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 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.


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.


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: 

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 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

Taking a Rock Walk



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!

It’s Vacation Time!


Know how you feel when your principal asks you to add materials to your curriculum? For some, it goes something like this: “UGH! REALLY? You want me to add to a curriculum I already can’t get through?”


I know this, because I’ve been a Montessori school leader for years and I’ve seen it on the faces of teachers both under my direction and as colleagues. I’m sure the expression has appeared on my face as well.


And it’s time for vacation already! Please don’t ask me to plan for next year!


I’m here to suggest that you plan that vacation with a vengeance! Go somewhere truly exciting, interesting, fun, and relaxing. Get into the place. Discover the undiscovered secrets waiting to be found. Eat some new cuisine. Buy some spices so you can enjoy it back home. Take photos…lots of them! Find exotic souvenirs and, of course, new clothes!


Then bring it all back to your students! Voila! That curriculum assignment? Done! Piece of cake! (perhaps literally!)


Since I’m a prehistory nerd… particularly a fossil-nerd, that’s just what I did recently. We took a trip to Morocco. I brought back fossils, cuisine to share, customs to practice, and tons of photos. Our young students loved the experiences I brought back from my time spent in deserts, exotic towns, fossil beds, and surprising museums. (Check out this article of the one we discovered in Paris.)


With a little creativity and some time upon your return, you’ll not only have that curriculum development all set, but you’ll get to relive your vacation memories until next summer comes around…when you can do it all over again!


PS-Want to see a few examples? Comming soon, some pics from what I brought back to share.

OMG! It’s a REAL (fossil) Glyptodont!

A few years back, in my ongoing work to share prehistory with excited kids, I created a Montessori material (LINK) that included a Doedicurus, an herbivore that lived during the Pleistocene epoch.

A mammal with a carapace (like a turtle) and a spiked knot at the end of its tail (like the Ankylosaurus that lived during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods), this creature wowed me when I discovered it among a new set of prehistoric toys. It was such an odd mix of body parts that seemed to come out of nowhere; impossible to believe that such a creature could have existed. After all, when fossils are found it is no sure thing that all the parts present even belong to the same animal. It just seemed too odd, too remarkable to believe, even after google searches confirmed their historical reality.

But this article is not about the oddly characterized creature. You can find that with a quick google search. Rather, my goal is to share the amazement and joy of a modern-day travel discovery.

The fossilicious team recently visited the Galerie de paléontologie et d’anatomie comparée (LINK This museum alone will call us back to Paris, a city we have just begun to discover and adore! Not your typical museum of natural history, this truly is a place of comparative anatomy. If there is another museum on the planet that has such a voluminous collection on display, I’d truly love to hear about it! (write me at claudiamann “at”

Paris was actually a “side-trip” on our way home from our primary destination: Morocco. We had dreamed of visiting the fossil beds where so many of our collections originate for years and, at last, the trip was becoming a reality. But the Galerie de paléontologie et d’anatomie comparée had been just a bit further down on our bucket list, so why not add just a couple of days as we made our way back to the USA?

Cases of bones that greeted us upon entry let us know that we were in a very special place. With every step deeper into the museum, we realized that we couldn’t possibly “take in” this museum in the time we had. So we tried desperately to focus on an overview of what was there, vowing to return as soon as our pocketbooks would allow.

It was on the second floor, the Paleontologie collection, where I spotted my first glyptodont. I stood face-to-face with the bones and tightly woven scutes of the carapace: evidence that these creatures truly roamed the earth once upon a Pleistocene time. For this lover of prehistory and paleobiology, the thrill rivaled the moment, having successfully split open a chuck of Florissant fossil bed rock, I uncovered a complete Eocene leaf. In other words, it was magnificent!

The rush that comes with this kind of discovery should not be underestimated. Books inspire us, develop a sense of wonder, and lead us to investigate our passions. Standing next to the real thing…well, that’s an emotion for which books can only prime us. 

London Overload

Not knowing the real name of this place, it will be forever known as Shakespeare Park to us.

We knew we were country folk, but stepping off the plane into London Gatwick reaffirmed this in a giant way. After more than 90 mnutes of standing in a sea of humans, we were tense and irritable, only to be shoved onto an already too-full train to get into the city. It felt like breathing again to take a break in a tiny park opposite our lunch spot, The Shakespeare, where we enjoyued traditional Fish & Chips and Meat Pie.

Shakespeare's Garden...saved us from city overwhelm!

Shakespeare’s Garden…saved us from city overwhelm!

After checking into our Airbnb and filled with tradtiional English fare, we ventured out to see the nearby sights of Parliament and Big Ben.

Big Ben

Big Ben

We crossed the Westminster Bridge, the site of much sadness only two weeks before, and found every pillar blanketed with flowers and messages of love. Clearly the work of a few is having a huge impact on the many from all over the world. The groups of people stopping to view these expressions were of all nationalities with hundreds of languages exclaiming over the sentiments.20170403_124739

Leaping Into Vacation (March 31-April 2)

What a shock to the senses it was arriving in Iceland! Cold. Damp. Rugged terrain. Jagged volcanic mountains jutting up from the sea. Miles of rolling green hills. Lava fields flowing to the sea. Gushing water shooting vapor into the air. Boiling, bubbling pools filling the air with sulphurous mist. Monstrous glacial waterfalls. Frozen lakes, still covered with snow. Little did we know that beginning our vacation in Iceland would provide us with the separation and allowance to step out of our normal reality. It was a perfect beginning!



