Montessori Nature Study: Ecosystem of a pond

Our year long Nature Study begins again after a month off in July. 


The first week of August we explored pond dipping again. It is such a fun and easily prepared activity for kids of all ages. Dip a net into a pond and gently dump the contents into a clean container filled with the same pond water. You will be amazed at what you find. 

We recorded some of our findings in our Nature Journal. It’s interesting to observe how a child’s mind has grown and evolved in just one year. The different questions being asked and different observations made are fascinating. 

This year, observing the ecosystem of a pond has been particularly special. We are currently travelling and so the pond we are observing is the one from my childhood. 

There are so many things to share with Quentin. The holes dug by turtles and the remaining egg shells, the small minnows that swim past your toes. The smell of the water, and the crunch of the sand. A highlight for him was feeding the swan family and talking about their role in the ecoystem. 


Pond ecosystems are virtually endless with a wealth of information to satisfy children of all ages. Everything from naming different animals for toddlers, to life cycles to the microscope world. 

This particular pond has four generations worth of memories for my family and I’m glad I got to share it with Quentin today. 

Taking Art Outside

 “Let the be children free; encourage them; let them run outside when it is raining; let them remove their shoes when they find a puddle of water; and, when the grass of the meadows is damp with dew, let them run on it and trample it with their bare feet; let them rest peacefully when a tree invites them to sleep beneath its shade; let them shout and laugh when the sun wakes them in the morning.” Dr Maria Montessori 

Process Art is not only important to us as a family and as a trained Montessori teacher, it is the only kind of art advocated for by the majority of those in the childhood social neurological development world for children under the age of 8 years. 

For us, it just makes sense to take Art outside. Art is all about the sensorial world and there’s no better Prepared Environment that plays to the senses than the outdoors. 


At the beach or in the forest, nature can inspire the child and spark their imagination. 


Art also helps us extend what we’ve been exploring as part of our monthly Montessori Nature Study

A little preparation can go along way. Here are some of our favourite things to bring outside:

  1. A thin, easy to carry watercolour palette
  2. mini clipboard to secure paper and provide a writing surface
  3. A large watercolour paper pad cut into quarters for easy transport
  4. This workbook is becoming a fast favourite.
  5. As is this one
  6. Nature Anatomy is our absolute favourite Nature Study book and the one we have been using for our own Nature Study for the past year. 
  7. Lyra pencil crayons are some of the best on the market. Vibrant true tones that spread like butter on the paper and the Ferby is the perfect size for little hands. 
  8. A well made, well fitting child sized backpack to keep all of it in. 

We also love adding audiobooks to our art times. Calm classics quietly read in the background help prepare a space for peaceful art. 


All this with a healthy homemade snack and water bottle and you are set to make art outside.

Even the youngest toddler will enjoy squishing fingerpaint onto paper while under a big tree or beside a quiet stream.  

If outdoor art is new to you take it slow and prepare in advance. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Think about your own child’s interests/abilities. Do they love crayons over watercolours?
  • Go at a peaceful time of day. Tired and hungry children are not happy artists. 
  • Process art is exactly that. Let the child lead. It’s about the scribbles and sensorial input, not about how much the finished product looks like you wanted it to look.
  • Art can be messy (and that’s a good thing). Prepare in advance with something to clean up spills, wipe fingers and pack wet things home in. 

Now go and enjoy. If you happen to try an outdoor art session we would love you to share it with us on social media either on our Facebook page or on Instagram by tagging us. 

Montessori 3-6 Biology and a giveaway 

We love anatomy models so when Annie of Dockan Lotta contacted us to ask if we were interested in honestly and without compensation reviewing their soft anatomy doll we jumped at the chance. 


We love that this is a huggable doll. We also love the size. Arms, legs and torso are openable with hook and eye closures so a child can explore every inside every aspect. 


Quentin loved the ease of use. The doll is big enough to explore independently but manageable. He also loved that each organ has its own flap inside. 


The best part of this anatomy doll is that it can actually be played with. Unlike plastic models it can be used as a doll to carry around and be cared for by the child. 

We are so in love with this that we couldn’t just keep it for ourselves. 

That’s why we are going to give one away over on our Instagram feed! Join us there to enter and good luck to everyone! 

