There are a lot of educators and scientists talking about Deep Time these days. Maria and Mario Montessori worked on developing this big worldview into a curriculum for young children in the 1940’s …and probably for some time before. If you’d like some background info on the Montessori perspective, you can read all about it in Children of the Universe: Cosmic Education in the Montessori Elementary Curriculum by Michael and D’Neil Duffy.
Fossilicious got started as we worked on designing curriculum and materials to go with this study. We wanted to put meaningful activities into the hands of children at the precise time their interest in the magnitude of the earth and all its history, science, and culture are at its peak: throughout the ages of 6 through 12.
If you’re a Montessori elementary teacher, you can just skip the next few paragraphs of explanation and return at the subtitle; this is all familiar territory for you. If you’re not, you may want to read on…
The Montessori method of teaching involves telling a story and then providing materials to enhance independent study guided by the child’s interests. All of the learning materials found at www.fossilicious.com have been developed for this purpose. We’ll use these learning materials as an opportunity to more deeply integrate the curriculum with math and language. This series of articles will explore a few ways that a teacher can use the materials to extend into these subject areas.
The first Great Lesson in Montessori is called The God with No Hands. There’s a pretty nice write-up of the story, along with photos of the impressionistic charts that illustrate parts of the story, a list of experiments, and some directions for giving the presentation at Montessori Commons (http://montessoricommons.cc/story-of-the-god-with-no-hands/).
This first story tells about the creation of the universe. It is designed to impress the child with the huge power of the natural forces that resulted in our magnificent solar system and our planetary home. The story fills the children’s imaginations with wonder, while the experiments are the start of exploration into some of the earth’s guiding principles. Shortly after this impressionistic story follows a lesson called the Clock of Eras. This lessons shares the passage of time since the Big Bang compared to a clock to give a visual representation and thee first experience with the geology time groups of Eras: Hadean, Archaean, Proterozoic, Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic.
We call this the Clock of Eras and you can download a copy of the chart and some related activities here: http://www.fossils-facts-and-finds.com/clock_of_eras.html
The booklets we’ve written to accompany the clock tell the story of each era in greater detail. This is where the extensions for math and language can really be put to use. Each booklet gives an idea of what was happening during that particular chunk of time on the clock. I’ll use just one of these booklets to share a few ideas for extending the information into mathematical realms.
Math and the Hadean
For the youngest students, the immense size of the numbers used to express time is a point of interest. This is a great time to investigate writing numbers: place value, hierarchies, and patterns. Here are some sample activity titles to develop for the six and seven year olds:
These can become increasingly complex as the students get older and more experienced.
Once you feel you’ve exhausted all the ways to play with large numerals, you can use these same numerals to practice all the operations. (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) The level of difficulty will be modified by the age and ability of the student, but there are many ways to integrate these math problems into the science or history curriculum. Here are a few examples of problems you could make up.
This simple series of relatable math activity is only limited by your imagination and creativity as a teacher. In reading through each booklet, you can easily create a group of math problems…or make them up on the spot, just to fit that particular student’s needs.
Coming next time: Language skills with the Era’s booklets.
these eras are constantly evolving, for the purpose of the young
child, these distinctions align closely with the current time
distinctions, although scientists now use a more refined and
detailed system of time classification. You can find a chart of this