Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Geologic Time Line Activity

The Montessori teaching albums have an exercise called the "Clock of Eras." I felt that would not work as well for our family as DD really doesn't "get" the idea of a clock fully.  I didn't think it would really teach them the enormity of time as well as a long set of ribbons would... so instead I used the proportions of the clock and made a very long geologic ribbon (it's almost 60 feet in length):

I used red for the Hadean Era (a time of flaming gasses, volcanoes, etc.) -- 9ft 4 inches
I used sage green for the Archaean Era (a time of great rains, poisonous oceans) -- 17 feet 4 inches
I used yellow for the Proterozoic Era (a time when cyanobacteria and the sun worked together to put oxygen into the atmosphere) -- 26 feet
I used blue for the Paleozoic Era (a time when most life lived in the seas to protect it from harmful rays of the sun) -- 3 feet 9 inches
I used gold for the Mesozoic Era (a time of the great reptiles, among other life) -- 2 feet 5 inches
I used green for the Cenozoic Era (a time  with plants, animals birds, humans) -- 10 inches

As you can see in the picture above we used various "props" to put onto our timeline.  I had made some things out of cornstarch clay earlier this summer (a small volcano, pretend fossils,etc as I didn't know if we'd have our stuff) -- we also had a plastic dinosaur, plastic mammals and a pretend human (Strawberry Shortcake!) for the very end of the timeline.

Another time we did an activity What Came First? I wrote out index cards and let LD try to put them into the correct order.  The cards included things like
green algae
spiders ferns
the first mammals
the first birds

In the picture below, LD is putting things in their proper order (according the UCBerkley website)On the left in the photo I wrote out the chart from the website out by hand as a reference. I found it amazing is that grass came into the fossil record *after* camels (ants, dinosaurs and so forth).

The kids loved when we stretched the timeline through the house and they had to put things in the proper Era (the volcano, dinosaur, plastic wooly mammoth, etc.)

If you want to go even farther with your studies of the geologic eras, these Montessori teachers posted wonderful lesson plans on all of the various eras. We didn't delve into their lessons as I had been promising DD a big unit on dinosaurs all summer as we traveled around and we've moved on to that.  We've done lots of hands on dinosaur activities... so stay tuned if you're interested in those! (Oh, and if you and your kids are inspired, you might try making a "trash-o-saurus" and link in with us at the end of this week! I thought that was such a fabulous idea and we've been working on ours for about 10 days now!!)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Purple Strip

For those of you who know much about Montessori, you'll recognize "The Black Strip." This is an impressionistic activity that is meant to impress kids with the enormity of time on earth.  Our version was the purple ribbon strip -- and it is only 21 feet (as my ribbon ream was 7 yards!).  But it still shows how very little time we humans have been on earth.  I'm showing you a picture of our long ribbon (that includes all of "human history" in a mere 1/2 inch)... Of course, this worked best when I snaked it through the house and we had to RUN RUN RUN to the human portion of our timeline!! I can still hear the giggles that echoed through the house!

I promised hubby I'd be just a few minutes, so I'm going to save our actual geologic timeline and activities for another post tomorrow.

Oh--and changing subjects drastically -- today I finally created our compost pile and laid a short path to get to it.  Hooray!  As always my Dad was an amazing source of information about gardening.  And armed with more information from my Dad,  I just ordered 10 blueberry bushes which will be sent when the planting season is right (about two weeks from now). [In the US, you can order them from burpee.com.]  I've dreamed of having blueberry bushes again for years as I grew up with a lovely garden of blueberries (thanks Dad/Grandpa!!).  Yum!!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

My heart is home

This week was really quite special.  As I mention in the post below, LD and I had some wonderful talks about life, the miracles of life, the events that shape us, the paths we take along this amazing life of ours.  Something almost as touching, was when I realized that we were here.  We have come so far in these past four months and now we are once again a warm family, bonding, learning, living and thriving together. This picture of course, can't capture my heart and emotions, but there DD and I were playing Sunny Side Up (again and again!), there was ED happy, engaged and choosing independent (!) work, and there was LD snug up chair beyond with a book, Totally Amazing Insects. I felt like we had arrived -- we're home!


Montessori uses five "Great Lessons" as an introduction to all topics.  It provides children with a big picture to demonstrate how sciences, art, history, language and geography are interrelated.  This idea resonates well with our learning style.  We did our own version of the first Great Lesson last year and LD still talks about it (and the science experiments and activities that followed).

This year we're off to explore the Second Great Lesson, which is essentially an introduction to geologic time -- the earth's timeline of events.  If you've read our blog, you'll see this also fits in well as we've been lucky enough to find fossils both in Australia and in Missouri in the past six months or so.  Also, we hadn't ever studied dinosaurs and that was one thing DD was particularly interested in studying this year.

To introduce the idea of timelines, we started small and have worked our way to the BIG earth timeline.

We did these activities over the course of a week or so:

1) I wrote out index cards with events in our daily life (get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, play/do school activities, lunch... etc.) LD had to read them and put them in order with the first event at the top and the last event at the bottom.

