8 hours ago
Thursday, June 28, 2012
Thursday, June 7, 2012
Nature Table or Nature Shelf
Add to the nature area, or the special table or shelf you use for plant specimens, the child's collection of shells, found birds nests or old nests of insects, found bones and perhaps famous artwork depicting animals.
Caring for Animals
Children have a wonderful affinity for animals at an early age. Just as they are learning to be kind to each other, and to respect the environment in general, this is the time to show them exact ways to be kind to animals. One of the lessons I learned to give in my first training course in London was to pick up and hold a cat, beginning with giving attention to being quiet and moving slowly and carefully as one even approaches the cat. Then to speak with a gentle voice. And finally I learned to show the child exactly where to put his hands as he picks up the cat and gently cradles it to his chest. Children are delighted to learn the tiny details of caring for animals, and we should not expect them to automatically know how to treat animals without having had careful, hands-on lessons.
Animals are best observed free in nature to show children how they really life, who they really are. If we hang a bird feeder just outside the window and show the child how to sit quietly so that the birds won't be afraid, we provide a way to watch birds being natural, rather than in a cage. Binoculars give the child a feeling of participating in the birds' activities, and allow the child to watch birds from a distance. It is surprising to see how a child can focus and become still when the interest in watching an ant or a bird has been awakened. When an animal is going to visit the classroom, we must prepare, with the child, for all of the animal's needs ahead of time—comfort, exercise, food, warmth, gentle handling—and have the visit last only as long as the guest is comfortable. The consideration for the animal being more important than the satisfaction of our curiosity. In our home we kept two containers always clean and ready to receive a guest salamander or small garden snake. It takes no time at all to dig up a dandelion or another small plant, and to put it in the terrarium with a sprinkle of water for the animal to hide under for its short visit. A terrarium can be as elaborate as a ten-gallon aquarium with a wire top, or a simple jar.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that, even though it may be a short visit, the animal will need air. So if a container such as a large jar is used, be sure to show the child that there must be holes in the metal top, or show how to fasten cheesecloth with a rubber band to make a breathable top. There should also be moisture but it is easy to put too much water in a container than is comfortable for the creature. The visiting animal should not be in the class more than for the time it can be truly comfortable. Help the child understand that it is there just as a visitor, for us to look at and appreciate, to learn about how it moves, what kinds of parts of the body it has, how it eats, and so forth. Then we thank it for the opportunity and let it go. These lessons should be thought out ahead of time and presented slowly and carefully to the child. This shows that the adult respects the work and expects the child to be careful and to do his best.
Hatching cocoons in the home or the classroom is a truly magical experience for the child, and there are mail-order larvae available so that this can be done safely at the correct time. Observing the life cycle of one animal is a good way to introduce the amazing phenomenon of life cycles in different animals, and to present books and pictures that show the life cycles of other creatures, such as tadpole to frog, and the difference between placental and other mammals.
At first the language cards of zoology should be shown when the animal is present. For example after observing a snake, show the child a set of cards of reptiles, which will include several snakes.
When observing a fish, show the child the cards of the external parts of a fish. Then the external parts of amphibians, birds, and mammals. Point out the similarities and the differences between the body parts of these animals that those of the human, or the child. Which animals have eyes and a mouth? Which have legs? Then the child will discover the connection between front legs and arms, and the variety of placement of ears, and all kinds of other things.
When working on the maps of the continents, show the child the animals that come from different parts of the world, from which continents. When looking at a globe that shows mountains and rivers, etc., show her which animals live in different biomes. Books should be chosen carefully, the pictures real, and the text not just watered down adult text, but with facts of interest to the child. Give a child simple picture books, beginning reading books, but also advanced reference books. Look for pictures of entire animals, with a white background, so the child can see exactly what we mean when we point to a picture and call it "tiger" (and not "tiger and rock and bushes," or the "head of a tiger.")
Just as dissection of flowers is not appropriate at this age, the dissection of animals, and studying internal parts, can be fearsome to the young child. This is put off for the curiosity and understanding of the older child, and even then only on found animals.
Art is connected to zoology as it is to all areas of life. Drawing or painting, or working with clay, from nature, or from books, or from imagination, animals are an inspiration. Having beautiful art containing animals is an inspiration for the child to create her own.
This link is provided by Michael Olaf Montessori www.michaelolaf.net