Sunday, August 10, 2014

Waseca "The North America Biome Curriculum"

I have been working on getting our learning space ready for fall.  Yesterday I was working with some newer Waseca materials and realized I had some random "user tips" that I should pass on to everyone. Sometimes even with the detailed pictures and free downloads available on the Waseca site I find it difficult to interpret how the different materials intersect or overlap.  Hopefully what I write here will clear things up for others who might likewise be in the dark.

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that every year I add one or two Waseca products to our environment.  We started with the Introduction to Biomes curriculum and then added the complete set of continent stencils.

picture of first day of school last year!

Last year I purchased the North American Biome cards with the intention of spreading out the cost of a complete set of cards for every continent by purchasing a continent each year.  However, I realized halfway through the year that we would likely get more out of them if I had the album that goes with. So instead of ordering another set of biome cards this year, I purchased the album in the spring.  

The reason I didn't get the album, The North America Biome Curriculum, in the first place was because there wasn't an album offered for any of the other continents.  In my mind that equaled "superfluous" (My mind might be a little fuzzy at times. I blame the children.).  Also, I didn't know what was in there.  There are several pictures but no table of contents on the website.   I have taken photographs of the table of contents pages and you can view them through this link.  As it turns out, the North America Biome Curriculum has all the lesson plans/ presentations for the biome mats, biome puzzles, biome readers, biome stencils, as well as the card sets.  And, it is the "album" for all of the continent biome cards, not just North America.  Because each biome is represented on the continent of North America, the same lessons would be used for all of the other continent sets.  Waseca states:

This curriculum, "The North America Biome Curriculum", intends to build on that foundation ["The World According to Biomes"] by exploring our home continent by biomes.  (If you live on another continent, you need to replace the references to materials for North America with those of your own continent. (NABC 1)

So, I am excited that this album will apply to all of the other continent sets that I might purchase.  When I ordered I had wondered if Waseca was creating a curriculum for each continent set and that North America was just the first to be rolled out.  Upon reading the album introduction I can see that this is not the case, this is all I need.  

Speaking of "all I need", If you look at the "North America" products on the Waseca page you'll see that there are just a few things I didn't get.  I did not buy the biome puzzle maps or the readers because I felt those were more appropriate for primary.  The Waseca curriculums are available at both a primary and elementary level. I have ordered the "elementary" level each time and I think the albums are the same but the type of three-part cards differ (as they appropriately should).  The Waseca albums I have give both primary and elementary activities.  

Here is another tip:  If you have more time than money you can make your own Waseca biome readers.  They are available on the product page for each set of readers.  Just click on the spot that says Biome Reader Masters.

Edited to Add:  While I'm on the topic of having more time than money I should mention that "The World According to Biomes" or the "Introduction to the Biomes" curriculum and the masters for making the cards that go with are available for free on the Waseca site.  Both the elementary and primary versions are available.

Another item I didn't get was the biome mat.


That is because I already own the stencil cabinet and the control for the stencil cabinet looks like this:


You might notice a similarity.  The size is different.  The mat is 27"x24" and the stencil control is 11"x17".  The reason the mat is so much larger is that the child labels it with arrows like such:


This method is fine for primary child that you don't want to let loose with pins, but a little more clumsy for a pin-proficient elementary child.  Since I already had elaborate plans to make pin maps (check them out!) I felt that this material would be really a duplicate.


However, I didn't read the fine print or click through all the picture choices and therefore didn't realize until I started reading the album that the biome mat comes with COMMAND CARDS.  I have big plans to contact Waseca because I would love to get my hands on the command cards for each continent without having to buy the big biome mat ($$$).  Now that I know they exist it bugs me to not have them  (#consumerism at its worst).  It's like that episode of Friends when Rachel hides the fact that she's been buying all of her "flea market" furniture at Pottery Barn.  Phoebe finds out when she sees that they own every piece of furniture in the Pottery Barn display window except one.  Rachel wants to know if Phoebe is mad and and Phoebe says, "No no no, but I am mad! I am mad!  Because this stuff is everything that is wrong with the world and all I can think about is how I don't have that lamp!"  I like to think I don't have an addiction to Montessori materials.  I like to think it I feel this way because command cards are useful.  Here is a picture of the elusive (and useful) command cards:


Don't they look useful?  If you want more information on the readers and the biome mats, go visit my friend Heidi at Work and Play, Day By Day.  She owns those materials.  Just put "Waseca" into the search box in the right-hand sidebar of her blog.  Maybe she'll blog about those command cards, taunting me from afar.

