The World of Plants (Botany) and The World of Animals (Biology and Chemistry)
A plant is a living organism manufacturing its own food (autotrophic) while animals require carbon to be fixed by plants which they digest (heterotrophs). Traditionally plants are divided into ground cover or non flowering plants and seed producing and flowering plants. The most primitive plants have no root structure, no conducting or supporting tissues. Vascular plants in contrast transport water and other materials for photosynthesis.
Biology (plants and animals) are an integral part of the Montessori environment. Information on Biology is provided to the child with measurement and is indirectly classified into that which is living and non-living. The adult introduces the elements built on reality to be impressed on the Absorbent Mind and provides reference material to help the child explore the world of plants and animals independently. Biology is a science studying life forms — how things live, what growth conditions life forms need to live, life forms’ life cycles and interrelationships and protective devices and, finally, what are life forms functions in the cosmic plan.
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The adult helps the child move from solving one life mystery to question and enquire another life mystery. This is an indirect preparation for awareness of life and the cosmic plan. From birth, the child’s horme urges her to investigate her environment. The Montessori environment is a basic preparation for life exploration, whose indoor and outdoor environments should be filled with living things, and hence animals, a variety of plants must be a part of both environments. Doing so, the children will become responsible for their care and maintenance. Associated Exercises for Practical Life include cleaning leaves and watering indoor plants, pruning, cutting flowers and checking outdoor plants for disease and pests.
Art activities could be developed from bark rubbings and pressed flowers. The adult must ensure nature walks and field trips to areas of beauty and garden centres as part of the Montessori activity, as from this the child develops awareness of her regional flora and fauna. For the outdoor environment proper equipment must be accessible to the child for gardening. In the indoor environment, all the plant needs labelling so the child knows their names. Also, there must be a Nature Table, in a sunny corner and low enough for the smallest child to reach, where children contribute items they have found and ongoing experiments can be observed, have a magnifying glass to encourage close examination.
The adult must encourage, “Never lose your curiosity” practice. Periodically the adults provides special presentations, e.g. silk worm’s life cycle, how cotton becomes linen cloth, how wool is produced etc. Begin by showing the child the real life experience as much as possible. Allow the child to experience tactile impressions. The child can be shown to recognize and classify the different types of plants in the environment, climbers, creepers, shrubs, bushes, trees,those which bear flowers and how these produce fruiting bodies and how we can plants the seeds and those which send out shoots and we can germinate from cuttings. They can gather fallen leaves, flowers and fruits and later sort them into colours, textures and shapes based on those of the developing their use of the ‘Geometry Cabinet and Card’ to contact with ‘real world’ examples.
The child can be introduced to the idea of the ‘energy chain’ which connects life, from the sun, to plants and humans or via animals to humans, through their products and meat, the idea that we are connected and need to share resources. Children can be shown how we use the products of plants and animals, in cooking, to make paper, clothing, shelter, paints and tools.Children should also be encouraged to appreciate the aesthetic, emotional gifts we can receive from plants and animals and be able to identify their intrinsic worth, as well as their use to us, this is particularly important in terms of stinging nettles, which are vital for butterflies and the important role of insects in decay, as children who cannot see their immediate use and do not find them attractive may only respect them when they know all creatures have important roles, later we hope they will acquire respect for all life.
To prepare the Environment for Botany
Firstly, read books which are useful, including, ‘The Giving Tree’ and ‘The man who planted trees’, connect these stories to a wide variety of plants, of different sizes, with a variety of leaf shape and flowers. Choose ones which require regular watering and grow quickly. Bring cut flowers and vegetation into the Casa which represents the season and have a garden and potted plants.
Talk about one plant at a time, how to care for them, let children water them and use a marker to indicate the have done so the plant does not get saturated. Potted plants can be part of art projects, their pots designed and eventually sent home. Classification cards can be used to show local plants and ones typical of the different regions of the globe. Sort cards to organize plants into their products, with pictures of the plant itself, the fruit, and products, e.g. vegetables, cotton, tea, spices and use further pictures to tell ‘The Story of Cotton’, ‘The Story of Bread’, The Story of Sugar’. Alternatively, sort plants according to which produce vegetables above and below ground (e.g. tomatoes and potatoes).
Show small groups the experiments and class projects happening on the Nature Table, explaining what is happening and helping them to interpret the details they recognize. Handle plants carefully and with respect, restore those used in experiments to environments where they can thrive and avoid letting the plants die, it is possible to show they are looking week because their needs are not met and rescue them before they die. Link discussions about plants to climate, soil types, food and so on, giving the correct vocabulary. Information is given with the intention of enabling the child to explore rom a new vantage point, to think and rediscover for herself and not for the sake of information or memorization.
Provide a safe place, a very shallow pond, some soft grass or sandy area and some growing flowers, herbs and vegetables which the children can tend with proportionately sized wheelbarrows (narrow enough to be pushed along the paths), watering cans, plastic aprons, heavy duty gloves, rubber boots and sun hats to use when presenting Exercises of Practical Life Activities.
