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Summer Fun Makes for Summer Memories – Part 2

Sara L. Ambarian

Copyright 2015

All Rights Reserved

Website: http://condortales.com/bridestouch.html

Summertime means something different to each of us, depending on our ages, backgrounds, and interests, and even the regions where we grew up. What is fun and fulfilling to me or my family might not appeal to you or the children in your lives at all.

Frankly, I think that is part of the beauty of summer. It is a time which is much less “externally” scripted for many of us, allowing us – and the children in our lives—to write our own scripts, set our own priorities, chase our own muses, choose our own adventures. As fun as that is, if you look back on your own childhood summers, you will probably realize that a lot of your leisure time was actually very productive time for learning about yourself and the world around you, as well.

“We discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being.”

Maria Montessori

We asked the American Montessori Consulting Primary Recommended Resource Center partners http://www.amonco.org/resource_topic.html to share with us some of their favorite summertime memories to get you in the mood for planning your own summer activities and adventures.

Travel—

Gari Stein from Music For Little Folks (http://www.little-folks-music.com ) remembers summer road trips, a favorite of many families.

I didn’t take too many summer vacation, as I went to camp; but I remember when I was younger, we would drive to visit my sister at camp. It was special because my grandmother came with us, and I can’t remember any other time she came joined us on vacation We drove from Michigan up to Algonquin Park, Canada. This was before the interstate and often traffic would be so backed up, we would get out of our car, and walk around right on the highway. I remember it so vividly. Another part of fond travel memories are the sing-a-longs, especially when the five of us were packed into a sedan driving to Florida. Singing our hearts out and arguing over the correct words. Making fun of those out of tune. Those are the best memories ever.

Elaine Murphy from Kimbo Educational (http://kimboed.com ) also chose a car trip as a favorite summer memory.

My favorite vacation was a long, long road trip I took with my daughter and 3 granddaughters two summers ago. We drove thousands of miles to visit historical sites in the East. Since the girls are home schooled the purpose of this trip was for them to not only read about history, but to truly experience these important and famous places where history occurred.   Our stops took us to Williamsburg, Washington D.C., Gettysburg, Philadelphia, New Jersey battlefields, Sturbridge Village, and Boston. It was not always easy to drive long distances each day, but it was actually much better than I expected it would be. “Are we there yet” is just not in the girls’ vocabulary, thank goodness. We sang often, listened to music, took in the beauty of our country and enjoyed the abundance of its wonders.

The kids learned to read guide books and maps and helped choose where we would stop and stay. They learned to cooperate and share. After the trip they were able to apply their newly acquired knowledge and extend their experiences in a myriad of ways.

Some of the top favorite songs we sang, “On the Road Again”, “Let’s Go Riding in the Car-Car”, and “This Land is My Land” helped make the miles pass more quickly. These Kimbo singalong songs from Car Songs, Favorite Songs for Kids, and Songs About America were fun and often the break we needed when the highways were boring and tedious.

We also took stretch breaks with Kimbo fitness CDs such as Cool Aerobics for Kids and Catch a Brain Wave Fitness Fun. At night we relaxed with exercises from Yoga for Kids or Yoga and You, and we fell peacefully to sleep with quiet music from Sweet Dreams, knowing we were making lifelong learning opportunities and memories from this special summer vacation.

On a road trip, there’s always something new around the next bend, if you are looking for it.

Some parents hesitate to take their children on long driving trips, but many families find them delightful.road

The keys to happy and enjoyable car trips (and indeed, most successful travel with children) are preparation and engagement.

You should carefully choose your destinations, based on the interests, ages and attention spans of the people on the trip. Consider learning something about your destinations ahead of time and/or bringing some additional background or supplemental information along on the trip. Plan the itinerary trying to allow for unexpected problems or inspirations, as well as fatigue (of adults or children). Be sure to bring (or know your options for) timely meals, snacks and cold drinks, because being hot, hungry or thirsty will dampen the spirits of the most-intrepid travelers.

Try ahead of time to also manage your expectations. Not every stop in every outing will be a home-run with every member of your group. Sometimes the best thing about a trip is just getting away to see something new together. Also remember, if you take a child somewhere to “edify” them, but aren’t able to be enthusiastic about it yourself (unless it was the child’s idea to visit in the first place), often neither you nor the child will enjoy or benefit from the experience.

On the other hand, I have seen situations in which a child seemed not to enjoy an outing which they later remembered with fondness for decades. So, if no one’s having any fun, you might shorten your visit, re-arrange your itinerary, etc.; but don’t automatically assume that a visit has been a failure just because you aren’t getting immediate overwhelming enthusiasm. Sometimes children (and adults) need to let thing sink in a little before they make a final assessment of the value of an outing.

You also cannot always predict how a child will most enjoy a trip. Some children are happy to sit in the backseat and look out the window and just see what’s there. Some children will be more interested if they know the route and have a map with which to follow along. Other children appreciate you pointing out things they might have missed and commenting on them.

I know a lot of us are used, now, to keeping kids entertained with computer games, iPods, and on-board DVD players. For a real family adventure, however, I think that there are big potential benefits to leaving them behind or limiting their use, in favor of one-to-one personal interactions and discussions.

Arts and crafts are a favorite leisure pursuit for many children and families. It is probably no surprise that Kim Stitzer, co-author of Draw-Write-Now (http://www.drawyourworld.com ), and her family are among them.

We rarely took summer vacations, but we did have a morning summertime activity—drawing and writing together after breakfast—which became a special summertime routine and memory for our family.

We cleared the breakfast dishes to do a DRAW WRITE NOW drawing together. I sat between my two kids as we focused on the subject —i.e. dog, tiger, house. I pointed out the shapes and lines in the subjects as they made the drawing on their papers. After the subject was completed, I’d get up and wash the dishes while the kids created a background for their drawings. It was nice to be close enough to watch their ideas go on paper, yet enough removed so that I was out of the process.

After I was done in the kitchen, we moved on to working on writing. Most of my attention was directed toward my 5-year-old as he was learning the basics of letter formation and spacing. I modeled a simple short sentence as he copied it on his own paper. My 7-year-old worked more independently, writing a story about her drawing. Some days, if it seemed like her writing had gotten messier, I’d ask her to simply copy the sentences in the lesson, focusing on making her writing look as nice a possible. After writing, we all moved outside for playtime. Sometime before lunch, we came back inside, eager to color our pictures.

Almost all of us have pencils, crayons, markers, paints, paper, and other art supplies around our homes. Bringing them out or just making sure that they are available when inspiration strikes can be a very economical and open-ended source of summer fun for children of a wide range of ages.

Lois from Bountiful Spinning, Weaving and Knitting (http://bountifulspinweave.com) shares her experiences with another interesting arts and craft project — sharing her love of weaving and the joy of design with her granddaughter.

Arts and Crafts—

Our granddaughter, Kaitlin, spends a lot of time with us in the summer. In 2009, I taught her how to weave on a Schacht 10” Cricket Rigid Heddle Loom. Rigid Heddle looms are quick to set up and quick to weave on.

I took her out to my warehouse and opened up 2 big bins of yarns for her to choose from. She choose 3 colors and designed the stripe pattern herself! We warped up the loom together, and she wove her scarf while I wove a scarf on my Schacht Flip Rigid Heddle loom. We had a marvelous time. We did some of our weaving out on the deck. It is fun to weave and spin outside, so it was really nice that the looms are so portable.bountiful_summer

This was just her second time to weave! It was the 40th Anniversary year for Schacht, and Schacht had a weaving and spinning contest in conjunction with their big anniversary celebration. Kaitlin went to the celebration with us and got to see her scarf up on display along with all the other lovely projects that were submitted. I am very proud of her weaving and designing abilities! It is great to be able to share my love of weaving with her.