Another insight about the North America Curriculum:  Although it was plainly mentioned on the website, I was surprised when I opened the box and saw just how many cards came with the album.  It came with twenty-eight sets of three-part cards.  That's a lot of cards.  When you receive a Waseca product not only is the product beautiful but the packaging is beautiful.  My only complaint is that the cards come shuffled.  Not just shuffled but professionally shuffled, probably by former Montessori students that had shuffling works trays on their shelves when they were three, so that all the cards are as far from organized as mathematically possible.  I sorted the cards into sets last night and it took two hours just to sort them (While listening to TV.  And snacking.  And I took a short phone call. Still, two hours.  I can't tell you what I was watching for fear you will judge me.  It was definitely in the reality genre.).  

Another thing that a lot of people may not realize is that if you have the World of Biomes curriculum and the North America Biome curriculum you will have all of typical sets of three-part cards that you would normally make or buy for the traditional Montessori elementary botany, zoology, and geography albums.  These are cards like all of your "parts of" cards and "layers of" cards.  It also covers a lot of the adaptation work and fundamental needs work.  If you think you are going to add Waseca to your homeschool, do it before you buy or make those cards and you will save yourself some time and money. 

I wasn't sure how helpful the album was going to be sight unseen.  I mainly needed suggestions for an organized progression through the biome cards.  I was pleasantly surprised to see the presentations for the other materials.  I was even more pleasantly surprised to read all the different suggestions of ways to use the cards.  If your kids have been doing Montessori activities as long as mine have, they don't always jump up and down with glee when they see three-part cards.  However this album has oodles of variations on how to use the cards.  Several individual and cooperative games are suggested at three different age levels.  The section on Animals of a Biome Cards suggests 12 different ways to sort the cards.  I think in that section alone I picked up 20 different ways to make three-part cards fresh for my boys.

I also appreciate the field trip suggestions for each biome.  In addition to real living biomes existing in our state, we have a local horticultural conservatory where we can visit living examples of different biomes that do not exist naturally in our state.  I've considered going and going often, but wasn't quite sure how to get the most out of our visits.  In the section on the temperate forest, there are two pages of single-spaced suggestions of things to do when you visit.  I am too lazy to count them all, but I'm guessing sixty?  This is followed by many hands-on activities and experiments such as "testing wood for hardness" and "making a Berlese funnel".  You will also run into many of the traditional Montessori botany, zoology, and geography presentations.  Often I bounce back over to my traditional albums when this happens.  No matter which presentation I wind up using, its' always fun to read several versions of the same presentation before giving it.

Just a note, my comments on Waseca products today and to date are unsolicited.  I am not being compensated in any way by Waseca.  I am just sharing my experiences.  If Waseca wishes to compensate me in some way in the future I am TOTALLY OPEN to that.  Waseca, feel free to e-mail me.  There are several products I have my eye on.  There are links to my disclosure policy and other legal tidbits at the bottom of the blog.

Montessori Monday

18 comments:

  1. Hahahaha - in the spirit of the post (and the elusive command cards) - you gave some great info for Waseca, some very tantalizing photos to get me to wanting their North America biomes curriculum - and all I can think now is, SHE DIDN'T TELL US WHAT SHE WAS WATCHING! LOL :) Just kidding! I could drool over the stencil cabinet (and probably already did last year when you got it), but in all seriousness - what would you suggest as the bare minimum to get, if you can't get everything, but want to make sure that you have enough for a child to get a good grasp on biomes. Is the NA biomes curriculum set (elementary in this case) enough?

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    1. LOL, I can't tell you what I was watching.

      The NA biomes curriculum set will give your child a crazy thorough grasp of biomes. I don't know if I would be able to use it without doing some of the lessons in the Introduction to biomes curriculum first. However, that curriculum and the masters to make the cards are available free. I edited the post above to include the links.

      The problem in the snowball effect. The NA album will mention the NA biomes cards and then you won't have those. Then you'll get those and you'll want them for the other continents.

      It's like those "If you give a Cat a Cupcake" books.

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  2. Hahaha - I just couldn't help the reference joke :) If you give a homeschool mom the curriculum, she'll want the card to go with it - lol - I see what you mean. I was able to save everything from the links you gave, and look forward to digging through the material a little and using it with my kiddos! It's good to know you must have survived your summer (and the kitchen remodel!)

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  3. Funny, I think I might have made a comment about Waseca choosing to compensate me some day once upon a time :) I'm starting to think maybe they should. The product placement alone ;)

    I will definitely taunt you with the command cards someday.

    I ordered the new Tree of Life Puzzle and the new Coral Reef mat this year. We like the mats because I don't have the complete grammar filing materials and the mats allow us to do some of the grammar work through our geography work. They are also nice for our mixed ages because the younger ones have ways to use them as well.

    Actually, Waseca and my nerdiness aside, we are back to ancient history this year and I ordered the Egyptian Numerals Curriculum from ETC and my boys are positively drooling :)

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    1. That new tree of life work is GORGEOUS. I totally would have bought that but the tree of life doesn't really fit our current young earth approach. I want to use it when the get older. Oh boy, I have to place an etc order this month (talk about needling compensation!) . Now I have to go peek at the Egyptian work!

