January 27, 2022
Archive for Montessori toddler 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
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
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)
Anna recently moved to Canada from Venezuela and last year completed a 9 week Preschool level placement at Clanmore. Anna was a practicing paediatrician in Venezuela, and is also a mother of two. Our youngest students definitely found their way into her heart.
What follows are Anna’s thoughts on Clanmore – the toddler room, and her first experience of a Montessori environment.
“First of all, thanks to the Clanmore community for giving me the opportunity to be a part of your family for a couple of weeks. In a few words, I will try my best to describe my impressions of this lovely experience.
Two weeks observing the Toddler environment and interactions, being able to catch the idea of the general way they conduct their routine and also getting to know each and every child and their own way to handle a day at school, has been a fantastic experience. There are many things that have impressed me about the daily routine, the space, the building, the light, the behaviour of the children and the way the teachers lead them throughout the day.
I would like to start with the environment, simple I would say is a word that best describes it, less is more would also fit. Child size furniture that allows every child to work comfortably, to feel it is their world. Every set of work material is designed to be used and get advantage of. Few elements to work with in every set, like for example four dogs in a basket, not more, so the child can manage the information and absorb it as they should. One colour to paint with or five tools in a tool box. Knowing every element, every name or function makes them feel secure.
Most of the work is done independently, sometimes the children get together around an activity, but most of the time every child chooses a separate work to do and focuses on it usually with little distraction. How teachers communicate with children is delighting to observe. They are constantly showing love and respect to them. They speak slowly and articulate every word repetitively to assure comprehension. Always please and thank you and constantly in an adequate tone of voice, loving, but yet firm.
The children are always encouraged to perform daily duties by themselves, such as putting on their outdoor outfit, cleaning after something has been spilled, helping at the table during snack time or folding laundry. Every task is performed in a smooth way, they have the time they need to do so, with no hurry.
Every child teaches you something valuable and everyone has a huge potential and develops their progress at their own pace.
The children look happy! And that shows success by itself. At Clanmore the community makes sure children feel at home, with family. Being able to observe has been a privilege and for that I am grateful. Thanks to everyone involved.”
Anna Ossott, 2014