Kaitlin’s pattern is up on our website here: http://www.bountifulspinweave.com/Rigid-
Heddle-Weaving-Patterns.php

Textile arts like sewing, knitting, crocheting, weaving and embroidery are a natural for summertime. The more-flexible scheduling suits these projects which often take more than a weekend for children. In summer, you can both retain and promote continuity with an on-going textile endeavor, encouraging kids to spend a little time working on it every day or two. As Lois mentioned, you can sometimes take your projects outdoors to enjoy the fine weather, or you can use them as a quiet, cool indoor pursuit that gives children a break from the heat and busier outdoor activities.

Local resources—

Even very small communities usually try to offer these kinds of opportunities for local children and families to enjoy. Check with your local library, parks and recreation facilities, children’s clubs and afterschool programs, churches, and even community colleges for classes, camps and other fun and educational summer activities for a variety of interests and ages.

Science and Nature—

You can also find interesting programs and resources when enjoying the great outdoors and famous historical sites.

The U.S. National Park System has junior ranger programs at many of their sites, as well as distance activities children can enjoy. Because of the variety of scenic, historic, and recreational sites within the system, they could appeal to a wide variety of students. You can find a list of participating sites at: http://www.nps.gov/learn/juniorranger.cfm

The U.S. Forest Service also offers fun activities through their Junior Forest Ranger and Junior Snow Ranger programs. The Adventure Guide is also offered in Spanish. http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/conservationeducation/smokey-woodsy/junior-rangers

Maria Montessori once said, “We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics, nor all logic, but it is somewhat beauty and poetry.” Summer is a great time to let our imaginations go with non-traditional scientific adventures.

John Grunder of Exploration Education http://www.explorationeducation.com shows us “Can Do!”, an easy experiment which illustrates concepts of balance and center of gravity. This is a quick, fun lesson you can do with children (and adults) of any age and anywhere you might enjoy a canned drink, including a summer picnic.

Fogirl_summerr more science ideas for picnics and other outings, check out these lesson plans.

North American Montessori Center suggests this outdoor science activity for preschoolers– Montessori Twos Activity and Presentation: Observing Nature Close Up

http://montessoritraining.blogspot.ca/2010/06/montessori-twos-activity-observing.html

See, also:

http://www.lessonplans.com/ext-resource.php?l=http://www.beaconlearningcenter.com/UnitPlan/2954.htm

http://www.grandparents.com/grandkids/activities-games-and-crafts/easy-outdoor-science-projects

http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/family/easy-outdoor-science-activities-for-kids.htm

If your summer plans include an amusement park, older and/or bolder children can experience physics concepts first-hand while riding rollercoasters and other thrill rides. Review these concepts before you go for a better understanding of how the attractions work and what the forces are that you feel as you ride.

http://www.learner.org/interactives/parkphysics/coaster.html

http://ffden-2.phys.uaf.edu/211_fall2002.web.dir/shawna_sastamoinen/roller_coasters.htm

http://science.howstuffworks.com/engineering/structural/roller-coaster3.htm

Working Together—

Less time in structured activities for school and other pursuits, plus longer sunlight hours and generally more-favorable weather, means summer often offers more opportunities for families and friends to work together on special projects. It is also always a busy time for outdoor chores in rural areas, especially if those areas experience cold, snowy winters.

Montessori practices emphasize learning by doing, and there always seem to be a lot of interesting things to do in the summer.

Rae from The Creative Process (http://www.netposterworks.com ) grew up on a farm, and her summer memories mostly revolve around helping her parents with farm chores.

As the eldest child, and with no brothers, I was called on for a variety of farm chores that seemed to me, at the time, to fill hours. When I was quite small I was an excellent deliverer of messages – either fetching my Dad from the field, or if I happened to be with him when a piece of machinery broke down, heading back to the house with instructions for calling the farm implement store for the availability

I was also put on a tractor, charged with keeping the wheels straight, so my dad could “pick stones” and put them on the slow moving wagon. I think “picking stones” was a Michigan thing – the glaciers of 14,000 years ago seemed to churn to a stop in mid-mitten, dropping their load of small, and not so small stones, right on my folks’ farm. They had to be taken away so the crops could grow. My dad had been doing it his entire life, starting out alongside big work horses when he was a child. Eventually my sister was big enough for the steering straight task and I got to help pick stone. What a thrill!

Another necessary task was weeding the bean field. That meant walking the rows of young bean plants with a hoe and chopping out ragweed and pigweed before they damaged the crop….One summer our folks “paid” us for farm work. The deal was the profits from one acre of beans for each of us, we could choose which status of a part.variety and the time of sale. I had rapt attention on the radio for the farm report that fall. I knew exactly which kind of bean had produced the highest yield per acre and had calculated what I thought might be the top price. So when that price was announced one morning I hollered out “SELL!” My dad did. He sold his, too, for what turned out to be the high price for the season.

I gathered eggs and walked down the lane to the back pasture to bring the cogames_summerws up for milking in the afternoon, too . I really don’t remember doing much in the garden, other than eating a tomato straight off the vine.  Preserving food, however, would turn into everybody helping to cut corn kernels off cobs.  It’s summerunder the big tree with not quite enough breeze to shoo away the flies attracted by the sweet juice, canning tomatoes and string beans.

My grandmother had suffered a stroke, so sometimes I would be with her during the day. I could help her to the bathroom, get something to drink, change the channel for the Tigers baseball game, and call if we needed more help. It was this grandmother who taught me to spell “cat”, “dog”, and “wagon” (I liked that big word!) She also helped me learn numbers. I wrote 1 through 1000 and then sent the pages in a letter to Aunt May. There certainly was a blending of sitter and sittee….

It wasn’t all “work” . We did manage swimming lessons, and sometimes I would go with my Mom, a teacher, to her summer school classes at Central Michigan University. I also polished off all the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and Boxcar Kids, and moved on to Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.

Whether you live in the country or the city, or somewhere in-between, I am sure that there are many summer chores and projects in which you can involve the children in your life. Whether it is gardening, home improvements, cooking, or something as simple as doing a jigsaw puzzle, these experiences teach practical life skills. They also teach the satisfaction and enjoyment that comes from working together to accomplish a common goal.

* * * * * *

Generational interests vary and times change. However, I think that all of us, whatever our age, enjoyed many of the same basic summer opportunities: exploring new places or new experiences, having time to loaf or to dream or to recharge from the busy school year, and spending more time with family and friends. I hope that this upcoming summer includes whatever blend of these pursuits will make the best summer memories for you and your students.

Read the other parts of this creative hands-on lesson planning newsletter by visiting

 

http://www.amonco.org/montessori_summer_handson.html

 

Don’t forget to read the companion newsletters.  Just visit:

 

http://www.amonco.org/montessori_fall_handson.html

 

http://www.amonco.org/montessori_winter_handson.html

 

http://www.amonco.org/montessori_spring_handson.html

 

 

 

 

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Summer Fun Makes for Summer Memories – Part I

Article by Heidi Anne Spietz

Looking back on your childhood, do you remember a specific summer that really stood out from the rest? If so, do you remember what made it so special?   My hope is that the vacation ideas, booklists, hands-on lessons, crafts, recipes and other activities listed in this summer newsletter http://www.amonco.org/montessori_summer_handson.html will provide the ideas needed to make this summer a treasured set of lasting memories.

In the first part of this two-part article, five of the AMC resource partners, http://www.amonco.org/directory.html who contributed to the richness of this newsletter, have been kind enough to share some of their favorite childhood vacation memories. Take a moment now to get to know each of these professionals on a more personal level.  Hopefully, the experiences shared will provide some insight on what specific childhood summer vacations really stand the test of time.

Edith Cooper, Owner of http://www.coycreek.com/ Coyote Creek Productions reflects on a special summer vacation that has had a long-lasting effect.

