What is Montessori?
For over a century, Dr. Maria Montessori’s method of education has helped children put the world that surrounds them into a context that they can easily understand. Today, Montessori schools can be found all over the world.
The philosophy of the Montessori method is first and foremost to respect the child. The uniqueness of each and every child is emphasized in the Montessori classroom, which is prepared to promote the development of emotional, physical, intellectual and social needs.
In the Montessori classroom, the elements of acceptance and tolerance, exploring and learning, warmth and care, child and adult are brought together to create the ideal learning environment; an environment where every child is gifted.
We pride ourselves on providing a traditional Montessori program. Maria Montessori believed that by having children grouped in a three-year age range in one classroom, it allows for the older students to become the mentors and for the younger students to learn from their fellow classmates. It is also beneficial because it creates a greater sense of community when students and teachers work together for three years.
Only practical work and experience
lead the young to maturity.
When a child engages in Practical Life activities, they are engaging in everyday living activities that duplicate adult “work” in a purposeful way. Dr. Maria Montessori began using “Practical Life Exercises” for the child in order to adapt and orientate themselves to society and become a fully functioning member of society.
The exercises resemble everyday activities and the materials used are familiar, real, breakable and functional. Teachers provide and choose Activities in the “prepared classroom”. The teacher provides order and sequence in the introduction of tasks ranging in difficulty. The teacher also provides the child with engaging and attractive “work” that is inviting to the eyes of a child. They independently choose their “work” and through observation, repetition and mastery of these skills, a child develops the feeling of satisfaction, self-sufficiency and independence as one of the primary steps towards maturity.
The children have the freedom to work at small tables or floor mats. Montessori manipulative are changed and rotated contingent on mastery of the exercises. The prepared environment allows independence in a child and predictability of where items are on the shelf.
Practical Life Skills are separated into three main areas of development. These activities are an integral part of the Montessori Environment.
- Care for Self : A child learns to be independent by engaging in activities such as using the bathroom independently, dress/undressing, finding their cubby, pack/unpack, hand washing, walking in line, eating and drinking and using utensils independently.
- Care for Environment: A child learns the responsibility to keep their classroom environment in order and clean. Some skills include, watering plants, sweeping, mopping, sorting, hanging clothing on a line, flower arranging, folding, open/close jars, learning to transfer, pouring, and washing.
- Grace and Courtesy: This area of development concentrates in proper interactions with others in their school environment and society. Lessons include how to greet the teacher, how to shake hands, how to make eye contact, saying please and thank you, how to get the teacher’s attention, how to share, using a quiet voice, proper table manners, how to be a good audience, and the development of compassion for others.
By participating in Practical Life Exercises, your child will increase their ability to focus, stay on task, make intelligent choices, complete a task from start to finish, develop hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, sense of order in their environment and the satisfaction of “doing for themselves”.
Derived from the words sense or senses, the children begin the refinement of all of their senses through carefully chosen activities. This begins the observations in their environment through classification, comparisons, noting similarities and differences by grading materials based on quality and then receives language related to the work. This allows the child to fully understand the concepts of their “work”. Concepts such as size, shape, texture loudness and softness, heavy /light and hot/ cold.
Maria Montessori saw the importance of manipulations of object to “aid the child in better understanding his environment”. Distinctions in the environment and abstract thinking begins to develop through introduced lessons from the material on the shelf.
Sensorial material unlike Practical life exercises are materials that have never been seen by a child. All sensorial materials are aesthetically pleasing to the eyes of a child which captures their attention and allows concentration to occur. There is only one complete set of each chosen sensorial material, aiding the concept of patience. All materials are self- correcting, where the child will learn where every piece belongs through trial and error.