2) LD's Timeline: We talked about the fact that timelines can keep track of the events/progress of our individual lives.

We brought out the chicken embryo activity and put those in the proper chronological order. Then we read through the cards with events I had chosen from LD's own life.

LD was an IVF baby (as was DD, but ED was not--surprise!)... so we talked about the fact that we have pictures of him even at 8 cells, 8 wks, 12, 18, 36 and 37wks.  Anyway, then we read through some other highlights -- being born, first tooth learning to talk, his first word (you get the idea).  We mixed up the cards and he had to figure out his own life timeline.

I have to say that this was a lovely, lovely day with a lot of good talking and bonding!

3) Our family timeline:  Our third timeline exercise was our family history -- which went back to Grandpa being born, grandpa learning to walk, grandpa learning to design airplane engines, Grandma writing a successful book... Daddy becoming an Eagle scout, Mom joining the Peace Corps and teaching in Hungary... all the way through ED learning to walk.  There were lots and lots of family cards (vacations, big moments in our lives) and again it was lovely just talking through some of those events.

I thought it was quite funny when LD took the "Grandpa was born" card and ran across the room saying "That was a LOOOooooooooong time ago!" as he put it next to the wall!

4) The Earth's Timeline:  I'll save this for the next post as I'm out of time for now.

Want to make a "TRASH-O-SAURUS"??!!

I lost my internet connection this week.  That's a total bummer since writing on the blog is a major outlet for me since we're so new to the area (and I know very few people yet). The kids and I had busy, fun week and I hope to start sharing some of our activities later this weekend. We've been working on our timeline unit (I'll explain more soon, though a large portion of that entails the geologic time line... fossils, dinosaurs and such).

Anyway, back to the title of this post... we've been busy making a "trash-o-saurus."  I saw the idea/name somewhere on the web and loved the concept.  So now we're in the process of making our own "trash-o-saurus." We've been fairly true to the name and the only non-rubbish we've used are plastic ties and duct tape (oh, and flour!).  If this would be fun for you and your kid/s -- join us in a week or so when we share our photos by adding a link to your website in the comments area. (I'm not too savy about mr-linky, but might look into doing something like that if others are interested and if there's not too much of a learning curve on how to set that up.) And to be open and honest -- ours is a family project with lots (and lots) of Mom-involvement as you'll soon see! 

Hope someone else finds this idea fun and inspiring (if not now -- at some point down the road!!).

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Nature Around the Yard

We had a lot of fun outside yesterday. We caught lots and lots of little tadpoles (and then let most of them go), as well as a couple of 3-inch frogs.  We came across a snake which I've tried and tried to identify.  My best guess is that it is a water snake (another book to borrow from the library!). And finally, we found another quite amazing looking mushroom growing in our yard.  It's been raining a lot, making conditions ideal for all kinds of mushrooms, but I don't think I had photographed one quite like this yet.

As I said, I'm guessing this is a water snake, but I still took it VERY far from the house before I let it go!! If anyone else can identify it, I'd be grateful!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Second Grade Readings

It has been a LOOooong time since I have consistently sat down with LD to listen to him read.  Instead, he has been doing independent reading primarily on his own.  This week I was pretty impressed with his intonation, rhythm and general reading ability.  Grams gave us a children's encyclopedia set and among other things he read some articles to me on birds and fossils.  He's also reading through a Magic Tree House book. 

I'm really very impressed with the encyclopedia set.  I doubt anyone would run out and buy them (as they are copyrighted 1960), but I think we're going to get a lot of wonderful use from them. They're short enough to read through quickly, have reasonably good illustrations, are concise and are really quite packed with information.

County Fair

Last weekend was LD's birthday; he turned seven. We still don't know anyone well enough to have over to celebrate his birthday with us, but we had a wonderful day at the county fair! We were surprised how few people were there -- especially compared to "Show Days" (the annual fair that came to our town in central Australia). I wasn't quite up to getting the kids organized to submit crafts or lego creations, but hope to next year.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sunny Side Up (game learning about double digit numbers)

I brought out a dice game to play with DD called Sunny Side Up.  The dice have the numbers 1-5 and a smiley face.  I made little cards that have 9 numbers using just those digits (such as 51, 42, 14, 3, 5...).  We each have our own card and take turns tossing the dice.  We try to build numbers using the value on each die.  So you need a 5 and a 1 to be able to cross out "51." Or, if you get the "sunny side up" you can choose whichever number you want it to be.  The object is to be the first person to cross out all the numbers on your card.

When I made the cards a year or two ago, I accidentally made a number of cards that used all 9 digits.  So, I made up my own dice using 1-5; 2-6; 3-7; 4-8; 5-9 (each with one sun), and another with 1, 7, 8,9 and two suns. In that version, you could only substitute a number that was on that die when it came up "sunny side up."

This game was really great to play with DD (4 1/2) because I could talk about how important the placement of the numbers was (ie. 51 not 15).  As always LD came running over to play as well!

