July 28, 2017
This journey began with a project on elephants.
One girl in lower elementary learned that elephants are mammals, that there are two kinds of elephants, and that elephants like to live where it is very hot. She also learned that elephants were endangered because they were being killed by hunters. This did not sit well with her. She was not OK with elephants being poached or killed for their ivory tusks. She had fallen in love with these leathery, gentle giants and didn’t want any more elephants to be killed.
She recruited two friends to help her. They approached us, the teachers in their class, and told us that we needed to have a fundraiser for elephants. They made posters. They picked a month. They informed all elementary classes when the fundraiser would happen.
In one afternoon, the three of them baked 192 (we counted) elephant shaped sugar cookies. Finally on the day of the fundraiser, bursting with excitement, they gathered all three elementary classes, the middle school, and the staff, and sold their cookies. They raised over $300 for WWF Canada.
In Montessori education we talk about the different sensitive periods that the children possess. They are time sensitive and only exist for a short period. For children in elementary they are in a sensitive period for justice. Their world is expanding beyond their family and they are learning The Rules. We hear them talk about what is fair. Children this age may experiment with things like lying or breaking the rules.
The flip side of this behaviour is these children being struck by things they find completely unjust or against The Rules. To the elementary child, learning about things they think are Wrong or Against the Rules can be offensive to them. They feel they know something (for example, the poaching of elephants) to be so fundamentally wrong they feel it is up to them to help, and up to them to stop this injustice from happening.
To these girls the mistreatment of elephants was completely unacceptable and something they could stop. One of them remarked to me when cutting out elephant cookies, “The absolute best case scenario that could come from this fundraiser would be if the WWF called us and told us that our donation saved the elephants”. And that is true. That would be the best case scenario.
These children believe that they are capable of changing the world. If this belief is continually fostered within them, they will be the people who change the face of our planet.
The Portfolio Meetings in the Upper Elementary classroom are scheduled close to the end of the school year. As parents, we are a guest in our son’s or daughter’s classroom for the morning and they treat us as such!
The children present their work to us in a way that promotes conversation and a deeper understanding of what happens in the classroom. This platform allows the children to discuss their work so that parents can understand the process the child is going through. The work chosen for this meeting is selected by the children themselves out of their interest in sharing with their parents.
As a parent, I see it as a chance for my children to describe to me what they are doing and how they are doing it; how they articulate it. Do they have an understanding of the material and how deep does that go? Do they have a passion for this or did this project ignite a passion for something that I had no idea about? Do their eyes light up? Are they serious and is that because they are nervous as this is their first time/experience? Are they relaxed now as they have done this in year four and five?
Listening to your son or daughter as they describe their work grants you great access into their world. It provides observations that will help you see them in a different way and allows you to take in, digest and aid them in being the best version of themselves.
It’s amazing what you can learn from your child, especially when they have an opportunity to present to you as their guest.
The Middle School students recently performed an original, collaborative triptych of theatre shorts titled Abducted. After all the workshops, writing, casting, staging, producing, directing, designing of sets and costumes, marketing, ticket sales…the final curtain fell. The students then took some time to look back on the process of creating live theatre and to reflect on what that process meant to them. Here are their thoughts………
“For me, I think that the overall production was good, but the work that was required to put it on was really hard. The hardest part, in my opinion, was definitely organizing the blocking for the scripts. It was hard to mix the writers’ vision of the scene with what was possible, so we had to work hard and alter a lot of things to find a good compromise. In the end, though, I think it was worth it because I had a lot of fun performing and I’m really happy that I was able to be a part of it.”
“At the beginning of the year, we worked on sustained and percussive movement. For those of you who don’t know what these movements are, I will gladly tell you. Sustained movements are very slow luxurious movements that slowly turn into something big. Percussive movements are very sharp and fast movements that have a slight accent. This is what defines them. We used these movements during our play, which was extremely helpful for me to make my acting more believable and authentic! This whole experience was amazing. I hope people enjoyed the show.”