Sunday Book Club: Outside your window: A first book of nature

We love nature themed books and this one is absolutely stunning. 


Broken down into the four seasons, it’s the artwork that first drew me in. Stunning collages accompany songs, stories, recipes and so much more. 


Each pages collage is beautiful and perfectly captures the mood of th season it describes. 



With so many ideas to try and stories to share it is sure to be a favourite for years to come. 

May Nature Study: Butterflies and other Insects 

The warmer weather has finally arrived and so we spent the majority of our May Nature Study outside. 

Studying insects is one of the easiest topics to do because they are accessible on almost every continent, there is a large variety and children are most often fascinated by them. 


We began our study by exploring different species of butterfly with the help of these beautiful cards from Alice Cantrell of Twig and Moth. We use so many of her materials because they are well priced, printable at home and above all beautiful. 


We enjoyed some old favourites on the topic. This book is fantastic. The art style and amount of information are perfectly paired. 


We also enjoy this book and we recommend all of this series. It is our favourite nature series for the 3-6 age group. 


Lastly we decided to take a field trip to our local butterfly sanctuary. It is so beautiful there with so many different species of butterflies and moths. At just turned 5 Quentin now does really well on learning outings. This will serve him well as he progresses into the Second Plane of Development. 


Montessori asks us to “Follow the Child” and this simply couldn’t be more applicable than when out and about. We travel at his pace, and stop when he wants to. This gives him an opportunity to really take in what he is seeing, to ask questions or to return to something he wants to know more about. 


We both agreed that a butterfly sanctuary is a gorgeous spot to take photos. 
If you have been looking to start a nature study, insects is a great place to start. Books from the library, and simply stepping outside are all you need.  

Montessori Peace Education: Music Resources 

Peace Education is my absolute favourite part of Montessori and is something that is often greatly overlooked and incredibly undervalued by classrooms and homes. 

As I often advocate, Montessori has little to do with the perfectly curated trays of beautiful wooden materials and instead looks to a much greater cause.

This is education, understood as a help to life; an education from birth, which feeds a peaceful revolution and unites all in a common aim, attracting them as to a single centre. Mothers, fathers, politicians: all must combine in their respect and help for this delicate work of formation, which the little child carries on in the depth of a profound psychological mystery, under the tutelage of an inner guide. This is the bright new hope for mankind.” (The Absorbent Mind, p. 15)

I had the extreme pleasure to host a fantastic keynote speaker with my fellow British Columbia Montessori Association Board Members this weekend. 

Shelley spoke about her Sing Peace Around the World movement and it is an amazing thing to behold. 

Shelly has a host of other songs for singing with children that can be found here

If you are looking for ideas or want to add to your listening corner this is a great resource. ​

Sunday Book Club: A Nest is Noisy

  
We’ve been off on Spring Break here. It’s been quiet days filled with lots of outdoor time. 

One of our absolute favourite things to do is bird watching. I’ll go into more detail coming up later this week but I had wanted to share our favourite companion book for bird watching at this time of year. 

  
A Nest is Noisy by Dianna Hutts Aston
This book is part of a beautiful series and if you haven’t read it I would highly recommend you do. Lots of beautiful illustrations and interesting facts. We love it because it reminds us that it is not only birds that make nests. Many reptiles and mammals do as well. 

The coming of Spring offers such an amazing look into the animal world. We use this book to talk about different nests, how nests are made and also how we can help nest building animals ensured they have a safe place to build a home for their young. 

Our Week in Pictures

This week saw the weather get warmer, school wrap up before the Spring Break and Quentin’s asthma really dig deep and cause some hard days. 

We also had a lot of fun. 

  
A quiet game of Bird Bingo

 
Making newspaper pots and having our submission to a child’s magazine featured  here
  
A quiet day home from school to fight an asthma attack. The farm is such a nice way to take his mind off everything. 

  
Feeling better and taking advantage of the warm weather. Working outside allows all of us to remember the importance of Gross Motor play. The air smells fresh and clean. Spring is here. 

  

Shadow puppet play is a nice way to end a week. We can all have fun with it and it lets Quentin develop language and story telling. Imagination at its best. 

Hope your week was a good one. 

DIY Lightbox

  
Quentin has been using our home made lightbox for about a year and a half.

