The purpose of Practical Life in a Montessori classroom is to help the child gain control of her movements and build independence. These works appeal to Primary-aged children who can often be heard saying, “I can do it!”. Practical Life exercises can be categorized into four different groups: preliminary applications, applied applications, grace and courtesy, and control of movement.
Over the course of this year, we have been introduced to several engaging and exciting works in applied applications which are activities that can be found in every day life. Sorting beads into colored bowls with a wooden spoon. Bags and bags of carrots have been peeled. The children have loved practicing with a real hammer (after donning real safety goggles first!) to pound golf tees into an enormous pumpkin. Finger muscles are then strengthened by pulling tees back out. The cubby area is mindfully cared for by cleaning off the boot shelves and another child is practicing using a screwdriver with different sized screws. These pictures show concentration and pride as our students practice and master what they see adults doing every day.
Lower Elementary students met with their Middle School partners today to create sand mandalas. The partners first spent time researching images, and then created a mandala of their own. Because the sand is not secured in any way, they are dismantled in just a fraction of the time they took to be assembled. This is often meant to be symbolic of the transitory nature of life. Everyone had a great time exploring this work!
Primary students have spent the past week studying insects. We learned that all insects have six legs and three body parts, the thorax, body and head. There are many groups of insects including flies, bees, and butterflies, which we remember from our study of Monarchs last September. We discovered that there are between six to ten million different insect species!
Our science shelves are stocked with the life-cycle of lady bugs, insects in lucite blocks, rubbing tiles, and a large insect floor puzzle. The paper punch on our art shelf is a dragonfly and model bees are waiting to be discovered in the lock box on our practical life shelf. As ever, our students used their creativity to explore the subject, including a spectacular ant house in our outdoor classroom.
As you do your holiday shopping, please remember to use the McGuffey Amazon.com link. Simply start your session by clicking the Amazon logo in the upper right-hand corner of any page on the McGuffey website. This will take you straight to Amazon, but your transaction will be tagged with McGuffey’s ID. We typically receive 6% of your final purchase price, which can add up to quite a bit over time.
Please share this link with family and friends and encourage them to use it. It’s an easy way that friends, family, and alumni can help support McGuffey.
Please note, McGuffey will not receive a percentage of items saved in your cart if they were placed more than 24 hours after you started at our website. To fix this, please take a moment to take the items out of your cart and replace them.
Orders made on the Amazon phone app contribute to this program but at a lower rate.
Using the Amazon link raises several thousand dollars each year by simply taking the time to make one extra click. Please support us with this simple fundraising effort!
The Miami Women’s Basketball team invited local schools to join them for their home game this past Tuesday. The Lower Elementary and Upper Unit walked from school to Millet Hall where they were treated to an exciting game between the Miami Redhawks and the High Point Panthers.
The action was fast-paced, the seats were great, the Redhawks won (yay!), and the team came out after the game to talk to our students. A huge thank you to the Miami Women’s Basketball team and to the parents who joined us at the court.
The Primary began a year of animal studies by talking about vertebrates and invertebrates. We began our discussion by reviewing the science topic from last week: Alive and Not Alive. We then learned that vertebrates have backbones that support their bodies. Invertebrates support their bodies in a variety of other ways, including exoskeletons, endoskeletons, and shells. By feeling our own backs, we discovered that humans are vertebrates as are all mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles. We were amazed to think of the biggest animals on our planet and find that they are almost all vertebrates but that by far, the most animals on our planet are invertebrates.
We have works on the shelves that allow children to discover the differences between vertebrates and invertebrates. Children can examine x-rays against a drawing on an animal. We have 3-part cards to match as well as a sorting work with animal figurines. As ever, our students took this science subject and made their own work, including art work and finding invertebrates in our outdoor classroom.
Since McGuffey has mixed-age classes, we often get asked how we teach subjects to a wide range of ages and abilities. In subjects such as language and math, children have an individualized curriculum. However, in science and social studies, we are often learning together.
In Lower Elementary, science and social studies instruction often happens as a group, but associated projects are differentiated for each grade. These subjects are taught in a blended curriculum, explored through the lens of biomes. The six characteristics of a biome influence the ecosystem, and the ecosystem, in turn, influences the culture that develops.
First and second graders receive instruction together. As seen in the examples above, first graders are introduced to the elements of a biome, and begin to explore how animals and plants rely on one another in a food chain. During this time, second graders have a chance to review the concepts they were introduced to the previous year, and then build upon them. During this unit, first graders were asked to illustrate the elements of a biome and a food chain that exists within the temperate forest. Second graders were asked to plan, design, and build a three dimensional biome. After choosing the tropical forest, they sketched out their ideas and compiled a materials list. Together, they constructed their model.
Third graders have separate instructional time, which often takes the form of a workshop. As a group, they discuss a biome, research plants and animals, examine the weather and its impact, and investigate the cultures that have emerged. One day they might be researching a reptile of the temperate forest, and the next they may be graphing the impact of settlers on the acreage of forest over time.
Throughout the grades, students are given a variety of ways to communicate their knowledge about a topic. The first and second graders recently completed a play that describes the food chain in the temperate forest. We are impressed with all their hard work!
Upper Elementary has been studying cell biology, using models, books, online resources and three part cards to study the organelles of animal cells. Each student made a play dough model of a cell. In the student-made cell above, you can see the nucleus, nucleolus, cell membrane, cytoskeleton, mitochondria, rough and smooth endoplasmic reticulum, centriole, and a lysosome. This week, Upper Elementary students stained their own cheek cells and looked at them under a microscope. A cheek cell belonging to one of our fourth-graders is pictured. The nucleus is at the center, and the tiny dark blue dots are normal oral bacteria.
Middle School students have been studying genetics. They began the unit with Mendelian genetics, making little creatures called Bloops (and their chromosomes) to study dominant and recessive traits. After creating a Bloop and finding out its genetic makeup and sex, students crossed their Bloops, creating baby Bloops that inherited traits from their parents. Several Bloop families are pictured above.
Next, they investigated the cell cycle, the structure of DNA and the process of DNA replication at the molecular level using foam models, and took a look at Watson and Crick’s original paper on the double helix from 1953.
This week, they modeled the transcription of genes into messenger RNA. Next week, they will work on translation, and finish the unit by isolating the DNA from strawberries.
Over the last few weeks, we have been observing the changes in our environment that occur during the season of fall. The leaves have been changing color, birds can be seen flying south, squirrels and other animals are gathering food for the winter. We notice that we are wearing long pants and sweaters to keep warm as the temperatures drop.
In the meantime, we are reading books about fall and exploring all kinds of leaf activities—sorting, matching, punching, and making crayon rubbings. We’re assembling puzzles about the seasons. We had a fantastic visit from a McGuffey parent, Ashley Johnson, whose family owns Reserve Run Farm. She showed us two different types of hay that had been harvested in recent weeks and we got to see a video of their family running the machinery used in the fields. We learned about preserving food for both animals and people so that it will last longer and the sweetest part of all, we got to taste their delicious honey.