Magnificent waterfalls, beautiful horse trails to ride, stars to watch in the night sky: such pleasure! What more could an eight-year-old child be given? That first camping trip to Yosemite gave me much more: it forged a lifelong love of art and brought me a friendship that has lasted a lifetime.

I knew that my father was a career silkscreen artist, since I often “racked” the prints he made in his San Francisco studio, in order for the prints to dry before he could add more colors. But for the first time, on that camping trip with my father, mother, and older brother, I watched him draw from life, and the pencil and ink drawings he made of “my” pony graced every home I had throughout the years until they were lost in the crash of a moving van. But art—lost and found—was always with me. And long after that trip to Yosemite, after I had left my work as a catalog librarian, I formed a company to produce instructional videos for children. Our first productions were six videos of art instruction for children.

For some us, a favorite winter rather than summer vacation comes to mind. This is especially true if the temperature outside feels more like summertime.   Dale Gausman, Founder of http://www.montessori-namta.org/ North American Montessori Teachers’ Association shares just such a vacation.

My grandmother took my sister and me on our first vacation when I was in grade three. She invited us to go with her to visit my aunt in Los Angeles for two weeks over the Christmas holidays. It felt like an adventure to take the train for two days, and I was excited to leave behind Vancouver’s rain for the California sun.

I don’t remember much about the journey itself. I am sure that I watched towns flickering past us through the window; the occasional cow or horse standing in the fields; and the rugged coastline coming back into view as we reached California. But as a young growing boy, my interest laid primarily in food, and that is what I remember when I think of our train ride.

My grandmother brought all of our food for the two-day train trip in a small suitcase. There were no hot meals or sweet treats from the dining car. Instead, when we were hungry, my grandmother would pull out the suitcase, pop open the latch, and hand out the carefully wrapped meals that she had prepared. The only deviation from her suitcase was on our last day, when she bought us a can of hot tomato soup from a vending machine. I still remember the warm, homey aroma of that soup and how delicious it was.

Staying in Los Angeles, we naturally made a day trip to Disneyland, and my sister and I had a fantastic time. My favourite ride was, without question, the go carts. As an 8-year-old boy, it was amazing to me to be able to whizz round the corners and hammer down the straightaways at top speed. It was definitely a highlight of my trip.

Another highlight, and one that has made a lasting impression on me, was listening to my aunt read to us all every evening. She chose to read us The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper. If an experience was memorable to you as a child, it is likely to be just as memorable to other children. I learned from my aunt and read the same book to my son when he was 8 years old. I believe he was just as enthralled as I was. 

Elaine Murphy, http://kimboed.com/ Kimbo Educational reflects on a summer vacation filled with experiential experiences.

I spent one glorious summer at a day camp called “Candy Mountain” when I was just 10 years old. Of course, we campers sang that fun song over and over, but we never tired of it. I learned so much that summer. The “candy” was really an opportunity to gain some independence, grow creatively, get stronger physically and make new friends. I had never been away from home, even for the daytime hours, and I was shy and a bookworm. My parents didn’t ask, they just sent me and said have a good time! I didn’t know any other children and I would rather have read my books curled up on my front porch. I changed that summer and came to realize that there was a big world out there that I wanted to be a part of. I could do it, and I learned to love life to its fullest. It was a set of experiential lessons about nature, art, planting, sharing and caring for our environment, teamwork and more. It was not just a vacation. My parents got more than their money’s worth by investing in me that summer.

Nan Barchowsky, Founder of http://www.bfhhandwriting.com/ Barchowsky Fluent Handwriting shows us how gardening can help children develop small hand muscles, as she looks back upon her own special childhood summers spent with her grandmother.

When I was a little girl I spent my summers at my grandmother’s home. She had a garden and grew beautiful flowers. I loved Nanny, my grandmother, very much, but when it came to her garden she was strict. I wanted to be with her in her garden, and I wanted to help. I thought I could pull some weeds, but she disagreed! Not in my garden she said! She feared I would pull up her flowers. How was I to know the difference between a valued plant and a weed?

 There was a solution! Nanny measured off a small space in the garden that was all mine. She suggested some flowers, and we agreed on Johnny-jump-ups and English daisies. I planted them; they grew. Weeds grew too, and I gently pulled them out so that I would not disturb the flowers. I could be with Nanny and have fun in my very own garden at the same time.

Gari Stein, Fonder of http://www.little-folks-music.com/ Music for Little Folks, reflects on the summers she spent at Camp Arowhon and the lasting friendships she made at camp.

I was extremely fortunate, for many summers to go to Camp Arowhon, in Algonquin Park Canada, nestled in a pristine wooded environment surrounded by water. Once we traveled by train, plane or bus, hearts beating with anticipation, we excitedly entered camp in shifts on the camp boat fondly called the ‘Lizzie”. Children coming together in friendship and fellowship that for me spanned from a junior camper to a senior counselor. 

Tomorrow, we will be focusing, in more depth, on the impact that travel, arts and crafts, local resources, science and nature can have on planning your own summer activities and adventures.  Stayed tuned for  Summer Fun Makes for Summer Memories – Part II

Enjoy!

Heid

 

 

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Nurturing Budding Botanists – Learning and Teaching the Basics of Plant Science

Copyright 2011 -2015

by Sara L. Ambarian

http://www.condortales.com/bridestouch.html

Science study can be one of the most fascinating aspects of our children’s schooling, due to the incredible diversity of scientific subjects and the wide variety of hands-on activities which can be related to each. Late spring and summer is a great time to take your scientific endeavors outdoors and take advantage of the vast laboratory of nature. An especially interesting and broad branch of science for summer study in the outdoors is botany.

What is botany?

Botany, according to Webster’s Dictionary is “the bflower_botanist_1ranch of biology that studies plants, their life, structure, growth, classification, etc.” Delving deeper into specifics, the Botanical Society of America http://botany.org/bsa/careers/what_is_botany.php tells us that “plants” have been generally thought to include “a wide range of living organisms from the smallest bacteria to the largest living things ‑ the giant sequoia trees. By this definition plants include: algae, fungi, lichens, mosses, ferns, conifers and flowering plants.” However, the Society states that modern scientists theorize that bacteria, algae and fungi are not part of the plant kingdom, though they continue to be studied/taught about within botany classes. For basic botany education, you probably won’t have the resources (or your students the interest) to worry too much about these tiny organisms, one way or another.

What do botanists do?

Like other biology careers, botany is a general discipline that covers many more specific studies and specialties. Someone educated as a botanist might study plant anatomy, plant reproductive biology, ecosystem ecology, paleobotany, plant care/cultivation, botanical education, or any of a wide variety of other specialized fields. They may work indoors or outdoors, in a wide variety of work environments– in a laboratory, in a greenhouse, at a botanic garden, at a museum, for a government agency, for a private company, etc.

For more on what botanists do, where they work, who they work for, etc., see:

http://www.forestinfo.org/discover

(This page also has links to information on some other interesting outdoor careers, as well.)

For an interesting table showing different specialties in the botanical field, see The Botanical Society of America, at:

http://www.botany.org/bsa/careers/bot-spec.html

Also visit The Botanical Society of America’s career page, which has interesting stories from actual professional botanists:

http://www.botany.org/bsa/careers/

Why teach or study botany?

There are many reasons to teach or study botany. Every child has plant materials of some sort available for study, even if it’s only sidewalk weeds, houseplants, or cut flowers and/or vegetables from the grocery store. Plants are intricate organisms which can provide many fascinating study opportunities; but unlike animals, they stay right where you left them. Because of this, plants are easier for young children to examine and identify. Also, you can theoretically observe them over an extended period of time.

Changes in growing plants are generally fairly obvious and easy for even small children to observe and compare. For example, growth from a seedling and other changes in size, development of flower and/or leaf buds, blossom drop and fruit development, and seasonal foliage color changes are all obvious processes anyone paying attention can follow. Older children can delve deeper into botany through more complex subjects like habitat and plant reproduction.

