Category Archives: Montessori Education

Sandbox fossil dig

The Excitement of Discovery in the Sandbox

 

 

When we had our school in Colorado, our students loved the boulder-rimmed sandbox.  The giant rocks were great for little bodies to begin their first bouldering escapades, there was a deep indentation that felt like a cave for pretending so many historical scenarios, and then there were the fossils. 

You see, about four times a year, my husband and I, both teachers at the school, would bring in a giant bucket of sandbox fossils and scatter them throughout the area, burying them in layers all around the giant sand area. We’d take the elementary students out to the sandbox at various times and pretend we’d taken a trip to the sand dunes in southern Colorado, or the Burgess Shale in Alberta, Canada where so many of the same early fossils had been discovered: crinoids, brachiopods, orthoceras, clams, gastropods, and even the occasional trilobite. As the students grew more sophisticated in their understanding of what it took to dig fossils, we’d sometimes layout a grid and practice the excavation in the style of the true paleontologist. 

Once the fossils were found, we had a number of activities to choose from: making plaster casts, re-burying in a sawdust/plaster mixture to be dug out and discovered by another student, and testing with acid to see if there was any organic material remaining. 

At times we made mini-digs with a material we lovingly called Fossil Pie. These were put together around the time of our big annual fundraiser Pie-a-Palooza. Most of the pies sold here were sweet and delicious, but the fossil pie often brought the highest bid at our auction because it was filled with fossils, gems, teeth, and other earthly treasures that spanned the millennia. With up to 100 specimens to be found in the space of a pie tin, these Fossil Pies, were popular among the younger set who’d searched for hours in the school sandbox to find a few treasures.  

There are so many things you can do with Sandbox Fossils to help your children experience the joy of discovery that leads to learning. This lesson plan  will connect your child to ancient sea beds and demonstrate how long-ago animals turned to modern-day stone fossils. And if you’ve got a hankerin’ for Fossil Pie, there’s a version of it for sale here: https://www.fossilicious.com/fossil-pie-12-specimen-fossil-hunt.html

Sandbox fossils- Just add water!

Sandbox fossils- Just add water!

Snail Relatives

Snail Relatives…Who knows?

It’s been a “snail-y” summer here is SoCal. I have a new appreciation for the plight faced in Big Little Farm. (If you haven’t seen it, be sure you do. It’s inspiring and hope-producing!)

I guess it was just a matter of time when we’d have one of the modern little buggers show up in a box of fossil relatives. And here it was today! My mind began to fill with questions begging for answers.

The one made of stone is from the Cretaceous Period and came to us from Morocco. That was the first question and easily answered by Doug who keeps these things in his memory better than I.

Next up: I wonder if these are related species…what species is that fossil? What species the snail? If they aren’t the same species, then are they related? Then, “Is this an analogy or homology?” You get the picture…biological questions.

Next my mind flipped to geology and history. (Big History!) Fossil snails seem pretty common, I wonder if there are any around here. If so, were Africa and North America connected at one time? How were the continents connected during the Cretaceous? How many years ago was that? How can I figure that out? And now there’s some math learning/practice potential!

In the history of biology, did any of the scientists from the early days draw pictures of these cretaceous snails? Linnaeus drew pictures of hundreds, if not thousands, of species of fossils and even things he wasn’t sure were fossils. (See my post on Graptolites.) What sort of writing did these early biologists/paleontologists do on the topic of gastropods? How did they tell the story? Maybe I could write my own story of the gastropod…

The human mind is amazing! It’s inherently human to wonder and be curious. Experiences like this drives children to form questions, seek the answers, and trust their ability to find them.

Student questions lead to a need for skill-development, which leads to learning, resulting in a hunger for more. As Dr. Maria Montessori wrote inEducation for a New World, (in response to observing a young child spelling words with the moveable alphabet in an early Montessori classroom)“There was an inner urge for more and more knowledge.”

Will you inspire that hunger in a child?