Hope I explained that clearly! Here are a couple pictures to help...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


To make our bird unit especially appealing to LD we, of course, had to add in some science egg-speriments!

While DD and I were unable to smash our eggs...

LD did!!  We're not quite sure why, but then when he tried it with a second egg he couldn't break it no matter how hard he tried.  Anyway, this experiment was designed to show how strong egg shells are and how their shape helps protect them.
We added a lot of salt to one cup and had plain water in the other cup.
The egg in salty water floated, while the other egg sunk.  We talked about why that was the case and how salt molecules changed the density of the water.

And more Egg-speriments! (Eggs and Pollution)

We looked at the air bubbles coming out of this egg when it was placed in vinegar and talked about why the shell is porous.  This lets the growing embryo get oxygen.  We then talked about how since it is porous it can let things through -- like acid (vinegar), acid rain and pollutants.  We talked about DDT (how eagles nearly became extinct)-- and how poisons, pesticides and so forth can harm the animal populations.  We soaked this egg in vinegar for an entire day/night.  It was interesting how much the shell changed. In the pictures below you'll see how much of the brown coloring came off.
This picture simply shows how a normal egg would not fit into this container.
Then we slowly pushed the vinegar-soaked egg down into the container.
We watched in amazement as we were able to push the entire egg into the container before it broke!
The egg shell was amazingly soft and pliable.  LD really understood how pollution and/or pesticides/poison can affect the eggs of birds and other wildlife.

The Developing Chick-Egg Set

This summer, I saw a really interesting tool for studying chickens at My Montessori Journey.  It was a chicken hatching set that you can buy for about $35.  It was a great idea, but I decided the kids might get more out of it making their own.  So, earlier this summer at Grams' house, I printed out some chicken embryo pictures.  One set has the developing chicken embryo with the yolk and the other is simply a picture of the embryo by itself on days 5, 6, 10, 12 and 18.  We got some wooden half-eggs from Hobby Lobby and created our own set of developing chicken eggs:

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bird Unit Activities

Last night I set up the table with a few more bird-related activities:

I made these cornstarch-clay eggs earlier this summer to prepare for our bird unit.  The bird's nests aren't very elaborate (I tore up grass late last night and put them in small bowls).  Miraculously the grass didn't wind up all over the room! ED needed a bit of help, but by the second and third time through she could put the egss in the correct nest.

I don't have access to a printer yet, so drew a few bird pictures free-hand.  DD chose a cardinal to color (she added tufts to the top of its head) while ED was a bit more free form!
Be sure to check out My Montessori Journey because she shared a lot of her wonderful ideas relating to a bird-unit they did in their classroom last April or May.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Bird Unit

I showed this picture last week, I think, but what better visual to go with our bird unit!

We have started off the year with a new bird unit. We did a pretty extensive bird unit last year and learned all about galahs, magpies, Murray magpies and Port Lincoln parrots (lots of pictures in the "Where we Live" label). We did a lovely lapbook to go with those (I just posted a few pictures from that lapbook in the next post below). Now it's on to a whole new set of birds!  We set up a bird feeder and have had a lot of new birds to observe-sparrows, crows, cardinals and so forth.  We've even had a humming bird every now and then.

In addition to simply observing birds and looking through our bird cards; we'll do a number of bird-related activities and crafts... posted next are the first few bird-related activities they had in their workboxes (or set out on the craft/science table).

Miniature Bird Matching:
I bought two packages of these adorable little bird miniatures (from Hobby Lobby, I believe). I set the tray up for ED (2 1/2) with one set of birds on the white paper and the matching set in a little basket.  She had to look quite closely at each bird as some of the birds are quite similar in coloring.  She did a great job matching them up.  Both DD and LD wanted a go as well.

Last Year's Bird Lapbook

Here are a few pictures of the bird lapbook we did last year. We've had this out and have chatted a lot about how different the birds sound (galahs make a really distinctive ruckus).

ED did the coloring last year; DD did the cutting activity (cutting the slits in the feathers). Hmmm... this would be PERFECT for ED right now. She really loves practicing with scissors.  I'd better head off to makes some construction paper feathers for her workbox!

Bird's Egg Craft

This activity would probably be perfect around Easter!  This summer as I wandered around Hobby Lobby I saw all the cute colored brads.  Not just the plain round ones as were available in our town last year, but flowers, hearts and things like that.  I picked up a couple boxes of brads, a push-pin looking thing I also saw at H-L or Michaels and a bunch of styrofoam eggs.  All three kids had a blast decorating eggs!
I love the beautiful trays Grams let us bring with us to our new home.  She got them in the Philippines and let us have a dozen! She also gave us a lovely assortment of baskets (from their tours in Romania and the Philippines).  Thank you Grams!  The little black container in the picture below is from India.  It was one of those things that was THRUST upon us when hubby and I visited the Taj Mahal years ago (pre-kids!).  We bought the box from the hawkers and then scratched our heads wondering why we bought it.  Well, it has good use these days -- ties in a bit of geography every now and then too!