Most children are utterly enamored with all things animal and animal related at some point in their early beginnings. Our children were/are definitely no exception!
My guys certainly fluctuate frequently as to their level of interest and also what types of animal life they are interested in.
Early Montessori Zoology is so very simple and fun and most likely already part of your daily home school life. Many of us have pet friends that we live with in our homes most commonly cats, dogs, fish, birds, hamsters and such. If your child has allergies there are many other ways to explore animal life depending on the severity of the allergies. Visiting with pets of neighbors, visiting farms, zoos, aquariums, ponds, bird watching, and backyard exploration of insect life are amazing easy ways to experience first hand a wide variety easily accessible animal life.
As I mentioned Zoology is beyond simple to introduce at home. Montessori has a collection of simple materials to add into your environment if you wish, but the materials for Zoology while beautiful and wonderful to use are certainly not a necessity if you are a homeschooler/unschooler. Keeping in mind that the world in your classroom.
We do own the Zoology Cabinet and Activity set. This is a very simple set of animal puzzles that accomplish a few key things. Directly very early on they help your child learn the names of animal parts. You can also do this with your own animals, with great books, DIY 3 part cards etc. If your child is really young and wanting to work with the puzzles you could simply refer to body parts as legs, head, fins etc. As they get a bit older you can get into more specific names like dorsal fin etc. This is entirely dependent on your child. I mention this because early on my guys were more interested in the general anatomy of animals, and it wasn't until later that more specific information was requested so I scaled our materials specifically to their needs and interests.
Zoology Puzzle Cabinet
Nomenclature 3 Part Cards & Booklets
Our 3 part cards and booklets are from Montessori Print Shop but there are tons more options available now and many are free.
Our DIY 3 Part Cards Trays
The construction of these trays is very simple. You can purchase small squared wooden dowel that you cut and glue to a wooden, or Masonite, or foam core board base.
Make them to fit the cards you have. These trays are handy to have but for general storage I keep my 3 part cards in small ziplock bags.
Zoology Activity SetThe activity set is simply two black line images for each puzzle one being labeled and the other not. There is a set of body part labels for each animal for labeling the puzzles and blank black line image. The labels have an image for each animal on the back for control of error (self correcting). Self correcting work is a wonderful tool built into Montessori materials because your child can in some form easily check their own work and make adjustments and discoveries completely on their own without looking to another party/person for approval.
There are tons of free or low cost sets of 3 part cards for each puzzle and also a nomenclature booklets. The booklets feature each body part with a brief description. You could also source a simple animal fact book of each puzzle.
The puzzles are knobbed so there is also a fine motor element, and pincer grasp practice (for early writing prep). Of course there is always the language development component.
The puzzles contain a horse (hoofed mammal), a frog (amphibian), fish, bird, turtle. This is a selection of animals that represent a basic collection of animal life, and habitat/ bio diversity .
These are easily recognizable animals that your child could/will likely encounter in their early lives that they can easily relate to, and are likely to be curious about.
This is a range covering animals with their needs across a larger spectrum with very specific basic environmental needs for survival that you will explore in greater detail
later with your child in some form.
In our home we have cats and a fish. We often care for strays and this is a fantastic learning opportunity. In addition pet care in any form is an incredible "empathy" learning tool.
For us it wasn't as much about trying to teach "responsibility" in caring for a pet but more about welcoming a life into our family and trying to understand the needs the this tiny being. What they need to thrive and be happy. How does the animal communicate their needs etc.
Friends from our yard
If you are not able to acquire the Montessori Zoology materials for home use you can most certainly and more importantly make great use of the philosophy and spirit behind them. Introduce your child to animal life in all it's diversity. Explore habitats, find some great books either for purchase or at your local library. We also love watching shows like the Wild Kratts.
We have spent a great deal of time outdoor exploring at local parks, on road trips, conservation areas, museums, aquariums and in our own backyard. It's all about appreciation and understanding of our animal friends in all their diversity and helping our children to understand that they are part of a much larger picture. This is a segue into future learning and Biology study, ecosystems, pollution, natural resources, and conservation - it's endless!
A feeling of responsibility will naturally develop as your child grows to understand animals, environments, their interdependence and importance. When that connection has been made and explored genuine empathy develops, and thus their own independence is fostered and empowered to decide the role they will take in their own interaction and responsibility to and with the environment.