Pentagon_basalt20170330_193037 A perfectly-shaped volcanic basalt column

Fossil-Hunting in Morocco

Hello Friends and Fossil-lovers!

It seems like the California move that happened in 2014, not only put this blog on hold, but put it completely out of my memory. Thanks to a recent revelation and an upcoming fossil excursion, it’s time to resurrect it.

For those of you who are new to fossilicious…WELCOME! and a brief introduction: we, Doug and Claudia Mann, started fossilicious in 2005. It was an opportunity to share our Montessori cosmic education excitement with a broader community of Montessori teachers. 10 years, 3 websites, and lots of Montessori study materials later, we are finally making our first pilgrimage to the home-sites of many of our collection fossils in the Atlas mountains near Erfoud, Morocco. Along the way, we’ll visit other geolgoically interesting sites to gain a more intimate experience with our home planet’s mysteries and fascinations.

We hope you’ll enjoy whatever is to come along this journey that will include stops in Iceland, the UK, Spain, and just a brief moment in France. Some of what we plan to share will be aimed at the young students where Claudia works: LePort Montessori in Encinitas, CA.  The children have a map to follow along at home.

We also welcome your comments (and suggestions of good sites if you have them) as we share the fun.



Making a Meaningful Fossil Collection

Collections of anything are a good thing in teacher-land. Collections lead kids to learn. My favorite things to collect are fossils, rocks and minerals. This morning, when I began to reorganize the special new “finds” from my recent trip to Tucson, I got to thinking about all the different ways a person could go about setting up a collection. Here are just a few ideas that may help you get started.


Lots of people have one favorite kind of fossil. If you want to take a look at what happens when you REALLY get into one type, just check out this website: Dr. Gon III must truly love trilobites. I’ve been visiting his website for years and I still haven’t discovered everything he has to teach about trilobites. I’ll be he has a great collection, too!


That’s just one way to get going on fossil collecting: choose your favorite fossil and begin to collect individual specimens that represent different species, time periods and locations. I have several trilobites in my collection and they represent both early specimens from the Ordovican in the Midwest USA and Devonian in Morocco. As I am able, there will be more sophisticated…and expensive…specimens to add to my collection, but in the meantime, I have a nice group of trilobites to demonstrate all that I’ve learned about this extinct creature.

As you become aware of the time periods in which your fossil lived, you might want to begin to collect a specimen from each of the time periods since life began to flourish on the Earth. Lately, I’ve enjoyed adding to my Time Line of Life Fossil collection with some unusual little guys.

I started my TLL (that’s short for Time Line of Life) collection with a stand-alone purchased fossil collection. My first one came from Ohio and the fossils were not very spectacular. But they got me started. Next I found a set that had 12 nice quality specimens and some general information cards. As I found more places to get really good fossils, I made my own 12-piece and 18-piece collections and now they are for sale here: The 18-piece collection is my favorite because it has a wide range of species and nearly every geologic period represented.

The thing is that once I set up the 18 specimens according to the geologic time scale, I wanted to add in specimens from the missing periods…like the Triassic or the Precambrian. I went searching for specimens from these time periods and I made some great finds.

A few years back, I found Triassic petrified wood from Madagascar. These were really cool because unlike a lot of petrified wood pieces, which are beautiful, but also look like lots of other “jasper-like” rocks, you can see the design of the tree bark. Take a look at some samples at

I think I may be on to finding a new type of fossil to collect: stromatolites. Stromatolites are fossils formed by cyanobacteria. There are stromatolites that are so old they may have been responsible for changing the atmosphere into the oxygen-rich air we breath today. That’s an oversimplification, of course, but some of my more recent finds include the pale green stone called Butterstone that is 2.5 billion…that’s right, billion… years old and is known to have stromatolites in its layers. Besides the incredible color variations, the rock is naturally creamy in texture. It is a great little piece to fidget with because it feels so smooth and soft.


Then there’s the stromatolite that comes from South America. (Butterstone comes from Africa.) It is a completely different color: shades of dark brown, almost black, with bands of light brown. I especially like the carved balls and spheres. They are pretty heavy and the polish makes them feel really good in your hand. They’re pretty old, too: 2.2 billion years!stromatolite-sm-2-5

I have pieces in my collection that I found myself, a small collection of different kinds of brachiopods just because I like them, and a very small collection…almost too small to call it a collection…that contains parts of a crinoids: the holdfast that kept in tied to the ocean floor, a variety of different-sized stems and the crown or head from which the delicate fronds grew.

Of course, you don’t HAVE to organize your fossil collection in any way at all! You can just begin with a few small finds, mark them down with location, species and other pertinent info (you can find sample cards, here: and keep them on a stand or in a box.

It’s really simple…so get out there and get started!