest Medina in Morocco. He told us the huge mosque that we could see (and hear) from our Riad, was the third most important mosque to the Muslim faithful.

Our car was met by a Moroccan “bell boy” who carried our suitcases down ancient, narrow streets. We both felt a little nervous about what might lay behind the door. We needed have been. The Riad, which means a building with a central garden courtyard, was stunning. The walls were decorated with fossils, and our excitement for the hunting to come began to build. Our hostess served us the first of many daily teas. No matter when you sit down to a meal, or even when you just meet a friend, tea will always accompany the moment.

Our room looked out on the Riad below. Everywhere were special touches of Moroccan beauty and special effort was made to enhance the fragrance of the air with warm oils and rose petals. Our first day in Morocco was filled with sights and sounds never before experienced.

The Montessori Teacher Conference Season is Upon Us! 

 

Spring is rejuvenation time! For us teachers, that means it’s conference season. Since these conferences take place at approximately the same time each year, I thought it might be helpful to my blog followers to know about them for future planning. Some are still on the horizon and you may want to join me at one of them upcoming!

My conference season started outside Chicago this year with the Association of Illinois Montessori Schools. It is a somewhat small conference, which makes it an opportunity for meaningful conversations and up-close-and-personal interactions with the attendees. It was filled with inspirational speakers and fun-loving Montessorians from not only Chicagoland, but exhibitors that came from as far as Florida and California! The later was me! 

Next was the Cincinnati  Montessori Society. I made the Chicago / Cincinnati trip because their close proximity made it easy, but mostly because it was an opportunity to connect with my hometown Montessori friends. My Montessori journey started in Cincinnati. It was also the hometown celebration of our own Marta Donahoe who was the AMS Living Legacy this year. Celebrating Marta was a highlight of this trip! The conference was pretty big as regional conferences go…more than 600 attendees at a beautiful venue. The keynote speaker shared information about gender issues that was timely and informative. I got to focus my geologic presentation on the Ordovician period that is exposed in the region, making it a great spring kick-off for teachers who want to get their students outside looking for the fossils that abound in this area. 

The American Montessori Conference (AMS) has come a LONG way since my first experience in Princeton, NJ in 1993. Starstruck to be presenting new work that year, The Emotional Experience of Learning and Teaching, I remember the conference to be a relatively intimate gathering of probably around 1000. By the time I returned to presenting in 2007, our annual conferences had grown so large that we celebrated the 100-year anniversary of the Casa dei Bambini with our annual meeting at Madison Square Garden in NYC!

It’s the intimacy of those early years and the sharing among colleagues that I cherish, so when the numbers grow, I do my best to recreate the “small-feel” through activities that bring participants together in tiny groupings that encourage collaboration, sharing of ideas, and laughter! The 2019 AMS conference, now called The Montessori Event, was an even greater challenge to create the intimacy I love, but through good-natured and enthusiastic participants, we managed!  Here’s a few photos to confirm the fun! Keep watch for a post on this year’s conference presentation coming next week!

I missed the Calgary conference: Children Change the World…sadly! The speakers were many friends and respected colleagues. I’m putting that one on my list for next year. 

Upcoming, I’ll be in Denver and Victoria, BC in early May. In each of them I’ll be sharing my passion for Cosmic Education with activities to help teachers keep it alive in their classrooms. So many teachers have shared that their hesitation with the CE curriculum is not “knowing” enough. My presentations help dispel that feeling and bring fun and joy to the work! If you’re in the area, or want a nice, low-key and intimate conference, I hope I’ll see you at one of these! 

AMS Conference and Friendship

The Montessori Event in Washington DC was bigger than ever; AMS (the American Montessori Society) really did itself proud! As exhibitors, we often feel like we are limited in how much we get to enjoy all the offerings of the conference, but renewing friendships is always the best part of the conference anyway. This year we made time to socialize with several long-time friends, colleagues and “Montrepreneurs.”

Doug and Lori Karmazin first met more than 30 years ago at the College of New Rochelle, where they were students at the Center for Montessori Teacher Education/New York. This was long before either of them thought about developing their Montessori businesses, but their friendship and their businesses blossomed and endured!

