The Solar System

by Seemi on January 30, 2015

in Cultural

Today’s guest post is by Disha Patel of Lotus Montessori Extensions.  She has some fun pictures of the variety of ways in which they explore planets in her class.

Click the images below to see some of the activities we do here at Trillium when learning about Space in the following posts:


by Disha Patel

“Cosmic Education is that form of relating the child to the universe and to humanity that will enable him to realize in himself all the developmental potential that is his own particular birthright”

One of my favorite lessons to give is the “Exploration of the Planets”.  Children learn the names of the planets and explore them in a variety of hands on ways.

 solar system matchingObject – Picture Matching


solar system workUsing the Planet Mat to learn the order of the planets

Solar system mat

A closer look at the Planet Mat (Source: Lotus Montessori Extensions)


Solar system extension workColor cut and glue the planets in order, and draw the orbit lines


Solar system gluing A simpler version of gluing the planets in order


solar system model work

Make the solar system with clay

Solar system models


solar system sewing

Solar system sewing work


solar system sewing 3


solar system sewing 4

Solar system on a stick!


Books about space

Books about space


solar system researchPlanet Research

Additional Resources

Song to teach the names of the plants: We are the Planets and this is our Song.

Planets cut-out worksheet from Best Coloring Pages for Kids

The fabric Planet Mat is available at Lotus Montessori Extensions

Follow Seemi @ Trillium Montessori’s board Unit: Astronomy on Pinterest.



About Disha Patel



  Disha Patel has been teaching in a Public Montessori School for years. She holds a MACTE accredited Early Childhood Montessori Certificate from the Center of Guided Montessori Studies and is completing her Master’s degree in Montessori Education from Plymouth State University. Prior to becoming a Montessori teacher, Disha Patel was an ESE teacher for years. She has a lot of experience working with special needs children and loves to explore innovative ways to help her students. Disha is also the Founder and Writer at Lotus Montessori Extensions. Lotus Montessori Extensions offers products to complement, support, and enhance the way children learn Montessori lessons. We make beautiful Montessori mats to foster independence. These mats are proven to minimize errors for the students. For more information on the Lotus Montessori Extensions, please visit

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By Pauline Meert

A few months ago, I read an article on sharing that lead to a lot of discussions and thinking.  The article “Some Parenting Rules are Meant to be Broken” by Beth W. from Very Bloggy over on discusses her experience with “sharing”.

Through examples of two experiences, one in a park where a child expects to get someone else’s toy because he wants it and one where she and her child are in a common play area and she overhears a mom complaining that she is not forcing her child to share the toy he is playing with, Beth illustrates her view that sharing should not be forced. The comments illustrate a wide range of points of view, from people agreeing, to others arguing that children must be forced to share and others screaming for a good spanking.


How Developmentaly Appropriate is Sharing by Pauline Meert for Trillium Montessori

 Sharing is a very interesting topic. As adults we want children to be generous, self-sacrificing, and aware of other people’s needs and desires. These are very adult virtues or concepts and take time and practice to learn. Young children are not born with the innate ability to know what others want or need or to be selfless. They are still figuring these things out for themselves!

Planes of Development

Maria Montessori found that children develop through four primary planes of development- ages 0-6, 6-12, 12-18, and 18-24. Each plane of develop has a specific point and purpose.

To learn more about the planes of development, check out these resources by Montessori Training and Merry Montessori.

 For our purpose, we will focus on the 0-6 plane of development where parents and teachers most often spend a lot of time focusing on sharing. This is the time of the absorbent mind. It is when a child learns about himself and his environment through active interactions.

 The 0-6 plane is separated into two sections, the unconscious (0-3 years of age) and the conscious (3-6 years of age) stages. The unconscious stage is solely focused on the construction of self (learning who they are in relations to their environment). Children in this stage are not yet able to take into account another person’s actions/choices/desires. They are naturally very selfish but in the right way (in a matter of constructing themselves, unlike us adults who act selfishly out of self-interest).

