One of the Montessori principles that appealed to me most when I first read Paula Polk Lillard's Montessori from the Start almost two years ago, was the focus on using REAL things when teaching our children: picture books with photographs, and small plastic animals that look like the real thing. She also emphasised that one gives concrete information to the hand first, before trying to give abstract information to the brain, and as such I try to keep my children's learning experiences as real and direct as possible. So, to conclude our fish theme on a high note, I bought a fish home from the fish market at our local grocery store (R21, 50 from Checkers, in case you'd like to do the same!), for us to explore. I set it on a tray on a low table outside and brought out our fish books as well, so we could do some comparisons.
Sweetpea's reaction to the fish was interesting: she immediately knew this was different - real - and I think she sensed something unnatural about a real fish lying so still on a tray... At first she wouldn't come close and stayed behind me, curiously peeking over my shoulder and asking questions, but not daring to come too near. Of course ArrowBoy was hands-on right from the word go!
My, what big eyes you have, grandma!
We spoke about how the fish was caught in the sea by a fisherman, and that it was now dead. I didn't make a big deal about it, though, and drew her in with questions about the parts of the fish we learned while building our felt puzzle earlier in the week. I explained how the gills worked and showed her the sideline that helps with balance - all things that are way beyond her current level of understanding, I know, but it felt right to do so and she listened intently nontheless. When I opened her books to compare fishy traits, she finally relaxed and started exploring on her own.
And my, what big teeth you have! PS: forgive my ignorance, but I was surprised at our fish's cute little tongue!
The original plan was to cook our little specimen for supper that evening, but all the learning took a lot longer longer than I anticipated and as a result the fish was in the sun for far too long. The Dad suggested we chop it up finely and use it as compost (!?) but I am already having endless trouble with neighbour cats, so alas, the little fellow ended up in the trash...