Wednesday, January 28, 2009

"Skate Around the Rim of the Leaf's Shape," I said softly.

After witnessing the beautiful work the morning children did with the amaryllis, I felt a strong desire to re-present the botany cabinet's tray. Yesterday afternoon, a second year student (4 1/2 yrs.) came to me and said, "I don't know what work to do." Ahhh, here was my moment. "I remember working with the botany trays with you last year. Let's do it again," I said. She followed me to the cabinet and soon we were sitting side by side.

When she first started she looked at me as if waiting for instruction, so I said to her, "Skate around the rim of the leaf's shape." She smiled slightly and began. Using a small wooden stick as a replacement for the orange stick noted in my albums, I watched as she carefully traced the inside of the frame and then the inset. Her wrist moved so gracefully. It was poetry in motion. When she would trace the inside of the frame and momentarily forget to trace the inset, she would say, "I almost forgot..." And then she would trace the inset with such grace and such intentional purpose that I simply sat besides her watching silently.

During a winter when snowfall is reaching record levels, children are examining flower petals, gathering pollen and skating the edge of a leaf's shape. I return to the story I love so much again..."Frederick," by Leo Lionni.

In the winter cave of our classroom, let all that has been stored and gathered during the earlier months serve us now.


I also re-presented how to find the botanical shape of a leaf. It is very obvious that many leaves do not appear to match the insets found in the botany cabinet. There is a wonderful lesson that demonstrates that in fact they actually do.

The picture below shows a leaf and its matching botany inset. Visually, they do not appear to match. So, first mark small dots at the farthest tips of the leaf with a pencil. To be more specific - put a dot at the end of the stem and the top. Put a dot at each of the farthest points around the entire leaf. If the leaf has rounded edges do the same just mark the places farthest out from the stem.

Now, draw a line to connect the dots so that an outline appears.

Lastly, fit the leaf inset into the outline to show the children that they do match (no picture - sorry) and then draw the veins on the leaf. This is done by drawing a line from the stem to one of the dots along the leaf's edge. If possible, connect this work to the the parts of a leaf puzzle and classification cards.

Now, using a watercolor paint set, illustrate the leaf. Here are two examples -

The botany materials are so beautiful and are so under used. I find that using the materials myself first, and I don't mean once or when the children are hovering but instead at the beginning or end of the day, I feel more confident presenting the work and present it more often. Also, we too often group leaves into a fall lesson plan. There is no specific season for any of the Montessori materials. They are available to be used 365 days of the year.


MoziEsmé said...

makes me want to go leaf hunting and atart a botany tray today!

onesheep said...

Wow such a beautiful lesson on finding the leaf shape. Where did you get the idea from? I am a AMI trained teacher and get so frustrated with the botany cabinet. This inspires me to look deeper in to what else can be done with the materials. Thank You

Susan Y. Dyer said...

Actually, one of my assistants from a few years ago, Miss Anita, presented it to me. She was taking her AMI training in Rochester, New York - a three summer program. She also told me that the knobs on the puzzles of the USA map are positioned directly over the capitals of the states. This is not true for all maps but look to see if yours are by simply comparing knob placement with a map of the state.

I was very happy to run into Miss Anita at the recent Montessori Schools of Mass. Conference. I think she has much more to teach me.

Susan Dyer
The Moveable Alphabet

P.S. Montessori said...

My botany cabinet is most definitely under-used. Thanks for the inspiration.

mommyme said...

Thanks for posting this. I have never seen this lesson before. I have a new appreciation for these materials!