Montessori Geology & Paleontology Unit Study

Dinosaurs, animal bones, eggs, and rocks & minerals on display in tray with magnifying glasses

“What the hand does, the mind remembers.”

 – Maria Montessori

A Celebration of Life

A few weeks ago, we completed this unit, in celebration of our dino/rock-loving daughter’s birthday.  She loves getting dirty and collecting curiosities.  As a result, we couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate life than having fun with art materials, dinosaurs, nature, and science.

Montessori Geology & Paleontology Unit Study Background

Our unit study incorporates some awesome experiences with rocks and fossils. In fact, we hope sharing our experience stimulates some fun Montessori creativity for you and your little ones. 

This Montessori Geology & Paleontology Unit Study is not to be confused with the deeper work contained in the 1st and 2nd Great Lessons of the Lower Elementary curriculum.  However, it does provide a nice primer for those future works.

Adaptation to This Unit Study

We own all of the books and materials used in this unit study. Therefore, we opted out of printables for this one. However, printables would be a great way to supplement any of the activities listed here if resources or a private outdoor space is limited.  Check out our other Unit Studies for more on where we get the printables we love. 

Also, many libraries have audiobooks or eResources available to print. 

Lastly, the fossil hunt and excavation could be adapted to an indoor space, using some imagination.

Leave No Trace

I also just want to mention that we do support the Leave No Trace philosophy.  However, there are exceptions and ways to operate with care for the purposes of education.  We collected a minimal number of specimens and only from loose soil on approved land.  Also, we made some of our specimens out of clay to minimize our impact.  DNR’s state-specific rockhounding guidelines for the non-commercial gathering of rocks/minerals/fossils for research and/or educational purposes is a great resource for additional information.

So, off we went.  On a rock/fossil hunt.

Montessori Geology & Paleontology Unit Study

Montessori Geology and Paleontology Unit Study Reference Books and Field Guides

Reference Books & Field Guides

  • Anatomicum – another beautiful addition to the Welcome to the Museum series.  Great for gathering around on the floor and enjoying the detailed illustrations.
  • Dinosaurium – very cool illustrations of your favorite dinosaur species along with some reference material.
  • Cabinet of Curiosities – covers how to get started collecting and storing your finds, as well as the taxonomic classification for identification purposes.
  • Dinosaur! – very thorough reference with exciting pictures from the Smithsonian collection.
  • Rocks & Minerals of Washington and Oregon – regional pocket-sized rockhounding guide.
  • Rocks, Fossils, and Arrowheads – awesome kids field guide in the Take-Along Guide series.  Includes some activities for your little ones as well.
  • Fossils: The Clearest Recognition Guide Available – very thorough field guide with great images to guide your identification needs.
  • Nature Anatomy – we use this book over and over again.  mentioned several times how much we enjoy this resource.  Great section on rocks/minerals with a unique artistic touch.
  • My Book of Rocks and Minerals – great first field guide for a preschooler. The images are bold and lively, drawing the child’s eye, starting with the cover.  Our 4-year-old really likes this field guide.
Montessori Geology & Paleontology Unit Study Picture Books

Montessori Geology & Paleontology Unit Study Picture Books

  • The Street Beneath my Feet – beautiful illustrations with very extensive fold-out pages for exploring the layers of the earth
  • From Lava to Life:  The Universe Tells Our Earth Story – great living book that discusses the story of life on earth
  • A Rock is Lively – this book is a must-have because it can be read as a shorter picture book, or a more in-depth informational piece, depending on which size font you follow throughout the pages.  The illustrations are very bright and attractive
  • Waseca Parts of a Biome Readers:  Soil, Air, Water – coincides with the Waseca Reading Program and provides reading experiences on subjects like the soil and earth. Save $15 on your first Waseca Biomes purchase here.
  • Fossils Tell of Long Ago – great introductory book to explain the existence of fossils.  Also contains some fossil-making ideas
  • A Stone Sat Still – we love this book!  It’s rhythmic and poetic, describing all the processes that act upon and interactions that can come with being a rock in this world.
  • If You Find a Rock – playful poetic verses with beautiful images of various rocks and their uses.  very helpful if you’re looking for some creative ways to play with rocks.
  • Sam & Dave Dig a Hole – for observant children to laugh their way through the pages.  Sam & Dave just can’t catch a break in their search for something spectacular, but it all ends in fun. We read this selection almost every night.
Mary Anning Book

Books on Relevant People

Mary Anning:  The Girl Who Cracked Open the World – Mary didn’t just sell sea shells by the sea shore.  As a matter of fact, in addition to selling curiosities to local tourists to help support her family, she was also a paleontologist. She discovered several intact dinosaur skeletons and made important contributions to the scientific body of knowledge surrounding prehistoric life. This is a great read.

Dinosaurs, animal bones, eggs, and rocks & minerals on display in tray with magnifying glasses

Activities & Shelf Work

  • Create Dinosaur Footprint Fossils using Air Dry Clay & Schleich Dinosaurs – discuss differences between them
  • Watercolor Dinosaur Egg Fossils – we used paintbrushes and our fingers
  • Collect Geology Specimens and Classify – we collected specimens such as sandstone, petrified wood, obsidian, and quartz, etc.
  • Explore Bones – we used replicas of coyote and possum bones
  • Display all Specimens for Sensory Experiences/Exploration with Art Materials
  • Compare Homemade Fossils to Resource Images
  • Trace Animal Bones and Color/Watercolor
  • Locate and Excavate Specimens using Handwritten Map of Dig Sites
Children working with clay at a table with dinosaur toys
Dinosaur toys and clay fossil footprints drying on parchment paper for Montessori Geology & Paleontology Unit Study
Clay Fossil footprint next to Picture of Dinosaur Fossil Footprint
Montessori Child looking at books on rocks and minerals
Montessori kids painting animal bone tracing with watercolor crayons for Montessori Geology & Paleontology Unit Study
Montessori child holding animal fossil bone and looking at map on the ground

Montessori Geology & Paleontology Unit Study Conclusion

Our kids really enjoyed this unit and the rock/fossil hunt. Also, it was a great way for everyone to celebrate our daughter’s fourth birthday.  I would definitely recommend doing a unit like this if your little ones like to get dirty outdoors or with their art materials. It’s an awesome and affordable hands-on approach to learning about Geology and Paleontology.

More Montessori Unit Studies

Thanks for stopping by!

– Kristin


This Montessori Geology & Paleontology Unit Study nurtures fun, affordable, hands-on learning about dinosaurs & fossils using books, art, and more. #montessori #homeschool #montessoriunitstudies #montessoriscience #naturestudies

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