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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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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Spring 2015 – It’s Time to Head Outdoors

“In those vernal seasons of the year, when the air is calm and pleasant, it were an injury and a sullenness against Nature not to go out and see her riches, and partake in her rejoicing with heaven and earth.” John Milton, Tractate of Education

Spring is a season of transitions in the world around us.  Changing weather conditions, migrating birds, growing vegetation, and other natural occurrences make it an exciting time to get curious and go outside to see what is going on.  Here are a few ideas that you will want to use within the next few months.

Try this fun spring activity, “Watching Spring”, from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.  http://www.dnr.state.md.us/cin/pdfs/Watching_Spring_Activity.pdf

You will find lots of fun ideas for family fun in the spring here:

http://stayathomemoms.about.com/od/activitiesandfun/u/spring-activities.htm

http://www.grandparents.com/grandkids/activities-games-and-crafts/spring-fun-activities-list

http://www.notimeforflashcards.com/2012/03/50-simple-outdoor-activities-for-kids.html

Nature’s Workshop Plus! also offers some great ideas for how to “Celebrate Spring with Some Fun, Educational Nature Activities”.  http://www.amonco.org/spring8/montessori_spring8.pdf

Compare and contrast spring and summer & fall and winter in North Carolina Forests.  Learn more by visiting Farm Country General Store http://www.homeschoolfcgs.com/product_info.php/products_id/1367

Traditionally, families have often spent outdoor time together in spring flying kits. If it’s been a while since you have tried this activity, get into the spirit with “The Art and Fun of Kite Flying”. http://www.amonco.org/spring4/montessori_spring4.pdf

For an outdoor science activity that doesn’t demand a lot of equipment or a high fitness level, check out Sanford R. Wilbur’s “Bird-watching with Children”. Birdwatching also allows children to practice being patient and quiet.  http://www.amonco.org/spring1/montessori_spring1.pdf

Looking for a place to get close to nature?  America’s national forests are a great place to have fun and get away from town for a few hours or a few days.  Many locations are still free! Find areas to explore and activities to pursue in your own state, or plan a trip to a neighboring region here: http://www.fs.fed.us/recreation/map/state_list.shtml

Spring is coming, if it hasn’t arrived yet where you live, so banish your own – and your students’ — winter blues with some time enjoying the outdoors and nature!

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Learning is a Picnic! Part Two-Adventures and Activities

“The most effective kind of education is that a child should play amongst lovely things.”  Plato

A picnic is a wonderful opportunity for both children and adults to observe and enjoy nature.  While you eat, as well as before and after your meal, it is fun to keep your eyes and ears open for wildlife, insects, changing sky conditions, and more. 

If you are new to birdwatching, or want some kid-friendly tips, please refer to Sanford R. Wilbur’s “Birdwatching with Kids” interview. http://www.amonco.org/spring1/montessori_spring1.pdf

Birdcage Press also offers a fun card game and book set, Backyard Birds, which you could use in conjunction with your birdwatching adventures. http://www.amonco.org/summer5/montessori_summer5.pdf  

For younger kids and hands-on explorers, botany might be a more rewarding pursuit than bird or wildlife watching.  You need almost no equipment, you don’t need to stay quiet, and your subjects will not fly or scamper away while you are studying them! Make sure you are familiar with poison oak, poison ivy, stinging nettle or any other plants in your area which students should not handle.  Then, get more study ideas from Sara L. Ambarian in her article, “Nurturing Budding Botanists”. http://www.amonco.org/Botanists.pdf

“Whole body learners” (for more, see http://www.amonco.org/summer5/montessori_summer5.pdf ) might really “dig” geologic explorations. Examining soil and rock formations often requires a lot of walking around and getting your hands dirty. Don’t think that you need to have a location with really dramatic geologic features like boulders or cliff faces in order to have a rewarding geology adventure. You can learn a lot from looking at variations in the color and texture of soil or gravel areas, the sizes and composition of rocks along a river bed, the shapes of surrounding hills or mountains, etc. Visit the following website from Rochester, New York, for some fun ideas to get kids started enjoying rocks and minerals. http://rochester.kidsoutandabout.com/content/getting-kids-rockhounding  

Geology enthusiasts will also enjoy the Hobby Lobby story found here: http://www.amonco.org/summer2/montessori_summer2.pdf .

