This week we spent some time learning about trees.


Here a child sees a slice of a tree.  He can see the lines that equal the years it was alive.

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Some children engaged in an art project about trees.

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Some older children, especially the Kindergartners, complete the three part cards and even may finish a parts of a tree book.



Process & Product: Math, Magnets and More

At our school the children engage in many “works” that do not produce a product.  The Montessori philosophy is one of process over product.  Most of what we do does not go home in a backpack but does go home in other ways.  Children at this age learn through experience.  They absorb so much throughout the day while working and socializing with others.  We call our activities “work” and each one is thoroughly thought out before it is presented to the children.  As the children grow older, they begin to gain control over fine motor skills (with the help of interaction with many of our “works”) and may begin to bring home more “product.”

Here are some examples of non-product work:


Learning the decimal system (unit, ten, hundred and thousand) by playing the “Bring Me” game.


In this game the teacher asks the child (based on their abilities) to “bring me” a specific number using the golden beads.  Depending on the student, this may sound like: “bring me five units,” or “bring me forty two,” or “bring me three hundreds, seven tens and six units.”  The children carry their trays over to the shelf (the “bank”) and collect the corresponding number of beads then returns to the teacher.  They are often seen helping each other.  The teacher will then count the beads out loud to reinforce the amount that the child brought back.  This can also be played when the child is ready for “Bring Me” with the symbol or numbers.


Once the children have worked on learning the values of the golden beads and understand the symbol, they are able to work on addition as a group game.


This child works with the “Snake Game.”  Here she learns base ten with the golden beads.  She is understanding the ten addition tables.


She starts counting the beads and stops at ten.  She then removes what she can, marks where she left off and replaces these beads with a ten bar creating a long, golden snake.


This Kindergartner practices abstracting addition with the “Addition Blind Chart.”  He uses folded slips that contain written addition combinations and can find the answer by running his finger down from the top and over from the left side.  Where they meet is the sum.  Sometimes this can create a product if the child chooses to write down the equations.


Here is a child engaging in our magnetic/non-magnetic work this week.


This magnet work pulls or pushes this tiny car.


This magnet work uses iron filings and sand.


Learning to tie using the bow frame.


Cutting the washed apples from last week.


Pouring into a pan.


Making applesauce for snack.


This child has gone through a process of getting out the work, putting on an apron, washing hands and returning.  He is engaged in our food prep work of making a caprese salad on a toothpick.  He has just turned three and can do these things by himself now.


He then gets to eat the yummy treat.


This child uses a sensorial work, Color Box 3, to enhance her visual skills by grading from light to dark in a single shade.

This is only a very small sample of what happens every day at AACH.  There is so much happening and most of it does not result in a product to send home in a backpack at the end of the week.

Solids- an exploration

This week we explored solids. We felt solids that were rigid, elastic and plastic. Plastic is the state where one can change the solid to a new form and it will retain that form.  Play doh and modeling clay are solids which are “plastic.”

We changed a liquid to a solid by pouring lemonade into an ice tray and freezing it to make popsicles. This was a tasty experiment!


We also explored solids and found that solids can be the same shape and size but have different weights. We used a balance scale and compared a marble, a ball bearing and a pom pom.


Thanks again to Meg Murphy Fedorowicz, a Montessori teacher who wrote Nurturing the Young Scientist: Experiences in Physics for Children.


First Week of School!


It was a fun first full week of school!

The returning children went back to work right away! It is lovely to see them rediscovering old works such as mopping, cloth washing, washing a baby and doing addition and subtraction with the stamp game and small bead frame.  The new children learned many new things!  They learned some rules in the classroom (Grace and Courtesy) such as how to walk inside, how to ask someone to move, how to carry a tray, how to walk around someone’s work and how to ask for help from a teacher or older student.  The new children also had lessons in self-care such as how to wash hands, how to get a drink and how to cover your mouth (with your elbow) when you sneeze or cough.


Here is a child washing her hands at a table.  This week she also learned how to wash her hands independently in the bathroom.


These girls like to clean the tables.  It is such fun to use the squirt bottle!



Hammering was a fun addition (golf tees and clay).


This child learned to use the cylinder blocks which teach dimension.


Watermelon cutting was fun and yummy!  This child used a dull knife to chop up the watermelon pieces.  It is a multi-step activity involving:  Carrying the tray to a table, putting on an apron, washing hands, using the tongs to put the watermelon on the cutting board, cutting, moving the pieces to a plate, eating, throwing away the plate, putting the tray on the shelf, pushing the chair in, taking off apron and washing hands again.  Many steps to remember!


