Explorations of Elementary 2017 January Newsletter
We are already a month into 2017, and the students are right back to working hard! We have had a wonderful month together with exciting, new lessons and practicing our favorite materials from before break. The Bohr Diagram, using the microscope, and Writer’s Workshop inspired a lot of great learning this month!
Our field trip to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History was something the students have been looking forward to for a while. Our tour guide, an archaeologist, was very knowledgeable, patient, and funny. We started our trip looking at animal fossils that were found in Ohio. During this part of our fossil workshop, our guide taught us the difference between mastodons and mammoths. We were even able to hold the fossilized tooth of a mammoth and feel the ridges in the molars where they ground up grass.
While moving through the museum, we talked about different plant and animal life throughout different time periods. Our guide explained to us that paleontologists and archaeologists use fossils to learn what adaptations animals had, what they ate, what their environment was like, and how they perished. We also learned how fossils are found, how they are named, and how different museums can share, or trade, fossils. We were able to hold dinosaur coprolite (from the Greek words Kopros Lithos, meaning “dung stone”) and part of a rib from a dinosaur, probably a long-necked herbivore, that was 150 million years old.
After our fossil tour and workshop, we enjoyed lunch together, then were able to explore other exhibits on our own. Our first years are studying the planets, so we made sure to check out information about the formation of the universe and see pictures from the surface of Mars.
Our second years are studying rocks, so we stopped by the layers of the earth, rock formation, and crystal formation exhibits.
Our final stop was the exhibit about early humans, and how humans have changed over time, to enrich the study that our fourth years are doing. After the visit to the museum, we made fossils of our own!
In the classroom, we have focused on memorization of multiplication facts with the first-year students. Maria Montessori believed this had to be done before age 8 to really be internalized. We show students a variety of ways to practice their math facts, so it is interesting, instead of a chore. Some students have used the Multiplication Finger Charts, some work with bead bars, and some with the Stamp Game. Having a variety of ways to learn a skill ensures that students can learn something essential to further education in the best way for their learning style. Having a variety, also allows students to not get bored and to feel confident in their abilities with a material that is just right for them. To quote Maria Montessori, “Free choice is the highest of all mental processes.”
Older students have been working with decimal fractions in a variety of ways. Some students have learned how to read decimal numbers, and build them with our materials, while others are multiplying decimal numbers.
Our students studying the body focused on the digestive system this month. We did an experiment using soap, a cotton ball, milk, and food dye to show how bile breaks down fat in your stomach. We talked about the parts of the digestive system and how they work together to deliver us the nutrients we need from our food. Along with this, our first-year students practiced reading food labels to find out what in their lunch was the healthiest, and what they had that should only be consumed occasionally.
Vinny and Kernel also had exciting months. Vinny the Guinea had a “Magic Kingdom” built for him by a student. He now has his own place to go through tunnels, over ramps, and eat from the treat tube filled with our homemade treats (a student helps prepare the treats below). Kernel finally interacted with some students. After months of me handling him, and students observing, he was ready for students to pet him! Two brave first graders were the first ones to try! They were nervous at the beginning, but ended up very proud of themselves. These pets have already taught our students many lessons on care and compassion.
We look forward to February with you!