Another great way to enjoy a day outside is to immortalize it in art. Before going, you might invest some time preparing with an art study program like that found in Coyote Creek’s video series “Drawing Nature”. http://www.coycreek.com/drawingnaturevol2drawinglessonsforbeginners.aspx

Other fun outdoor activities that give children an opportunity to move around and might be appropriate for your picnic location are kite-flying and beachcombing. Find lots of ideas and resources on these subjects in “Up, Up and Away—The Art and Fun of Kite Flying” and “Classified Seashell Activities and Resources”. http://www.amonco.org/summer/montessori_summer1.pdf

For learning opportunities involving weather and sky conditions, check out these informative links from the National Weather Service. http://www.srh.noaa.gov/ffc/?n=teacher

When you’re done eating and exploring, you may want to make a memento to remember the outing. This site has some fun outdoor crafts listed in their sections for “backyard”, “beach craft”, “camping and picnic”, etc. http://familycrafts.about.com/od/summercrafts/a/summermn.htm

Here are a few other selected outdoor craft ideas for students young and old: 

Tree Rubbings Collage http://www.busybeekidscrafts.com/Tree-Rubbings-Collage.html

Pretty pencil pinwheel http://crafts.kaboose.com/pretty-pencil-pinwheel.html ,

Fun Floral Straws http://www.marthastewart.com/355464/fun-floral-straws?czone=holiday/sixty-days-of-summer/party-ideas&center=276964&gallery=275330&slide=355464

Families or other groups can extend the outdoor fun, and help a good cause, too, by joining the National Wildlife Federation’s Great American Backyard Campout.  Find out more about the program at: http://www.nwf.org/Get-Outside/Great-American-Backyard-Campout.aspx

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Montessori Springtime Nature and Science Activities

Spring is an excellent time to get the children in our lives interested in and excited about science and nature.

Last year we interviewed ornithologist Sanford R. Wilbur for some tips about how to start children out in the engrossing activity of birdwatching. You don’t need to spend a lot of money or have any previous “birding” experience in order to help kids with ornithological studies.  Mr. Wilbur makes it fun and easy with his suggestions. http://www.amonco.org/spring1/montessori_spring1.pdf

Dale Gausman from the North American Montessori Center gives more useful suggestions in his article, “Introducing a Bird Feeder”. http://www.amonco.org/spring4/montessori_spring4.pdf

Spring weather is often perfect for burning off some energy and getting some fresh air while kite flying.  It is a fun hands-on activity with great science and exercise opportunities. Check out our information and links in “Up, Up, and Away – The Art and Fun of Kite Flying”, as well as our seashell classification activities (another fun spring science project) here: http://www.amonco.org/spring4/montessori_spring4.pdf

Another classic outdoor activity for kids (and adults) is blowing soap bubbles. It’s an inexpensive, simple activity that teaches some interesting lessons about gravity, light waves, hydrogen bonding and other chemistry and physics concepts. It’s also an activity that is beautiful and entertaining.  Add a younger sibling or family dog to the scene, trying to catch the bubbles, and you really have some fun! For more ideas and some recipes for making your own bubble solution, visit these websites: http://www.exploratorium.edu/ronh/bubbles/bubbles.html and http://www.bubbleblowers.com/homemade.html

Indoors or out, photography can provide the basis of many engaging and educational hands-on activities, when you choose age-appropriate equipment.  Rae from Creative Process suggests some interesting photography projects in her “Picture-A-Day and Time Lapse Photography Idea”.  http://www.amonco.org/spring2/montessori_spring2.pdf

 

For a great round-up of nature-oriented educational activities, be sure to read the listing from Diana Nuack of Nature’s Workshop Plus, available here: http://www.amonco.org/spring8/montessori_spring8.pdf

Need more spring activity ideas? http://www.activities-for-kids.net/spring-activities-for-kids.html

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When the outdoor fun is finished, there are lots of ways to expand on what you learned.