“As a shy person, the experience of going on stage and giving all my effort to make my character real has made me a lot more confident to stand in front of a crowd. This experience brought us all closer, and it gave us peer collaboration skills. On the marketing team, we designed posters, tickets, and got sponsors. The hardest part was getting sponsors on time, but we all got done on time.
The work we did definitely gave us a really good idea of what it’s like to be older, like calling people for information, collaborating with new people, and planning out large projects.
Overall, the play took nine months to put on. Although we were sometimes behind on our work, we were able to put it all together in time. I think we could have been more organized, but the challenge was important. I do think Clanmore should continue to do this.”
“Every small task that we did during this production helped to make the final product. Probably the hardest part of the production was collecting all of the sound effects, and making sure that on the day of the play we would be able to have the proper sound effects to give the proper feel to the play. Overall, I thought that the whole play taught us to work hard and it also gave us some valuable life skills.”
“I had a great experience working the lighting for the second play, The Election. I enjoyed talking with the people that we rented the lights and speakers from. It would be really cool to make a career out of something like that.”
“The theatre experience was an amazing challenge that pushed our class to work together and to individually take on responsibilities. Learning the ways of drama, prepping for the show, selling tickets, designing costumes, and doing make-up were all in effect in the months before the show. Overall, the entire production was fantastic to make possible and is something I will definitely look back on proudly.”
“Theater has been an amazing experience, but it definitely was hard work. My favourite part was planning the costumes with my class. Theater has opened my eyes and made me into a more confident speaker.”
“Theater was a really fun experience. Definitely, at some points it was very stressful, and you really need to stay on top of your work! I was on tech, and it was very neat seeing all of the expensive materials. Probably my favorite part was playing around and learning about the sound and lighting board.”
“This play production was one of the most fun experiences that I’ve had in my history of being at Clanmore. When we did the auditions in the beginning I was very nervous that I was going to get a role that I did not like, but that all changed when I was told that I would be acting as Donald Trump. I also was excited about playing the person that would tie the whole play together, the director. Props were a bit of a struggle for me but eventually I got all the props in and we could start rehearsing with them. Performing in front of a crowd didn’t make me any more nervous, it just made me even more enthusiastic about the production and made me want to do more like when I walked off the stage as Donald Trump saying “I’m rich! I have a lawyer!”. Impersonations are one of my favourite things to do which made doing Donald Trump and the director, Harriet Campbell, even more interesting. It was so fun and I want to give a big thanks to Rainer [Clanmore Drama Specialist] for making this amazing experience totally awesome! I really hope I will get to do something like this in the future.”
Art in the Toddler Environment is a big component of the curriculum. Expression is always available with chalk, tempera paint & water colours, coloured pencils & markers, stickers, glueing shapes on paper, stamping & dabbing. It is through this work that allows the child freedom of expression, repetition and reflection of their work. It is a beautiful process that incorporates mind and body with large movements aided by repetition that refines those large movements into developing control and dexterity.
“At the Toddler level, it is the beginning of using the tools.” Elaine Kerr-Morgan
Casa children are introduced to the elements of design such as line, colour, texture, shape and space with the Montessori materials. There is an art tower that Elaine Kerr-Morgan our Art Specialist created alongside the casa directresses. It is a fixed material within the casa classroom.
“Casa children are refining their hand, eye coordination.” Elaine Kerr-Morgan
In the Lower Elementary community, children begin to explore using the medium of art within the classroom as they transform clay into a sculpture in a diorama in support of a project or make a mask as a visual display of culture interlaced within history. Studio time in the art room allows for this to happen throughout the week. It becomes a tool when exploring timelines as a freedom expression.
The Lower Elementary children now leave the classroom for art instruction in the Clanmore art studio. They also experience trips out to galleries and libraries to explore artists nationally and internationally. They immerse themselves in the language and unique style of a particular artist and are exposed to the different disciplines of art. In the studio, they explore their own unique style and make their own creations.
