Montessori Centre International (MCI) has been working with Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots education programme. Roots and Shoots encourages children to implement practical positive change for people, animals and the environment by providing resources and activities; ideals that closely align with Montessori pedagogy.
Here is the story of The Sun – Giver of Life, one of the resources MCI created for Roots and Shoots.
We all benefit from the life giving properties of the Sun. Placed at the centre of our solar system, its light ensures that plants are nourished, providing food for the rest of the living world. Food chains offer us a representation of this power. Food chains help children understand the need to care for our planet and its unique ecosystems and balance, ensuring it remains sustainable for this and future generations.
Activity 1: The power of the sun
On a sunny day explore and discuss how we feel when in the Sun. Feel its warmth and power, and explain why we need to protect our eyes and skin.
To make the size and power of the sun come alive compare one UK penny (1cm radius) with a 1.1 metre radius circle representing the Sun. This can be chalked on the ground, or created out of newspaper and tape. Think about how far the Sun is, yet we still feel its strength.
Find a large stone, brick or log and place it on grass – leave it for a week and then investigate what happened to the grass. Encourage discussion about what might have happened before uncovering the grass and explaining why it turned yellow or died or disappeared. If you do not have grass, germinate two broad beans on a piece of cotton wool. When shoots appear, place them in identical pots with identical soil and keep one on a sunny window sill and the other one in a dark cupboard – after a week (make sure to keep the soil damp!), compare the two plants and discuss what happened and why it may have happened.
Activity 2: Food chains
Find some photos of food chains, or use the images on the Roots and Shoots resource – linked here.
Use the pictures to discuss food chains; discuss how the plants placed closest to the Sun provide food for the plant eaters (herbivores), and how they in turn provide food for the meat eaters (carnivores). This can also be an opportunity to explore the diets of children in the classroom, or of people you know; why some of them might be vegetarian or vegan, or not eat certain types of food.
Food chain 1:
The sun nourishes the strawberry plant by its light (photosynthesis). The fly feasts on the strawberry and provides food for the frog, who in turn is eaten by the owl.
Food chain 2:
The sun nourishes the barley, the mouse feeds on the grain found in the fields after harvest and the fox will bring the mouse to feed its young.
Food chain 3:
Back in the Cretaceous period the sun provided nourishment for ferns and other non-flowering plants. They were eaten by the herbivorous dinosaurs such as Triceratops, which in turn became food for the carnivorous dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus rex. This food chain gives the opportunity to discuss the features of the dinosaurs and how they evolved.
Activity 3: What does this eat?
Ask the children to think of, draw, or take pictures of a creature which visits their home regularly such as a spider, fly, snail, earwig, worm, woodlouse, bird, cat, bee, butterfly, squirrel, etc.
Discover and investigate: Research what this creature eats and who might find it a tasty supper.
Problem-solve and create: Draw or collage the food chain.
Share: In a classroom environment, present and explain the food chain to the class. At home, talk about it with other family members.
For older children (6+), the project can be expanded to further investigate how all food chains eventually rely on the energy of the sun and how that is converted into useful matter. You could organise a discussion or debate about what we eat, our choices of diet and how this can affect the planet. More information can be found on the full resource on the Roots and Shoots blog: The Sun – Giver of Life.