The concept of sharing can seem very alien to children under the age of three. Now as a child gets older, it becomes more appropriate to encourage sharing (though it should still stem from an intrinsic desire to care for others and not be forced). The 3-6 children in my classroom often surprise me and blow my mind with their ability to share with others and care for each other.

How to Teach Sharing

So what do we do about it?

Set an Example

Living your life in an atmosphere of sharing and selflessness is a great way to start. As the child absorbs from his environment, he or she is exposed to and thus absorbs these values. The values will of course not be evident but we must trust in the child and the absorbent mind! Values can also be taught and practiced. In Montessori classrooms we teach Grace and Courtesy lessons such as how to wait your turn, how to ask for a lesson, how to serve a snack to others, and many more. Through these lessons children learn to use their freedom and make choices within a community.

Build Community

When children have choices and the ability to control their actions and are taught grace and courtesy, they start to act in a more communal and loving way. This gives them a safe base. If we adults are the ones in charge of all this (deciding who gets what, when, where, for how long, when it’s time to share, etc…) children feel a loss of control and “sharing becomes an extrinsic concept. What we really want is for children to see others who are alone or without a toy and be able to share out of intrinsic love and concern. we want sharing to happen naturally and lovingly. If it is forced, extrinsic, and adult controlled, it is far less likely to happen this way.


Another topic discussed in the article is that of “hoarding”. Hoarding can sometimes stem from being constantly forced to share– having an adult establish how long you can play with your things, who gets what, and taking things away at their discretion. This can make the child feel that he cannot have thing and will thus try to “hoard” them away from others. This is not good, and not balanced. When a child knows that he can work with a  material for as long as he wants, he feels safe and secure in his work and concentration. For example, I have seen children come into the classroom who would “hoard”. They would stay with a  work not out of concentration but out of selfishness and not wanting others to have it. This, I think, comes from not having the ability to be in charge of how they share or how long they spend with something. Through grace and courtesy (other children asking for their turn or asking to being notified when he is done) and more time in the classroom where they can work with something for as long as they want, their hoarding behavior starts to disappear. Donna Goertz has a great book filled with stories like this- Children Who Are Not Yet Peaceful

 When re-reading a few of the comments below the article where people are adamant that “sharing” has to be forced/imposed, one can clearly see that there is a lack of understanding of the stages of development a child goes through. There is a better way. That way is to follow a child’s growth and development within freedom, independence, discipline, ground rules/boundaries, modeling through grace and courtesy lessons, and choices. What I continue to find most groundbreaking about what Maria Montessori did is that she looked to the child first. Everything she implemented (the materials, the environment, the way the teacher acts, the method) came from taking the time to observe the child and we must do the same!


 About Pauline Meert


Pauline Meert is the lucky teacher to twenty wonderful children in a beautiful Montessori classroom. She enjoys making new materials and discussing Montessori with strangers. She can be found at
For Little Ones:  Pauline’s Etsy store where you can find her handmade books
Inspire Montessori: A Montessori resource for parents and teachers
Montessori Geek: Pauline’s Blog
Pauline’s Pinterest Boards


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Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT) is a wonderful marketplace where teachers post printable materials they have created.  It covers all age ranges from preschool to high school, and beyond.  You can find amazing, high quality resources made by talented teachers who have tested their materials in their classrooms.

I am celebrating two years as a seller on TpT this month, as well as two years on my blog.  It’s been a wonderful couple of years and I have learned a LOT!  I’ve connected with many of you, my dear, kind, and talented readers.  You’ve helped me stick to my blog even when I was feeling overwhelmed and wanting to quit.  You’ve supported me by purchasing my printables.. so much so that in addition to my blog and TpT anniversary, this week I am also celebrating an official TpT earnings milestone!

Trillium Montessori 2nd blogiversary blowout

In honor of all these milestones, I’m putting my entire TpT store on sale for 50% off (except bundles) until 11:59pm EST on Saturday, January 17th.

In the spirit of celebration, I’d also like to introduce you to a few other Montessori stores on TpT.

