Montessori Elementary Homeschool Blog - with documentation of our infant Montessori, toddler Montessori, and primary Montessori experiences; as well as preparation for the upcoming adolescent Montessori homeschool years.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Elementary Biology - Scientific Classification

Within the AMI elementary biology album, there are two levels of classification:
  • simple classification - primarily for the lower elementary student as plants and animals are being explored; simple classification based on observable characteristics - essentially "practice sorting" while being able to explain one's choices
  • scientific classification - primarily for the upper elementary student. The "traditional Montessori" system utilizes a dichotomous system for Kingdom Vegetalia and a not-so-dichotomous for Kingdom Animalia.

The simple classification is truly simple - it is organizing specimens that are on hand or through photos. No extra or particular materials necessary. 

The scientific classification though... not so easy. And that is where Legoboy is heading in less than a very few number of days. I have intended to get this material prepped at various times over the course of the last 4 years, but it just hasn't happened. So here we are. 

And oh my. What a chore! 

What troubles I am causing for myself: 
  • studying up on others' takes on the Montessori approach, including a prevalent science author with materials available on several Montessori websites. I purchased some of the material to get a feel for it. It doesn't sit well with me - particularly the sections that say, "We'll use those old outdated ways for now until the scientists get all the new naming structures in place." It is all just very complicated. And if you're looking at anything from a faith-based perspective? Well, her intention straight-out in the introduction to the book I own is to get away from humans as stewards of the earth - we are simply part of the earth (she's puts the words "an important part" in parentheses perhaps to downplay the anti-stewardship statement she'd just made?). Sorry - the whole attitude rubs me entirely wrong. 
  • studying up on more recent scientific classification methods, without the Montessori component. Yep, up in the air. At least the above-mentioned author is right on that one. So whatever I create now to "match" will be in-progress anyway, needing updates sooner and often. 
  • There are so many varieties of classification. 
  • the fact is that evolutionary-based classifications, which can only be based on current hypothesis (which change as the times change) are simply not appropriate to provide to young children. We want to give them the unchanging facts first - then with that solid foundation we can build upwards into the unknown or unclear areas. 
  • And some kids won't care - so let's give them the foundation they need for a solid education and let them be, without over-complicating the matter. 
  • Convincing myself that the Montessori materials for scientific classification are outdated - is spinning me around in circles. The only clear path is to accept the materials as they are, present these to the children.....
  • and leave "The Tree of Life" and other materials for adolescence, where they belong; NOT in elementary.

With that load off my shoulders, I can move forward, create the materials I received in training, enjoy my son's childhood instead of nitpicking all of these details - and if it works for him, we'll pick up further biological studies down the road. 

So our material might still include phylum for the plants - and that may be outdated for now (the above author states they might come back but with a different name) - but this system is based on observable characteristics that an elementary child can handle. 

Like utilizing the mind for foreign languages, this work will prep the children for further classification down the road - it is not the only way to organize the world - it is ONE way. And it is one way that works for the elementary child. 

UPDATE 10/15/2013: Progress is being made! I hope to have a download available for purchase at Garden of Francis and Keys of the Universe very soon. Keys of the Universe discussion community participants will access it for free ;)


  1. I feel your pain. The harder I looked at this material the more inclined I felt to just organize it into plants or animals; air, water or land and call it a day. It felt like the Bible had it right the first time and everything else feels like a stretch to accommodate evolution. They keep changing it to reaccommodate.

    At any rate, it seems like I am going to focus on plants vs. animals and then approach the study of the breakdown within those categories according to biome and fundamental needs.

    1. As usual, you hit the nail on the head. I like the original Montessori classification material (even if I'm pulling my hair out to get it just right) because it is based on the observable --- it is based on the classification system of a Christian scientist.

      What is slowing me down a bit on it is that I am first setting it up according to the "official" Montessori material as it stands (the old classification system), but then I am considering modifying just the portions that have legitimately changed over time: fungi, bacteria ---- a recent biology book (written by a creationist, but doesn't really discuss creationism OR evolution which is SO NICE) really helped me see what I could do with this material.

      For your sake, good thing the material I am making is a typical "upper" elementary work ;) It'll be ready in time for your boys, I promise!