Category Archives: Projects

DW – Australopithecus

Australopithecus was a early hominid.  Australopithecus Africanus lived 2.66 million years ago to 1.66 million years ago.   Males were four and a half feet tall, while females were three and a half feet tall.   They lived in Africa, mostly found in Ethiopia and Tanzania.   Africa was covered in abundant rainforest and forest.  They were half-way between human and great ape, because they did not fill all of the fundamental needs of man. But they were more than just apes because they walked on two feet.

Australopithecus ate beetles, other insects, plants, fruit, small animals and fish, and roots.  They were not hunters, they were scavengers.  A small animal would have been a treat. They mostly ate plants and fish.  They did not cook their meat, and ate it raw.

Australopithecus sheltered in the woods.  They mostly tried to use shelter that was already there, rather then make one.  If they had to make a shelter they would cover themselves with leaves or shrubs.  They did not have any clothing.  Because they were living in Africa, they were warm.

Walking was the only means of transportation.  They used simple tools and weapons.  Their tools and weapons were like chimp’s tools and weapons.  Chimps use primitive tools out of grasses and sticks.

They did not have art because they were not advanced enough. Many scientists believe they did have religon. While others say they did not.  There are also two theories that they talked or had means of communication. While the others say no.

They did not have clothes, art, like we do. They did not bury dead like we do.  They might not have had a religion or communication like we do.  But we know they are more advanced than great apes because they walked on two legs.

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Filed under "Coming of Man", DW, Geography and World Studies, Letter Work, Projects, Students, Writing

Montessori and Botany – A Case

Rant to follow:

We’ve been looking at the Montessori Botany charts and the AMI Montessori Botany books and cards intently for about two months.  It was not an easy decision to do this because botany is not emphasized in any school that I have observed in nor was it encouraged in my training. BW will be entering a school next year where Botany will be set aside.

Consider the implications.

What is the most predominant color in your yard?  For most of us it is green.  Green from the chlorophyll in the plants.  It surrounds the child in his world every day.  Trees and bushes, flowers and veggies.  Grasses and weeds are all items that the child comes in contact with on a daily basis. (Or she should – that is another rant all together.)

What has a discernible life cycle that fits within the context of one year?

Plants do not require us to follow a multi-year pattern to observe the rhythms of life.  The buds come,  the leaves, the flowers, the fruit, the mature plant’s job is complete, it rests or dies.  We can communicate this rhythm easily even to the very young child.

It is small and great at the same time.

It requires a magnifying glass to look at the veins in the leaves and the stamens in the flower and the root hairs which nourish the whole plant.

It requires us to stand way back to measure how deep the roots go into the ground and how high into the air the plant grows.

It requires children to join hands to measure the girth of the tree.

It requires the most delicate touch to examine the parts of a seed and and the great strength to roll a log to see what uses the moist ground underneath as its home

It summons  the greatest of courage to climb into the tree’s limbs (and to come back down on their own) and the evokes the gift of nurturing as the tiny seeds push their way into this world.

It encourages personal responsibility for the food that the classroom may share and that enters our bodies.

Botany is wild and wonderful.  It is small and great.  It surrounds the child.  They must be given the chance to love their world and Botany is a whole giant slice that we are often overlooking to get to the animals.

As for us.  We began whole underwhelmed.  Now we measure our growing beans (which have just put forth fruit).  We’ve harvested our radishes.  We’ve cut open flowers.  Looked at symmetry. Measured the height of the Live Oak in the front and back yards.  Rubbed leaves.  Know about roots and types.  Eaten weeds from our yard -seriously really good. Worked up the courage to climb onto the shed roof to discuss how water moves through the plant.  And most importantly – we’ve become so much more attentive to the world in which we live.


  1. how to scientifically measure
  2. how to graph over time 
  3. how to use a scalpel
  4. parts of a plant cell
  5. parts of the flower
  6. parts of the roots
  7. parts of the stem
  8. vascular system of the plants
  9. nitrogen cycle
  10. periodic table symbols (more of them)
  11. shells of electrons (needed for ions and charged particles)
  12. how warm soil must be to grow veggies
  13. how to draw for science journals
  14. how to use secondary measurements and triangulation ratios to measure height of trees.
  15. how to harvest from nature
  16. hydroponics (and here)
  17. a few natural remedies for bites, bruises, and stings
  18. how water pressure works (and how it doesn’t)
  19. types of leaves
  20. types of leaf margins
  21. types of venation
  22. shapes of leaves
  23. parts of the leaf
  24. types of stems
  25. taxonomical divisions in plants – and why

All this and we are only on lesson 13 out of 26.

Previous thoughts on Botany here.


Filed under AV, Botany, BW, DW, gardening, JV, MMcC, Practical Life - Elementary, Projects, Science, Students

All in a Day’s Work

One of AV’s jobs at the S.C. Aquarium is to identify specimens that are brought in by patrons.  He has become adept at skull ID and even asked for this App for Christmas. (I can not encourage you enough to get this app!)  He also uses the Skulls Unlimited Catalogue (worth getting, too)!