First up is Jessica Renee.  I was impressed with the professional look of Jessica’s store and I asked her to write a short post for us. She would like to give you a little introduction to the Montessori bead materials.

The Beauty of the Beads

by Jessica Renée

A new visitor to a Montessori classroom will likely notice many unusual and intriguing materials, laid out on wooden shelves, as if calling out to be touched. This is exactly what happened recently at my dual-track school where some classes follow the traditional school model, and other classes follow the Montessori model. We were blending classes to do some Christmas activities and the children from the traditional classes were visiting my Montessori room for the first time. It was interesting to see how many of them were drawn to the beads. They would wander over, touch them gently, comment to each other about how beautiful they are, and then come over to me to ask me what they were for. For this reason, I was inspired to write a brief introduction to these beautiful beads.

The Montessori Bead Stair (a.k.a. the Short Bead Stair or the Colored Bead Stair)

The Bead Stair consists of colored bead bars that concretely represent the numbers from 1-9. These bead bars with their characteristic colors are used to learn countless math concepts from basic counting, to skip counting, to addition, to multiplication, and even to the squaring and cubing of numbers.

Montessori Bead Stair Counting

The first step is to understand the quantities and the symbols for 1-9. Montessori children also learn the color that is associated with each number.

1 – red
2 – green
3 – pink
4 – yellow
5 – light blue
6 – purple
7 – white
8 – brown
9 – dark blue

In many classes, children also complete extension activities like my Bead Stair booklets.

 Montessori Bead Stair Booklet Extension by Jessica Renee


At first, children may color the beads the wrong color. This simply means that they have not yet mastered the complicated process involved in this work. To complete this work, the child must first count the beads in the booklet, keep that number in mind, find the bead bar with the same quantity of beads, remember the color of that bead bar, choose the matching pencil, and finally color the bead bar in their booklet. They will continue to work with these booklets until they reach mastery. Later, they will move on to learning the teen numbers (i.e. 11-19), skip counting with the chains, and doing linear addition with the Snake Game.

 The Golden Beads

 Decimal Layout with the Montessori Golden Beads

The Golden Beads are a key material for teaching the decimal system. It is through the Golden Beads that Montessori children come to understand place value and what it means for a number to consist of units, tens, hundreds, and thousands. Once the children have a solid understanding of quantity and are able to name and form quantities using the beads, they will learn to associate those quantities with their numerical symbols (e.g. 3235). This is often done using the wooden numeral cards and in some cases using extension activities like those in my Golden Bead Booklets.

 montessori golden bead sample large collage


 Addition with the Montessori Golden Beads

Because of their concrete nature, the Golden Beads are also used when introducing the concepts of addition, multiplication, subtraction, and division.

Jessica Renee



Jessica is a Montessori-trained teacher from Vancouver, British Columbia, where she currently teaches a combined Kindergarten and Grade 1 class, in a public school. In Vancouver, public Montessori programs are becoming increasingly popular with parents who want something different from the traditional school model. She also develops Montessori-inspired extension activities to use with her class and to share with others on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Montessori Stores on TpT

I’d also like to invite you to visit and follow the following stores on TpT that sell Montessori inspired materials.  If you click on the green star next to their name, you will get an email every time they upload something new into their stores.  Reviews also help the stores a lot, so please download their free items and leave them some positive feedback!

I’ve picked out one paid and one free product from each of these stores for you to take a look at.  If you hover over the image, you may see a “Pin it” button.  Click the button to pin the image to your pinterest boards.  Click a little BELOW the button to go to the product page where you can read more details.

 Green Tree Montessori

 Lisa Steele

Montessori Nature


Montessori Motivation

The Joyful Learner

 Carrots are Orange

Montessori Mac

 The Montessori Garden

 Montessori Rocks

 A Passion for Montessori

 I Believe in Montessori

Teacher Pia

 Are YOU interested in opening a TpT store?

Use this referral link to get started.

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By Cathie Perolman

Read more about Cathie’s process for practicing letter sounds here:

Are Sandpaper Letters Enough?