There are so many things you can do with it and it is a great sensorial experience, especially with a mirror in front of the child. 

Many people have asked if I have a tutorial for our lightbox, after I posted the above picture on Instagram today. 
I didn’t, but I quickly made one up. 

  
Here’s your list of materials. If you have the tools, the materials can be very inexpensive. I got everything I needed (except for the glass) at our local big box craft store and as always had my 40% off coupon with me which I used for the wood frame. 

Materials list:

  • 30 cm square/12 inch square wood shadow box frame
  • Safety rated indoor use rope light
  • Frosted glass or plexiglass 
  • Drill and hole cutter adapter
  • Glue gun 

List of steps:

  1. Place the wood shadow box where you will use the light box. Think about where the nearest outlet is. Mark where you want to drill your hole. Should be on the same side of the box that the electrical outlet is. 
  2. Drill hole in the side of the shadow box near the back corner (where you marked).  You will pass your rope light through this. 
  3. Stretch out your rope light & find non plug end. 
  4. Thread non plug end of rope light through drilled hole until you reach the end of the light. 
  5. Starting in the middle of shadow box hot glue down non plug end of rope light. 
  6. Continue wrapping rope light in outward circle hot gluing every few centimetres/inches. 

Ok. Check in. You should now have a wooden box with a hole in the side. Your rope light should be glued in a circlular coil from the middle of the box outward and be passing through the hole that you drilled. 

Try to pack as much of the actual light inside the box so that none is sticking out of the hole and you can only see the cord. This will also ensure that you get even coverage of light coming out of the box and no dark spots. 

Made a mistake? Hot glue once dried is easy to pry off. Re-adjust or just start again if you aren’t happy with it. 

Ok. When you are happy with the coil test it out by plugging it in and gently placing the frosted glass on top. There is no switch on our box. We just plug it in when we want to use it. That’s why it’s nice if the cord exists the box on the same side as where the plug sits. 

If you are happy with how it looks hot glue down the frosted glass to the top ridge of the wooden box. 

You are finished! 

Ok.  Here is the big important disclaimer:

You absolutely need to use indoor safety rated (doesn’t get hot) rope light. 

You absolutely need to use frosted glass to defuse the light your tiny loved ones are staring at. 

And: Staring at any bright light for an extended period of time can damage your eyes. 

Always use your lightbox in a semi dark (not completely dark) room and never for extended periods of time. 

I hope this is helpful. Please feel free to leave questions here and I will try to answer them promptly. 

Enjoy. 

Montessori Summer activities to keep the learning fresh

  
Summer. It is a glorious thing isn’t it?
Both boys are now finished school and we have been blessed with hot, not warm but hot weather.  

The new school year is still in the distance and so I’ve been thinking about activities to do with the boys. Things that will keep them from (oh I even hate to type it) the “brain drain.” 

Here’s what we do in the Summer: 

We linger 

  

We stop a little longer to watch the bees hurry about their work. We breathe the heady scent of lavender a little deeper and we let our fingers run over the soft scented stalks a little more. 

We wander

 

Whether at the beach, around town or through a good book of far off places. We allow time for exploration of all things. Quentin’s favourite is geography. 
We create 

  

With paints and pencils and small world play, we encourage creativity and the expression of knowledge. Quentin loves to set up his Schleich farm animals and barn. 

His Bruder recycling truck (pictured below) and tractor (pictured above) also offer him a chance to create with to scale and realistic materials. 

  

How does all this have anything to do with learning you ask? 

Well, in the Montessori pedagogy learning comes from within the child. It does not happen to the child. So instead of math sheets and reading apps we continue to prepare the environment that will engage the child. We cater to the senses and the inborn curiosity. 

I often get asked about “the trays”. I answer that is doesn’t matter what’s on the tray. What matters is what is in the hand. What I mean by this is that a pretty tray of carefully designed sea shell work is nice, but it is incomparable to the vastness of learning happening when holding a shell at the beach. 

And then, just like that, everywhere there is learning. From connections made from reading to real world exploration. From measuring and counting as we bake, to keeping the senses sharp with environmental sensory input (flower smelling) it all keeps the light in their eyes burning. Their growing brains constantly seeking. 

There is this quote that rattles around my own brain often.

“Be careful what you teach. It may interfere with what they are learning.”