A returning child enjoyed sewing a straight stitch on burlap.  For the new children we have bead stringing as well as sewing on a piece of vinyl.  They progress to this type of work once their fine motor skills have grown.


We talked about living things (a hamster) and non-living things (a table.) We sorted picture cards into living and non-living categories. We labeled the room with labels which read “living” and “non-living.”  Three afternoon children were inspired to make their own books that listed living and non-living things they found in the room!


We went on a “dig!”  Children dig and then dust off dirt to discover a fossil, artifact or rock/mineral.


The children seem very accepting of our transition to teaching cursive letters.  Some have written words with one of our three beautiful new cursive moveable alphabets and others have enjoyed writing the letters on the large chalkboard which is now lowered to their height.


Taking the “chalk for a walk” involves holding the chalk sideways and using the whole arm.  This prepares the arm and hand for writing.  Dr. Montessori was known to talk about how the muscle memory digs the deepest groove.  More on cursive in upcoming posts.


A child has traced the “t” and can now practice on the chalkboard.  The next work for this Kindergartner is to practice on a tabletop blank chalkboard then a lined chalkboard before moving to paper.  Writing this way becomes finer as the child gains more control.  From the whole arm (at the chalkboard) to the elbow down (table top chalkboard) to the wrist and fingers (paper).

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The Kindergartners this year are taking an active role in preparing our room for lunch. We are now using placemats along with our dishes, silverware and drinking glasses.  They are so excited when it is time for them to set the tables.  In one week they have begun to take charge of this and will be independent soon.

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We were able to play outside every day except one due to pouring rain.  We planted pansies!

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We ordered ice cream!

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We dug in the sandbox and so much more!

Also in the afternoon:

In Physical Science we explored three states of matter: solids, liquids and gasses. We read an excellent book entitled “What Is the World Made Of?  All About Solids, Liquids, and Gases”  by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfled.  We turned a liquid into a solid by making lemonade popsicles and observed (from a safe distance) a whistling tea kettle boil a liquid and turn it into a gas. When we teach science we strive to be inquiry based rather than didactic. When we observed that the cooled tea kettle no longer contained any water, instead of telling the children “the water turned from a liquid state to steam”  we asked them where they thought the water went.  It was great to hear their thoughts. “In the stove.” “In the steam.”  We also did an experiment inspired by the book where we opened a bottle of perfume on one side of the room and noticed how long it took for the smell to travel to the other side of the room.


Each year we order caterpillars so the children can watch them transform into butterflies.


They come in a container with food already on the bottom.  Not exactly natural but somehow it works.


They spend the next few days eating… and pooping.  The children watch them get bigger each day.


Then, they form into chrysalides.  They attach to the top of the jar where there is a thin piece of paper.  We take this out and pin it to the inside of a habitat.


During this process, we talk to the children about the lifecycle of the butterfly.


We also offer a fun art project.  Here they see the four phases and can make them with pasta and beans.


Then one morning when we came into school, two hatched!  We let the children discover this on their own.


At first the butterflies don’t move much.  They sit still then slowly start moving their wings.


It is fascinating to watch these creatures move and fly about when a week and a half ago they were tiny caterpillars!


Finally, we let them go!



Planets & Journey Through the Solar System


The children have had a great time learning about our solar system.  We have many hands-on models, books and activities.  We sing songs and alter our birthday song (“The Earth orbits the sun, the Earth orbits the sun, it takes 365 days, the Earth orbits the sun.”) to include the other planets to learn how long their orbits were around the sun.


Some children chose to make their own book to take home.


Some children used liquid starch to make a Jupiter with the 300 year old storm.


Some colored the planets with their moons on paper.


In Friday afternoon art, the children looked at the planets.


Using a coffee filter, markers and drops of water, the children create their own planets.




The children also took turns being different planets orbiting the sun.  Our dear friends Kathy and Cesar, astronomers from Venezuela, made these models for us two years ago when their daughter attended AACH.  At that time we stretched out across a grassy area to have an understanding of how far away the planets were from each other and also their size.  We are so fortunate to hear of a project here in Ann Arbor this weekend.  This will stretch several miles so if you go, be prepared to travel the distance.  This will be an amazing exhibit.  Information is below:

Journey Through The Solar System!

Bring your bike, scooter or walking shoes and traverse the solar system from the Sun to Neptune! This exhibit features a model of the solar system, scaled to size and distance, along with awesome images and information at each station.

The amazing voyage begins at Mitchell Field and stops near Dixboro Dam, but does not end. A cosmic perspective will be gained along the way and further exploration is inevitable. This is a great opportunity to truly appreciate and understand the incredible distances of our tiny corner of the Universe. Exhibit is open at Gallup Park from 9:00am to 7:00pm, May 31 – June 1. Rain dates are June 7-8.