The Letter Race Game

Once a child has mastered some letters and is able to blend sounds into words he is ready for some “heavy duty” work with three letter short vowel words. As I visit schools and support interns and seasoned guides alike many are interested in the optimal combination of practice and variety to help children sustain their interest and achieve reading fluency. Over the course of my career I have put together the children’s favorite activities and organized them into a set of hardware drawers. Children in our class work through these activities. (In my class all short vowel work is printed onto yellow cardstock and we refer to these as the “Yellow Reading Drawers”.)
Practicing Short Vowels A Complete System


Each row of drawers practices phonetically regular three letter short vowel words focusing a single vowel. The bottom row practices single words with all the vowels mixed together and the last two drawers incorporate some early Puzzle Words and work on Short Sentences.
Just like with the Color Coded Sound Games Program, each of the activities exist for each vowel.
(Notice that the colors of the dots of the drawers are the same as the colors of the vowels in the Color Coded Sound Games.) Here are the activities in the drawers:


Building Words with the Movable Alphabet

Practicing Short Vowels Building Words

Children build pictures with the movable alphabet. Each set contains 8 pictures which seems a reasonable amount of work for children at this level. Children record their work in their recording booklet if that is the culture of your class.

Matching Objects to Words

Practicing Short Vowels Objects and Word labels

Children match labels to objects focusing on a single medial vowel.
Children record their work in their recording booklet if that is the culture of your class.


Matching Pictures with Words

Practicing Short Vowels Pictures and Labels

Children match labels to pictures forcing on a single medial vowel. Each set contains 8 pictures and words to match. Children record their work in their recording booklet if that is the culture of your class.

Matching 9 Words to a Big Card

Practicing Short Vowels Pictures and Words

Children match labels to a big card with 9 pictures focusing on a single medial vowel. They place the corresponding labels under the picture, Children record their work in their recording booklet if that is the culture of your


Reading a One Word Booklet

Practicing Short Vowels  One Word Booklets

Children read a One Word Booklet focusing on a single vowel. Children record their work in their recording booklet if that is the culture of your class.


Reading Word Family Cards

Practicing Short Vowels Word Families

Children read Word Family cards aloud. Children record their work in their recording booklet if that is the culture of your class.


Moving on to Sentences

Practicing Short Vowels Reading Sentences

Once the child has been introduced to their first few Puzzle Words, they are ready to Work with Short Sentences.

Children read short sentences and match them to the corresponding picture. Children record a small portion of their work in their recording booklet if that is the culture of your class.


Reading Short Sentence Booklets

Practicing Short Vowels Small Books

Children read short sentences corresponding to a picture. Children record a small portion of their work in their recording booklet if that is the culture of your class.

Use of the Recording Book

Practicing Short Vowels  Recording Book

We create recording booklets for our children. They record their work in the booklets. There is a page for each activity. Some children record every word and some record fewer. It depends on the needs of the child. The front cover of the booklet looks like the drawers and the child colors in the number according to the colored dot on the front of the drawer when they have completed a drawer. This is a system that children can and love to maintain. It helps them (and us) stay organized and creates a frame of reference for parents as well.  As the work is progressing and the child is coloring in the numbers for the drawers completed, the colors create a rainbow. Children find this both encouraging and motivating.

Practicing Short Vowels  Recording book Storage

If you’d like to recreate these materials for your class or homeschool, you can get your hands on all of Cathie’s printables.  She has put them together on a CD with a detailed instruction manual.  I think they’re fantastic and will save you a ton of time… specially if you’re just starting to put your language program together!  You can get more details and some free printables on  Or, email her at if you have questions!


About Cathie Perolman

Cathie Perolman

Cathie Perolman has been involved in Montessori education for over three decades. She has a BS in Early Childhood Education and a M.Ed in Elementary Education with a concentration in Reading. She has spent time working as a reading specialist as well as teaching students preschool through college.

She began her Montessori journey as a classroom assistant, and worked as a classroom directress, 3-6 team leader, teacher trainer and college professor.