Studying plants also often brings up interesting lessons in the behavior of insects, birds and mammals, since we’re all interdependent on one another.

Getting started.

Don’t feel overwhelmed about trying to teach botany even if you do not know much about the subject yourself. It is a big and complex study, and you are not going to send your students out ready for university research projects. All you should really be aiming for at the start is to get the kids interested by presenting one or two small botanical lessons… and it does not take much preparation to be able to do that.

Below are some simple ideas for botanical explorations. Each of these is a manageable lesson, both for you to teach and for your students to learn. They each also touch on one aspect of botanical study which could inspire your students to pursue additional information and other lessons, of your or their own design.

Learn some basics, print some diagrams, and view some photos.

Plant anatomy and terminology are both easy ways to introduce botanical ideas to students. The following links, and many other resources, can get you started.

Dictionary of botanical terms plus an encyclopedia of plants and flowers:

http://www.botany.com /

Parts of plants, with fun activities at some of the links:

http://www.botanical-online.com/lasplantasangles.htm

Find information about local wildflower varieties online at a site like this:

http://wildflowerinformation.org

Beautiful botanical macro photography:

http://www.botanical-online.com/macrofotografiaangles.htm

Borrow a book.

Head to your local library and see what it has to offer. You will probably find some simple books for young readers, some flower or tree identification field guides for your area, as well as books on more specialized botanical subjects. Let the selection give you inspiration. Later, if your student(s) enjoy their initial botanical studies, you may want to invest in a couple of (new or used) botany-oriented books.

Learn the local dangers.

Every environment has its hazards, whether it is your own home or classroom or a vast natural wilderness. It is just common sense.

For example, in many areas, gardeners know that sheltered areas behind plants often harbor black widow spiders; so it is wise to keep your eyes open as you explore. Depending on your region, you might have a number of other insect dangers (or at least annoyances) to plan for as well. Mosquitos, ticks, deer flies and other biting bugs are often out enjoying the summer weather at the same time you are, so take appropriate precautions with protective clothing, repellents, etc.

Flower32In California, a spring botanical phenomenon that brings many visitors out of the city, the blooming of the California poppies, is often accompanied by the spring “wake-up” of local rattlesnakes. Especially dangerous is the Mojave green rattlesnake, which is an odd gray-green color which sometimes blends into the gray- or blue-green foliage of the poppies. Every year, folks plunge out into the vast fields of orange blooms, as if it is the poppy field in Oz, with no thought to what might be hidden beneath. Unfortunately, sometimes people or dogs are bitten by rattlers, when sticking to the trails and/or watching where they put their feet could let them enjoy the gorgeous display in safety.

In some areas, you will want to be alert for bears if you go berry picking (an interesting and literally rewarding type of botanical study).

Even dangers from other plants can potentially put a damper on your botanizing adventures. Be sure that you and the children are all familiar with poison oak (western US)/poison ivy, stinging nettle, poison sumac, and any other local plant irritant.

http://www.ehow.com/how_2285113_avoid-poisonous-plants-backpacking.html

Also, if you plan to pick any wild edibles, like berries, be ABSOLUTELY sure that you know what you will be gathering, that it is safe to eat, what other local plants might look similar, and that you are legally allowed to gather it in the location where you plan to do so. Children must be seriously admonished not to pick or eat ANY other plant material they find, and young children must be very closely monitored, so keep your adult-to-child ratio as close as possible for the safest outing.

Don’t let potential dangers deter you from exploring. Just do some research so you and the students know what to expect and where to use caution.

Get up close and personal.

At botanic gardens, preserves and national parks, nature study is strictly “hands-off”… take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints”… a good policy due to the volume of visitors. However, in a schoolyard setting, home garden, or on national forest/Bureau of Land Management area, judicious hands-on opportunities can be had. Many children will respond more readily to the study if they can actually handle, dismantle and analyze a flower or leaf or two up close; so this is a great option when it is available.

Flowers, leaves , bark (and/or parts thereof) look even more interesting when seen under magnification. Many botanical details are big enough to see well with limited enlargement. So, take a magnifying glass with you; or if allowable, bring home one or two small specimens to analyze in greater detail under a home microscope. Check these links out, too.

Instructions for viewing dyed onion skin cells under the microscope (a very cool experiment!):

http://www.crystal-clear-science-fair-projects.com/plant-cell-science-project.html

An interesting sequence of photos of bamboo examined under a microscope:

http://www.powerfibers.com/Bamboo_under_the_Microscope.pdf

Some really wild autofluorescent plant cell photography you have to see to believe:

http://www.olympusconfocal.com/gallery/plants/index.html

If you can’t go out, find specimens at the grocery store or nursery, or in the kitchen.

You can also study domesticated flowers you could buy cheap in bouquets at the grocery store or in pots from a home improvement store or nursery. No one will care if you tear these apart to analyze their anatomy, and a mixed-variety supermarket bouquet will provide plenty of specimens for several students to study several different types of flower.

You can also do botanical analyses on your vegetables before you eat them. What part of the plant do you eat? Can you see the rest of it (i.e., carrot tops, pea pods, green onion roots)? Do you know where/how the plant grows? You can make many interesting botanical observations and discoveries about if you look at skins, leaf veins, seeds, husks, etc. Then you can eat what is left of your experimentation.

Growing edible sprouts is another great way to do kitchen botany. For more information, check out the Sprout School pages at SproutPeople.org:

http://sproutpeople.org/sprouts.html

Get creative–

Artistic/creative kids may enjoy flower/leaf pressing, or might learn more if they draw, paint or photograph botanical specimens.

Although you can purchase (or build) a fancy press, flower or leaf pressing can be done by placing specimens between waxed or parchment paper within the pages of a large book with other books or heavy items stacked on top. (The paper will keep your pages clean from pollen or moisture.) Leaves are usually easy to just lay flat. Flowers often look nicer with some attention paid to how you spread petals, bend stems, etc., to try to get the finished flattened flower to reflect the fresh appearance of the specimen. Experiment with more than one specimen, if practical, to see what looks the most attractive. The length of time it takes for the specimens to flatten and dry will vary based on the thickness and moisture content of the specimen, the amount of weight used, and the humidity level of your surroundings. Fully-dried pressed leaves and flowers can be kept as keepsakes or used in art projects. If they are exposed to a lot of sunlight (and as they age, generally), they may lose a lot of their original color. However, kept dry in the dark, they stay beautiful an amazingly long time.

Very young artists can observe and reproduce a flower, leaf or vegetable with the most basic elements of color and shape. Pink, red, white, yellow, purple, or orange flowers may have nearly watercolor gradations of hue and shade; but for the littlest children, just picking a corresponding color crayon, pencil or marker is a lesson. In analyzing shape, help them focus on the overall outline and basic composition. An open rose is a wavy spherical shape. A violet or viola has five petals little ones can count. Most carrots are basically a long triangle (though French and baby varieties are sometimes more oblong and rounded).

Older or more experienced student artists can explore shading, striping, spots, proportion, individual plant/flower parts, and even details as intricate as leaf veining or hairy stems. You may be surprised at the details different children will notice and choose to reproduce. We often each see something slightly different even when we view the same item. That is one of the exciting things about doing nature study with a buddy or in a group. Their choices of media will also affect the level of nuance and detail that is possible. Black-and-white pencil or ink drawings are great for fine details. Colored pencils (especially the kind that smears with water) are an easy and neat way to mix colors to show subtle gradations, even if sketching out in the field. Watercolors can give even more fluid color transitions and sometimes even capture the effect of the moisture and luminescence of some plant materials.

Plant photography can also run the gamut from a simple “wide” shot of a field of grass or flowers, to a cameo of a single pretty blossom, to a very “tight”(“macro”) photo of a vegetable’s seeds, the texture of a piece of bark, or the sticky pistil and pollen-covered stamen in the center of a flower. Again, each child will see something different, and both age and technical experience can often play a part in both their approach and their results; but it’s all another way of viewing, experiencing, and remembering what they’ve seen. Make sure that they know how to operate the camera, turn them loose, and see what they see.