Lori started Great Extensions in 1994 offering just a few materials. Now, along with the beautiful fabric mats and stamping materials, Lori has become known as the “dice lady” at theconferences, offering more than 50 different dice to be used in creative math and language activities. She has 6 pages of specialty dice listed on her website

Her beautiful materials have been in every classroom we’ve opened since the early 2000’s. The math mats make it easy for young students to complete math activities from basic counting, to simple operations to advanced operations in decimals. The math and language stamps help students record problems and are a wonderful bridge between manipulations of the concrete materials and abstract paper and pencil work.

You can visit Great Extensions at http://www.great-extensions.com/index.html.

 

Picking-up rocks…What’s THAT have to do with Cosmic Education?

Hey, that’s nice gneiss! Say it out loud: “nahys nahys”. Don’t believe me? Check it out at dictionary.com! Yes, these are beautiful specimens: Nice gneiss!

We headed out to Palm Springs to find it. Besides, Palm Springs is a super beautiful and relaxing spot for a quick getaway only a couple of hours from home! We knew that the wash we’d found not far from Palm Springs would be a good place to find the gneiss we needed for an upcoming project. Discovered in our efforts to walk the San Andreas fault line last year, we’d found all manner of cool rocks, especially nice gneiss. OK, I’ll stop!

It took a lot more work to find than we’d hoped; many of the beauties like these were too big for our project, but the walk was refreshing in the late afternoon as the desert sun dipped below the horizon and the cool breezes began to blow.

When asked, we often say we got into our business of rocks, minerals and fossils because we like to find ways to share our love for rocks with students. It’s part of our quest to promote Montessori Cosmic Education. But really, what does picking-up cool rocks have to do with that? This morning I got a sweet reminder.

A few weeks ago I picked up a book I’d read at the very beginning of my Montessori journey: The Universe is a Green Dragon, by Brian Swimme (© 1984. Bear and Company,  Inc. Santa Fe, NM) This story of the Universe and our place in it never fails to bring me back to the heart of why I do this work. Today’s passage delivered both renewed clarity and inspiration: “Our life and powers come forth through our response to allurement.”

Writing as the teacher Thomas, Swimme goes on to explain, “Pursue these interests further and you learn….how contemporary patterns of activities are shaped by history…You will carry within yourself the complexity of the world in a manner unimaginable to your previous self. You will know that you are not disconnected from the life of the world….You will learn the first glimmer of the profound manner in which humans bind together the entire social order through a heightened awareness.”

Swimme was referencing a connection different that my “allurement” to rocks, but in generalizing the context, I understood that my passion for understanding the earth and her history is my personal connection to the cosmos. Sharing this awareness through Cosmic Education is a bit of my cosmic task. This morning I am grateful for the passage, and the experience of nice gneiss, for the reminder.

Claudia Speaking at the AMS National Conference in DC

Cosmic Education: Using Brain-Based Strategies

Cosmic Education, the all-encompassing curriculum that is at the heart of Montessori elementary, is designed to create a sense of awe and wonder for the universe in which we live. Yet, in our high-stakes-testing world, Montessori teachers are finding it increasingly difficult to include those experiences that can have a real impact on their students’ learning…and that breaks my heart!

As a result, I’ve made it a personal focus to support teachers by providing ideas for making Cosmic Education the center of their practice. The 2019 AMS conference, now named The Montessori Event, was my most recent opportunity to share strategies for including what we know about brain function and learning in our lessons and activities for Cosmic Education.

I sympathize with the teachers who feel pressured to focus on math, reading, and writing to prepare for the tests, – goodness knows I faced it when I was in the classroom, too – but, I did my best to keep Cosmic Education and Great Lessons in the center of my teaching practice ala this graphic by Grazzini and Miller. I trusted that if I kept my students inspired while providing activities that would simultaneously hone their skills, they would do well on the tests and, more importantly, develop a love for learning whatever their hearts’ desired.

This presentation used aspects of the Time Line of Life to take participants on a journey deep into the Cambrian Period seas, where their joy might encourage more study. Participants laughed and problem-solved their way through the pretend ancient seas, using their ideas based on an image of four ancient creatures’ bodies (anomalocaris, pikia, horn coral, and halucigenia), to imitate their movement through an ancient sea.

Using card material I’d prepared ahead of time, they next got an opportunity to collectively learn about an area of their choosing: volcanoes, tectonics, dinosaurs, metamorphism in rocks. Based on the feedback, these simple activities inspired lots of ideas about how to connect the activities to the same math, reading, and writing skill practice teachers need to provide, but in a context that would inspire wonder and connection to learning about the long history and beautiful planet we call home.

