Moving Beyond Three-part Cards February 13 2023, 0 Comments

In the early childhood Montessori classroom, the three-part card is a mainstay. For the youngest, this material consists of an illustration with its name plus the illustration and name on two separate cards. Later on, the set includes a brief description or definition. Children build their vocabulary and reading skills with these cards during the ages when acquiring language is a prime interest.

What about elementary children? I have heard from several elementary teachers that children lose interest in three-part cards in their elementary years. They are past the time when they are interested in learning words for words’ sake. If they attended a Montessori school prior to elementary, they likely had the opportunity to work with three-part cards frequently. They may be ready to move on to something new.

Upper elementary teachers have told me that their children are drawn to card sets that have more challenge and require them to figure something out. With this in mind, I designed my latest card set, What Fruit Is Growing Here? It challenges children to match photographs of flowers and the fruit that develops from their ovaries. There are 16 species shown in this set; it includes a text card for each species that tells its lineages, botanical features, and name origin. The printed version is available at 

What Fruit Is Growing Here? is similar to my previous set, What Flower Is Growing Here? and (file for printing). The first set has photos of buds and the flower that blooms from them.

I got the idea for these two botany sets from my zoology set, Whose Foot Is This?  It shows photos of mammal feet and the animal that has them. Here is an excerpt from a review of this zoology material by master Montessori teacher Jennifer Spikner: “The lower elementary students at my school absolutely LOVE this material! The photos are high quality and the text is well written and really interesting. Because of the number of cards, it feels like a puzzle, which the students find really engaging. ... My students learned so much about how mammal feet are adapted for their needs- and they truly enjoyed it!”

How many times have your children (or you) truly enjoyed botany cards? My goal is to make botany studies fun and engaging. Observing buds and seeing flowers emerge from them is a gift that children should have, and the What Flower Is Growing Here? set prepares them to receive that gift. Likewise, the flower-fruit-seed sequence is a major concept of botany that we should help children grasp. The What Fruit Is Growing Here? set illustrates many variations of flowers and their fruits with the goal of helping children observe fruit formation in real plants.

Right from the start, when you study fruits, you will need to clarify the distinction between culinary fruits and botanical ones. It would be much easier if English had two different words for these like Spanish does. “La fruta” is the sweet and juicy thing we eat, and “el fruto” is the structure that develops from the ovary of a flower, whether it is sweet or dry and brown.

The What Fruit Is Growing Here? set shows children a wide variety of fruits, examples from various categories. The teacher background information includes a chart of fruit classification by structure. There isn’t a single widely accepted method for classifying fruits, and they are not classified by common ancestry. Botanists often start with three categories – simple, aggregate, and multiple fruits. Simple fruits form from the ovary of a single flower that has one carpel or pistil. Aggregate fruits form from a flower that has several distinct carpels, each with their own ovary. Multiple fruits form when the ovaries of several flowers fuse together into one structure. Botanists divide the simple fruits by their moisture level at maturity – dry fruits vs. fleshy fruits. There are several categories of simple fleshy fruits and simple dry fruits. They are not something to memorize, but children can be aware of them and understand them.

I hope that work with my What Fruit Is Growing Here? card set will lead (or follow) work with real fruits, some from the grocery store and others from the garden, weed patch, or wherever there are nearby flowering plants.

Enjoy your botanical explorations!