Continue the journey: Check out the Planetarium page on the website of the U-M Museum of Natural History for solar system-related programming coming in June!


Map Gallup Park, 3000 Fuller Road, Ann Arbor, United States

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Earth Day- making paper, worms, alternative energy

For Earth Day we focused on many topics related to celebrating the Earth and keeping our planet healthy.


We talked about Solar Energy!  Thanks to Brian for bringing in a solar panel and telling us how it works.  The children all tried to pick it up and realized how heavy it was.  Brian inspired us to look for solar panels in our community and report back to him.  (Thanks Brian for coming in!)


We ordered a small solar panel to take outside and show how it creates energy to make something work.  In this case it was a small fan.  See below for a movie clip.  We used this on the one sunny day last week.  (We also have tiny solar cars but have been unable to use at this point due to the lack of sun.)

Mini Solar Panel


We made bracelets out of solar beads.  The children chose regular pony beads and the white solar beads.  When we took them outside, they changed colors!  BEFORE is above and AFTER is below.


We talked about wind energy one afternoon.  The children made pinwheels and watched them turn with the wind.


The children made paper in class for several days.  First rip paper scraps into small pieces.


Put in a blender with a small amount of water.


Pour the pulp through a metal screen into a can.


Place another metal screen on top and press down with a sponge.


Lift up to reveal the paper.


It needs to dry on the drying rack so we placed on small paper plates.  (We re-used these!)




The children have been interested in worms lately.  We talked about how they are good for the soil and for growing plants.


Some children wanted to make parts of a worm book to take home.


The children have been spending a lot of time digging up worms on the playground and relocating them to the garden.


Happy Earth Day!





We have been studying dinosaurs!  There are SO many dinosaurs, it is unbelievable!  Thankfully, we have many 3, 4 and 5 year olds experts in the classroom to help us.  Some children enjoy looking at our big chart of dinos and match up little models of dinosaurs to the pictures.


Some children like to match up the dinosaur cards.


We have matched up various dinosaur skeletons.


We also made our own fossils!  Pretend paleontologists!
We used Model Magic and pressed in a mini dino skeleton.


Take the model out and let it air dry.  It takes a few days.


We then used brown paint to make it more realistic.


We are fortunate to have access to some REAL fossils!

First up was dinosaur poop!


This rock was said to have been in a dinosaur stomach to help it digest food.


And here is part of an eggshell.


Finally, our music teacher led the children in a song about dinos:


The children love to learn about volcanoes!  We begin our study with a big model, talk about what a volcano is, where they can be found and what happens when one erupts.  Although we cannot provide a hands-on experience with a real volcano, this one is very exciting to watch.  The children get a basic idea.


We put baking soda and vinegar mixed with a little dish soap and red food coloring inside the tube.


We watch it erupt!


We study different volcanoes and match the picture cards.  Some children know facts about the various volcanoes.  Many children also engage in making books about the various parts of a volcano.


This year we bought a mold so the children could make their own volcanoes to take home.


They also decided to make one that they can take to a table and erupt at school whenever they want!


It has been really fun learning about volcanoes!


Visit our Facebook page to see afternoon Volcano inspired art work!


Vertebrate Review and a Visit from Critter Guy

After spending the Fall studying the five types of vertebrates, we like to review what we have learned.


This is a very fun work!  The children categorize the animals in the basket under the proper categories.  They have fun working

together to make sure there are five animals in each category.


Reptiles and mammals are the tricky ones!  A fish almost always looks like another fish and birds look similar too.


We then schedule a visit from our friend Paul, the Critter Guy!

He brings as many animals as he can!  This year, we didn’t have birds or a fish but three other categories were well represented!

We began with Woody, the tree frog!


A snake is always a hit!  We have had several different ones over the years.


This reptile was a new visitor for us.  He was REALLY slow!  He was a Fat Tail Gecko!


The Blue-Tongued Skink is always fun and entertaining!  He really does have a blue tongue!


Mammals!  We seem to enjoy the fellow mammals the most.  First up was a mouse!

She left many “presents!”  The children thought this was really funny!


Then, our chinchilla friend.  The softest animal ever!

But the BIG hit this year was a European Hare.  This guy is so cute and cuddly!

He likes to be held and rocked like a baby!


The children were gentle with all of the animals but especially this guy!


Almost everyone held and rocked him.


We had so much fun with the Critter Guy!
Thanks again to Paul for coming!  We will see you next year!