Planting seeds, in more ways than one.

Perhaps one of the most obvious ways to get children interested in botany is through gardening. Whether you plant a windowsill herb garden in pots, a sidewalk strip of annual flowers, or a dozen varieties of vegetables, helping with a garden gives children a wide variety of botanical experiences. They experience seed sprouting. They can learn about the nutrients and environmental factors plants need to grow. They can examine their plants in great detail. They can see the formation of fruit/seeds. They will probably also see pests and diseases that affect plants. If the plants flourish, they have a crop of herbs, flowers, fruit or vegetables to enjoy. If they don’t, trying to figure out why can provide interesting lessons as well. Do try to include some easy-to-grow varieties, to increase the chances of success; but emphasize the process (rather than the results) all along the way, so you do not miss out on the unexpected “teachable moments”.

However you choose to introduce and/or pursue botany with children, you are helping them better understand the world around them. You may also be planting the seeds of curiosity, opening up new avenues of inquiry and interest. It is always interesting how often learning one piece of information will spur you to think, ask or study about related subjects. So you never really know where the simple introductory lesson you teach might lead your students. The good news is that there is a whole summer ahead to find out!

You can also access this activity in

I will leave you with one more activity suggestion (the easiest one yet!) Play this fun flower match memory game!

http://www.prongo.com/match/flowers.pl

Please see http://www.condortales.com/bridestouch.html to learn more about the author.

Read the other parts of this creative hands-on lesson planning newsletter by visiting

http://www.amonco.org/montessori_summer_handson.html

 

 

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Montessori Spring Adventures in Weather and Science

“Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.”

Roger Miller

Most of us are familiar with the proverb which states, “March comes in like a lion, and goes out like a lamb.” It has been the inspiration for many cute school-days decorations and coloring pages, but the principle is often quite true.  Spring weather, depending on where you live, can often have some of the most varied, and sometimes capricious, weather of the year. For that reason, it is a great time of the year to introduce meteorological science to children of all ages.

Check out the following sites for an overview of weather subjects and meteorological careers.

http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/weather.html

http://eo.ucar.edu/webweather/

http://xoap.weather.com/education/wxclass/careers/careerslessonplan.html

If you live in a severe weather area, older students might benefit from this preparedness page from the CDC.  Spring storms can be frightening and dangerous. However, having a plan and being involved in preparations can give older students a feeling of competence and a more-realistic set of expectations.  http://www.cdc.gov/features/springweather/

Spring can be an exceptionally exciting time to try Creative Process’ “Picture-A-Day and Time Lapse Photography” project, due to both varying weather conditions and new vegetative growth.

http://www.netposterworks.com/resources/curideas/picture_a_day.html

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A big factor in the behavior of weather patterns, and especially severe weather systems, is barometric pressure  Share this informative article with students so that they can understand what is meant when weather reports mention high or low pressure areas. http://geography.about.com/od/climate/a/highlowpressure.htm

Then, you can get up close and personal with the characteristics of varying air pressures in John Grunder from Exploration Education’s experiment, “I CAN’T TAKE THE PRESSURE!” http://www.amonco.org/spring3/montessori_spring_3.pdf, which illustrates Bernoulli’s principle. http://www.yourdictionary.com/bernoulli-s-principle

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Some additional resources are available from  http://www.schoolmasters.com/science/catalogsearch/result/?cat=0&q=Weather Schoolmasters Science   http://www.workshopplus.com/ProductCart/pc/viewPrd.asp?idproduct=2108&idcategory=441 Natures Workshop Plus!

While you’re exploring scientific principles, how about researching and discussing springs, the season’s name sake? The Physics Hypertextbook offers an interesting discussion of springs, elasticity, and Hooke’s Law for teachers, parents, and older students. http://physics.info/springs/ It’s a scientific subject you may not have thought much about, but it really can be fascinating.

Happy Spring!

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Introducing the Montessori Decimal and Fractions Equivalence Matching Sets

Decimal and fraction equivalence matching sets are sometimes difficult for children to conceptualize.  In the article below, Montessori teacher Diane Knesek shares some free hands-on lessons that you can use right now in your school or home classroom.

Decimal and Fraction Equivalence Matching Set by Dianne Knesek

http://www.conceptuallearning.com/

Students learn that there are different ways to write the same value. For example, one out of ten can be written as thconceptual_learninge fraction.   We usually read this as one tenth. Another way to write one tenth is .1, sometimes read as point one. It is not unusual to see this also written as 0.1 because there are no units and one tenth. Actually, writing fractions as base-ten decimals is a very easy way to work with them because operations are based on the same principles as operations with whole numbers.

Maria Montessori devised an entire series of exercises based on a color-coded place value system and that illustrates that working with decimal fractions is very similar to working with base ten whole numbers. Hands-on materials include color-coded beads, cubes, decimal board, decimal cards, and stamp game variation. These are all excellent in helping the student discover the value and relationships of decimal fraction hierarchies as well as operations with decimal fractions.

After the student has worked with the appropriate level of hands-on materials, he or she may follow up with Conceptual Learning Material’s “bridging” materials. One very popular series is the ten-exercise Decimal – Fraction Equivalence matching set. Decimal/Fraction Equivalence  Instructions and two sample exercises can be found by visiting http://www.amonco.org/Conceptual_Summer2015.pdf

Conceptual Learning Materials’ decimal series emphasizes concepts and applications. Other sets in the series include Decimal Cards, Decimal Introduction, Decimal Number Line and Labels, Decimal Order, Percent, and Advanced Decimals.

For additional Montessori math products and resources, please visit  Conceptual Learning Materials.

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Creative Music and Art Spring Lesson Planning

montessori21stcentury:

Spring is literally days away, so take a moment now, to look through your upcoming lesson plans for the months ahead. Do some of your art and music lessons seem stale? If so, read below. Even if you think you have everything perfectly planned, you will want to peruse the following resources. You may just find some unique ideas or resources that you might want to use this springtime.

Originally posted on Montessori21stCentury's Weblog:

Spring is literally days away, so take a moment now, to look through your upcoming lesson plans for the months ahead.   Do some of your art and music lessons seem stale?  If so, read below.  Even if you think you have everything perfectly planned, you will want to peruse the following resources.  You may just find some unique ideas or resources that you might want to use this springtime.

 Music and Dance Resources

Have you thought about teaching dance to your toddler and preschool age children?  If you experience trepidation at the thought of doing this, fear no more!!  Gari Stein will fearlessly take you through the steps needed to feel confident while making the dance presentations.   In no time at all, you will be confident in teaching your students dance steps for May Day and other springtime celebrations. .  See “What? Me Teach Dance?” http://www.little-folks-music.com/what.htm  to…

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Celebrate Spring with Some Fun Educational Nature Activities

Nature’s Workshop Plus! 

Copyright 2015

All Rights Reserved.

Website:  http://www.workshopplus.com/

Spring! What a wonderful time of the year. The sunshine becomes warmer, dormant grass awakens from its necessary winter nap,  trees seem to wake up and wave hello to all who take notice, and life springs from nearly every place we look.  We also get to experience the spring rains which boost the season into its new identity. Your students might like to start a nature journal during this season.  There is so much to record!  Here are a few ideas.

