Thank you all for coming out to the Early Life Fair last night! In the Montessori classroom our history studies are organized around a series of timelines. Second grade students study the earth before humans. We began 600 million years ago in the Cambrian Period and concluded in the Cenozoic Era, which is when the first mammals appeared and is the era directly before the first humans. Students are often surprised to learn that life existed for almost 400 million years before dinosaurs appeared and that these popular reptiles only roamed the planet for 100 million years or so – a relatively short snippet of geological time. Throughout our journey through the eras, we paused often to give thanks to the many plants and animals that preceded us on earth. We examined the movement of the continents from Pangea to Gondwana to our present 7 continents. Students studied the major mountain ranges – many were surprised to learn that the Appalachian Mountains are some of the oldest on earth.
The 3rd & 4th grade students spent the year exploring the timeline of humans. We examined 6 different early human species and the ways they met their fundamental needs. Students discovered that early humans came up with ingenious ways to survive the harsh conditions of ice ages and other climactic extremes. We learned about important archaeologists and some of their key early human discoveries. This group also experienced many moments that inspired gratitude and respect for our ancestors.
Below are some of the projects created by the elementary students:
Early Human Brain Sizes
Students were surprised that Homo neanderthalensis had a larger brain than ours. We discussed the parts of the human brain and discovered that bigger isn’t necessarily better. Neanderthals were lacking in critical thinking and speech.
Early Human Food
A balanced meal was hard to come by 2 million years ago. Australopithecus, Homo habilis, and Homo erectus ate what they could find: leaves, berries, lizards, snakes and small rodents. They also took advantage of kills made by other animals. The students noted that before fire was discovered, there was no way to cook meat, which caused a lot of disease. Neanderthals favored the Atkins diet, as you can see from the plate of meat. They ate nearly 5,000 calories per day!
Early Human Shelter
For many thousands of years, early humans found shelter in caves. They were always on the move and didn’t have the time or resources to make a home. Eventually they found that sticks, animal bones and stones made decent shelters. We discussed some of the potential downfalls that come with living in a home made of sticks. Students decided that it would be difficult to experience a Nor’easter in such a shelter.
Early Human Communication
Earlier this year we had a class debate about what the first word might have been. While we never could agree on one particular word, students discovered that almost every word they thought of was a noun or a verb. Many students thought the first word would have been something that meant “run!” Others thought a word for ‘mom’ might have come first.
About 35-40,000 years ago, early humans began creating art. Most of the caves that have been discovered were stumbled upon accidentally – one was happened upon by 2 boys out looking for their lost dog! Early humans mined ochre and used it to create their cave drawings.
How would you like to encounter a dragonfly with a 4ft wingspan? During the Carboniferous Period, conditions were just right for dragonflies and other insects. Some students were surprised to learn that these creatures have been around for over 300 million years (they even predate dinosaurs!).
We humans owe a great deal of thanks to sea scorpions. They were among the first animals to move onto land. Along with lichen, the sea scorpion helped break down the hard rock to create soil. That allowed more plants to grow and more animals to leave the water.
Trilobites ruled the ocean for hundreds of millions of years. They eventually met their match when nautiloids appeared – they could grow to be 15 feet long, so the poor trilobites didn’t stand a chance! A large deposit of trilobite fossils was discovered in Oklahoma, which led students to ask how that was possible. They had fun trying to imagine Oklahoma covered in a prehistoric ocean.
Students created books that walk through each timeline. They wrote poems, made comics and filled their books with information.