Study of South America and Coffee

coffee grinding1

For the past few weeks we have been thinking about the continent of South America.  The children have studied many pictures of animals and plants in South America, we have tested some food (Thanks Paula for the bocadillos!) and completed the South America puzzle! One of the favorite things to do when we study this continent is to grind coffee beans!  Not only does it make our school smell good, it is really fun!  This is another multi-step activity.  First, the children put the beans into the grinder.  (Our grinder is clamped to the table!  After having a few of these break we decided we must clamp them down to prevent them from sliding around.)

coffee grinding2

Close the lid on the grinder.  (The whole beans are kept in the smaller tin along with a small scoop.)

coffee grinding3

Grind until the handle loosens and you do not hear the sound anymore.

coffee grinding4

Take out the drawer with the grinds.

coffee grinding5

Dump the grinds into the bigger container.

coffee morning

On Thursday morning we offered our parents the chance to come in and have a cup of coffee!  The children were excited to think that their parents were able to have coffee with the beans they ground up!  (Thanks for coming!)

Paula's home

This is our Spanish teacher Paula’s home in Colombia, South America,  at 10,000 feet.  They grow cacao to make into chocolate, coffee beans, avocado and oranges.  Paula has sent us a few videos so we may see the harvesting and drying of the coffee beans.  Click on the links below to see.  Thanks for sharing!  We wish we could all take a field trip and spend a few weeks there!

coffee bean picking

coffee bean drying

We really enjoyed studying South America!


Learning About our Seven Continents

continent map

The children have been very interested in the Continent puzzle map.  The Montessori cultural curriculum combines many subjects which connect children to their place in the universe.  Dr. Montessori believed that children become interested in concepts when they see the relationships between things.  The purpose of our cultural curriculum is to inspire an appreciation for the wonder of the universe and to encourage the students to come to realize their part in it.

We introduce the flat Continent map after the children have seen our Continent Globe.  The children learn the names of all of the continents in this process.  When we tell the children that we live in North America, at first (around 3) they may say, “I live in Ann Arbor” or “I live in Michigan.”  We point out how Michigan is in North America and by four, they usually are understanding their place on our continent.  We also talk about how Asia is “the biggest!” and how in Antarctica, “only scientists and penguins live there!”  Over the three year cycle, the children learn more and more about each continent and countries within each.

Continent song Click here to listen to the children singing the Continent Song.

Culture cannot be received from another, but only through the work and increased realization of oneself.  Nowadays, when we are aware of the powers of the absorbent mind during the period from three to six years, we know this possibility to take in culture at a very early age.”  Dr. Montessori





Toward the end of the year, we studied space! We learned about the solar system, several planets, the Earth and how the planets rotate around the sun.

Space all kids

Last year, we had the pleasure of having a student in our school whose parents were visiting astronomers from Venezuela! They made planet models for us and we used them again this year to rotate around the sun. Here this group each had a planet (some comets and asteroids too) and they practiced rotating around the sun in the middle!

Luke and space

We also had coloring pages for the planets. Here a child decided to cut them out and glue them onto a background. He then labeled each planet.

Venus 1

We made a beautiful Venus!

Rishabh's earth

This child spontaneously drew Earth on the easel. He loved telling us all about what he drew on the Earth!

Egyptian Studies

Egypt Field Trip 1


We decided to take a small group of afternooners on a field trip to the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology as we have been studying Africa and most specifically, Ancient Egypt.
We hopped on the bus and headed into campus. Our stop was right by the cube so we decided it was necessary to give it a spin before the trip inside the museum.

Egypt Field Trip 2

Egypt Field Trip 3

First, we read the rules! When our Docent arrived, we were well prepared to answer her question of
“What are the rules of the museum?”

Egypt Field Trip 4

We saw many, many interesting artifacts. We even saw a child mummy! Jean our Docent helped to explain this in a very gently, age appropriate way!

Egypt Field Trip 5

We saw many masks that were put on people who had died as a way to identify them.

Egypt Field Trip 6

Here we were fascinated with a cat and hawk mummy!

Egypt Field Trip 7

Children in ancient Egypt played with many recognizable toys! After our tour, Jean read a book to the children called “Temple Cat.” The children enjoyed the story and the whole field trip!
Thank you Kelsey!

Egypt Pyramid

As part of our classroom study of Ancient Egypt, many children have decided to make pyramids out of sugar cubes!

Egypt Stamps

We also used hieroglyphic stamps to write names as well as various words.

Egypt Toob

Continuation of the study of Asia


As we are so lucky to have a variety of cultures represented in our school, we asked a mom and her father who is visiting from Japan to come and help with origami.


They were able to make a variety of animals, paper airplanes, a ball but one of the most loved was the tiny doll! (Thank you to Junko and GiGi!)


Several of the children also brought in traditional clothes from Japan and India. It was wonderful to see and they also allowed other children to try on the clothes.


Some of the older children wanted to make their own “Flags of Asia” books. They are able to draw the flags and color them in by themselves. This is a work in progress as there are SO many countries in Asia!


Dr. Montessori felt the ages between 3-6 is the time of the “conscious absorbent mind.” In a prepared environment such as ours, the children are exposed to hands on learning that will stay with them for a lifetime. Montessori often said, “Impressions do not merely enter his mind: they form it” (Absorbent Mind, 1995). After the first level where the absorbent mind prepares the unconscious (from 0-3 years), the mind then slowly awakens to the conscious level, establishing memory, and the power to understand and reason. The knowledge that the child is internally seeking is then absorbed.



We have begun our study of Antarctica this past week. It is an interesting continent as there are no countries to study and there is no flag! We will continue this work next week and also have a visitor (a special, world traveling grandmother) who will speak to us about her recent trip to this cold continent!

South America work


We are finishing up our last week of South American studies. We decided to put out this fun ‘pin’ map of South America. The children get to match the different country flags in each continent and here they pin each flag to it’s own country.


A few of the children can actually read the words on the back of the flags and match them by reading the names of the countries. Our beginning readers enjoyed this just as much as they matched the letters in the words. It ended up being a matching activity for them. We made many observations about the flags and they all had their favorites.


When they finished with the pin work, many children decided to color in their own South America map.

Layers of the Earth


This week in Physical Geography, we presented the Layers of the Earth! We have a model of the Earth that opens up to reveal the four layers.


The children gathered around and with a very dull knife we cut into a dough model to show these layers. We compared with our other model and discussed the layers.


We also showed the children the specific science cards that tells about each layer and the children learned just how hot it was in the middle of the Earth!


Many of the children chose to make a layers of the Earth booklet to take home.

From Globe to Map


The children are very familiar to our continent globe but have not yet had the opportunity to work with the continent map.  Some have seen the map and have asked why there are two Antarcticas.  As most children are very concrete at this age, we present this lesson in a concrete way.  The goal is to show them how the map and the globe show us the same thing, in a different way.


We made a small globe out of dough and then cut it in half.


We pressed the two halves of the ball down to flatten it out.


Here the children can see how it is flattened like our continent map.


The children all had turns taking out the continents and placing them back in the puzzle.  You may be hearing the Continent Song this weekend.  Also, many children have made continent stamp books.  We have a stamp for each continent which they stamp on paper and color in the colors on the map.

Land and Water Forms- Island and Lake


The children began studying islands and lakes in geography this week. Using our models, we gave them lessons on an island – land surrounded by water- and lake- area of water surrounded by land.


The children were shown how to fill up a pitcher with water and pour it into the model to increase their understanding of these concepts. We also discussed their own experiences on islands and different lakes they had visited.


As an extension of this work, some children chose to color pages showing island and lake.