As a new year begins and the excitement of the holidays is over, the children have returned to school eager to be with each other again and to sample and enjoy not only the familiar exercises, but also the new activities which have been placed on the shelves. When one thinks of January, cold gray days of winter come to mind. But for us at Parkside, January means the return of the dinosaurs, a most popular thematic unit. Our children have always been fascinated by and drawn to these mysterious and ancient creatures, and, as each year passes, the children seem to know more and more about them perhaps because of television shows as well as local exhibits and museums. As with most of our areas of study, we will be discussing the detailed characteristics of many dinosaurs including of course their names, as well as their sizes, shapes, interesting habits and distinctive physical markings. For years we have been collecting many museum quality dinosaurs, authentic in look and color, which will be placed in baskets in each classroom for the children so they can use them and learn about them in a very concrete and hands-on way. This provides the opportunity for imaginative play and cooperative learning. Part of our discussions will include the various theories as to why the dinosaurs disappeared and are “extinct”, and we will talk about the meaning of fossils and how those fossil discoveries have helped us know so much about dinosaurs. A basic tenet of the Montessori method is that language should not be simplified for young children. We know age-wise that our children are in what Maria Montessori called the “sensitive period” for language development, the time when language is easily learned. Therefore, we use the real names of the dinosaurs no matter how long they are. Our students will hopefully name and also learn about Brachiosaurus, Dimetrodon, Ankylosaurus, Apatosaurus, Pteranodon, Allosaurus, Velociraptor, Parasaurolophus, Tyrannosaurus Rex and several others. As with all of our monthly learning themes, there will be dinosaur art projects such as tracing dinosaur tracks and rubbing dinosaur plates, dinosaur sponging, dot art and pinching and pulling. As always we have a large selection of dinosaur books and puzzles, both large and small.
January is a five week month, so there is plenty of time to add to our classrooms new materials and exercises. On our Practical Life shelves this month we will continue basting, but then progress to using an eyedropper which uses the same small hand movement as the larger baster. We will also add some new and fun activities including whisking soap to make bubbles, mirror polishing, and the very popular shaving cream exercise where the children use their fingers and hands to make random designs, shapes, letters and numbers on a table with a layer of shaving cream. A really special practical life project is Ms. Silverstein’s skating penguins. On a small block of real ice in a mold, the children try to balance 3 tiny penguins moving on that ice. They love it! Also in Practical Life, in connection with our January theme of dinosaurs, we will be digging up dinosaur “bones” in containers of sand. In Sensorial, we will continue our study of shapes bringing in both the triangle box and the rectangle box. These two boxes are both made up of many smaller triangles which fit together to make larger triangles or rectangles. In Math we will be counting dinosaurs large and small and using dinosaur stamps to make number books. We will also be counting snowflakes and snowmen. Much of our language curriculum this month will be, as described above, identifying and matching dinosaurs and looking at our many books on the subject, both fiction and non-fiction. At the art table, in addition to our dinosaur projects of sponging, fossil rubbing and footprint tracing, there will be some winter-themed creations such as snowflakes, snowmen, icicle trees and snow scenes.
In the middle of the month we will be talking about the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King. His message of peace, respect for all and non-violence relate well to our ongoing Peace curriculum. Also in January, during the last week, we will be discussing animal hibernation and “life underground”, including of course our bulbs that are still resting there as well as animals and insects. This is in preparation for Groundhog Day on February 2. The children will be eagerly anticipating whether, as the legend goes, our own groundhog, “Parkside Pete”, (actually a stuffed animal) will see his shadow, thereby enabling us to forecast an early spring or an extended winter.
We thank you for all of your support and cooperation during these first few months of our school year. We are excited to be starting 2022 with you and your little ones, and we wish all of you a very Happy New Year!
“Be always at war with your vices,
at peace with your neighbors, and let each
new year find you a better man.”