October 23, 2021
Archive for Montessori Education
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.
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
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
The Transition from Clanmore Middle School To High School Through The Eyes of Our Parents and Graduates
How well do you feel Clanmore Middle School prepared your child/prepared you for high school?
- (parent) My child left with strong essay writing skills and the ability to use a rubric. In high school “a rubric was handed out and classmates paid no attention to it and some lost it.” My child on the other hand saw it as a tool, a gift. There is a maturity there.
- (parent) “A lot of children excel due to fear and pressure from parents. They are fearful of consequences if they do not do well. Montessori kids want to succeed for their own personal goals, leading to a higher work ethic.”
- (parent) Clanmore “was a social experience, a social lesson…this is not taught in public school….and this is where it is needed as it is expected in high school.”
- (student) “I think it really prepared me as I find I’m ahead in a lot of things. Some things are new, but it’s mostly review, for example, in English we are learning how to write paragraphs while at Clanmore we learned that in grade 4. I think Clanmore really helped my work ethic. Middle School taught me time management…In high school the teachers don’t check it you’ve done the work. The standards are higher at Clanmore. “
Do you feel the social curriculum at Clanmore helped the transition or gave your child the foundation needed for high school?
- (parent) “It goes back to confidence, starting with the elementary years where she stood up for herself…where she learned to ‘fix it’. Clanmore was the safest environment to learn to deal with conflict. When entering high school there were girls who played games and she decided she did not want to be a part of that. She walked away and found friends with like minds. And that’s the confidence.”
- (parent) “Yes. Absolutely. Not just for high school but for life in general. [My child] is able to pick who is not genuine. No difficulty making friends [coming] from a small class to a large high school.” “The Middle School students are able to talk to people. They go out into the community to the historical society, for example, and conduct interviews.” “When I hear ‘welcome to the real world’ directed at Clanmore graduates I feel that Clanmore prepares them for the real world and is a microcosm of it because this is how the real world works”.
- (parent) “… her ability to self-advocate for her learning disability [dysgraphia/dyslexia]. She introduced herself to all the teachers and spoke of it. It goes back to the ability to speak up for yourself.”
- (student) “I think it helped in general. People can be mean, judgmental. It helped me understand where people are coming from, their norm. My goal was not to be the most popular, it was just to be liked. Not to give people a reason to dislike me.” It “helped me understand what people are looking for. It made me know the qualities that I want in friends. The fab 5, no blame. A lot of people don’t get that. Listening to people, so much blame is laid. People have ‘beefs’ without talking first. There are a lot of misunderstandings.”
Is there anything from your Middle School experience that, in hindsight, you would have wished your child had experienced or been taught?
- (parent) Some may focus on the relatively small class size but for us “Cons? No cons. It was about a healthy environment to grow and develop. The teachers were her friends, they were close and there was no hierarchy. There was trust.”
- (parent) Cost is a consideration but “where are you going to invest the money. They need it when they need it to acquire the skills. The teachers are always available. There was no concern if they were going to be available for anything he wanted or needed.”
- (parent) “I can’t really think of anything. She has everything she has needed. Her geography teacher said to me she just seems to know a lot about the world.”
What has been the hardest part of grade 9 so far?
- (parent) The high school facility is much larger. “She got lost but it became routine after 2 weeks. There’s an adjustment period.”
- (parent) Making friends. “Kids will make it what they want. My advice is to get involved and they’ll figure it out. It takes time to adapt and I try to be there to help find the goodness in situations.”
- (parent) “Not very academically challenging, she challenges herself. She satisfies herself through sports and after-school clubs. She doesn’t spend a lot of time on homework.”
- (student) “Getting around and communicating with teachers. I’m used to a different relationship with my teachers, getting through to teachers, taking to them about my disability. They have been accommodating but it is something they are not used to [student self-advocacy].”
How do you feel Clanmore prepared your child academically?