Cathie is the author of Practical Special Needs For the Montessori Method: A Handbook for 3-6 Teachers and Homeschoolers and the creator of Hands on Phonics : a phonics based system of teaching reading to young children. She is a regular contributor to Tomorrow’s Child and Tomorrow’s Leadership magazines.

Cathie currently conducts workshops for teachers and administrators, works as a teacher trainer for various training centers across the country and as a school consultant. She currently co-teaches a Primary class at Nurturing Nest Montessori School in Columbia, MD. Cathie has been married to Gary for 34 years and they have two adult children and an adorable granddaughter!


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Get Ready for January

by Seemi on January 4, 2015

in Cultural

The January Seasonal Guide is ready!

You can also see pictures of many of these activities in the following posts from previous years:

Fine Motor Activities for January

What’s New on the Art Shelves in January?

More Winter Activities

Animals in Winter

Animals in Winter Unit

January Printables

More Winter Printables

The Mitten

 January Guide Collage


I’ve added it to the subscriber’s page so head over there if you’d like to download a copy for yourself.  It’s free.

If you’re not a subscriber yet, enter your name and email in the form below and check your email for instructions.  You can get more information about what it means to be a subscriber here.

Banner-Winter blog

You may also want to follow us on Pinterest or Facebook and check out our other printables on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Affiliate links may be used in this post at no additional cost to you.

Linked to these great blogs.

A Year of Montessori Fine Motor Shelves

“Practical Life” is a huge area of the Montessori Curriculum.  It’s about giving children opportunities to engage in real everyday activities such as taking care of themselves and their surroundings, preparing food, cleaning up etc.  Real. Life. Stuff.

Many Montessori teachers call their fine motor activities Practical Life activities.  I think of them more as preliminary activities.  The activities we create for refining fine motor development are mainly to support the child’s ability to engage in actual real life activities.  As the child uses these skills in the context of real life activities, she fully integrates her senses, her coordination, her sense of order, her concentration and level of independence.  These experiences lay the foundation for further more advanced academic work.

There is a lot that can be said about the details of how to prepare a fine motor activity using Montessori principles.  But today I thought I’d share with you some pictures of how our fine motor shelves look through the course of a year.

I personally enjoy changing out the materials and bringing in a variety of ways to practice a particular skill.  However, this is not at all necessary, specially if you’re homeschooling!  Once your child has mastered a particular skill, there is no need to keep putting it on the shelf.  Move her along to more complex activities where she can use that skill in a broader context.  When you’re in a classroom and dealing with a wide range of abilities, it is helpful to have some essentials available for the younger ones to practice with.

There are a wide variety of fine motor activities that are appropriate for young children.  The shelves below contain activities for practicing the following skills:

  • Pouring:  stability and rotation of the wrist
  • Squeezing: developing hand strength
  • Spooning: developing a 3-finger grip and wrist control

Click the images below to go to the actual post which has close up images of the activities on the shelves.


Getting Your Supplies Organized

I have a post from 2013 that outlines how I store my fine motor and practical life supplies.

Fine Motor Shelf SuppliesSort by theme and color

Use-tool-drawers-for-counters-and-fine-motor-miniaturesStore miniatures in tool drawers

Utensil-organizers-for-fine-motor-implementsUtensil organizers are great for fine motor implements like tongs, spoons, basters, etc.

Rotating Activities Throughout the Year

Fine Motor Shelf 1 Beginning of the YearAt the beginning of the school year


Fine Motor Shelf 2 Color CorrodinatedStart introducing breakable items and draw attention to their fragility.
This adds an extra layer of motivation to control movements.


Fine Motor Shelf 3 OctoberFine Motor Shelf in October


Fine Motor Shelf 4 NovemberFine Motor Shelf in November


Fine Motor Shelf 5 DecemberFine Motor Shelf in December


Fine Motor Shelf 6 JanuaryFine Motor Shelf in January


Fine Motor Shelf 7 February SuppliesWait, what happened here?!  I forgot to take a picture of the completed shelf :-/
But check out photos of the fine motor activities for February here


Fine Motor Shelf 8 MarchFine Motor shelf in March


Fine Motor Shelf 9 AprilFine Motor shelf in April or around Easter


Fine Motor Shelf 11 MayFine Motor Shelf in May


More Fine Motor Shelf Themes

Of course, you’re not limited to seasonal themes.  Sometimes I’m in the mood for changing up the shelves to coordinate with our unit studies.

