Lane Library just provided us with a carefully curated collection of books chosen for our Upper Unit students’ interests and ages. The books were greeted with much excitement and buzz, and then there was sudden quiet, because everyone was reading. New and awesome books were just what this cold February day needed.
The Sensorial area is one that often confuses those who have not been immersed in the Montessori Method. Dr. Maria Montessori designed sensorial exercises to help young children explore every quality that can be perceived by the senses—size, shape, composition, texture, loudness or softness, matching, weight, temperature, diameter, etc. They also support the first plane of development by utilizing the repetition of order. All of the Sensorial materials are rooted in base ten mathematics. The purpose and aim of Sensorial activities are to fortify the understanding of the science of numbers and provide the language needed to describe a student’s environment.
In the photos above, we can see children working with some of the Sensorial materials. Sorting knobbed and knobless cylinders by height and diameter. The pink tower has ten cubes that vary in length, width, and height. The brown stair is ten rectangular prisms that have a consistent length but vary in height and width. The two are combined with observing how they relate to one another. The red rods increase in length by 10 cm and are first organized by shortest to tallest then, arranged into a spiral maze using perpendicular intersections. The geometric solids bring awareness that shapes form the basis of everyday objects and present the foundations for future geometry mathematics. All of the Sensorial works inspire students to create their own patterns and, in some cases, even create a brand new work.
With the colder temperatures, there is also snow and a chance to get out and play in the winter weather. Our large playground and outdoor spaces give our students plenty of opportunities to find activities that they really enjoy.
From using the play structures, to playing organized games, to creating their own activities McGuffey students always enjoy the chance to play in the snow!
The Primary Unit is off and running with our year-long study of animals. After discussions last semester of living/non-living things, we branched out to living things with a backbone, vertebrates like us, and living things without a backbone, invertebrates. Next we studied insects, a group of invertebrates that have 6 legs and 3 main body parts. It was exciting to see pictures of many different types of insects and learn that some scientists guess there are 30 million types of insects on our planet. At any given time, scientist think there may be 10 quintillion individual insects alive on Earth!
We have had many hands on works to help explore and understand vertebrates, invertebrates, and insects. Kindergarteners explored how Octopi can squeeze through tiny spaces by experimenting with paper plates and baggies of colored water. All Primary students used photographs and corresponding x-rays to see which are vertebrates and and which are invertebrates. Photographs were used to sort invertebrates and vertebrate. With lucite cubes, students could see insects from every angle. Relief plates were available to make crayon art rubbings. Model insects were used for counting in math and we even had a tool to simulate what an insect sees through compound eyes. Puzzles and stuffed animal puppets are always a great way to explore as well.
In Biology, we have been learning about the structures, organization, and reproduction of cells using a variety of hands-on experiences. Students prepared their own slides from living cells, and even took their own photos!
With age comes new privileges, and students are often looking ahead to the freedoms they will experience when they grow into the older, mentor students in a classroom. Though we spend most of our time together, the third graders love having the privilege of breaking off into their own separate group for their special biomes curriculum. Third grade biomes becomes a coveted experience that students look forward to, and students soak it up when their time finally comes.
We just finished studying the wetlands biome by diving our work into different aspects of life on the bayou of Louisiana—lifestyle, practices, traditions, geography, history, and plant/animal life. Students were excited to learn about Mardi Gras, how the French influence brought this holiday to the area, and how it has grown into a life of its own in modern-day Louisiana.
Third graders dove in with enthusiasm, studying what the traditional costumes worn on Mardi Gras meant, what the colors represent, where the tradition stemmed from, and how it has evolved over time. To celebrate their newfound knowledge, third graders decided to design, and then create, their own Mardi Gras costumes. Despite being limited to only paper, staples, glue and tape, the students made some incredible creations featuring traditional Mardi Gras colors, hats, masks, and even fringed accessories.
We can’t wait to see what comes of our next biome; off to the desert we go!
Lower Elementary students had a wonderful time spending two full days at the Duvall farm! Morning work periods inside the barn were novel, but the students were proud of their productivity and success despite the change of scenery! Being surrounded by beautiful countryside, we spent most of our time outdoors. Students enjoyed spontaneous nature collection, hiking, and using our trowels to excavate and analyze earth as part of our biomes lesson. Roasting food over a fire, visiting the horses, and a jump course-turned obstacle course were the “cherries on top” of a wonderful two days spent adventuring and exploring.
2020 has certainly thrown some curveballs, but we are thankful for the adaptability of our students and families, enabling us to take the time to get away and enjoy the quiet serenity of the country and the organic learning that arises from such a landscape.
“There must be provision for the child to have contact with nature, to understand and appreciate the order, the harmony and the beauty in nature… so that the child may better understand and participate in the marvelous things which civilization creates.” -Maria Montessori
Just in time for Halloween, Lower Elementary’s creative writing projects got a little spooky! Our students were challenged to write a real estate listing for a haunted house. What could they write that would attract ghosts and witches? Through a series of drafts, this project pushed students to consider what would appeal to their audience, which is one they don’t typically write for.
Each child completed a three dimensional house to accompany their listing, as every good agent knows that visuals help boost a sale.
This year, all classrooms are trying to spend as much time outside as possible. Each unit has always had an outdoor classroom, but spending the whole day outside has meant getting a little more creative!
In Lower Elementary, when we are outside, desks are replaced by tents or yoga mats. Schoolwork is stored in a portable bag rather than a cubby. All students have a complete set of outerwear that stays at school, so they are ready to be outdoors in all weather.
While being outside offers some challenges, it also yields tremendous opportunity! Students have thrived working in nature, and we suspect we will retain many of our new routines for years to come.
Primary students have been studying space. We learned about planets and stars as well as scientists who study space. A popular work was finding constellations and we discovered we could find our own constellations on the top of our tent if we pretended the leaves were stars!