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.