  1. Begin by noting the daily weather patterns and discuss how it relates to the greening of the grass. Make a grid in the journal and record the daily temperature, rainfall quantities, amount of sunshine, types of clouds, etc. Reinforce the journal concept with a study of cloud formations.
  1. Sketch a tree and the growth of its leaves. Look up the scientific name of the species and record it in the journal along with its common name.  Leave space in the journal for revisiting that section during the season and resketch the leaves as they grow.  Once the leaf is full grown, leave enough space for a sketch of the colorful Fall leaf. You could even begin a leaf collection of several species beginning with the smallest leaves in the Spring and ending with a colorful Fall collection.
  1. Record beautiful poetry about the spring season in your journal.  Perhaps adding appropriate Scripture, personal thoughts, and beautiful artwork could complete each entry.
  1. Plant seeds and record their growth.  Small children love to plant bean seeds.  Plant the bean seeds in a glass jar so that the growth is visible. They grow quickly, and the seeds are so large that the shoot, growing up, and the root, growing down, are very easy to see. Draw the growth stages in your journal. Label all parts of the plant. Older students might like to plant flower and vegetable plants.  Record the growth data in your journal using Metric measure. Keeping careful records now allows the children to gain experience in recording data.  Once they enter into the upper level sciences, lab reports will be required.
  1. Have an insect section in the journal.  It wouldn’t be Spring and Summer without our little “friends”.  Again, look up and record their scientific and common names, draw the species, label its parts, record where the insect lives, and what it eats. Study the metamorphosis of the insect.  Does this species experience complete or incomplete metamorphosis? Draw its life cycle. Start an ant farm and observe the diligent activity of the ant. Observe in nature or via video a butterfly leaving its chrysalis. The video “City of the Bees” examines the life of the honey bee.  This video shows the inside of the hive, how the bees gathers nectar, how the bees communicate, and more.  It is fascinating to watch. Don’t forget to serve toast and honey!  Using colorful photographs as your guide, sketch the bees and their hive into the journal. Label as mentioned before.
  1. Begin a rock collection.  Draw what you see.  Hand magnifiers or stereo microscopes allow for more detailed viewing. I haven’t met a child yet who didn’t have a touch of “rock hound” him or her! This activity just about requires a field guide for proper identification.  A beginner guide works better for children than an overwhelming larger volume which might be harder to use.
  1. Go on a nature hike and record what you do and see.  Take a pair of binoculars for bird watching.  Make sure to begin a bird section in your journal.  They are so beautiful.  Set up a bird feeding area in your yard and keep a field guide handy for quick identification. Learn the common birds of your area.

These are just a few ideas for you nature journal.  Allow your imagination to help you plan.  Your children might enjoy this activity better if they can decide which area in their journal to develop first. Always include art and poetry in the journal. Supply your students with a set of colored pencils, drawing pencils and a good eraser. One thing we have found is that children don’t want to “mess-up” a page in their journal, so we recommend that each page be completed in a loose leaf format then placed in a binder when the child is satisfied with the page. If you use a binder with a clear plastic cover, the students can decorate a page and insert it into the cover for a custom look!  For upper elementary and middle school students, look up the taxonomy of the species being studied and note it in the journal. The more you do toward preparation for high school biology the better.

Nature journaling will also require nature studying.  The “Handbook of Nature Study”, by Anna Botsford Comstock, http://www.workshopplus.com/ProductCart/pc/viewPrd.asp?idproduct=734&idcategory=0  is an excellent resource for a teacher or parent who needs to know more about topics in nature.  The book was originally published in 1911 and contains 887 pages. It is divided into 4 major sections: The Teaching of Nature Study, Animals, Plants,and Earth and Sky.  It is a store house of information to help you teach you children/students about nature.  Please see.http://www.workshopplus.com for information about both this book.

handbook-of-nature-study_1706_general

Below are some additional resources that you can use for your spring lesson planning.  You may have to copy and paste these links into your browser.

Garden Pirate

http://www.workshopplus.com/ProductCart/pc/viewPrd.asp?idproduct=4069&idcategory=0

Make the world a little greener by depositing seed “bombs” in forgotten outdoor spaces. Using fun shape molds, you can cast seed bombs from fast-growing flower seeds, growing medium, plaster gypsum, sand, and water. Once the seed bomb shapes have dried and hardened, they can be distributed in appropriate outdoor places. After a while, a beautiful cluster of flowers will explode in those spots. Learn about botany, flowering plants, seeds, nature conservation, tree planting, and more.

gardenpirate1_45_general

Nature Kaleidoscope- http://www.workshopplus.com/ProductCart/pc/viewPrd.asp?idproduct=3127&idcategory=0

A make-your-own kaleidoscope kit.

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Hanging Bird Feeder Kit- http://www.workshopplus.com/ProductCart/pc/viewPrd.asp?idproduct=3893&idcategory=0

Adults and children will enjoy building this old fashion, hanging bird feeder.

Deluxe Insect Collecting Kit- http://www.workshopplus.com/ProductCart/pc/viewPrd.asp?idproduct=4166&idcategory=0

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This  Deluxe Insect Collecting Kit includes a 12 x 18 inch insect display case, professional grade 10 inch Safety Glo insect net, foam spreading board, 100

Love Plant (Great for Mother’s  Day!  http://www.workshopplus.com/ProductCart/pc/viewPrd.asp?idproduct=4176&idcategory=

loveplantgrowing(1)_1831_generalThese carefree plants are easy and fun to grow and will thrive in any terrarium.

With so much to see and do this Spring, don’t forget to take time for simple, peaceful, observation. Children need quiet time in their lives to reflect, think and form opinions about life. They can learn form observing nature, listening to nature, studying nature, drawing nature, planting, being outside, getting dirty, splashing in a creek, and chasing butterflies! If we can teach them to enjoy these lovely God-given gifts, we are giving them an enormous gift that no mass media gimmick can ever match.

Blessings to you,

Diana Ruark

Nature’s Workshop Plus!

For free catalog or more information:

(888) 393-5663

http://www.workshopplus.com/ 

All resources mentioned in the article are available through Nature’s Workshop, Plus.

Editor’s Note: For additional springtime articles, lesson plans, recipes and more, please visit http://www.amonco.org/montessori_spring_handson.html

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Spring Forward 2015 with AMC Lesson Planning

I recently revised and uploaded the new 2015 AMC Montessori Lesson Planning Springtime Newsletter. To see the contents of this newsletter please see below.

Visit http://www.amonco.org/montessori_spring_handson.html

Peruse through the entire lessons.

Then, download the new AMC Montessori Hands-On Creative Lesson Planning Newsletter. You can also access this newsletter by visiting http://www.amonco.org and clicking on the new eBook Library.

Below, is just a partial listing of the offerings included in the newly uploaded AMC Montessori Spring Hands-On Newsletter.

Part I – AMC Spring Newsletter

Sandy R. Wilbur answers general as well specific questions which will help you to understand the benefits of bird-watching with children. You’ll learn how to get started, what types of products to buy, and what pitfalls to avoid, to name a few. Sandy is also sensitive to the concerns educators may feel about presenting lessons on this topic

Montessori Dianne Knesek reminds us that numeration is the basis for all math concepts. An important aspect of that understanding is the ability to sequence numbers from least to greatest. Exercises are very easy to make.

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The Language Salons are the brainchild of Director François Thibaut, who’s been a foreign language teacher since the late 1960’s. Thibaut’s best known for founding the renowned Language Workshop for Children and the Cercle Franco Americain French of Adults program in 1973. Read about this program in Part I of this newsletter.

french-language-classes-new-york-city

Part II – AMC Spring Newsletter

Rae continues to show us why we should visit the Creative Process website. Her innovative ideas will greatly add to your spring lesson planning.

Dr. Borenson shares some free Hands-On Equations® Basic Algebraic Concepts.

 

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Montessorian Richard Lord offers free Downloadable “Simple Reading Books” & Free Geography Set of Land and Water Form Cards.

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Learn also how to make a flannel board from Fun Felt.

Part III – AMC Spring Newsletter

John shares his entertaining as well as educational activities entitled “I CAN’T TAKE THE PRESSURE and The Needle Proof Balloon.”

