The planets are an endless source of fascination to children and Montessori methodology has a really fun way of introducing the solar system to developing young minds. Have a look at this lesson by My Works Montessori:
As you’ll have noticed, the lesson turns the complicated concepts of the solar system into something quite literal and thus easier for children to grasp. The lesson requires space (indoor or outdoor) and some planets, which can be made from polystyrene balls and papier-mâché (as in the video) or perhaps even clay or play dough. If you’re replicating this lesson at home or are under time constraints, it might be easier to find round objects (balls, marbles, beads) to represent each planet. The scale of the planet should be true to its size within the context of the solar system – so Jupiter the biggest and Mercury the smallest.
The lesson is presented starting with the sun and the earth – two elements that are likely to be most familiar to the children. Thereafter, the other planets are introduced in relation to their position in the solar system along with an explanation that each planet revolves around the sun. A great idea is to encourage your child to walk around the ‘sun’ (your representation thereof )in relation to how far or near the planet you’re presenting is to the great star, which will help little ones grasp the concept of ‘orbit’ and will also illustrate why certain planets are hotter and others colder.
Once children have learnt to lay the planets out in order you can expand (and complicate) the activity with interesting facts and peripheral information about galaxies and space exploration.
Although the solar system falls into the ‘culture and science’ area of the Montessori curriculum, it is a theme that is easily accessible to other areas of learning. Maths, for example, could be included with a BLAST OFF! counting game whereby children count backwards from 10 through to 1 before a rocket launches into space. You could make dot-to-dot puzzles in the shape of simple constellations and older children might enjoy mapping out the night sky, using constellations. Use of a ruler can be employed here, either for measuring or simply drawing a straight line.
The solar system invokes a mass of new vocabulary to explore – words like ‘galaxy’, ‘universe’, ‘milky way’, ‘constellation’ and ‘asteroid belt’ to name but a few. These could be turned into crosswords or word puzzles for older children and littlies could make space books with planets and pictures of the planets, perhaps emphasising the beginning letter of each planet. And then there’s all the creative applications: building planets, planet mobiles, junk-model rockets or ‘moon foot prints’ with clay or play dough. The possibilities are endless!
Visit Muddlepuddle.co.uk for some fabulous ideas on how to get your little one excited about the solar system.
Image Attribution: Montessori-work.blogspot.co.uk