July 17 and 24th: A Class In Cosmic Education

Montessori’s Cosmic Education and the story of the universe grabbed hold of my heart and never let go. Learning to inspire curiosity, wonder and connection to our celestial home has been my quest throughout 30 years of teaching. This week and next, I’ll be sharing some of my ideas and strategies in two 90-minute sessions of online and hands-on learning.

I opened a book of poetry written by a class of elementary II students I worked with in 1999. Their words reflected the intertwining of academic learning, going out, and following their passions.

Shark
He was a soldier as he planned his attack.
His eyes flashed like lightning
While he wept for his prey.
(C.H., 11 years)

My memory of the year has faded too greatly to remember the details of weaving the threads of biology, ecology, language, and math, but their poetry and the drawings that graced the pages of the book they’d created brought back the vivaciousness of those students. These were children who’d gone to the Grand Canyon in the spring and, upon returning, decided to build a model of the layers into our classroom. The poem’s authoris the same child who exclaimed with great excitement that they could use the clinometer to determine the height of their model, reflecting the way they had used the instrument to calculate the heights of the distant sides of the canyon. This “proof” of meaningful learning moved my soul then as it does now.

This week, I’ll be sharing ideas for Keeping Cosmic Education at the Heart of your Classroom. We’ll explore ways of thinking about your curriculum to knit together experiences in all the skills-based subjects as well as art, music, and practical life activities. We’ll consider the whole, distill it into parts, and return to the whole to give you a template for sharing your Montessori lessons in ways that develop elementary and secondary students into adults who see themselves within the context of the cosmic plan. I hope you’ll join me!

For information on attending follow this link: Cosmic Education Class

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

Taking a Rock Walk

© http://willschlough.com

© http://willschlough.com

In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.         ~John Muir~

What a simple activity is taking a walk. Watching our toddlers walk around the building, taking in whatever the moment had to offer: birds, helicopters, flowers, sirens, and rocks, never failed to bring my heart joy!

 

There’s always “too-much-to-do!”  These days, teachers often forego getting outside with their classes; there’s so much to accomplish and the hours in the day slip by so quickly. I often felt the same when I was teaching, but I also valued the time spent investigating the outdoors. Happily, the pressure I felt to make meaningful learning part of being outside, led me to think of ways to accomplish not just academic learning goals, but also those skills that would help my students be engaged, curious observers and “questioners.” I wanted them to return to the classroom wondering about a million topics, so they’d be compelled to ask more and more questions.

This simple, high-interest, physically challenging activity continued to be a favorite of my students year after year. I loved it because it simultaneously develops listening, concentrating, decision-making, collaborating and team problem-solving. Structured just right, this activity also teaches deep observation skills that leads smoothly into investigations about how the rocks were formed, the rock cycle, volcanoes…limitless possibilities.

You don’t really need to prepare anything ahead of time. You can do it at a moment’s notice and with pretty much ANY age: You just take a walk, a walk with a very specific purpose: to pick up rocks.

Simple, No Prep,  Many Learning Outcomes  The Rock Walk is a simple game, but the impact of the learning is huge:

  • It develops focus and concentration.
  • It develops discernment skills using their sense of sight and touch.
  • It develops critical thinking and decision-making.
  • It gives opportunities to collaborate and solve a problem.
  • It sets your students on a path to learn about geology and earth science.
  • It will make your students happy and calm. (Well, actually, I can’t guarantee that. But it worked for my students year after year.)

It really is just taking a walk and picking up rocks, with one VERY easy guideline for the children to follow:

“As you (the student) pick up rocks, you can’t keep any rock that looks like one you already have in your hand. One of them must go back to the ground.”

While it’s a simple plan, adults guiding this walk will want to be prepared with some organizing details to set the stage for success. The full lesson plan is free to download so take a moment to  pop it onto your computer.

Then, the next time your little ones are telling you they need a break from either the classroom routines or a long day in the house, grab a copy and get outside!