- “The academics were covered. He’s ahead in the game.”
- “It over-prepared her. The maturity they have; it’s the work ethic….Kids have such a different view of learning. She doesn’t feel it’s work. In high school she has to seek out challenges. They don’t just give them to you. She sought out challenges physically through sports and academically through applying to specialty programs.”
- “In grade 9 English, the class was asked how many of you have read Romeo and Juliet? She was the only one, and she read it twice. It comes easy, they have the creativity and the confidence.”
- One parent commented on a school assignment in which her child drew upon many of her experiences at Clanmore from art to humanities to reading comprehension. Her finished project stood out from all others. All her experiences, all the components of Clanmore were accessed. “Everything came together.”
- “She wants more from her teachers because there are lower standards. The teachers don’t see the potential. They see adolescence in a different way. There is no insight to find potential and creativity…She came from such a rich environment.”
What advice would you give a student in grade 6, 7, or 8?
- “Don’t be shy on the first day…Be yourself. Just smile. Be open to say hi to people and try to be outgoing. Talk to people. If you see someone you think is nice, talk to them. It’s the first week when you make friends. People don’t come to you. “
In our previous blog posts: The Transition from Toddler to Casa, Parts 1 and 2, we discussed some of the characteristics of the Casa child as he/she gains more independence, an increased vocabulary and the connection to the meaning as well as the importance of practical life and how it helps the child to help him/herself. In Part 3 we will focus on how you can implement practical life and language development in your everyday life.
Working on this in the home and as a natural part of your life is easier and more rewarding than one might think. It doesn’t take ‘set-up’, time or even cost – it takes forward thinking and an understanding of seeing the home, the grocery store, the park, etc. – through your child’s eyes. It can be interjected into everything you do with your child/children.
One thing to always keep in mind is that it is the process not the product that counts. Looked at from a scientific perspective, you are giving your children the tools for them to construct themselves. Through implementation and repetition they will be guided towards mastery. It is the process, the “struggle” that gives them great pride and a sense of accomplishment, it also helps them develop drive and concentration.
A child of this age is always wanting to help in the home. It is a need, a desire to feel a part of the family and to know they have a place in the family. They are in effect seeking to be part of a community.
There are always language opportunities as we engage in daily activities. Do not hold back on using proper terminology with your children. They are taking it all in. A bird need not simply be a bird. Is it a cardinal? A blue jay? Children at this age are hungry for language and the words which help them classify their impressions.
In the home children want to do as you do, and activities like collecting laundry, sorting and putting it away actually helps them organize their minds. You can be at the grocery store for example counting apples, placing them gently into the bag so as not to bruise them, having your child hold the bag while feeling the weight of it as more apples are added. Ask for their help when you get home and put the apples away together. This way your child will know where to find them when they want one.
This is much like the Montessori classroom, everything has its place. The physical space is prepared in a way that the children know where to retrieve things so their minds are free to do great work with the great concentration which will follow.
If children have to adapt everyday to changing circumstances, it takes great work on their part to decipher and understand. This too will contribute to how much they are able to process and to how they are able to organize their minds.
Consider having accessible areas in every part of the home to allow your child to do as much as they can for him/herself. Create opportunities for conversation, get down to their level, ask them questions and wait patiently for the answer. Read to them on a daily basis, perhaps before bed, and role model reading in your home. They benefit so much simply by seeing you reading too.
Have the outdoors accessible to them on a daily basis and go for walks exploring plant life, offering the language if you have it. If not consider a trip to the library or perhaps you have illustrated books at home to help. Help your child to see the connections between what you discover in books and what you have seen in the world.
Take the opportunity as a parent to step back and observe, see how you child’s mind works and what engages him/her. In this way you can help support their self-construction in the best way possible.
“The reality of human existence is that life is full of transitions… Transitions are opportunities for development.”
Dr. Silvia Dubovoy Ph.D. AMI Trainer