John Grunder from Exploration Education has shared two great science experiments.  “I CAN’T TAKE THE PRESSURE!” teaches Bernoulli’s principle in a fun and easy way with common household items.  His “Needle-Proof Balloon” experiment teaches about molecular bonds. http://www.amonco.org/spring3/montessori_spring_3.pdf

It is useful and easy to reinforce science and nature themes through both fiction and non-fiction reading.  Frances Hodgson  Burnett’s “The Secret Garden” is an especially appropriate subject for spring reading, because the garden and the children both transform and “bloom” as the book proceeds.  For more outdoor-oriented fiction,  many of the titles suggested by Sara L. Ambarian for summer reading would also be good inspiration for spring nature science projects and exploration.  http://www.amonco.org/Classic.pdf  Find some fun spring poetry here: http://www.dltk-holidays.com/spring/poem/index.htm

Back in the house or classroom, why not try the map of the world project from Draw Your World’s Marie and Kim to help students process and understand scale and geography.  http://www.amonco.org/spring5/montessori_spring.5.pdf

Have fun this weekend, checking out these wonderful resources.

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Spring Forward with Hands On Lesson Planning

Please visit https://montessori21stcentury.wordpress.com/2013/01/26/spring-forward-2013-with-timely-lesson-planning-ideas/ for the updated 2013 issue!

Enjoy!

Heidi Anne Spietz
http://www.amonco.org

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Exploring Holidays and History

 

Spring brings many special holidays and historical events to enrich our homes and classrooms. Enjoy these resources to help your students understand and explore these interesting observances.

For a round-up of various links for January and February lesson plans and ideas, visit: http://www.amonco.org/jan_feb_celebrations.html   

Black History Month – February

Black History Month, observed in February since 1926, provides many interesting opportunities to explore history, culture and food.  The Creative Process can get you started with their “Celebrate Black History Month” page, linked here: http://www.amonco.org/spring8/montessori_spring8.pdf

You will find more information, resources and recipes in the links below.

http://www.lessonplanspage.com/blackhistorymonth-htm , http://seasonal.theteacherscorner.net/black-history-month , http://www.thinkfinity.org/?q=black-history-month , and http://www.soul-food-advisor.com/black_history_month.html

Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, February 12, 1809

There is no question that Abraham Lincoln is one of the most famous and most admired presidents of the United States.  Many states no longer observe his birthday as a separate holiday; but his life, accomplishments and assassination are at the heart of one of the most complex and pivotal eras of American history.  President Lincoln’s life and career make an excellent basis for unit studies. Explore these interesting websites for more information.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/presidents/abrahamlincoln , http://www.nps.gov/abli/index.htmhttp://www.civilwarhome.com/lincolnbio.htm , and http://www.primaryteachers.org/abraham_lincoln_unit.htm

George Washington’s birthday, February 22, 1732 (Presidents’ Day observed February 20, 2012)

Sara L. Ambarian helps us get to know the man who is called “the Father of our Country”, with information about George Washington in her article, “Celebrating the Personal Life of George Washington”. You’ll find additional educational links about our first president at the end of the article. http://www.amonco.org/spring8/montessori_spring8.pdf

For more presidential lesson ideas, read “It’s Time to Think Outside the Box and Kindle, Too!” from Literatureplace.com, with its suggestions for studying Thomas Jefferson. http://www.amonco.org/spring3/montessori_spring_3.pdf  You can also enhance your studies of government and politics with a batch of the famous, traditional and tasty Senate Bean Soup, from Dale and Rita at North American Montessori Center. http://www.amonco.org/spring4/montessori_spring4.pdf

St. Patrick’s Day, March 17

Visit these links for lesson and craft ideas for the “greenest” spring holiday! https://montessori21stcentury.wordpress.com/2008/02/13/st-patricks-day-crafts-origami-and-more  http://www.fastq.com/~jbpratt/education/sstudies/geog/stpatricks.html  and http://www.edhelper.com/st_patricks_day.htm  

Easter, April 8

Georgette Baker from Cantemos offers some fun projects for Easter and other spring holidays.  Check out her festive hat and easy tie-dye instructions. http://www.amonco.org/spring1/montessori_spring1.pdf  

For long-lasting Easter fun outdoors, Jan from Garden Artisans shares a cute Hippity Hoppity Bunny Topiary project here: http://www.amonco.org/spring2/montessori_spring2.pdf  