Fine Motor Shelf 10 BugsFine Motor Shelf: Bugs


Fine Motor Shelf 12 FlowersFine Motor Shelf: Flowers


FIne Motor Shelf AfricaFine Motor Shelf: Africa


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You can find many of our December themed activities in the following posts

I also have a review of “A Merry Montessori Christmas” by Aubrey Hargis.  This ebook is full of seasonal activities appropriate for the home and preschool class.

A Merry Montessori Christmas

Here are a few more December activities to round off the month!


December Scented Candles

Smelling and matching Christmas scented candles.  Use a blindfold for a fun challenge!

December Scented Candles 2


I Have Who Has Christmas

We LOVE this “I Have Who Has” vocabulary development game from Kindergarten Squared

December Outline Matching

Matching Christmas erasers with their outlines.  That is some seriously shiny gold wrapping paper!

December Lotto

Here’s a Santa’s Lotto Game on our matching shelf.  Made by Teaching Preschoolers

December Metal Insets

Some holiday designs you can make using the Metal Insets


December Counting 1-5

A simple 1-5 counting activity

Counting Jingle Bells 2

Counting bells using the control cards from Montessori Printshop

Counting Christmas Gifts 2

Counting Christmas Gifts using Christmas Tree number cards from One Room Schoolhouse

Snowman Board Game

Roll the dice and help the snowman get to the tree.  We made the little snowman using two white pompoms and some felt.  From Karen Cox (PreKinders)

Race to the North Pole Board Game

Another roll the dice game.  From Peace Love Learning.

Don’t miss our printable  December Activities on TpT:

Holiday Treats December Activities Bundle
Sunny Santa Math and Literacy Pack
Kwanzaa Preschool Pack
Hanukkah Preschool Pack 

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Affiliate links may be used in this post at no additional cost to you.

Linked to these great blogs.

I’m honored to have Kelly Johnson on our blog today.  Kelly is a talented Montessori teacher, artist, and author.  She is passionate about expanding children’s experiences with nature.  If you’re a Montessori professional, you may have heard her speak at a Montessori conference, attended her recent AMS webinar, or read her articles in Montessori Life magazine.  It’s also likely that you own her gorgeous book, Wings, Worms, and Wonder. If you don’t already own the book, you can use our affiliate links to get it from Montessori Services or Amazon.  

Kelly has some great information to share with us today about how to make big nature connections even if you are in a small space.  She has also graciously made some of her lovely watercolor journal prompt cards available to Trillium readers for free!  Read through to the end to find out how to download them.  You’ll love them!



Big Nature Connections in Small Spaces

by Kelly Johnson

Connecting children with nature is often portrayed as this romanticized and grandiose thing, with children peacefully meandering around gorgeous edible school yards and professionally crafted outdoor classrooms, but for the majority of us, these scenarios are not the case. As teachers and parent teachers, we want to bring nature in and take the children out, but our classroom, school, or home environments (as beautifully as they may be prepared) simply may not offer much natural outdoor space. Perhaps the school is located in an urban environment where outside space is a commodity, maybe you are in a suburban rental location where altering the landscaping isn’t an option, or the funding to create and productively run a school garden just isn’t available. For those of you in limited natural space environments, never fear! Less outdoor space may actually help you in the quest to bring nature indoors in all seasons!

Big Nature COnnections In Small Spaces by Kelly Johnson

In my workshops, when I stress that all you need is a flower pot, a window, and a nature journal to spark wonder and connect children with their natural world, I am not exaggerating. The impressions made from a creative nature experience bursting with the teacher’s enthusiasm should never be underestimated! The key to helping children make successful connections, that keep wonder sparked and build relationships with local nature, rests on consistency. So, how can we incorporate nature into our classrooms on a daily basis?


