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Our Montessori-inspired Timeline of Life

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The Timeline of Life presented in the early elementary Montessori curriculum has always been quite intimidating to me.  It covers such a vast amount of time and is so large.  One can purchase a timeline, but many decide to create their own.  I for one am not an artist.  The thought of drawing my way through time sounded incredibly time consuming and difficult.  I knew my children would not be able to identify organisms in my drawings, because of my poor skills.  This would lead to confusion and uproar, which would then defeat the purpose of the presentation.  Instead I decided to have the kiddos create their own timeline.  Unlike me, they love to draw!

This project has been ongoing for about a month and will continue through the end of the school year.  The kiddos are LOVING it!  They are constantly asking to work on their timeline.  I couldn't be more thrilled.  The timeline has been a great way to evaluate what they've learned in our unit studies.  It's an art project.  They're researching and reading book after book deciding what to include in their spaces on the timeline.  On good days, they even decide to write, labeling periods and organisms they're drawing.

The best part about the timeline is that it's super easy an inexpensive to make.  Grab a Melissa & Doug Easel Paper RollCrayola Crayons, and Pencils, and you're ready to go.  You may need a Ruler  as well.  

Since we have three kiddos working on one timeline, I divide each time period up into three spaces, so each child is able to contribute, without invading someone else's space.  In most of the pictures below, Princess's contributions are on the left, Bulldozer's in the middle, and Dinomite's on the end.  Jason and I have enjoyed observing their approaches.  Princess' work is very delicate, unless she's trying to rush.  Bulldozer is all about colors.  Dinomite focuses on lines and details.

Creation of the Universe
The kiddos' drawings of the creation of the universe include nebulas, planets, stars, constellations, meteors, comets, black holes, galaxies and so much more.  I love their details!

Creation of the Earth/Precambrian
This may be one of my favorite parts of the timeline.  I am in awe at the detail the kiddos put into their work, especially Dinomite.  You'll notice drawings of the Earth and what it looked like as magma was cooling.  There are diagrams of the parts of a volcano.  You can see pictures of the layers of the Earth.  I see single cell organisms and the most basic forms of beginning algae.  Bulldozer has even included a fault line.  

Paleozoic Era
Cambrian Period
Originally I had planned on creating a space on our timeline for the entire Paleozoic Era, however the kiddos, Dinomite especially, requested that I create a space for each individual period during the Era.  I did not mind this at all, as it would provide more opportunities for learning and research.

The first thing you'll note in all three drawings is a blue line above all of the organisms, representing water, since all life forms at this point were underwater.  The most exciting organism and favorite in my book is the Opabinia drawn by Bulldozer.

Ordovician Period
The Ordivician Period proved a little challenging in regards to research and options, but each kiddo managed to find three organisms to draw, which was quite impressive if you ask me.

Silurian Period
Princess' drawing of the Silurian Period is quite fabulous and so detailed.  I love that she included land organisms, as they were just beginning to come about.

Devonian Period
Dinomite's drawings of animals in the Deveonian Period are so detailed.  You may not be able to tell from the image, but he put a lot of effort into them.

Carboniferous Period
It seemed that everyone LOVED drawing pictures of the Carboniferous Period.  The kiddos have been aware of the Meganeura and Arthropleura for quite some time, after watching Prehistoric Park DVD set (one of their favorite prehistoric animal movies).

Permian Period
Princess and Bulldozer had no difficulties drawing creatures that lived during the Permian Period.  However, Dinomite just couldn't bring himself to settle into the activity as he knew the time of the dinosaurs was coming next and he just could not wait to get started on that era.  In the end he ended up drawing a cockroach, Dimetrodon, and Coelurosauravus.  I personally think he did a fabulous job.

Mesozoic Era
Triassic Period
All of the kiddos enjoyed drawing pictures for the Triassic Period.  I love that they included so many different types of prehistoric creatures that lived in the water and on land.