Nan shows us how to make some delicious peanut fudge. See how you can plan extension lesson exercises combining handwriting, cooking and illustrating!!!

Does your middle school student enjoy participating in fun, challenging puzzles? Are you looking for some activities to help your student prepare for the ACT or SAT?

In honor of two major spring holidays, Alan Stillson, the author of Middle School Word Puzzles, invites you to find these words and expressions that are related to Easter or Passover. Alan also offers some fun, challenging food puzzles for middle school students. Check out the new free samples from Alan’s newest book, Brain Warmer Uppers, as well.

brain

It’s Time to Think Outside the Book and Kindle, Too! Curious? Read this section to find out how you can use the creative ideas of Rita Arpaia from Literatureplace.com in your home and school classrooms right now!

Part IV — AMC Spring Newsletter

Dale Gausman, from North American Montessori Center, offers the timely Introducing a Bird Feeder and Making Grass-Eggshell People. You will also found three additional outstanding Montessori extension exercises – My Family Tree,  Marble Design Paper, and  Montessori Easter Activities: Ukrainian Easter Eggs in Culture and Science Curriculum with free .pdf downloads – all offered by NAMC.

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Part V – AMC Spring Newsletter

Marie and Kim illustrate how drawing helps children develop a mental map. Discover a Montessori extension exercise that is designed for age group 5 to 95. :)

It’s time to get up and “move” with Go Green!, a brand new CD form Kimbo Educational http://kimboed.com/gogreen.aspx#.UtRAIvZVe0e “GO GREEN! Caring About Our Earth contains song about playing outdoors, recycling, planting a garden, stopping pollution, and more inspire children to connect to the Earth and encourage them to be responsible for the Earth. Action fun and singable songs motivate children to be involved and to be aware of the outside world

Look for the Guide/Extension Activities by Dr. Pam Schiller in this section of the newsletter.

KIM9318CD

Find the lyrics and directions for the song, “The Alphabet March and Match”, by Pam Schiller, Ph.D., from the new Kimbo Educational CD release, Move and Learn.

The focus of the song is on letters, which aids in literacy knowledge. Move and Learn is a unique resource, providing 17 guided, action-packed educational songs, featuring concepts and skills that are necessary for every child to learn, including numbers, colors, literacy and more.

KIM9325CD

Part VI – AMC Spring Newsletter

Dr.Borenson, from Hands-On Equations®, offers more samples of algebraic concepts.

Download free French and Spanish songs with translations from Professor Toto.

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Part VII- AMC Spring Newsletter

Ruth shares a needlepoint lesson which is designed for students 12 years and older.

Marjorie shares a classical music lesson plan for springtime from The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi.

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Download the new, free “Anti-gravity water – is it possible? science activity from Exploration Education.

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Don’t forget to read Part VIII – AMC Spring Newsletter

Celebrating the Personal Life of George Washington

Montessorians will appreciate the imaginative George Washington lesson planning ideas that author Sara Ambarian has provided. Traditional colonial recipes are featured and can easily be incorporated into Montessori’s practical life exercises. Sara has done an excellent job of presenting sufficient information about this subject, without bogging down educators with too much data.

Diana, from Nature’s Workshop Plus, knows that we are all looking forward to the beauty of spring, so she showers us with some springtime nature activities that are sure to be enjoyed in any Montessori environment.

loveplantgrowing(1)_1831_general

The late Montessorian Kathy O’Reilly uses eggs as the focus of food related exercises. Her multiple subject integrated approach is supplemented with a Booklist for additional extension lessons.

This post contains only a very small sampling of what is offered in this newsletter.All of the lessons contained in the newsletter are free of charge. Visit http://www.amonco.org/montessori_spring_handson.html to download the newsletter in .pdf.

Enjoy!

Heidi Anne Spietz
http://www.amonco.org
Celebrating 27 Years of Serving School and Home Educators
Montessori for the 21st Century

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Animals in the Winter – Links for a Unit Study

Find the links you need right here for a complete unit study on Animals in the Winter. These PreK and K-8 links will lead you to articles, hands-on activities and other exercises that are compatible with the Montessori classified reading cards, phonics, grammar, creative writing, science, social studies and other extensive lesson plans.

What happens to animals as it becomes cold outside?

Animals in Winter – Explains hibernation, migration and adaptation.
Animals in Winter Scavenger Hunt

How do animals prepare for winter?

Winter Animals
Acting Out How Animals Survive in the Winter
Animals in Winter

Why do birds fly south in the winter?

Why Birds Fly South for the Winter

What is hibernation?

Hibernation
Animals Themes
Mrs. Jones – Hibernation
Groundhogs Day – Waking Up from Hibernation
Mammals Middle School – Lessons for Middle School Students

How do bears and badgers spend the winter?

Wildlife in Winter
How Do Animals Spend the Winter
Winter

How does the color white help animals in the wintertime?

Arctic Animals of Alaska
More About Camouflage

Where do the insects go in the winter?

Where do all the insects go in the winter?

How do fish survive in the winter?(Compare and Contrast)

Where do fish go in winter?
Fish in Winter – Lesson and Resources
Birds in Winter Lesson Plan

How can you help birds in the winter?

Inexpensive Tips for Helping Birds in Winter
Helping Birds Survive Winter in Your Backyard
Helping Birds Survive a Harsh Winter

Let’s Write, Discuss and Talk About Animals in the Winter

Winter Teaching Ideas
Animals in Winter
Hibernation Background Information and Activities
Write Your Own Books – For K – 3rd Grade(Part I)
Write Your Own Books – For K – 3rd Grade (Part II)

Visit American Montessori Consulting and look under New and Notable for other unit studies. Copyright 2007-2015 American Montessori Consulting

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Bird-watching with Children

Copyright 2015

Are your kids (and you) starting to get spring fever? Are you anxious to get outside and enjoy nature? Many areas of North America have had pretty severe winter weather, and for many of us, it likely is not over yet. One fun way to enjoy nature year-round is by bird-watching and/or bird feeding. Actually, February is National Bird Feeding Month, and it’s a great opportunity to encourage your family’s awareness of the birds all around us.

For tips and ideas to get you started, American Montessori Consulting talked to Sanford R. Wilbur, a retired wildlife biologist specializing in ornithology (the study of birds) and a lifelong recreational bird-watcher and outdoor enthusiast. Mr. Wilbur is also a father and grandfather who has had plenty of experience “birding” with children of all ages. We hope you enjoy the information he shared with us.

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AMC: Thank you for taking the time to chat with us about bird-watching today. For families that are looking for engaging and educational science and nature experiences for their children, why would you recommend bird-watching, specifically?

Sanford Wilbur: Given that it’s a good thing to get kids outdoors, bird-watching is an especially good way to do it. Studying any group of animals can be fun, but watching and studying most groups is not easy on a casual basis. For instance, mammals are familiar to everybody and they’re easy to be interested in, but we usually see wild mammals by chance, rather than by planning. That’s because a lot of them are most active at night, or in the very early morning or late evening, and most of them are very secretive. Amphibians, like frogs and toads, are favorites with kids because of their looks and activities, and they are sometimes very colorful and make wonderful noises. Unfortunately, you can usually only find a couple of common species in any given area. There are jillions of insects but, except for butterflies, it takes an expert to get very far beyond the basics of bees, beetles, dragonflies, and such. Insects and amphibians are also hard to see outside the main spring-summer period.

On the other hand, birds of some kind are around all year, and in almost every environment. Most areas have a variety of species, which adds to the fun of identifying and keeping lists of what you see. Birds are often bright-colored; you can often tell the males and females apart by their color (which is not true for most groups of animals); their singing makes them visible and helps identify them at certain seasons; and their seasonal flocking habits make them very noticeable and interesting.