Recently, when we were hunting we ran across a partial skeleton. AV put it aside to work with at the Aquarium.  It took about four hours to assemble these front paws.

Initially we thought it was a fox.  As he assembled the bones, it became obvious that the paws were not formed in the manner that we thought the fox’s would be formed.

AV’s boss was great and began looking for a coon’s paws.  No dice. He found an image made in the 1700’s that was not good enough quality to use as a road map.

So back to matching bones from scratch.  Eventually almost all the bones were assembled to form the two front paws of the coon.

I think he is ready for the archeology trip next week!


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Filed under AV, Biology, Practical Life - Elementary, Projects, Science, Students

The Sewing Desk

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Filed under Construction Skills, Practical Life - Elementary, Projects

BW and DW Hittite Projects

BW and DW teamed up to look at the rise and fall of the Hittite civilization.  It is interesting to look at BW’s lower elementary project which was very focused on the fundamental needs.  DW’s upper el look was aimed at the story of their rise and fall.

The Hittites are an ancient civilization in Anatolia. The capital was Hattusa, in northern Anatolia. The Hittites were not native in the area they settled, they were from Europe. They had a kingdom from 1750-1450 B.C, from that point they made an empire which fell 1200 B.C.

Before the Hittites, three civilizations owned the land: Egyptians, Mesopotamians, and Nubbians. Then the Hittites moved from Europe. No one knows which country they came from, or when. All we know is they began growing. Soon the Hittites began to build an empire.

The Hittites made Hattusa in a very surprising place. In the middle of a mountain range it was miles away from a river. At first, archaeologists did not know how anyone could call this place home. The Hittites chose this place because it had natural protection. Even the protection the earth gave them was not enough, the Hittites built huge walls. Inside the wall the Hittites had a kingdom of order and rule. The Hittites had brutal punishments for rule breakers, and the gods had horrible punishments as well. The Hittite rulers made a vow, called the vow of brotherhood. It was made to the two main gods; the storm god, Teshub, and the sun goddess, Hebet.

Once the Hittites had the capital city of their future empire built, they began conquering cites. The Hittites and the ancient Egyptians were the highest super powers, and enemies. The Hittites and the Egyptians went to war. The Hittites made an amazing technological advancement. They moved the chariot wheel to the middle. Now the Hittite chariot could hold three people instead of one. With the new chariot, the Hittites crashed through the Egyptian army. It was a great victory for the Hittites.

When the Hittite army got back, the commanding general, prince Hattushili, was now a hero. The king was jealous of his victory, and began to strip the Hattushili’s power. Hattushili found out that the king wanted to make him powerless, so Hattushili sent the king into exile. A Hittite civil war began, all because the vow of brotherhood was broken. For a few generations the civil war continued. The people in Hattusa began to starve, until the Hittites knew it was over for them and empire. They burned all the important buildings, and took all their special things.

The Hittites walked out of the history books, and were lost for thousands of years. Hattusa was not discovered until 1893, and until 1906 no excavations were done in Hattusa. And today archaeologists are discovering more and more about the lost Hittite empire.

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Filed under BW, DW, European History, Geography and World Studies, Montessori, Projects, Students

Firefly gathering intensive week

We’ve been up in Greenville/Asheville this week taking three intensives at Firefly.  JV and Dad – DV took primitive pottery; AV took forge making and iron working;  I took Ethnobotany.

Here are a few shots for you.

AV learning how to sharpen a blade he made.

Plant identification in Ethnobotany.

DV forming a pot.

People's pots bring fire.

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Filed under "Coming of Man", American History, Art, AV, Botany, Camping/Basic Survival Skills, Ceramics, Chemistry, Construction Skills, gardening, Geography and World Studies, Geology, Going outs (Field Trips), JV, Mineralogy, Moral Compas, Practical Life - Elementary, Projects, Rock classification, Science, Tectonics

AR – the over achiever

In the recent project presentation, AR and BW had many topics to cover and the imaginary island project is not normally assigned to a first or second year ever because there are many, many topics to synthesize in the creation of a functional imaginary island.

AR and BW were to mainly work on the secondary land and water forms and where in the scheme of things these forms can be found.

Upon completion of the book of land and water forms, AR decided that she wanted to create an imaginary island, too.  She chose an island located off the coast of Peru. She researched Peru without thinking about the biomes found in Peru.  When she finally realized this, she dug deep and discovered some remarkable things that changed her island completely.  It wasn’t lush and tropical; it was a desert!  It was covered in bat and bird poop!

She did a remarkable job working through her problems and adjusting to new findings.

AR redid her bamboo tropical house; now, a cave covered in poop!

AR created a wool and stick doll that is given to the children to play with but has talisman qualities.

Her religion is based off of the birds who migrate to her island. This is a gourd mask.

After it was all said and done, AR blew off a bit of steam on JV's bamboo flute.

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Filed under AR, Art, Biology, Geography and World Studies, Geology, Oceans and their creatures, Projects, Science, Tides and Waves