“Lower Elementary is about refining and exploring the elements of design so they are more developed in their minds.” Elaine Kerr- Morgan
At the Upper Elementary level, children continue to develop their own style with design elements and principles. They come to understand the different uses of expression within mixed media. In and out of the classroom art intertwines with their work as they become more aware that as a society we are indeed surrounded by art and expression everywhere we go. Principles learned like space, rhythm, balance, variety, emphasis, repetition and unity give light to understanding from a distinct perspective. Perhaps this perspective is their own or perhaps it is a glimpse into the artist’s point of view or period of time in which the piece was created.
This is a time “where the children continue to refine their skill with different media, where they begin to understand the use of elements in cooperation with the principles of design.” Elaine Kerr-Morgan
In Middle School expression of one’s individuality is front row for the adolescent. Art is a great outlet for this.
Over two years they explore photography, optical illusion, two point perspective, balance with symmetry, asymmetry, bilateral and radial along with installation art: visual and sound art. They study art history with a focus on historical and contemporary art with gallery visits. Within the micro-economy program they make items for their spring and winter markets like jewellery and when studying drama they dive into set design. Art is layered throughout the middle school years as in life; the children now begin to see it everywhere they go.
“This is preparation for high school. Solidifying the understanding principles of design and using these principles to evaluate a piece of artwork.” Elaine Kerr-Morgan
You wake up to the soft chirping of birds in the forest outside your tent. The morning is chilly and crisp, but later on, the sun beats down on you as your tired arms paddle down the river. Then the night is cool again as you huddle near the campfire, roasting marshmallows while the sun dips down and the shining stars come out. This is a day on the Odyssey Trip, a week-long wilderness canoe trip at the beginning of our Montessori Middle School year. This trip is an amazing and priceless experience that we will remember all our lives and one that every Middle School student should have the chance to experience.
In school we read about nature, but students do not usually get to experience it, and learn from looking, touching and observing the real thing. On the Odyssey Trip, we saw many different types of plants, animals, and insects. We saw massive Eastern White Pines, the tallest tree in Eastern Canada, watched dragonflies buzz around and land on our arms, and heard the call of the loon in the evening, the same ones we saw dive under the water earlier that day.
We learned about various types of trees and how to identify them. We observed animals, such as beavers and bald eagles, in their natural habitat. As a result, we realized that we needed to respect the flora and fauna, to not make an impact on them, and to watch out for things that could be harmful, such as poison ivy.
We visited a few old-growth forests, and saw how tall the trees were and how long they had been there, longer than any of us could ever live. There were many massive trees, towering above us, and we would sometimes stop to give one a hug. We even measured how many people it would take to reach around the trunk! The trees were amazing. Old-growth forests are forests that have been there for anywhere from 100 to 400 years. We learned that despite the many attempts to preserve them from the logging industry, we are slowly losing them, and now only 1-2% of the world’s red and white pine old-growth forests are left.
Our trip helped us understand that as we do not have much of nature left, we must take care of it or we will lose it soon. On the trip, we had a seminar on forest conservation around the campfire, as well as many designated times to sit and think on our own. The trip really helped us learn about and connect with nature, and inspired us to conserve it.
In addition, the Odyssey Trip built our practical skills, and our character as well. We learned how to make a fire and cook tasty meals over it, how to paddle and steer a canoe, and how to properly pack our dry sacks. Not only did it teach us wilderness skills, but something more important, life skills.
One value we practiced was perseverance, because we faced many obstacles, and had to know how to keep going and how to work hard to achieve success. Activities like portaging and canoeing were tough, but we knew to keep going, bear the weight of the pack a little while longer during the portages, and paddle a little harder through the waves on a windy day to make it to our campsite. We also discovered how to trust ourselves and push ourselves further.
In addition, we learned to be responsible and independent. One of our duties was to pack the barrels that carried our dry sacks, and another was to be responsible for all of our belongings. We were also taught to be independent and not to ask for help all the time, but to try to solve problems ourselves.