How Do You Feel About Nature?

First, check in with yourself. We know that Maria Montessori puts huge importance on self preparation. How do you feel about nature today? How did you feel about it when you were the age of your students or children? What did you love most about nature as a child? Do you view your thumb as green? Assess your thoughts and feelings (without judgement) and embrace a beginners mind.

The best thing about trying something new with children is that we all become learners together! You have created a safe and inspiring learning environment for the students, so consider how you will prepare areas of that environment to embark on the journey of blending nature connection and Montessori education! If in doubt, remember what Rachel Carson (1956) said in her landmark work The Sense of Wonder,

Rachel Carson Quote

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder…he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in…for the child, and for the parent [teacher] seeking to guide him, it is not half so important to know as to feel.”

Start simply and don’t overlook the obvious. Examine your botany and practical life curricula. How could you bring more hands on nature to those lessons? Can you incorporate more plant care, seed, and leaf work?

Watering a plant

Instead of using tongs and pom poms, for example, use local nature materials the children may be familiar with from the playground or park.

I love three part cards as much as the next Montessori teacher, but when it comes to the botany curriculum, they are sometimes best abandoned for exploring real plants!


Nature Across the Curriculum

The cultural curricula present many opportunities for discovering history and geography through food at all levels. Elementary teachers, look to your economic geography and cosmic curricula. These areas are wellsprings of opportunity for integrating nature, food studies, and cooking. The Elementary level “Who Does the Farmer Need” lessons are a great place to start.

Explore ways that nature can be represented in math, geometry, and language. For example, label nouns from pictures of natural scenes, walk around the school grounds and have the children make lists of adjectives or noun families to describe their observations, write poetry, read stories about naturalists, grow the same plant in 2 different pots with 2 different types of soil and measure their growth rates, grow the same seeds in 2 pots and count, add, and subtract the numbers of sprouts. (Sunflower seeds are good for this because the seeds and sprouts are big for little hands.)


planting and documenting monocot and dicot explorations


As you reflect on the areas in which you can easily begin to integrate small nature into the classroom, consider Maria Montessori’s observation that “Harmonious interaction–when it exists, as in the child–represents the normal relationship that should exist between the individual and his surroundings. And this relationship is one of love” (Montessori, 1972).

When children are encouraged to attune with nature in ways applicable to their daily life, they become perceptive and sensitive to feeling nature beyond the visual, and can truly connect to, and love, their world and place in that world. Isn’t that a foundation of why we are Montessori teachers – to prepare the children for their world? When we incorporate nature connection, we educate for peace, in this case environmental peace, and prepare children for the safe and healthy future world they want.

Kelly Johnson Quote


The Nature Journal

So how do we tie all the diversity of nature and learning together in our classrooms? That is where the magic of the nature journal enters.

The nature journal is a time-tested way to document and assimilate nature experience and discovery. They’ve been used by some of humankind’s greatest thinkers, artists, naturalists, and scientists. How often are Maria Montessori’s observation journals referred to in her work? All the time, and they are priceless, just as a nature journal full of observations are to a child’s discovery to and connection with her natural world.

first grade journal

The journal is a place to document observations, information, and then assimilate discoveries in creative and scientific ways. Through journaling, patterns and observations discovered in nature that may have otherwise gone unnoticed or overlooked can be tracked and tied across learning. This type of pattern work enhances students’ connections to their local and wider natural world, while also serving the teacher as a fantastic anecdotal assessment tool. A single nature journal for each child can be used across all the subjects and I recommend be taken on most field trips. The journaling practice prompts children at each level make increasingly in depth discoveries.