To prepare the Environment for Biology
Keeping mammals in the Casa may be unfairly stressful on the creatures though in very well established Casa’s children may b calm enough to handle the enjoyment of robust pet visitors. Children need preparation for handling and respecting other animals and animal introductions can be a culmination of this preparation. The outdoor may have a pond, frogspawn are fascinating visitors, a wormery in the garden shows the process of decay and renewal while providing fascinating details of life. Accidental insect visitors can be shown to small calm groups, and butterflies encouraged by certain types of plants while the feeding birds and squirrels is a delightful, respectful source of observation.
The World of Science (Physics)
The World of Plants and The World of Animals introduce children to Biology and Botany and through an understanding of the needs of animals, for water, sunlight, nutrients, energy to Chemistry. Here the World of Science focuses on Physical Processes and materials Our goal in presenting science in the children’s house is to heighten their awareness of the Physical daily phenomenon, day and night, light and dark, changes in temperature, changes of the season. Botany and Zoology give experience in scientific observation and experimentation, allowing her to make contact with Biology (and Chemistry). Dr Montessori believed that the children should use their local environment for scientific exploration and experimentation, elaborating with too much detail is unnecessary. The Directress must be aware of general principals and how to design creative experiences for children.
The child of three to six years hungers for facts and information as she is in a Sensitive Period for language though her tendency to sensorially explore, not to reason.
Children must be given the chance to have a sensorial experience first,without language, later language is added in a simple, factual explanation to allow the child to absorb isolated facts. We begin with spoken language and later add reading and writing, children may record the procedures and results of experiment, making illustrations.
Scientific experiments begin with a general concept, further experimentation leads to the specific
Three stages of presenting Scientific Work
1 present the language of implements,tools and other objects used in the experiment
2 present the experiment, demonstrating how the tools are used and the method
3 allow the child to work independently with the materials
In the Children’s House there should be a Science Corner where the experiments take place, a nature table and the Scientific Equipment, like a microscope. The Scientific equipment set displayed should be changed regularly to maintain the child’s interest
Criteria for Scientific Materials
The materials should be attractive, clean, complete, proportionate and colour coded
They need an intrinsic Control of Error, so the child can work precisely and independently
The materials used give the opportunity for vocabulary to be given
Children should be able to work safely and effectively after presentation, without the Directress
The materials should offer further possibilities for exploration
There should be an opportunity for creative work, such as writing, drawing and modelling to express knowledge gained through the experiment
The Directress must have the basic knowledge of the material and show her enthusiastic interest in it
Criteria for experiments
The experiment should enable the child to realise a fact
The child should be able to repeat the experiment independently, in safely after the presentation
The experiment should be short and specific
Correct scientific language should always be used
Begin the experiment at a point that the child has already come to know through her previous experiences.
Further simple experiments are available at http://www.kids-science-experiments.com/ which splits experiments into the following categories
Kids Science Experiments & Science Projects Categories:
- Balancing & Gravity
- Bending Light
- Bouncing & Reflecting Light
- Curious Colours
- Electricity (Charging Up)
- Floating & Sinking
- Magnetic Attractions
- Mixing & Separating
- Reaction (Getting a)
- Starting & Stopping
- Surface Tension
- Surprising Senses
- Science Facts, Questions & Answers
- Materials & Properties
- Plants & Flowers
Clear glass bowl, pitcher, clear plastic table mat, blue napkin ring for roll mat, blue circle mat (to rest bowl on), blue bucket, blue tray for all materials (except bucket), washcloth sized blue ‘ terry’ cloth, basket with blue-trim (to hold objects)
Objects such as; a large rubber band, rubber washer, wooden stick, ping pong ball, small shell, plastic needle, fishing bobble, key, nail, a piece of metal
Presentation and exercise:
- Show the child the exercise, name the experiment and show how to carry the materials to the table
- Roll out the table mat and place the circle mat in the centre, putting the bowl on it
- Put the basket of objects at the right edge of the mat and the folded cloth at the left
- Ask the child to bring water, using the pitcher and pour it into the bowl
- Taking one object at a time, carefully set them on the water and say, ‘it sits on top of the water’ or ‘it sits on the bottom of the bowl’, after a few moments remove the object and let it drip.
- When all the objects have been shown invite the child to repeat
- Help her tidy
- At a later presentation add language, saying ‘when it stays at the top we say, “it floats” and when it goes to the bottom we say, “it sinks”‘
- Even later we add more language, saying, ” things that float are ” buoyant”, things that sink are “not buoyant”.
For those children who are reading and writing labels may be provided for the child to sort the objects into, pairing the terms – buoyant and floats – not buoyant and sinks. When the objects are sorted she may write an illustrated list of which objects sink and which float.
Metal spoon with two feet of thick string on a tray
Presentation and exercise:
- Invite the child
- Hold the free end of the string with your hand, the spoon hangs free
- Put the spoon above the tables edge, gently to make a small sound
- Wind the string around your forefingers and bring the fingers up to the ear
- Allow the spoon to hit the table’s edge again, use a facial expression to indicate that you heard something
- Invite the child to repeat both steps
- When the child is familiar with this repeat the presentation with language, ‘ sound moves along the string and your fingers and into your ear’