Another benefit of the trip is the feeling of gratitude that it inspired. We could imagine how it might be to live in poverty, because we lived with fewer resources, and had to make do without many supplies. When we get older and move forward in life, we will be happy that the Odyssey Trip gave us a chance to build our characters.
One of the most important life skills the Odyssey Trip has taught us is how to work as a team. The Odyssey Trip takes place at the beginning of the year so that we can learn to work as a group for the rest of the school year. During the trip, there were many times where we learned to support one another. For example, during a portage there would be a few people to carry one canoe, and we would all have to communicate really well in order to get the heavy canoe across the rocky terrain. There were some hurdles, but we made it through, making suggestions, taking the role as a leader, and giving support and cheering each other on to keep going.
Every single day in the morning we had to load the canoes, and pack the bags, and in the afternoon, we had to make it to our campsite, lift all the canoes out of the water, grab all the packs, set up camp, and collect firewood. No one could relax, even if they were really tired, until the whole set-up was done. It required a lot of team effort, and we improved a lot, so by the end of the trip, we were a much faster and more efficient team.
Not only did we work as one group, we became closer as individuals. We got to know about each of our friends better, because we spent every minute of the week together, solving problems and having fun. We would regularly switch partners and canoe groups, so that everybody would learn about everyone, and know about their hobbies, family, and personality. We also got to know the teachers well, and they discovered our strengths, preferences, personalities, and goals.
Throughout the trip, we had so much fun: laughing at inside jokes, swimming in the icy water, exploring the forest, and snuggling together near the campfire, singing and sharing stories. The Odyssey Trip gave us a perfect opportunity to work together as a team, bond with one another, and have a fantastic time.
All Middle Schoolers should have the chance to go on the Odyssey Trip, not just Montessori students. On the trip, we had an enjoyable week of canoeing, learning about nature, discussing conservation, building character, and laughing with friends. After that, we came home as a team. This trip is a one-of-a-kind experience that has taught us many lessons. We made so many memories, and we will treasure them all our lives.
While toddlers begin to explore beyond the home environment and casa students begin to explore the school environment in its entirety, it is the elementary children who take exploration, curiosity and drive to a whole new level in the Montessori going out program. Discover how the teachers in partnership with their students guide them on this journey.
Intellectual choice and independence are goals for the children in the Elementary program. They are life skills; keys to the universe. The children need to explore beyond the classroom and to aid in this construction, we must provide opportunities for them to go out into society and experience it.
Going out provides the opportunity to make choices in a safe manner as they are still under the protection of the family and the school. It provides further intellectual stimulation and contributes to the children’s growth and self-control. Going out begins at Clanmore by going to the library or to the art studio. The students then build on this foundation as they gain more responsibility outside of the classroom.
“It has to do with the psychological characteristics and the human tendencies of the elementary children”… “one of the needs of this aged child is to be prepared to eventually take his/her place in society”. “It is more than acquiring knowledge it is about experiencing society.” CH
‘Going Out’ is not a field trip that is organized by the teacher; it is part of the Elementary curriculum and has to do with the work and activities of the children in an elementary class. It is a small group of children who have done some work and have planned an outing to retrieve more information.
We cannot bring all elements of society into the classroom. The children need to explore geography, history, biology, cultural activities of society, language, social awareness and retrieve impressions that will inspire them for future work. It’s more than just acquiring knowledge, it’s about the experience and how it will launch them forward and manifest itself in ways that we can’t predict.
“They will explore the interdependencies that exist; the interdependencies of the environment, but also the interdependencies of human beings. When you take public transportation you have more appreciation of the job that these people are doing. So they begin to understand the Cosmic Plan which underlies the interrelatedness, the universe, the world and societies.” CH
The children in this plane of development are in the process of developing their moral sense.