In the end, like most teachers, I want my students to have the skills that will allow them to learn whatever their hearts desire. But my greater mission is to help them love where we live, to find their place in its history, be deeply connected to its care and find the inspiration and peace it provides us all.

 

Perisphinctus Ammonite

It’s Conference Season…Next up: AMS in Washington DC!

The fossilicious team is headed to DC for the American Montessori Society National conference that starts on Thursday. Of course Montessorians have been descending on the city since the weekend and lots of our friends have already checked in on Facebook and Instagram.

We’re bringing a ton of new products and fossil finds to the conference this year. Last year’s contest give-aways were such a hit that we’ve decided to expand them this year, too. Here’s a run-down we sent earlier today:

Hello AMS Attendees!

We have some exciting NEW ITEMS for this conference! We’ve also packed many of the same products AMS teachers have been enjoying since 2005.

We’re in Booth # L308. Come Join the FUN! Here’s just a sampling of what’s in store:

    • Free Fossil when you share the secret passwords: Take a Closer Look!
    • Daily Give-Aways – Sign up, get a ticket and check back to see if you’ve won
    • Rock Shop in a Booth with lots of $5 and $10,
    • LOTS of new materials, extensions, updates and NEW FOSSIL FINDS!
Perisphinctus Ammonite

Perisphinctus Ammonite

This Perisphinctes ammonite is one of the Fossils and crystals we will be giving away in DC.

Claudia’s presentation, Cosmic Education: Using Brain-based Strategies, is Friday at 2:30 in Thurgood Marshall South. She’d love for you to join her!

Check out our updated website www.fossilicious.com!

Shop our site ahead of time and bring your list for quick service!

Thanks again for reading! See you at L308!

Doug and Claudia Mann

www.fossilicious.com

We’ll be in North Carolina for a 2-day workshop Friday, March 29 and 30. Stay tuned for more information on that coming soon!

Happy Conferencing!

Claudia is Presenting At The Cincinnati Montessori Annual Conference

2018 AMS National Conference Presentation in Denver

Claudia Mann will be presenting a talk on The Cosmic Curriculum: Assuring Critical Thinking and Deep Learning while Managing It All. The presentation will be at The Cincinnati Montessori Society Annual Conference at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center on Saturday, March 2, 2019 at 10:30 AM.

Claudia Mann at the Fossilicious booth

Claudia will also have lots of products from the fossilicious.com website like the fossil and educational materials on display here. If you are in the area and a Montessori teacher or administrator stop by and say hi at the fossilicious booth. 

One more thing: The AMS National Conference is coming up soon. You can catch Claudia’s new presentation linking Montessori’s interrelated approach to the Cosmic Education curriculum with brain-based teaching strategies to achieve critical thinking and engaged learning.

MARCH 21 – 24

Washington Marriott Wardman Park

We’ll see you in Washington DC

San Andreas, Where Are You?

In Search of the San Andreas Fault

I spent a week in LA in 1978. With every real or imagined rumble, I was certain my life was about to come to a devastating end at the hands of “The Big One.”  Since then, having travelled all around the western US to get up close and personal with geologic history, I’ve gotten to be pretty geek-ish about geology. I’ve even survived a couple of gentle quakes, living in a mild earthquake zone as I do. Instead of the fears of the past, I find myself wanting to see as much of the reality of the two troublesome California plates as I can.

A recent trip to Palm Springs had us walking around in the desert with a smartphone and a tablet trying to match picture to real evidence so we could find and experience the San Andreas Fault.  For the most part, it was pretty unremarkable. Photographs showed us the fault going straight through the town of Desert Hot Springs with nary a visible trace; homes and streets lay right on top of the fault itself!

The wash we wandered likely followed the fault line’s low point, so while we didn’t see anything that actually confirmed we were on the fault, we found some pretty cool evidence of long-ago earth movement. The rock to the right is gneiss (pronounced “nice”), a metamorphosed granite that likely lay deep inside the earth when things began to move around causing the grains to slip into visible layers and the layers to fold under intense pressure.