 You can watch birds on your back porch, in a city park, on a wildlife refuge, or combined with other activities like hiking, camping, bicycling, etc. You can also watch for other kinds of animals or look at plants on a bird-watching outing. About the only things you can’t do while trying to watch birds are riding motorcycles, shooting guns, and yelling.

bird_watching

AMC: You’ve said that we can probably find birds in any location or season. What sort of equipment or information do families really need to get started?

SRW: Bird-watching is a fairly simple hobby, and inexpensive. The only real need is for each person to have binoculars, and for someone in the group to have a bird identification book. Binoculars for beginners don’t have to do more than provide a little magnification, so you can buy very inexpensive ones until you know whether this is a hobby that’s going to last.

 AMC: Excuse me for interrupting, Mr. Wilbur, but could several people share one pair of binoculars, if necessary?

SRW: Sure. If you’re watching a pond full of ducks, you can pass the binoculars around, and everybody gets a look. But birds in bushes or hawks flying overhead often don’t stay in one place very long, so some might miss out if their turn doesn’t come in time. But we’ve often shared binoculars in our family on all-day hikes or other times when only one pair was available.

AMC: You also mentioned needing a bird book to help with identification. Can you tell us more about what to look for?

SRW: There are quite a few field guides available now, and most are pretty good. Bird species are quite different in different parts of the country, so just be sure yours either covers the whole United States or is a version that fits your locality. A new bird guide might cost $20 or so, but since birds look the same today as they did twenty years ago, you don’t necessarily need to invest in a new book right away. You can probably pick up a very serviceable used copy of a good guide for your area for a few dollars. I think I’ve been using some of my guidebooks for 30 or 40 years, and they still work just fine.

AMC: How about borrowing a bird guide from the local library? Would that be a practical idea?

SRW: That would be a reasonable way to start getting an idea of the birds in your area before you actually go out looking for them. But once you get outdoors, you need your own copy. That way, you won’t worry about the book getting dirty (almost a certainty), or of getting its pages bent when you take it in and out of your jacket. With your own copy, you might even want to jot some notes beside the pictures of birds you see, something you wouldn’t do with a library book.

 AMC: That’s why they call them “field guides,” right?

SRW: Exactly. You can bird without carrying a guide with you – and you probably will, sometimes, as you get better at knowing what to look for on the birds you see -but it’s a lot easier to look in the book just after you see the bird, rather than trying to remember later on what you saw. If you do see a bird when you don’t have a bird book with you, try to pay attention to details and remember them as best you can. Carrying and jotting in a note book can help you remember such things as the color of the head or the way the bird held its tail. Between your memory and your notes, you can sometimes visualize a bird you see well enough to do the identification when you get to where you can look it up.

AMC: If you’re going to wait until you get home to do the identification, how about looking for bird identification information on the internet?

SRW: There are some sites with identification search engines and photos of common birds, but often a field guide is easier to use, especially for beginners. Guides are designed to group similar birds together in pictures, making it easier to compare the sometimes small details that differentiate one species from another.

 AMC: Isn’t it confusing to sort through all those different birds in the book?

SRW: Not necessarily. Birds come in a wide variety of basic sizes, shapes and colors, but those characteristics help you narrow down your search. After noticing the obvious differences, you can quickly learn to look for specific things. Most good bird books will direct your attention to characteristics like the color of the bird’s throat, the color of the rump, the size and shape of the bill, whether the bird twitches its tail or not, if it goes down tree trunks rather than up, etc. It really doesn’t take long to start homing in on those features, rather than just looking at the bird.

 If you’re starting out not knowing birds yourself, you could feel intimidated trying to help others learn. But, remember, even though there are over 500 species of birds in the United States, there are probably not more than 25 or so common ones in any given area. And you already know a lot of types of birds, even if you don’t think you do. Most everyone recognizes crows, robins, blackbirds, doves, sparrows, hawks, woodpeckers, and “sea gulls.” Many of the birds you see are going to look similar to some of these that you know. With a very little study of a bird guide covering your region, you will find that although there are 50 “sparrows” in the country, only two or three of them will be found in your area or in the type of environment you will be looking in. Twenty hawks become only one or two you’re likely to see; most areas won’t have more than one type of dove or quail, etc.

AMC: That makes sense, and it seems like knowing that would help children stay interested and not get frustrated by feeling there is “too much” to learn. Can you give any additional tips about how to get the most out of our bird-watching adventures, especially now while winter is still hanging on?

SRW: Right now, most of our bright-colored northern birds are wintering in Mexico and Central America. The biggest flocks of waterfowl have gone south to coastal Texas and Florida, and the valleys of California. But, no matter where you live, there are still birds around, and this is the time of year for backyard bird feeding. Not only is it fun to see what you can attract to your house using different kinds of food – millet seed, sunflower seeds, peanuts, suet – but a bird feeder gives one of the very best chances for seeing birds up close. Kids can get really interested in birds that come to a feeder close to a window, where even without binoculars you can often get good looks at a number of different species. This might prove to be motivation to get them out on walks farther afield as the weather improves. Winter bird feeding can often be exciting for adults, too, because providing feed when natural foods are scarce can attract unusual birds to the “easy pickings” along with the common residents.

bird_watching2

Spring is the best time to study songbirds because they are in their most colorful plumages, and the males are actively singing, which helps you spot them. Unfortunately, spring is the worst time for bugs in many parts of the country, something that needs to be considered to keep the experience for kids (and you!) from being a discouraging one.

Summer still gives you a lot to see, but you have to work harder than in spring. The males have quit singing, and the pairs are spending a lot of time quietly on their nests. It takes more effort to spot them in the leafy summer foliage, too. Most birds are not very interested in the winter bird feeder fare of seeds and suet, because there is plenty of natural food. But hummingbirds quickly find feeders filled with sugar water, and putting out some orange halves often attracts bright-colored orioles, tanagers, or grosbeaks. Summer is also a good time to go to marshes, where you can see broods of baby ducks and geese – almost always a hit with children.

In fall, the highlights for birders are the big migrations of waterfowl, hawks, shorebirds, and warblers. Particularly in the Northeast, there are designated hawk watching spots where you can sometimes see hundreds of hawks passing overhead in a few hours. Federal and state wildlife areas are particularly good for seeing major flights of ducks and geese. Some forested areas and beach headlands can have big flights of migrating warblers and vireos, but they are in their dull fall plumages and are difficult to identify. It can still be exciting to see the large numbers, even if you can’t identify them all.

In general, you can watch waterfowl, shorebirds, herons, hawks, etc., any time of the day. Songbirds are most active in the early morning; depending on the region of the country, the woods can seem pretty quiet after 9 or 10 in the morning.

AMC: Thank you very much, Mr. Wilbur. We appreciate your time and information.

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More ideas for bird-watching information:

National Wildlife Refuge System

http://www.fws.gov/refuges/

National Wildlife Refuges are excellent destination for watching birds and other wildlife. Many are located in rural areas, but almost every bigger city has one relatively nearby. Most have modest entry fees, if any, and offer lots of interpretive signs, leaflets and lists to help you enjoy the areas. Many also offer driving tours, hiking trails, and other recreational opportunities.

Mr. Wilbur recommends this informative article on birding with children. You’ll find many ideas and tips here:

http://www.easyfunschool.com/article1975.html

General information about bird identification:

http://www.birding.com/bird_identification.asp

Patuxent Wildlife Research Center’s “Tools for Learning About Birds:”

http://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/bbs/ident.html

Bird identification search engine:

http://identify.whatbird.com/mwg/_/0/attrs.aspx

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Sanford Wilbur is retired after nearly 37 years with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He still watches birds, and has written several books on birds and other wildlife. He and his wife live in Oregon. Please visit the following links for additional information about the author and his resources:

http://www.condortales.com/newbooks.html  

http://www.condortales.com/ninefeet.html

http://www.condortales.com/

Read the other parts of this creative hands-on lesson planning newsletter by visiting   http://www.amonco.org/montessori_spring_handson.html

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