I have the current edition as of December 2013: 2nd printing, published in 2008/9
|I own the pdf version;|
purchased for my own use
Short story: I cannot highly recommend this resource. I can recommend it with much trepidation and with several caveats - as a potentially useful resource for an older discerning student (adolescence and above).
This resource is not appropriate for elementary Montessori students except those who are keenly interested in the subject matter at hand.
If you have a focus on Biblical-based Creation, this is NOT the resource for you at all. It is clearly an evolution resource, with no qualms about pointing out the outdated beliefs of Creationism. There is simply too much modification work to be done, to really be of value (unless you receive a copy for free - even then, the modification work is heavy). Could you gain some tidbits? Probably; not worth spending the money for the tidbits though.
Short-short story: I find this book at odds with the Montessori approach to scientific classification at the primary and elementary ages.
The author presents a great lay-out and makes an earnest attempt to "update" the Montessori scientific classification materials. There are so many examples of snubbing what has been previously given to the children that it leaves a bad taste about the rest of her words, accurate words or otherwise - it leaves me questioning her rather strong bias. If the information could be presented without the strong emphasis on anything but the information in this book being "outdated", implying that children have been harmed in the process of their past learning - and without the accompanying emphasis that "we don't have a final system in place but we have to teach the children something so we're going to give them something that is based on what they can't observe and that is changing very quickly in the scientific world, so we'll go with this one which will ALSO be outdated very soon" - well, that just doesn't sit well with Montessori - so if she could leave out the very strong statements to these affects, I could work with the remaining information much more easily. Except that elementary need to work with what they can observe. Molecular levels need to be saved for strong interest and middle/high school.
Thus this resource is simply a mis-match of content and age, if the bias is left out.
There are a few places where she lists old names with new names, which is oh-so-helpful for those of us genuinely trying to "update"; I think this information can likely be found elsewhere though.
From chapter 1 - some quotes - italics and parentheses are mine:
Classifications with fewer than five kingdoms belong in the history of science, not in current studies.(ignoring that for the young children first presented with these concepts in a Montessori setting, 5 Kingdoms is getting too detailed - instead we focus on "plants and animals" and slowly build from there as the child is ready to explore how Kingdom Vegetalia has been replaced with 4 other, more accurate Kingdoms --- we need to leave children room to explore, pointing them in the right direction and providing the materials - by giving them too much, too soon, we risk (and very likely are guilty of!) filling them with information rather than exploring with them. Best to start with plants and animals, add in fungi upon interest (typically before 1st grade), then the other two in middle to upper elementary)
What changes have recently been made in the kingdoms and phyla?
Changes are part of classification. They reflect the dynamic nature of science. Students need to learn terms that they will encounter in current encyclopedias and juvenile literature, not obscure or obsolete labels. Here are some suggestions for changes in lessons on classification. At the same time, older publications may have useful information about organisms, and it helps to know something about previous identities of organisms.(So do the children need to know the obscure and obsolete labels or not? The auther is not clear.)
For introductory study, it will be better for them to define plants as organisms that are adapted to life on land.(yet many children have direct experience with aquatic 'plants' (algae are not plants, they are protists) --- fish tanks... If she is striving for greater accuracy in teaching an evolutionary hypothesis (yes, she says the arrangement taught is only an hypothesis), and is upset about the present/past Montessori experience of scientific classification, then let's keep these definitions accurate too!)
This part, I am ok with:
Should we use kingdoms to classify life?
Kingdoms classify whole organisms. Children who are able to perceive the characteristics of whole organisms, but not yet able to think abstractly about cells and molecules are likely to be most engaged when they are working with kingdoms. They can learn that there are three “true” kingdoms (fungi, animals, and plants), and two “kingdoms” that we group together for convenience (prokaryotes and protists).(we are saying here that we can indeed start with what children can observe (fungi, animals, plants) --- and move into the prokaryotes and protists which are less easily observed (these are not going to be a typical lower elementary study - and almost never a primary study)).
The straight information on observable characteristics is great. The activities contained in the book that could be perfect for elementary and middle school students are readily found in other resources on the same topic. Nice to have in one place? Yes.
In the end, the biggest factors for me relate to the BIG picture being presented:
- too hypothetical - while I agree that we need to teach children what we have available even if the information is changing as new discoveries are made ---- there is TOO much hypothesis here that is CONSTANTLY changing - links between the different forms of life
- the children can't "see" it - boh because of the hypothetical nature and the reality that the children can't go back in the past - when they look at a set of organisms, Kingdoms of Life Connected will lead to children believing that they can't trust their own sense of observation, but instead must be fed information by someone else before they can do any real work with classification. Rather the Montessori way is to provide "keys" and encourage the children to explore, to come to their own conclusions, to discuss and share and perhaps change their conclusions - but ultimately learning to trust in their own powers of observation and intuition as well as collaboration with others. I see the "direct teaching" happening far more heavily on the front-end here, in contrast to the Montessori way of exploration first.
A more useful reference for biological studies that does not get into creation OR evolution (minus the potential of the last chapter), but simply what children can observe with their own eyes:
The World of Biology by John Hudson Tiner
(I have neither read, reviewed nor utilized any of his other books)
Good basic information on each kingdom - easily understandable. Combine with some good living books and videos and real life experiences.