Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Elephant Appreciation Day: A Huge Load of Ideas for Montessori-Inspired Elephant Unit Studies

Although tomorrow is Elephant Appreciation Day, our local zoo celebrated it this past Sunday.  So, for the second year in a row, we enjoyed a family day learning about these amazing creatures.  And, now we are in the midst of an elephant-inspired study week. 

Montessori Shelves and Workboxes

And, among our Montessori-Inspired Shelves and Workbox materials this are:





  • Plastic Food Model Sorting: A basket of plastic foods and two mats that say “Elephants eat…” and “elephants don’t eat…” which has not gotten much action yet, but I know will. (Plus, it will reinforce our focus on healthy eating habits for people, too!) 
  • A Basket, Elephant and Preposition Reading Cards:  Luke read the cards and followed them.  Jack just enjoyed exploring the basket and elephant while Mommy said, "in", "out", on", etc.


  • Counting Cards and Elephants: A variation of counting cards and tiny red blocks that we did last week. This week we used tiny elephant cards as the counters. 
  • An Elephant and Sticks Balancing Game: Great for fine motor and control of movement and another favorite for all. 




  • Elephant Action Cards: Also yet to be discovered, but made by yours truly as practice for reading and inspiration to move a bit more.  (I'll upload the full set tomorrow for folks to print if they wish!)

  • Elephant Size Grading: A simple coloring and then placing in order by size Math activity that I found here.


  • Elephant Book MakingColoring pages, self-drawn pages, narrations, etc. to make our own book about elephants. 
  • Fruit Puzzle Tracing: A pre-writing activity that ties into elephant diets. 


  • Pegged Puzzles: With jungle animals. A classic for fine motor control. 
  • Playdough Tray: Playdough, rollers, beans and elephant cookie cutters – It’s been a favorite.



Book Basket

Between our own collection and the library, we have a huge assortment of elephant-themes books that we have been enjoying:



    • Elephants: A Book for Children :  A feast of 80 photos and lots of elephant information – particularly great as an addition for Montessori Parts of an Elephant cards.
    • Splash! by Flora McDonnell:  A fun little story that a friend sent us when she gifted us with her Kindergarten Calvert curriculum.  Attractive art work, large fonts.  Simple, repetitive text.  Easy for dramatic play, sensory bin or puppetry connections.
    • The Right Number of Elephants by Jeff Sheppard:  Not one I’d run out and get, but one I had laying around that is silly, fun and good for reinforcing numbers from 10 to one.
    • Elephants Can Paint Too! by Katya Arnold:  A must for us since we got to see the elephants at the zoo paint, and a good book for teaching comparison between people and elephants.
    • No Matter What by Emma Dodd:  A very simple rhyming story that features a parent and baby elephant as its characters.  Each simply illustrated double page spread has one line of text which reaffirms a parent’s love for a child no matter if they are happy, sad, dirty, clean, kind mean, etc.  Great for feeling words, opposites, etc.
    • Babar’s Museum of Art by Laurent DeBrunhoff:  The well-loved Babar the Elephant is featured in this cute story about turning an abandoned train station into an art museum.  Fun for complimenting      art study, with illustratons similar to real classics in art, but featuring elephants.
    • I Love My Mama by Peter Kavanagh:  A sweet, simple story that layers an elephant mother and calf’s love onto a day in an a elephant’s life.  Great illustrations and fun to act out.  We love this one!
    • Ella by Pill Peet:  A classic with a moral to it, but also a mean old farmer with a gun and a pitchfork he’s not afraid to use.  The kids enjoy it, but I don’t read it as often as other books in the basket since Luke sometimes models more violent behavior.  (Not that the book is all that violent.  It just seems so in today’s PC, tame world of chidlren’s literature.)
    • Eyewitness: Elephant by Ian Redmond:  An eyewitness Book with much information and many photos of elephants and elephant-related things.  Great as a resource book for the many questions that come up during elephant studies.
    • Seven Blind Mice (Reading Railroad) by Ed Young:  A 1993 Caldecott Honor Award winner, this book includes early elarning concepts of days of the week and colors as seven brightly colored blind mice explore what a new thing they find is, each experiencing only one part of it and thinking it is something different, only to discover in the end that it is an elephant.  Appealing bold artwork and a good moral.  The book ties into the older tale of seven blind men and an elephant.
    • Little Big Ears: The Story of Ely by Cynthia Moss:  A well-photographed and touching documentary that tells the tale of the first year of life of a baby elephant, born with leg trouble. 
    • The Saggy Baggy Elephant (Little Golden Book) by K and B Jackson:  A classic Golden Book which my children realized right away is imaginary since a baby elephant is on its own and not with it family, but also enjoyed reading.  Charming illustrations and fun story.


    Impromptu Activities and Imaginative Play

    I had planned to begin Elephant Theme lessons with the kids on Monday, but since I had some laundry and other task catch-up to do in the morning, I thought I would start things off gently with imaginative play.  So, I put out Lincoln Logs and elephant figurines first thing in the morning. As expected, Luke and Nina (and even Jack to their dismay) went right for these and merrily engaged themselves in building homes for the elephants and requesting figurines to use as zookeepers.  In fact, they were so immersed in their play that I actually had to gently interrupt when I thought they were at a good break-point in order to ask them if they wanted breakfast yet.  Now, that was something –  my kids always wake ready to eat right away!


    After that, it was onto Morning Lotto.  As we were headed to “step outside” in order to finish our Lotto checks, the kids found that a kind friend of ours had dropped off a sand and water table that her children no longer use.  What use it's been getting here! 

    Luke and Nina immediately filled the water side of the table.  Then, while Jack stepped in to explore that, Luke and Nina decided we should make a habitat in order to bring our elephant figurines outside to play. 




    In order to collect appropriate items for the elephant habitat, we went on a brief nature walk in search of soil, sand, leaves, grasses and “trees”.



    Then, play commenced.

    At first, Luke and Nina simply used the figurines in the habitat, coming up with all manner of storylines.  “Sister Elephant, come quickly.  A hurricane is coming,” I heard Luke say at one point.



    Later, the kids asked for their outdoor sand toy vehicles so they could use them as zookeeper and safari trucks.  And, so the play continued both at our newly created outdoor elephant habitat and indoors in kid-constructed elephant houses.



    Since then, with more knowledge and inspiration from books and classroom activities, the kids’ play is becoming even more developed.  I love to see how they embrace a topic or theme and, then, synthesize their learning through play.  It’s so much fun!

    Happy Elephant Appreciation Day!  

    Please be sure to leave descriptions or links of your favorite elephant activities, songs, chants, crafts and printables.  I think celebrating this week will be an annual thing in our home for years to come, so I welcome all ideas to enhance our future studies.




    This post is being shared at Preschool Corner hosted by Homeschool Creations and Montessori Monday hosted by One Hook Wonder and Living Montessori Now.

    Disclaimer:  If you click on any Amazon links at this blog and make any purchase, I may receive a small percentage that can help defray the cost of training my children up.  THANK YOU for considering supporting us in this way.  every little bit helps!


    3 comments:

    Discovering Montessori said...

    Love the Elephant Balancing Tray! Thank you for sharing.

    Deb Chitwood said...

    I love that you made Elephant Appreciation Day so memorable! Celebrating special days like that really makes homeschooling extra fun. And you had so many awesome activities! So glad you linked your elephant posts with Montessori Monday! I featured your post at the Living Montessori Now Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/LivingMontessoriNow

    Nellie said...

    Hi! I found your blog through Montessori Monday. Thanks for such a great, detailed, Elephant post! I was hesitant to use Elephants for next week (just my lack of ideas) but now I'm inspired to go ahead with it!

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