 How to Use a Nature Journal

Here are a few examples of ways to incorporate nature journals across classroom learning in all weather and seasons. Each of these ideas can be modified appropriately. 3 and 4 year olds will need 1 on 1 assistance learning how to workin a journal with an adult, and will document using short prompts and mostly pictures. It is worth the effort to get young children used to the idea that a nature journal is a normal part of life and weave the practice of nature journaling into the fabric of your school.

leaf margin observationsExploring leaf margins


Children of all ages really enjoy having a place to draw what they see outside and providing them with a consistent place to record their feelings about their natural world is a huge start toward building a life long love of nature and validating the importance of our nature in daily life.

  • Grow a pot with a flower and have the children practice writing words or sentences about it in their journals using whatever grammar or language mechanics you are working with at the time. Also provide a botany research work on that flower.

phonetic example teacher journal entry

  • Have children look out the window each day for a week and document weather observations and predictions in their journals. Elementary students can then, create a chart using fractions to relay how often their predictions were correct based off their observations. Tie this into your functional geography cloud lessons.
  • Write seasonal stories or poetry and illustrate them based on observations made out the window, or within your outdoor environment, if you have one, using journal prompts. Young children can dictate stories about their prompted drawings.
  • Winter is a wonderful time to start a nature journal because it encourages us to connect with the outside when we may otherwise not. Study seasonal nature holidays and festivals from around the world and have the children celebrate them. Winter solstice is just around the corner and is a very concrete way to study day and night, seasonal changes, time and how humans have responded to seasonal shifts. Have the children journal about how their lives are different in winter and summer based on observations made when days are naturally shorter and longer.

ist grade winter journal page entry

  • Use the multiyear class grouping to track seasonal observations of a specific element, such as a tree, year to year in their journals. Get to know the local environment more consciously, by tracking: dates when leaves fall, birds migrate, flowers appear, rain is more plentiful, or where the sun and shadows fall. Then, students in their final year of a cycle create a school yard field guide or flyer to assimilate the pattern tracking. Only a window with a consistent view is needed for this!

We went out to examine the Red Bud trees outside our school and looked at how they changed during the seasons.  In this video, we’re playing a Simon Says game of touching different parts of the tree.

  • In the Elementary class, when teaching about the first life on the timeline, have a smoothie party and include blue green algae bought at the natural food store in the smoothie, you will be surprised how many children love it! Look at the blue green algae under a microscope and have them draw pictures of the cells in their journals.
  • When you work on South American continent maps, grow sweet potatoes in jars in the window. Track their growth in the journals and then make a sweet potato recipe to share at snack

Sprout carrot tops on the window sillor grow carrot tops any time of year!

The important thing is that you keep tying nature inspired lessons and experiences back to what you love most about nature. If you love whales, adopt and study everything through the lens of the whale. If you want to learn to grow lettuce, get a window box, grow lettuce and make salads. If you love trees, study the leaves and lore of the tree species in the neighborhood. If you love insects, bring as many into class as you can and see the world through a bugs eye view.

When you focus on what you love about the wild wonderful diversity in nature, ways to tie that wonder into each aspect of the work already on the shelf will readily present themselves. Start simply and embrace nature journalling as the practice that weaves nature into the children’s lives.

 Nature Journal Prompts (free printable)

To set you up for success on your journaling journey, I am offering the readers of the Trillium Montessori blog a free download of my new Nature Journal Prompt Cards!

Click here

to get your free printable nature journal prompts!


Also especially for you is a discount code for the Wings, Worms, and Wonder shop chock full of resources for weaving nature across the Montessori environment at school and home! Enter Trillium2014 on orders through 12/31/14!

nature prompt card example


 More Resources

To learn more about nature journaling with children, check out the posts from the Wings, Worms, and Wonder blog:

Fall Nature Journaling – inspiration for all season journaling

Nature’s Color Wheel – free lesson plan

Writing with your Senses – free lesson plan


About Kelly Johnson

Kelly Johnson

 Kelly Johnson is an artist, author, Montessori teacher, and children’s garden educator in Neptune Beach, Florida. Through her books, workshops, consultations, blog, and handmade garden accessories Kelly inspires children and adults to connect with their natural world through gardening and the arts.

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 Kelly Johnson, author of Wings, Worms, and Wonder


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