These sensorial exercises are grouped into 8 categories:
- Auditory-discrimination of sounds use sound boxes and bells
- Olfactory– distinguish different scents using smelling jars
- Thermic –discrimination of temperature-thermic bottles and tablets
- Baric –discrimination of weight and pressure using baric tablets
- Tactile– distinguish items through the sense of touch using only their fingertips and control the rest of their body using Touch Boards, Touch Tablets and Fabrics
- Visual– the largest and most inclusive of the groups is visual discrimination. Distinguishing between similarities and differences among object (comparisons is height, width, length, diameter,)
- Gustatory-discriminations of taste (sweet, sour, salty, bitter) using tasting bottles
- Sterognostic– a child learns to feel objects and recognize what they feel through “muscular memory”. Materials such as geometric solids, Mystery bag, sorting trays, sandpaper letters, puzzle maps, and the sandpaper globe are used and have “control of error” where the child can make corrections themselves.
Geography and Cultural Studides
The young child has a need to belong, to know they are safe, and to understand their place in their immediate community. The family unit is where the child understands their place and role. Through the routines of daily family life, the child will later learn to identify with other cultures.
Sensory materials and classroom experiences will assist the child to learn about the physical world. They can touch a sphere and compare the shape to the globe. They build landforms using play dough and fill water forms with water. Montessori puzzle maps are used so the child can understand continents and oceans. These Montessori hands-on activities build long term memory by physically engaging the hand.
The geography activities present facts and vocabulary related to physical geography (physical characteristics of the Earth) which lead to lessons about countries, cultures and traditions of the world that create the political geography lessons. Montessori students learn about food, music, clothing, traditions, holidays, customs, housing, as well as the plants and animals of the region as they compare their lifestyles to others. They learn about the flags of the world and appreciate the similarities and differences that are found in their discoveries.
Lessons in Geography and Cultural Studies include:
- Land and Water
- Land forms
- Introduction to map interpretations
- The Seven Continents
- Artic regions
- Famous Monuments
- Sacred Place of the World
- Celebration of various cultural holidays
- Foods around the World
- International Instruments and Music
Through a child’s innate curiosity and sensorial exploration of their environment, they begin to acquire additional vocabulary and higher cognitive skills asking questions such as “What is that?”, “How does that work?” and “Why does this happen?” The Montessori classroom celebrates this ability to connect vocabulary to experiences and prepares an environment where exploration can occur. We will use the “outdoor classroom” as much as possible to experience the change in seasons, weather, plants, leaves, animal prints and caring for nature.
Lessons in Science will include:
- Living and Non-living things
- Parts of a tree/changes of seasons
- Parts of a Plant and Flowers
- Carnivore, herbivore and omnivore classification
- Botany Cabinet
- Health and Nutrition
- Human Anatomy
- Life cycles
- Weather and Seasons
- The Sun and Planets
- Prisms and Rainbows
- Rocks and Minerals
- The Amazon Jungle
- Simple machines
- Matter and energy
- Float and sink
- Stages of Matter
- Light and electricity
Ginni Sackett (AMI trainer, Montessori Institute Northwest) has said that Grace and Courtesy is a part of Montessori’s “invisible curriculum.” These “Invisible” activities are not seen or touched on a shelf in class but are presented through lessons in Grace and Courtesy, Silence (Silent Game), and Walking on the Line. Lessons such as “greeting others”, “how to ask for help” and “how to get the teacher’s attention” are essential courtesy lessons in developing social graces and harmony in the classroom. The teacher will model and present the desired behavior and the children are involve in “skits” to participate in the scenario.
This aspect of the Montessori curriculum is a critical component developing responsibility, self-control and harmony in the classroom, which extends to their family life and society. The lessons are ongoing throughout the day; at times planned or impromptu. Every classroom is sense of “peace’ is unique. Each teacher and children will work collaboratively to create their own peace and harmony in the classroom. Each student will also have the opportunity throughout the year to participate in community service projects that help the less fortunate, protect the environment, and simply making the world a better place. Some activities include preparing a “brown bag lunch” for the homeless, (Meals on Wheels), food drives, Hat and Mitten Drive, Thanksgiving placement for Elderly Care Center, “Cookies for Cancer” and the “Giving Tree” for the American Red Cross and planting small trees and flowers for Earth Day.
Materials used for Peace Education
- Honoring the “light of the child”
- Zen chimes
- Japanese Sand Gardens
- Peacemaking cards
- The “Peace Rose”
- Cosmic Wonder Book Series- developing the Human Spirit