“We are helping the children come into contact with the moral sense of existence. What is the role of humans and how we affect the cosmos”… “one assumes that people are skilled at decision making but this is not always the case. If you are not shown as a young child how to choose wisely and understand that, ‘I can choose all by myself,’ then as an adult you may have an underdeveloped Will. To develop this Will children need a chance to make meaningful choices.” RO
We speak of the prepared environment and the work that begins in the classroom as their imagination gets fired up and their intellect begins to question what else there is to find out. Essentially, two environments are prepared as now the teachers prepare the children to go out. They prepare for any particular rules they may encounter, anticipate what is expected and things specific to that outing like how to interview a person, listen to a response and ask a follow-up question.
An Interview with some Upper Elementary students about their ‘Going Out’ experience.
Recently you went to the Oakville Humane Society, can you tell me why you decided to go there?
We were doing a fundraiser and needed more background information on how they do things. We wanted to see the animals that we were fundraising for, these animals are sick, they have diabetes and asthma and use puffers the same way humans do. We hope to donate money and supplies.
How did you prepare for this outing?
We spoke to our teachers, called the Humane Society and scheduled a tour. Then we needed to figure out who was going to drive us and what we needed to do so we prepared questions.
What did you gain from this experience?
F- Responsibility – knowing all these abandoned animals makes me more responsible for the pets I have. I felt proud when we were there and I gained more love for animals. Other classmates have done fundraisers for PETA and it got me thinking and makes me want to help in my own way.
B- I gained more information about animals, love for animals and how to organise an outing.
N- I gained an ability to understand animals, they have different emotions and different moods. I gained more knowledge of the Oakville Humane Society and the knowledge of how to set up balance between my time on the fundraiser and my schoolwork. It helped me organise my time, time management.
What does ‘going out’ mean to you?
N- It means to venture out of the boundaries of our school environment and into the world exploring while doing our school work.
B- Leaving school and experiencing the world, learning new things and trying to help the world.
F- Going out and learning new things, venturing out of daily life to get to sprout out into something new. New experiences in unfamiliar places and it’s not a field trip, somewhere we’ve been before or where we go every month, it’s like a DIY (do it yourself) day!
“The fun thing about it is, you have an idea and you begin to feel that it’s getting bigger and there are no boundaries and then N passed by and wanted to help and I felt this relief. Then B heard about it and asked if he could help and then we started to get organised. Everyone comes with special qualities and we all have different roles… drawing, organising, writing and describing. What I really liked, we did it by ourselves.” F – Upper Elementary Student
Like all good Montessori programs, Clanmore’s Middle School while operating within a framework of theory and principles, knows that the details and nuances of each program will always be a reflection of the students themselves. Thus when the need arose for a “Clanmore Crest” to proudly grace the pocket of our uniform blazers, who better to design it then the inaugural Middle School students. Their school, their program, their blazer, their crest!
The students were given free reign to design a crest which reflected and embodied what it was they wanted to convey. Discussion, research, doodling and dreaming ensued.
Individual elements were chosen with a desire to create a whole from the parts.
While shields and the like are commonly used, the students felt what better way to represent a school than with a book. A book can stand as a symbol of discovery, of knowledge, of self-study.
The School Logo
The Clanmore logo is integral to who we are as a community. It was proudly found a place on the book’s cover. (For the meaning behind the logo see our previous post A Logo Is Worth A Thousand Words.)
The choice of both motto and language was the students’. They debated using Latin but felt that their words would be lost. Passion for Learning was simply too important not to be understood by all.
While others might have chosen lions or eagles, honoring the beautiful magnolia tree around which the school thrives was the direction in which the students chose to go. The magnolia tree was planted by the original owner of the now Middle School farm house as a mother’s day gift. To this day it continues to bloom magnificently each spring. The Clanmore school video pays beautiful homage to this tree. Take a look as one student shares her perspective.
The design process for the students also involved communicating their vision to a graphic designer who could translate that vision into images. They also met with the school’s uniform company to request that the crest be added to the school blazers. Talk about real world experience.
When the day finally arrived for the big reveal, the students couldn’t have been prouder.
Clanmore is now the lucky beneficiary of a crest designed with passion and love by and for its students.