September 22, 2021
Archive for Montessori Casa Program
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
Our first blog post in this series focused on independence and the child’s work in constructing him/herself in order to become a contributing member of the Casa community. We will now delve a little deeper into the areas of language and the importance of what Montessori termed practical life.
The Toddler child acquires language by taking in that which his/her surrounding environment provides. Upon this foundation, the Casa child explodes into the spoken, and then written word. Vocabulary previously taken in is now used, and used with a greater understanding of both meaning and context. Vocabulary becomes notably more precise as a consequence of a more refined awareness of the world. The desire to acquire new and more expansive vocabulary is insatiable.
Casa children become consciously aware that language is a tool to express not just concrete objects but also emotions and thoughts. It has grammatical structure and the same word used in a different context or placement can take on a completely different meaning. Language for this child becomes something more than just an ability to name his/her world. It is something to play with, to explore and to take great delight in.
The Practical Life activities, those activities performed in daily living, help to foster independence. In the preschool environment they are very much an extension of the home. Practical Life activities, at both the Toddler and Casa levels aid the children in adapting to the environment with ease, while the role modeling of the adults furthers the children in their physical and social independence. The Casa child then is able to take these tools to further him/herself personally (fix one’s shoes when they don’t feel quite right, pour a drink when thirsty), and also ultimately contribute to the community for the benefit of the group (set the table for lunch for example). Independence allowing for interdependence.
It is interesting to note that recent neuroscience research strongly supports the importance of practical life activities in executive brain function. Brain development, as we know, is experienced based, and executive functions are the processes within the brain responsible for mental control and self-regulation.1
1 “The seeds of self-control begin in learning to control one’s own body. … Practical Life is the first step for each child in building a foundation for a better brain, in the Montessori environment and beyond.” Dr. Steve Hughes, PhD, LP, ABPdN For a fascinating look at Montessori and brain development we highly recommend: http://www.goodatdoingthings.com and http://www.BuildingBetterBrains.com (https://vimeo.com/stevehughes)
Who is the Casa child?
Casa children are working towards becoming even more independent. One of their tasks is to gain social independence among peers and ultimately become a contributing member of their community. They observe and imitate to construct themselves in order to transition from being an individual within the community towards being an integral part of that community. With this comes a fulfilled sense of belonging and purpose.
Like the Toddler child, they are still in a sensitive period for order (internalizing patterns and connections from the impressions of their environment). Having now entered the second half of what Montessori coined the first plane of development (0-6 years of age), they are moving from being the observer who takes in all impressions from the environment indiscriminately, to the child who can direct his/her attention towards specific interests and aspects of the environment.
They take in patterns of language and mathematical concepts, refine the impressions their senses receive (colour may now be perceived in shades for example), note how human beings conduct themselves socially and absorb many other components of their world. A child of this age is constantly striving towards mastery of his/her environment. This is an extension and further development of their will.
There are more materials in the Casa classroom in response to developmental necessity. Their senses are becoming more refined, new psychological characteristics emerge, they become more mindful and like their toddler peers are capable of great developmental work.