Jurassic Period
I can assure you that the Jurassic Period part of our timeline is not complete by any means.  Dinomite and probably Bulldozer will be asking to draw more creatures here.  I can't help but laugh when I see Bulldozer's picture of the Yangchuanosaurus eating his prey.  Dinomite's selection of creatures is quite impressive including a Gasosaurus, Liopleurodon, and Sphenosuchus.  Princess' Brachiosaurus is absolutely adorable.

Cretaceous Period
Pictures for the Cretaceous Period are definitely not complete either, as Dinomite, just 15 minutes later, was recalling several he had forgotten to include.  (In this picture Bulldozer accidentally started drawing his pictures in the wrong place, so his comes first.  Princess' work is in the middle.)

Coming Soon:
Cenozoic Era
Tertiary Period
Quaternary Period

The kiddos haven't started their drawings for the Cenozoic Era, but they will be coming.  Over time it's my hope that each kiddo will go back to each time period and add more details to the landscape.  As they read more, I'm sure they'll be adding more organisms and creatures as well.

You may be wondering how and where my children learned all of this information.  Let me first say Dinomite has been obsessed with prehistoric creatures for at least 5 years now.  Bulldozer does almost everything with his brother, so he's become quite knowledgeable as well.  Princess will read anything she can get her hands on and often tries to find ways to talk with her brothers.  If it means talking about dinosaurs, and she's up for it, she'll do it.

And then there are books!  My kiddos LOVE their books.  Some of the books spoken about in the post below are library books. Some of them we own.  Our entire family recommends them ALL!

We've also spent some time in the classroom studying prehistoric times.  If you're interested in activity ideas and free printables, be sure to click on the links below!  

Dinosaur Unit w/ Free Printables

This post is part of the 12 Months of Montessori Learning Series.  Be sure to stop by and visit all of the other posts in the series this month!
Linear Calendar for Kids by Planting Peas
Montessori Calendar for Kids by Mama’s Happy Hive
How to Introduce Time to Kids by Study at Home Mama
Our Montessori-inspired Timeline of Life by Every Star is Different
Exploring History Through the Great Lessons by Grace and Green Pastures

Last but not least, I'd like to invite you to participate in my first giveaway! It's a big one. Anyone living in the U.S. and Canada, ages 18 years or older can participate.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I find that kids' drawings are the most effective because when they do it, they have essentially applied their learning. With my 3.5 year old, I find that I have to kick-start with some modelling, so I doodle along with him for a start. After that, he tries to push me out of the way as much as he can :) I think you've done the right thing by letting them draw Renae!! I love this!

  2. Wow! This is a serious undertaking! I love the pictures you can tell a lot of love went into those drawings!

  3. Your kids are wonderful artists! These drawings are fantastic! :) I love the detail and style that each child put into each time period. Wonderful!

  4. This is amazing! Look how engaged your children are. I adore this on every level. I have struggled with how to approach the timeline of life due to our personal beliefs. I've also heard that many children don't find the original that engaging to simply look at. I never thought about having my children make it. I know that would keep them interested and I could customize any way I wanted.

  5. This is so cool! They did an amazing job.

  6. Wow! Your children are such amazing artists! They are very creative and I love the details!

  7. Fantastic! What an awesome hands on way to learn! No doubt they will remember this lesson for a long time.

  8. What a wonderful keepsake and memory of all the learning that IS happening! Thanks for sharing with #WhatToReadWednesday. We hope to see you back again this week.

  9. This is so great! I hope I remember this when my little ones grow old enough. And hopefully there are enough great books in German as well about this topic. Your children did a really great job!

    I love your blog - so many great ideas! So sad that homeschooling is not allowed in Germany.

  10. Elementary kids love this kind of "big" work, making their own timeline is always a favourite in the classroom and such a great way to synthesize their knowledge. Great post! Thanks for sharing at the It's Elementary! link up :)

  11. Hey! This is great! We plan to do a roll too now, combined with our Timeline of Life timeline & booklet from Wild Stone Arts. It is a great way to really learn something when you have to draw it out yourself. Thanks!