Thursday, June 27, 2013

Botany: The Gift of the First Plants

We have returned from vacation!  Today we jumped right into Montessori elementary botany as planned.  Speaking of vacations, Google Reader is about to go on a permanent just a few days.  I have added "subscribe" buttons for both Bloglovin' and Feedly to the "subscribe" tab in my top, right-hand sidebar (since Blogger's "subscribe" widget frustratingly doesn't include them).  

We will be using the Keys of the Universe Biology album to direct our studies.  However, I really wanted to "start with a story" in true Montessori fashion.  Another botany album I have (shared from a friend) starts with a wonderful story called "The Gift of the First Plants."  I have not seen it anywhere else but it seems like such a logical way to start. Because it's just not anywhere to be found I snapped some pictures of it (my albums aren't printed so they are pictures of my iPad screen) so you all can read it too.  As you will see, it is told in a very pro-evolution way.  For this reason, our family didn't use it as is.  We've decided to teach the boys from a young-Earth creationist perspective at this point (we will introduce the evolution-based Montessori stories and materials in upper elementary (9-12). I'll tell you how I changed the story in a bit.  First, here are photographs of the original version for those of you who will want the evolutionist version.

I cropped the first photo, but left the tabs visible on the second so you could see how well iAnnotate is working for me as a pdf reader.  I have SEVEN Montessori albums open (two botany) at the same time and all are on the exact page I last left off.  Score!

I decided that the "takeaways" from this story were:

  • Plants are an important part of the "preparation of the Earth" for human (and animal) life.  
  • The creation of plants changed the face of the Earth in positive ways (erosion, food).
  • The creation of plants changed the atmosphere in positive ways (oxygen, ozone layer). 

I love how this story provides such a clear link from the first and second Great Lessons to the study of botany.  Apparently not all of the training programs include it, but if your students are not choosing to explore botany after hearing those Great Lessons this story may spark the connection.

I started by telling the boys that I wanted to tell them a story called "The Gift of the First Plants."  ("First" in our story means something different than the "first" of the original.)  I explained that the story begins back in Genesis 1 again (we have been reading Genesis 1 along with all of our Great and Key Lesson work all year).  Today I read Genesis 1:1-13.  They were reminded that each step of God's creation prepared the way for human life.  On the first day he created the heavens and earth, light, night and day.  On the second day he created the atmosphere.  Prompted by the original "gift" story I pointed out to them  that the atmosphere on day two was not breathable and the Earth's surface was covered completely with water.  This was a great time to pull out the chart we used during one of the Great Lesson extensions/key lessons to discuss the layers of the Earth (and magnetism).

We continued with Genesis.  On the third day God gathered the water into oceans, exposing dry land.  Again prompted by the original "gift" story, I pointed out that there was nothing to eat on that land.  We also grabbed the hose and watched what happened to a  hill of exposed dirt with no vegetation in our yard and watched what happened to that "dry land."  They observed that the dirt turned to mud and started run down the hill until it was no more.  Then we turned the hose on the lawn.  They observed that the dirt stayed right where it was.  At that point we continued our reading of Genesis to see that God then created vegetation.

We paused our reading of Genesis at that point and talked about the changes that the plants made to the atmosphere.  Instead of implying that "water plants" came first and "learned" photosynthesis and that this learned photosynthesis paved the way for "simple plants" to creep out onto the shores, we simply discussed the ways that both water plants and land plants contribute oxygen to the atmosphere.

Next, I reminded them that the First Great Lesson talked about the particle behaviors that God created on the very first day.  I told them that these patterns of particle behavior cause something special to happen to the oxygen the plants create when it gets high in the atmosphere.  I was able to use that paragraph from the original story nearly exactly as is.

We picked back up in Genesis 1:11.

11 Then God said, “Let the land produce plants. Let them bear their own seeds. And let there be trees on the land that bear fruit with seeds in it. Let each kind of plant or tree have its own kind of seeds.” And that’s exactly what happened. NIRV

This passage moved us neatly from the story of the gift of first plants right into the parts of plants and our nomenclature work.  BUT....I'll save that for tomorrow!  Stay tuned!

I had a couple of goals today.  One was show some of you who may be new to Montessori elementary how interconnected learning topics are.  I think we had our feet in Bible study, Earth science, physical science, botany, history, chemistry and more today.   Another goal was to give an example of how the Great Lessons and Key Lessons can easily (and informally...I didn't have anything written down besides the Bible in one hand and the original story on my iPad in the other) be altered to be compatible with a particular religious viewpoint.  You do NOT need to scrap Montessori elementary if you are not a proponent of evolution.

Montessori Monday


  1. Nice post! I always love looking at your chart. The Story is beautiful both ways. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Wow! What a cool story! I wish I knew about it before I did Botany with the girls! We had a TON of fun with the plants. I hope you guys do too!
    Oh...and I hope you had a great vacation!

  3. Love your First Gift story!!! and LOVE that you used Genesis... so proper!! LOVE IT!! So happy that you are blogging again!! Always enjoy your posts!! Hope you had a wonderful vacations!! Welcome back!!!!

    1. Thank you Karen! We'll have one other big vacation this summer, but hopefully we'll be posting normally for the rest!

  4. The botany album is one of my favorites! Great post - I am catching up on your posts, because I haven't had internet in a few days.

    Also, I finally got the "Inspiring Montessori Blogs" post up and I hope you like it:

    Have a great weekend!

    1. Wow! Thanks! I didn't realize you were featuring with such large pix! I was expecting more of a blog list with buttons. The button I recommended is sized too small...sorry. Looks yucky. I should have directed you to the original post photo.

      If you feel like replacing the photo, you can pull it here:

  5. How and where did you get the Feedly and Bloglovin' subscribe widgets?

    1. Here is where you go for the Feedly button:

      And for Bloglovin/

  6. Thank you for the light bulb moment you just provided. I am not comfortable using the Montessori Great Lessons at all and didn't really know how to tweak them. Maybe I should just use Genesis all by itself and dissect each day...almost seems to easy, lol. Thank you for sharing your lesson, though. You are such a good teacher to the rest of us!

    1. Lisa,

      I'm in the middle of making our new "timelines" for the second and third great lessons. I will definitely be sharing. You would need more than just the opening of Genesis, but you'll see :)

  7. That story is really neat :) I think it is probably a review of the plant portion of the Story of the Coming of Life (the Great Lesson/story that opens up the biology album altogether) - so probably one person's review/segue into botany, which might explain why no other albums have it.

    Thank you for sharing it!

  8. I love that you adapted the Montessori curriculum to make it fit your family! It's always great to see what your boys are working on. Thanks so much for linking up with Montessori Monday. I featured your post at the Living Montessori Now Facebook page: