Yesterday I debuted two new items at my store, the Geography Impressionistic Charts 6-9 and the Botany Impressionistic Charts. I’ve spent the past two months doing research, writing, and picture hunting to make these items and I’m very pleased with the results.
However, I realized that it might be helpful to talk about the charts, how they originated, the thought process behind them, and how they are used.
The Geography Charts
The Geography Impressionistic Charts date have been used for decades, and consisted of drawings that were hand-colored by students during the Montessori training. The reason for the word “impressionistic” is because they are supposed to strike at the child’s imagination. They are intended to give the child an impression of a certain concept that stays vivid in their minds.
This idea is in line with Montessori’s ideas about child development: the 0-6 age is a concrete one, based on reality and reasoning. The 6-9 child, having firmly established the difference between fantasy and reality, can be given pictures and ideas that are not necessarily rooted in reality.
Truthfully, as I really pulled apart the charts to understand them, I had to question the wisdom of making them completely impressionistic. The original charts use angels and other fantastical ideas to explain very concrete concepts about earth science.
As I mulled over them, I realized that because of their “impressionistic” nature, I had actually not completely understood which concepts they were each trying to convey. Some were more clear than others, but some were very difficult to understand. So I began to ask, is the “impressionistic” model truly the best way to teach science concepts?
Understandably, making changes to long-standing Montessori work is a bit risky. And yet these charts were outdated and inaccurate based on scientific advancement and discovery. Would Dr. Montessori want children to be given outdated information just because they were materials that had been used for decades? I think not.
In revising and updating the charts, I sought to preserve the best parts – the concepts themselves and the interesting way they are presented. I kept the order of the charts and the titles. As I did researched, I found that many of the experiments were actually from a different source and added to the charts later. This gave me a lot of freedom to change and improve the experiments, and add even more.
I added two sections to each experiment: one to explain how the experiment relates to the chart, and the other to explain the scientific concept behind each experiment. This means that teachers and parents can use the experiments with confidence, not having to guess at how and why they work.
The Botany Charts
The philosophy behind the Botany Impressionistic Charts, which were created in the 1970s, is similar to the Geography Charts: to take botany concepts and give children an “impression” of them along with a small bit of actual information.
By using color photos instead of drawings, I think the charts have been brought to life in a new way. I did change some titles of the Botany charts as some were outdated or misleading. And, I added new information to each explanation so that there is more substance to each concept.
How to Use Them
Even though both sets of charts use color photos and are not quite as reliant on “impressions”, they are still meant for elementary. There is actually a second set of Geography Charts for Elementary 9-12 (charts 18 – 60) that I will hopefully be completing by the end of this year. The full set of geography charts, 1-60, is meant for children ages 8-11, according to the album I received in my training.
A 3-6 age child should be mastering the very important nomenclature that will be featured in these charts when they are in elementary: all the geography and botany nomenclature cards, some beginning research, and some basic classification. Any child who has not completed those (and by completed, I mean not just that they have done them but that they have mastered the information) should not embark on the Impressionistic Charts just yet.
Each set of charts includes instructions for using them. The presentation is as simple as showing the children the chart and reading the accompanying explanation. Each child can then decide what they’d like to record (a sentence or two, a drawing, or both) and whether or not they’d like to do any additional research.
Hopefully, this will help you understand the two chart sets, and if you do decide to purchase them, you should find them easy to use and a real asset to your classroom.