Monday, 16 March 2015

Our Backyard : A Montessori Inspired Unit

I've learnt a lot about Montessori in the last few months.

The biggest lesson has been about the importance of following the child. That is, watching them closely and taking note of the activities or topics that interest them as well as the specific skills and abilities they are attempting to master. The next step is to then provide materials or provocations that are about their interests, will further develop their skills, or - better yet - do both. 

And that's how this unit came about.

To continue with Rohan's interest in animals, I had planned a unit about Arthropods but what gradually evolved was a really special unit that was led by Rohan's interests and one that had us outside exploring our backyard.

I started with a packet of plastic bugs that were just begging for some cards to match with...

...and a cute magnifying glass to examine them with.
I also had this puzzle that incorporated shapes...
...So I found and displayed some more puzzles with basic shapes, a simple number puzzle, our shape-sorter with blocks, our lock box and some playdough with a butterfly cutter.
We love a good reading area...
...This one included all the books I could find that featured insects.
You know how much we love Eric Carle, so The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Bad-Tempered Ladybug were definitely in there.

The second thing I've discovered is that the best learning happens when we are still in our pyjamas! I just love that when he leaves his bedroom and walks through the playroom he's so inspired by what he sees he needs to go to work straight away.

Rohan really enjoyed building towers with the shape blocks, so the big tub of wooden blocks came out too. He went around the room building towers...
To complement the number puzzle, I included this simple sorting activity and some ladybug counting...

Then I found this puzzle at the toy store and the whole unit changed. 
This big floor puzzle was the only one I could find that featured insects and arachnids, but it was the frog and lizard that caught Rohan's interest.

So, we started talking about frogs and had fun with this Frog Life Cycle kit that Hamish got for Christmas the year before...
He was mainly just matching to the cards I found online, printed and laminated...
...but we also talked a little bit about the cycle of eggs, tadpoles and frogs.
(I've also learnt that if I'm going to photograph activities on the floor I really need to vacuum the rug first!)

Then we headed outside to see if we could find any frogs. We spotted a butterfly...
We watched this cute little bird come and collect some of our dog, Ebony's, fur. We inferred that she was taking it back to her nest to make it nice and warm and soft for her eggs, but she flew away too quickly for us to follow.  
We had fun exploring colours and shapes everywhere we went......and got very excited when we found 'backyard' creatures whilst out and about. The nice lady at T2 was kind enough to give Rohan a handful of butterflies from their Christmas promotion to bring home for decoration.
In our backyard we found a dead beetle and a feather that we examined under the microscope...
The bug book featured above helped us to identify what we found and learn more about them.

Remember the snake in our farm unit? Well this time Rohan enjoyed hiding the bugs in our Lego drawers! He was actually really good at matching the colours too - and boy does it give you a fright when you think that plastic spider lurking in the black Lego drawer is real!

So now the challenge for me is to balance my love of a good themed unit with maintaining a focus on what he loves to learn about. Luckily, this little guy gets pretty excited about everything - especially animals.

Do you Montessori? How do you determine what activities to put together for your child?

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