This week, we talked with DVMS Lower Elementary North guide Jodi about all the goings on in our very busy Lower Elementary program. We captured the two girls above in the midst of a science experiment, which Jodi tells us is a big part of Lower North lately.
“They are trying to research which substance cools faster, soil or water,” Jodi explained. They put dishes of water and soil under a lamp for 15 minutes, turn off the lamp, and measure the rates of temperature decline.
“This is just one aspect,” Jodi continued, “but a lot of our science experiments stem from our geography and our Great Lesson in geography. We start with the big picture and work our way all the way into earth and water and all those fine, nitty-gritty things.”
“They absolutely love science experiments,” said Jodi of the buzz of activity surrounding science recently. “We are trying to figure out how to make it more enjoyable for everyone, including the guides,” Jodi joked. “It’s a work in progress, but science experiments are out every single day and we have children in line waiting to get to them. We have a set of guided experiments that allow them to have all of the ingredients in one basket. They have to read the card and follow the instructions and it will ask them a question to get their brains thinking about the scientific method.”
“This is a cool little thing that the kids are enjoying,” said Jodi about the work being done above to learn the Commutative Law. “All of us adults may not have ever been given the term or have been taught exactly the same way, but we all know that 5 taken 7 times is the same as 7 times 5. These children are learning that if they have a question, if they flip the numbers it’s still going to produce the same answer.”
They are using the Montessori Bead Bars to explore and learn the concept.
“If it was 5 taken 7 times they would take a bar that has 5 beads on it, they would take 7 of those, and then take a 7-bead bar 5 times. We have been telling them it is the exact same answer, however, when you actually put this down on graph paper it does not take up the same space — create the same shape.”
All kinds of Montessori math materials have been in heavy demand in Lower North. You will have seen Casa children working with the Montessori Square Chains in the Casa updates lately. The Lower Elementary children above are using Montessori Cube Chains.
“They are working with the 7-cube chain and the 8-cube chain,” said Jodi. “It’s basically skip counting. You count the number of beads and at the end of each bar put down the number you came up with, so at the end of the first bar on the 8-cube chain you would put 8, then 16, 24, and so on. It’s a nice, fun way to learn multiplication facts without being drilled. The block of beads is the cube at the very end. It represents the cubed form of a number — 8-cubed. At the end of a chain they find out what 8-cubed or 7-cubed would be. When they start working with squaring and cubes as math concepts at some point, they will remember, hopefully, working with the 8-Cube Chain, ‘and my answer was…'”
The Montessori Bead Frames have also seen a resurgence in recent weeks.
“It’s basically an abacus,” said Jodi. “There has been an explosion of Bead Frame work in our environment, which is nice. It was introduced to some year ones, which spurred on the year threes. There are two different kinds of Bead Frames: a small one that only goes to a thousand, and the large Bead Frame that goes to a million. The small Bead Frame being out with the first years spurred the third years into, once again, taking out the large Bead Frame. You can do addition; you can do multiplication; you can do subtraction with these Bead Frames. They love it. We’ve been giving them these crazy-long questions that are extremely challenging, with all these different place values, and they’re loving the challenge.”
You’ll notice that a Bead Frame looks like an abacus, except it has different coloured beads on each bar. Jodi explained how this creates consistency across materials at all of the different levels of Montessori education.
“Every Montessori material, starting with the Stamp Game and all the way up to things like the Chequerboard and division with the Racks and Tubes, each place value is given a colour. The units are green, the tens are blue, hundreds are red. Each unit of the next category starts over again at green.”
The approaching holiday season has also opened up opportunities to do some craft work. The actual products are a secret, sorry, but Jodi explained the value and process of making crafts in a Montessori environment.
“Working with sewing is great for fine motor skills, it’s a lot of different things — Carol has been introducing these beautiful stars. You have a lot of different minds in the class. Some are very mathematical and some of the fine motor details that come up in making crafts, and the precision in tracing and cutting what they’ve traced, you have students who are great in certain areas who you think would be great at doing crafts yet they struggle a little bit. It gives them the chance to develop some skills that are not necessarily readily available.”
As you can see below, Lower North has also been busy baking in preparation for the bake sale you all enjoyed after school today.
“This baking is one of the coolest things that has been going on lately,” said Jodi. “Two girls have been researching literacy rates around the world and they’ve been graphing it. They found out that the literacy rates in Madagascar are quite significantly lower than anywhere else in the world. They’ve taken it upon themselves to do a bake sale to help improve the literacy rates in Madagascar. We don’t know where the money is going yet, but that is something we are researching. As a class, we decided we would help by baking to help them raise money in their efforts.”
Jodi also offered a few words on how the first term has gone for her and Carol since taking over as the busy, full time guides in Lower North.
“There’s the amazing days where Carol and I are thrilled with the amount of work and the eagerness to learn. There’s two of us, fully trained, and sometimes we can’t even keep up to the amount that the children are producing and wanting to produce. It’s been great working with Carol. She is an amazing guide and a great role model, and very enthusiastic and positive. It’s been a great term”