We use a blended approach to Montessori, with our unit study style themes and our integration of Classical approaches. I am asked a lot about what this really looks like, so I wanted to put together a few more examples. People tell me that it can't be done to teach such a large range of ages the same subject at the same time, but I assure you that it can! Truth be told, it's when I start to separate the kids I go crazy!
Here are all the things that we do to study birds across a range of ages. Every child doesn't do every activity every time through the subject, but over time they continually build a deeper and deeper level of knowledge. It isn't about learning a certain list of facts or reading a certain set of literature, but about sinking into a subject instead of floating on the surface.
My goal for bird study is primarily an understanding of species diversity. I am first looking for an understanding that all birds share common traits. For younger students we simply look at what those traits are. What makes a bird a bird? As they age we look at specific details such as the different types of bird beaks and what they are used for. How does a certain beak type or color, for example, make a particular species adapted to a certain environment? Through all of our study, being outside and observing is an invaluable piece of the curriculum. Grandma and Grandpa are huge bird lovers and spend lots of energy attracting a variety of species so I hear lots of "Grandma has those!"
While we are actively working on birds, I have all of our resources plus local identification guides available on the shelves. During that time, I also read aloud or present another specific bird activity (using the resources below) once during each week. Older children keep their own birding lists and add naturalists such as Audubon to their Book of Centuries. Wildflowers and Marbles has an identification list available here (look under Nature Study) for recording species identified outside in your neighborhood/community. I also encourage older children to spend some of their choice work time presenting new card work to younger children.
I guess you can call these our spines. We use the Burgess Bird Book as a read aloud and John Audobon: Young Naturalist is one of our history & science books that I cycle the crew through as assigned reading. We also have an antique (huge) copy of Audubon's Birds of America and if you ever have the opportunity to find such a volume it is a treasure to have and we consult it regularly. It is a beautiful way to include art appreciation into species study.
Supplemental Books & Resources
While I am reading aloud, I have various bird coloring books available along with Montessori card work and activities. I encourage them to find one of the birds we will be reading about that day, but that's not always possible.
The younger the child, the more Montessori resources I use. For bird study, the backbone is the bird puzzle and Parts of a Bird Cardwork. For the elementary and up crew, we use the card work that is part of our biome study.
We also have card work for Bird Silhouettes, available from ETC Montessori and Birds and Beaks, available free from Montessori Print Shop. For notes on how I keep all of this card work organized, see this post.
During our thematic units, I incorporate traditional Montessori games and activities using a custom made material. For birds, I had Kylee help in preparing materials by finding as many bird pictures as she could in magazines and then mounting them on construction paper. (I would laminate them too, but I'm out of lamination film....oops). I then used the bird set to play Eye-Spy and Detective Adjective. (If you are not familiar with these games, both are described in depth in Montessori Games to Play.)
Note: Our Bird 3 Part Cards came from our Waseca Biomes curriculum and are not available individually. I have worked with these Maitri learning cards available on Amazon, however, and been happy with them in the past.
Other Activities & Experiments
Making Bird Feeders & Observing for Use
Biomes of North America
My Wish List
This is a subject we have revisted time and time again so each year, I add a few new activities to keep things fresh. Here are a few things on my future wish list.
I also am drooling over absolutely every item in the Tanglewood Hollow Etsy store. I honestly told Tim I would accept Christmas gifts from there for myself.
This post contains affiliate links. Only the Amazon links are affiliate, however, so if you purchase from anyone else feel free to just let them know I sent you! This post is linked to Montessori Monday at Living Montessori Now.