So to try to bring myself back into this, I am organizing some thoughts on our own experiences in light of AMI Montessori training and observations in various Montessori schools on this topic.
Previous Montessori Trails on Astronomy:
- Montessori Astronomy
- Current Interests: Astronomy
- Montessori and Foundations of Scientific Understanding - Astronomy
- Signs and Seasons
- Magic School Bus Astronomy Science Kit
- Journey to the Stars from NASA
- Kids Discover Magazines on astronomy topics
- First Discovery Books: Universe (those books with clear pages that change the picture as you turn them)
- Explore the Stars! The Star Finder
- Various websites and other online resources as opportunities arise - very minor basis
- Other books and videos found at the library or book sales
Montessori Experiences, Presentations, Materials Specific to Astronomy:
- God With No Hands (First Great Lesson for the elementary age)
- Geography (elementary): Sun and Earth chapter
Various Montessori studies that led to astronomy - but were not specifically astronomy at the out-set:
- History studies (ancient history ---> worship of gods ---> constellations and planet names ---> clocks and calendars (through history and names of days, months) ---> ASTRONOMY
- Mathematics - history of math, use of math
- Geometry - shapes, patterns, degrees, circles, angles
- Language - basic language skills
- Geography - land/water forms, formation of our own planet, form and matter
- Almost all my observations in schools on astronomy have been contrived - the children may have learned something, but in no different manner than they would have learned it at another school - and the information didn't stick with them any better than if they'd learned it elsewhere.
- The Montessori primary level astronomy options available also seem contrived or more appropriate for lower elementary, or just plain fluffy. There are some REALLY great activities in there! But I find those ones more appropriate for the elementary age. Why? Because primary children are very concrete - and need to focus on what they can actually experience: seeing the stars, perhaps some of the very obvious constellations, phases of the moon, beautiful sunrises/sets --- but mostly focusing on the weather patterns and outer layers of our own planet. Study home first - move into outer space in the imaginative "big picture" elementary years.
- I am trying to create something that fits in with what is already available. That is likely my biggest mistake. I need to focus on the keys - get it pulled together - and let individual families decide how/if they would like to utilize other resources.
- ALL OTHER SOLIDLY scientific and age-appropriate materials introduce astronomy in upper elementary or middle school (the depth of astronomy - you can certainly get into phases of the moon and the patterns of the sun in earlier ages). Not that we Montessorians follow non-Montessori scope and sequences very closely (since most of them are not based on careful observation). But there is something here.... When Dr. Nebel, who is more Montessori-like than he knows, doesn't get into astronomy with the children until volume 3 for grades 6-8 --- well, I start taking notice.
- And then there are local educational requirements - which, again, Montessori tends to be far ahead of, but even pulling down their requirements 3-4 grades (before Common Core), brings astronomy barely into the beginning of upper elementary.
- consider the "keys" to modern life understanding of astronomy, along with historical development from what was observable through to what is inferred. What is key so that a homeschool family can hone in on the necessary pieces - and leave room for exploration, interest, follow-up (or leaving out the extras for the sake of time/space and FOCUS)
- primary level: focus on only what is observable - experience-able - by the young child
- lower elementary: take what we have in the albums and provide specific follow-ups for the most clear connections into astronomy, along with tips for the child whose interest entirely goes there.
- upper elementary: move into Montessori-style presentations that cover the typical local educational requirements for astronomy through middle school