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  4. thanks for the above info. Just a quick question,whats the difference between the primary and elementary introduction to biome curriculum? The free curriculum on their website seems to be the same for both?

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    1. The cards are/ should be different. There are two files. The curriculum files will be the same, the masters file will be different.

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  5. Remind me again why you chose to do the Waseca route, instead of just the simple album approach? I think you told me once and now my brain forgets...

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    1. I talk about why at the end of this post: http://whatdidwedoallday.blogspot.com/2014/01/biosphere-nesting-boxes-parts-of-biome.html

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    2. Abbie (and others) - This is one of those areas, within elementary, where you provide the "keys" then sprout out in any of a variety of directions based on children's interests, family/household values/interests, and/or local educational requirements/standards. So you flesh out more fully where needed/desired, with plenty of time/opportunity to do so, because you know the keys are covered. ;)

      My son, for example, thus far has stuck with the information in the alums on biomes, reading some books, doing some/few investigations in nature itself (so limited to what is around us, but good when traveling!) and watching some videos. At one point, he also set up a few small aquariums with different biomes represented in each. He is good with that. For now. Looking at the direction he is taking in other areas of interest, though, (he is a history person - and he is starting to come to the conscious understanding of changing climates affecting history; and people affecting local ecology and its affect on history, etc.), I think he'll come back around to these sort of topics in the next year or two, and I am wondering if the Waseca material will be appropriate for an 11 or 12 year old. MBT's thoughts?

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  6. Okay - it's late. Late at night - late in the year, late, late, late. I am looking for your post on how you made the DIY nesting boxes for this instead of buying them from Waseca. Do you have that link? :) I know I ask much from you - you are so sweet to bless me with your wealth of information so often! :)

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    1. Hi Amy,

      Here is the link: http://whatdidwedoallday.blogspot.com/2014/01/biosphere-nesting-boxes-parts-of-biome.html

      There are are three ways to search the blog if you ever are stuck trying to find something (I know I always am). If you use blogger yourself, there is a search box at the top left hand corner of every blogger blog. For people who don't use Blogger, I also snuck a "search this blog" box in the right-hand sidebar. However, if you are seeing double and can't find the dang box in all the junk on my page, Googling works just as well. I usually put "what did we do all day" in quotes and then keywords afterward for what I'm looking for. So, I found it with "what did we do all day" Waseca nesting

      Hope that helps you find what you are looking for faster next time you are looking at almost midnight :) If I'm AWAKE it's almost just as fast to ask me. If I'm asleep and you need an answer quick Google is ALWAYS awake :)

      I was SO happy to see a new post from you in my feedreader today!

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  7. There no longer seems to be a North American Biomes Curriculum offered for purchase. Do you know if it is available as a download?

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    1. I just dug through the site. As you said, the NABC is not there. A link for the digital version still exists on the page for the NA Biome cards, but it doesn't go anywhere anymore. I would call the company. Maybe they ran out and are replacing it with a newer version and this is just the hole in the middle. Or perhaps they would be willing to send you a digital version.

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  8. Hi, I am thinking about making a big Waseca order and was wondering if you thought the stencils have been a good investment / if you would purchase them all over again based on how much they've been used. Are they essential or just a great addition? Do your kids return to them often or is it like they draw the map and are done with it?

    Right now I'm planning on getting the complete set of biome cards, but I'm going back and forth about the puzzle set vs stencil set. Help. Please! Thanks!

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  9. Hi, I am thinking about making a big Waseca order and was wondering if you thought the stencils have been a good investment / if you would purchase them all over again based on how much they've been used. Are they essential or just a great addition? Do your kids return to them often or is it like they draw the map and are done with it?

    Right now I'm planning on getting the complete set of biome cards, but I'm going back and forth about the puzzle set vs stencil set. Help. Please! Thanks!

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    1. The stencils have been a good investment for us and I would get them again. That said, they are an addition. I'm not sure how necessary it is to memorize the locations of every biome in each continent. I like the stencils because drawing maps is something a lot of classical educators do. Memorizing the mountain ranges, deserts, lakes, and rivers is something I find valuable (and is part of a typical set of elementary pin maps). But, in addition to those things we can use them as a base to draw anything on the continents we wish...the path of the Roman empire across Europe for example. The biome puzzles are just for memorizing the biomes.

      If I wanted them to memorize the biomes, which I would get (between puzzles and stencils) would depend on the age of my kids. If they were starting elementary I would get the stencils. If they are still in primary I would get the puzzles.

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    2. This is so helpful!! I knew you had good reasoning. Thank you.

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