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Teaching Historys Big Picture Part 2, Issue #006
May 01, 2007


Table of Contents

  • News
    1. Prehistoric 20-foot-tall fungus discovered
    2. High Arctic Champsosaurs
  • Featured Articles
    1. Teaching History: The Big Picture #2
      The Great Lessons – The God Who Has no hands
  • What’s New…
    1. Fossil Deal For May
    2. @
    3. @
  • Work in Progress


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Prehistoric 20-foot-tall fungus discovered

Prototaxites (pronounced pro-toe-tax-eye-tees) has been identified as a fungus and was probably the largest land organism of its day.

Read more about Prototaxites


High Arctic Champsosaurs

During the Late Cretaceous, Axel Heiberg Island of the high Canadian Arctic supported a sizable population of champsosaurs, a basal archosauromorph, amongst a community including turtles and a variety of freshwater fishes.

Read more on Arctic Champsosaurs


Did you miss last month’s feature article, Teaching History’s Big Picture? Click here to read it: Teaching History's Big Picture

Want more information on this month’s topic? Click on the link at the end of the article for an in-depth description of the lesson.

This is the second of a series of articles on teaching history based on Montessori methods. Future articles will cover the remaining Montessori Great Lessons in detail.

The God Who Has No Hands

The first of Montessori’s Great Lessons is the story of how the earth was formed. It is a dramatic interaction between forces and elements. As the story unfolds, students are asked about the darkest dark and the coldest cold through comparisons to things they have already experienced. What is colder than the coldest ice? What is darker than the darkest night? The images stir the child’s imagination.

In the middle of this vast cold darkness is a flash of light. The children imagine the sound that would be made when all the elements burst in explosion. But would there be sound if there were no one to hear? Only the imagination can go to these places and begin to puzzle out an answer.

The research of neurologists and educators would tell us that imagination and imaging play a huge role in learning. It is through a vivid imagination that creativity is born and it is creativity of thought that leads students to transfer information from one learning situation to the next. It is at this point in the story that imagination must interact with reality.

There are a series of demonstrations that go along with the story to help the child experience the laws of nature whose interplay brought about the creation of our planet. Many Montessori programs would have these demonstrations shown along with the telling of the story, but the brain-researchers would likely say other wise. Now, if you are a Montessorian who's been doing the lesson this way for years, take a moment to consider some other possibilities. There may be some ways to incorporate the demonstrations into the story that will help them be even more effective in the learning process.

The brain is wired for survival. Our brain is designed to shift its focus to any unique stimulus and instantly problem-solve and respond as needed. That’s why we humans, who are smaller, slower, have poorer eyesight and hearing, still seem to come out ahead even when facing other animals whose bodies and senses are more highly developed. With this in mind, each demonstration may be a “unique” distraction from the overall story. While the demonstrations are designed to enhance the understanding, they may actually detract from it.

What needs to happen is to bring an element of familiarity to the demonstrations so that when they are interspersed in the story, they can truly support the understanding. Try introducing the demonstrations before you tell the story. You might give a silent lesson, as you would a primary lesson, asking the students to observe what occurs. Once you’ve given the lesson, place the demonstration on the shelf for students to repeat and record their observations. If you choose to use the demonstrations while you tell the story, children will have seen them and be able to make connetions between the story you are telling and the physical properties that are being shown. Better still, leave the demonstrations on the shelf, and simply refer to them during the telling. In this way, you bring in the element of imaging along with imagination…the best situation for transfer of information to long term memory!

Once the story is finished, refer the students back to the demonstrations, this time with statement cards that underline the natural law in its context in the story. By doing this, you create yet another opportunity for transfer and a third opportunity for rehearsal. By changing the rehearsal situation there is both the unique and the familiar. With each successive experience, the familiar information is connected with the new, encouraging transfer while allowing for creative extensions to form.

Follow these experiences with independent reading or research and you are reviewing again. The Clock of Eras lessons will make more sense and have greater meaning when they follow the carefully orchestrated demonstrations and the God Who Has No Hands presentation. Booklets such as the Clock of Era series review the concepts and help children practice their reading and research skills.

More importantly, the history of our planet has gently unfolded with excitement and interest. Contrast this scene with a more traditional approach that either presents the story without physical connections, or presents the demonstrations in isolation without the story to give it sense and meaning. . The dramatic delivery of the information has a far greater possibility of finding its way into the young students’ memories and its broad scope inspires further investigation in several related subjects: geology, geography, or chemistry.

Next month: The Coming of Life: Using research on the brain to make the Timeline of Life a more effective tool for learning.

For more information about this and other variations of the Great Lessons, contact

The details of the first great lesson


What’s New…?

Fossil Deal for May

This Month we are running two specials for our ezine subscribers.

  • We have a new form of coprolite available: Polished Coprolite Nuggets If you have never seen polished coprolite before take a look at these. This month get two for the price of one! Just order one, when you get to the confirm order and submit page there is a place for customer comments. write in "I want two" in the comments box.
  • The other special is 25% off any order over $50.00. Just enter the coupon code "ezine507"

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We have been adding products to the fossilicious website. The list is long. I have included some links below for a few of the new items.

Ammonites we have added so many ammonites this category has been split into 3 to make it easier to find what you are looking for. Ammonites from Morocco, ammonites from Madagascar, and pyritized ammonites.

Carcharodontosaurus teeth These are awesome dinosaur teeth. They are like T-rex teeth in that they have a flattened shape and sharp serrated edges. What is not like t-rex teeth is the price tag. Our Carcharodontosaurus teeth range from $45 to $250. If you check around on the web you will find that these are incredible prices.

Metasequoia Plant Fossils Nice fossils of the leaves or needles of this ancestor to the redwoods.

Dinosaur Coprolite Nuggets We’ve polished some of our small coprolite pieces. Who would’ve thought poop could look so good!

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We are adding new pages on the Geology Club notes from Kathy Koenig: Starting A Geology Club We hope to have all of these notes available to those who are interested in starting a Geology Club.

For those of you who are interested we have also added a bio page on David Cobb the illustrator of our book series and coloring pages. There are also links to some of David's other work. David Cobb Bio


Work in Progress

We are currently working on an e-coloring-book. This coloring book will be full size 8 ½ x 11 in a pdf format. It will include scenes from all the periods from Precambrian through the Quaternary and many famous fossil species. We are sorting through hundreds of drawings of original artwork used in illustrating our children's books. We hope to have it ready by late spring. For a taste of this fossil coloring book follow this link. downloadable coloring Pages

We are working on new rock and mineral collections! Look for these educational collections in the future:

  • Igneous Rocks
  • Metamorphic Rocks
  • Sedimentary rocks
  • Mohs Hardness Scale Set

Is there something you would like to see offered on or Drop us a note: or


Written by….Doug and Claudia Mann
© copyright 2006/2007 by

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