Biology focuses on the plants and animals which form part of the environment in which the over six child lives and continues to develop through experiences they have in it, when they interact with plants and animals. Montessori, in Childhood to Adolescence, says “The World is acquired psychologically by means of the imagination, reality is studied in detail and then the whole is imagined, the detail is able to grow in the imagination and the whole is attained”. Impressionistic charts and experiments give ideas about the natural world which are not able for humans to experience without using the intellect and imagination.
The theme of needs, originating from the work in history is a key idea in Botany.
This is presented as a key for dividing the living world between those who produce their own food (photosynthisisers) and those who must take it in form the environment (animals). Realising that plants don’t need to eat is an interesting point of departure for children.
Different parts of plants have evolved to help them realise their function. We give the sensorial impression of the form with the function to increase the interest of the older child who asks, ‘How?’ and ‘Why?’
The Relationship with the Environment –
Showing how a plant has adapted to meet the needs of its envionement.
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Older children delight in organising and classifying facts, and arranging them in a pattern, a sequence of a scheme. This can be done at many different levels from opposite (like and unlike) to more complex. To classify children need knowledge first, vocabulary and the means to identify.
In learning in this way children see how each part of the natural world is interconnected and important for the survival of human, and so the child respect it. The child is introduced to the fact that plants can create their food and behave in ways to help the survive, the child of this age who engages in hero worship can develop respect and interest in the plants ability. The child may wish to protect plants as at this age children are very concerned with justice. However, our aim is not to create environmentalists directly, but to expose the child when the interest is most readily accessible and let the child come to her own conclusions.
Presentation of the work
The Plant is begun with the introduction of leaves, with leaf, stem and root (in any order) and then the flower, fruit and seed (in this order because of their inherent chronology. The work is only given to keep the child’s sense of wonder and needs alive, not to memorise facts.
Typically we begin with the Botany because it is easier for the children to handle flowers. Parallel to Botany is Zoology and Ecology, following the children’s interest as a guide with classifications given to older children.
We give the children a sample of leaves and Nomenclature material so that they can classify parts of the plant indoors
Outdoor work is essential
Terminology is given to the children when they are ready for it after exploration, not as a three period lesson and they are not tested for retention
This is the first series of work about a ‘function’, giving the function follows the pattern of
- A story
- The parts
- The variety of parts
- Adaptation and other functions
The Environment and what it should contain
The environment should be a living one, with three aspects, the site of the school (urban with a garden or indoor area for planting, growing, digging or a rural school, with a forest, beach or farm. The more that is available outside the less you have to produce inside. The children need a place to grow and experiment, some area of the outdoor space will not look like a perfect garden. Tools including spade, rake, hoe and a hose.
The indoor environment will need space for growing other plants. It is necessary to have a variety of plants to show a full range of parts, have Monocotyledons and Dicotyledons, plants with simple and compound leaves, with different ways of growing (e.g. upright or climbing stems), complete flowers such as St John’s Wort.
Monocotyledons plants have parallel venation, fibrous roots, one seed leaf, the petals and stamens will be in groups of three, or multiples of three, with vascular bundles scattered throughout. Examples include spring flowers, tulips, grasses, orchids and lilies. Dicotyledons plants have reticulate venation, tap roots, two seed leaves, petals and stamens with fours and fives, but never in threes, vascular bundles in concentric circles, for examples apple trees, roses.
Children need the opportunity to see a full cycle of growth, to do this allow them to plant peas and beans. Cards with the name of the plant, kept in a green folder have give the children instructions about caring for plants, where to keep it, when to water it and for older children a feeding schedule (the feeding is omitted for 6-9 children to help them focus on the leaf and sunlight as the source of food).
For experiments many quick growing seeds are used, for Monocotyledonous corn and grass and for Dicotyledons use peas, beans, mustard seeds and cress. Don’t buy them in great quantities because they will not last. Mediums include compost, river sand, cotton wool or tissue paper and a variety of sizes of containers and trays or saucers, have a variety of shapes and sizes.
Have magnifying glasses and bug boxes with magnifying tops and a microscope. Equipment for dissection, including protected sharp knives, scissors, tooth picks to point out features and tweezers. Chopping boards and laminated mats of black paper, to show parts.