Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Second Great Lesson 2013

Last week, I gave the Second Great Lesson to T. This was the first time we did this lesson. Last year, I got stuck on the Timeline of Life. We didn't have one last year and I didn't know what to do without it. Last year was our first year homeschooling and we had trouble with the transition. This year I decided we needed the Timeline of Life. The price was really what I was hung up on. Most places charge around $200 for the timeline control, mute and cards/labels. Two hundred dollars is a lot of Montessori supplies and I just couldn't get myself to spend that money on a big piece of paper. Originally I was going to make my own timeline but I am not an artist and it would have just taken too much time that I don't have. I lucked out and found this one used. It does have some small marks on it but none of them distract from the chart enough to be a problem. This particular chart came from ETC Montessori.

There are many ways to present this lesson. Traditionally, it revolves around the Timeline of Life and gives a short story of when each group of organisms originated. There are also lines on the timeline showing how each group descended from a previous group. Evolution is a "hot topic" in some places but I really think in homeschool you can follow whatever path you choose. We believe in the scientific theory of evolution, and therefore, we follow the Timeline of Life as shown.

I found several stories online and in my manual for this lesson and, once again, chose the story from Missbarbara.net. Since we did her First Great Lesson it flowed easily into this one. The story in my R&D manual followed the "God with no hands" lesson which I found too skewed towards religion. I also did not like the personification that was in the story. It reminded me a lot of the From Lava to Life book series by Jennifer Morgan. They tell a nice story, with nice pictures, but I did not like the personification used so we skipped them.

I told the story of the Timeline of Life and slowly unrolled the timeline to show each Era, while explaining the organisms he would see. We did need to adjust the story a bit because our timeline did not have all of the organisms from the story and the story didn't have all that were on the timeline. I adjusted to follow the timeline since that is what he was looking at while I told the story.

T decided to run and grab his fossils while I was telling the story. He pulled out the trilobite fossil right away when we entered the Cambrian period.

We also have a Brachiopod from the Ordovician period,  two Ammonites from the Devonian period, a sea urchin fossil from Ordovician period and a fish vertebrae fossil from Devonian period.
A criniod fossil from Ordovician period (didn't make it into the photo)
And (T's favorite) fossilized dinosaur poop from the Mesozoic Era (far left)
Top center: Brachiopod. Clockwise: Ammonite, Sea Urchin, Fish vertebrae. Far Left: dino poop
He needed a closer look at the dino poop
In the story I used there were no charts used but I read several references to dinosaur charts that are often used in this lesson. My manual did not elaborate on the charts. The best I could find was that they were charts for the Diplodocus and the Tyrannosaurus Rex. They referred to the length of the Diplodocus and the height of the T. Rex compared to a human. I didn't have these charts but I did have a library book that included similar comparison charts that we used instead. I'd like to thank MontessoriCommons.cc for the best explanation of the dinosaur charts I could find.

We had fun with this lesson. My son loved the timeline and spent a long time looking at all the organisms and tracing their lineage. He also enjoyed pouring over the 20 or so books I got from the library on dinosaurs, prehistoric life, fossils, invertebrates, etc.


  1. Sounds like you had a great experience :)

    There are images of the dinosaur charts in a few places (very simply black and white outlines) - isn't it crazy when the internet just isn't giving up what it has? (this happens to me a lot with the internet - look all over for something and then it shows up after I need it ;) ).

    With this timeline, it is perfectly great to not discuss everything on it the first time through - provides lots of follow-up fodder in ensuing days, weeks and years ;)

    Our fossil collection is growing, but I think you all have the neatest ones!

    1. Thanks Jessica!
      I'd love a link to the charts if you have found them online somewhere. I hope I got the right idea of what they are.
      the fossil collection has grown over time. We visit our local museums often and when we visit the gift shop instead of buying a silly toy I purchase one mineral or fossil instead.

    2. Oh...great idea! Kal-El thinks the museum store is a "Montessori store" and we either already have or want just about anything in it. Just buying a fossil or two each visit might keep us from maxing out the Visa. I bought a fossil collection to go with the Timeline of Life from Montessori Services. I need to continue our rock and mineral work in Foundations of Scientific Understanding to get us around to using them! Not as impressive as your museum fossils though.

  2. Thanks for the inspiration! What a cool lesson. :)

    1. Thank you, I'm glad you like it. We have really been enjoying the Cosmic Education part of Montessori this year.

  3. Hi, I'm living in France and I can't find the time line of life in french... there is no store who sell it. So I have to do it by myself.
    Could it be possible that you send me some photos of your time-line to help me to do mine ? It would be great !! I will only be using it for making mine for my homeschooling kids.
    Thank you for this blog, I love reading it.
    Eve (from Lyon)