This photo is a great illustration of another formation in the making. Here you see lots of “smallish” rocks of all types clumped together next to a past rush of water. The sand in the streambed is fine-grained, and, if you look closely at the clump of different rocks, you can see that fine sand has filled the spaces.  If this clump found itself covered with thick, heavy layers of dirt, sand or more rocks, the cemented result would become a conglomerate or breccia.

This day, we had to be satisfied with the evidence of weather on the surface rocks and long-past metamorphism deep inside the earth.  For now, this was enough.

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Not to be deterred by the unremarkable views of the San Andreas, we started out for the Cochella Valley the next morning. An entirely different bit of evidence awaited us there. You see, when fault action occurs, it allows underground water sources to bubble to the surface. As we drove through the valley, the oasis ahead was unmistakable.

Here, in close quarters of about 80 acres, grew the tall Thousand Palms Oasis. There was no mistaking the ground water came from seismic activity: the sulfurous smell was a dead giveaway. Out of the mucky earth were literally hundreds of huge, old growth palms and salt grass. An unexpected flood that came through less than 4 weeks ago, California’s experience of Hurricane Willa that hit the western coast of Mexico as a category 3, had done visible damage to the low-lying trails and had flattened the 6-foot grasses into swamp cover. Along the boardwalk through the swamp, though, new growth was already about 2 feet tall and a testament to the tenaciousness of Mother Nature.

I thought of Lynn Margulis as we walked. Posthumously, through the documentary Symbiotic Earth: How Lynn Margulis Rocked the Boat and Started a Scientific Revolution, Lynn taught me the significance of bacteria, inspiring a sense of wonder and awe for its contribution to all of life on the planet. Here in the desert, a different sort of bacteria, still cyanobacteria, combining with lichen and microfungi, form the fragile cryptobiotic soil crust that keeps our desert soils growing in place, protecting the surface from wind and water erosion. (More on that here.) Lynn’s passionate respect for bacteria’s cosmic task has given me a new vision when I come upon its work.

The grandeur of the palms, the odor of the water, the tenderness of the soil made this a special day connecting with the San Andreas. Thank you for not being as I expected; you shared a far more magical glimpse into your existence.

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Teachers and Parents: Here’s a lesson to help you share your interest of plate tectonics with the children in your life. It requires very little special equipment and the demonstration is a yummy treat! Have fun!

This lesson is one of a group of lessons on faults and plate tectonics in my Get to Know Rocks and Minerals  curriculum e-book. You can purchase it in its entirety here.

 

 

It’s Not Just a Trilobite; It’s a Flexicalymene!

Trilobites are one of the most beloved Paleozoic Era fossil specimens. They are found all around the globe because they lived during a time when most of the land was covered by ancient seas.  For more information about Trilobites and a few pictures which can be downloaded to color, take a look at our sister site:  www.fossils-facts-and-finds.com. 

Trilobites made their entrance onto the earth’s stage during the late Cambrian Period. This is the first and oldest division of the Paleozoic Era.  The rock layers belonging to this time period were first identified near Cambria or modern-day Wales. It’s easy to see how the period got its name! 

The divisions of the Paleozoic Era that follow the Cambrian are the Ordovician, the Silurian, the Devonian, and the Permian periods.  If you look up the meanings of these names, you’ll find that they, too, were named for the location associated with the layers of rock that were laid down so many million years ago. 

When you think of these periods like rock layers it can be helpful to imagine a cake with 5 layers: a cake layer on the bottom (Cambrian), an icing layer (Ordovician), cake again (Silurian), icing again (Devonian) and ending with a cake layer on top (Permian). That’s just the end of the Paleozoic Era! It is followed by the Mesozoic Era that would add three more layers, and then the Cenozoic Era with three more! That’s a lot of layers…and it’s only the layers that represent the time since there has been life on earth. To include the millions of years before that would be another entire group of layers! 

In modern times, more than 5000 different trilobite genera have been named. If you really want to get into trilobites, you should check out http://www.trilobites.info/ This site, created and monitored by Dr. Sam Gon III,  is literally hundreds of pages of information about trilobites….we think it’s the best anywhere! 

The particular genus and species pictured here is the flexicalymene ouzregui. It lived during the most recent part of the Ordovician period or about 449 million years ago. It is a species commonly found in Morocco, near the city of Erfoud, where many Paleozoic Era fossils are commonly found. 

If you love this trilobite, and would like to have one for your very own, you can find one here: Flexicalymene Trilobite