Bake up an interesting Italian tradition with Mary Ann Esposito’s Neopolitan Stuffed Easter Bread.  If desirable, you could make it easier, more economical and/or more kid-friendly by replacing the fancy imported meat and cheese with meat or cheese of your choice.  It might also be more kid-friendly if you dice the meat and cheese a little smaller than Ms. Esposito does in the tutorial.  The recipe is full of interesting Easter symbolism, and what child wouldn’t be fascinated (as Ms. Esposito was herself) by the whole raw eggs baked into the bread! http://www.ciaoitalia.com/seasons/20/2020/neapolitan-stuffed-easter-bread  

Find more Easter inspiration at the following sites.

http://www.preschooleducation.com/aeaster.shtml , http://www.bobsedulinks.com/easter.htm  and http://www.holidays.net/easter/index.htm

Cinco de Mayo, May 5

Cinco de Mayo is not, as sometimes assumed, Mexican Independence Day (a separate holiday which is celebrated on September 16). It marks the Battle of Puebla in which Mexican troops defeated French troops. Find out more at: http://www.mexonline.com/cinco-de-mayo.htm  

For introduction or reinforcement of Spanish language lessons, check out the offerings from Cantemos http://www.amonco.org/spring1/montessori_spring1.pdf  and Professor Toto http://www.amonco.org/spring6/montessori_spring6.pdf  

For Spanish-speaking students or those learning Spanish, check out our Unit Study Lesson Plan About Mexico in Spanish. https://montessori21stcentury.wordpress.com/2008/02/14/a-unit-study-lesson-plan-about-mexico-in-spanish

For more lesson ideas and some recipe ideas for Mexican food to make, check these interesting sites.  http://seasonal.theteacherscorner.net/cinco-de-mayo/ , http://recipesource.com/ethnic/americas/mexican /, and http://www.mexicanrecipes.org /

Mother’s Day , May 13

Parents and educators are always looking for ideas and resources for the popular holiday, Mother’s Day.  Dale Gausman from NAMC lists some books and ideas in his article, “Mother’s Day in the Montessori Classroom”. He also provides some lesson plan ideas for older students.  http://www.amonco.org/spring6/montessori_spring6.pdf

These websites provide some additional ideas for crafts and decorations.  http://www.mothersdaycentral.com/mothers-day-crafts/  and http://www.divinedinnerparty.com/mothers-day-ideas.html

Memorial Day, May 28

Memorial Day is a solemn, but potentially important holiday with which to acquaint children at age appropriate levels. NAMC’s Dale Gausman discusses the history of and Montessori perspective for teaching about Memorial Day in his “Montessori Curriculum Ideas for Memorial Day”. http://www.amonco.org/spring7/montessori_spring7.pdf

Find more information on the history of this day of remembrance, at: http://www.history.com/topics/memorial-day-history  and http://virtual-markets.net/vme/memorial/dvm_mem.html  

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For more seasonal and holiday observances for educators, visit: http://www.netposterworks.com/holidays/index.html  and http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays

For more about holidays, in a convenient monthly chronology, see Rae from The Creative Process’s “Monthly Observances and Notable Dates”. http://www.amonco.org/spring2/montessori_spring2.pdf

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February is Bird Watching Month

Help children and teens develop a new hobby and learn about biology in the process.  Use the information provided by Diana Ruark of Nature’s Workshop Plus!,  Dale Gausman of the North American Montessori Center, and Sandy R. Wilbur, retired wildlife biologist specializing in ornithology, from Condor Tales to take you step-by-step through a series of integrated lesson presentations.

In Part I of the AMC Spring 2011 edition, Sandy answers general as well specific questions which will help you to understand the benefits of this hobby. 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.

“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.“

Sandy R. Wilbur  Copyright 2011

Diana Ruark of Nature’s Workshop Plus! also offers useful lesson planning information for helping your students appreciate nature in general, with an additional tip or two about birds and bird watching.  Click here for details. Diana provides you with resources and a useful book to help you with your nature planning lessons.

Last, but not least, in Part IV of this issue, Montessorian Dale Gausman leads you through the process of introducing a bird feeder to a group of children.  Besides offering suggestions on how to get started, Dale provides a list of materials and other resources you will need to ensure a successful set of lesson presentations.

Enjoy!
Heidi Anne Spietz
http://www.amonco.org
American Montessori Consulting

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