Friday, October 30, 2009

Winter Joie de Vivre

"In depth of winter, I finally learned that within me lay an invincible summer."
-Albert Camus

This week brought the first big snow of the year- nearly a foot of sparkling powder in Longmont! While the temperatures dipped, local schools and businesses closed, and commuters crawled along icy roadways, the children got their first taste of snow (literally!). They shovelled walkways, built a snowman, sampled icicles, and warmed up by baking fresh cranberry orange muffins for snack.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Autumn Fun

"Children are inspired with a feeling for nature...He stands with respect to the plants and animals in relations analagous to those in which the observing teacher stands towards him. Little by litte, as interest and observation grow, his zealous care for the living creatures grows also, and in this way, the child can logically be brought to appreciate the care which the mother and teacher take of him."

-Maria Montessori, The Montessori Method, 1912

Montessori believed strongly in the importance of children's regular interaction with nature, both for their physical health and as an important part of the child's education (in which even the youngest child would learn botany, earth science, and art appreciation first hand):

"The education which a good mother or a good modern teacher gives today to the child who, for example, is running about in a flower garden is the counsel not to touch the flowers, not to tread on the grass; as if it were sufficient for the child to satisfy the physiological needs of his body by moving his legs and breathing fresh air. But for the physical life it is necessary to have the child exposed to the vivifying forces of nature in order that he may lay up for himself treasure from the educating forces of living nature. The method of arriving at this end is to guide him to the cultivation of plants and animals, and so to the intelligent contemplation of nature."

As a result, Montessori children engage in many practical life tasks which encourage the child to connect with and care for their environment (raking leaves, shoveling snow, raking sand in a Zen garden, caring for plants and animals in the classroom, and gardening). Additionally, these activities provide opportunities for children to develop gross and fine motor skills and to cultivate an authentic self- esteem by making a positive contribution to their community.

Montessori's beliefs appear to be prescient; contemporary research supports the notion that children whose access to nature is restricted are more prone to suffer from anxiety, depression, and inattentiveness.

This Autumn, the children have been learning about leaves (the parts of a leaf, shapes of leaves, and the important role that leaves form in photosynthesis). Most importantly though, they have learned that leaves are beautiful and fun to play in!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Geometric Solids

In Montessori classrooms the children are permitted to freely choose among a great variety of growth-promoting materials during the independent work period. As a result of their freedom to choose, it is always very interesting to see which materials the children are most interested in using (which can vary dramatically from year to year). Often, children will observe another student using a material and will want to imitate their use of it.

This year, I have been particularly struck by how interested the children are in learning the geometric forms. Even the youngest children in the classroom can already correctly identify the basic geometric forms (cube, cone, sphere, cylinder, and pyramid).

One of the most frequently selected lessons is to select some of the geometric forms, place them in a basket, cover them with a blanket and play a game in which they try to find a specific form with their eyes closed. This game is great for teaching children the names of the forms, both because there is a lot of repetition of the names ("Find the cube." "It is the cube!") and because it coordinates the child's visual and kinaesthetic memory (by combining the visual input of what you see with the motor output of what you feel more areas of the brain are active and the transmission of signals in the brain becomes more efficient, psychologists call this consolidation).
This multi-sensory approach is representative of the Montessori Method for learning, which considers children to be sensorial explorers who learn best using concrete materials that appeal to multiple sensory modalities. It is also a good example of the socialization that is fostered in the Montessori classroom-children enjoy using the materials independently as well as in spontaneously formed groups.

I really hope that years from now the children find learning geometry to be equally fun!

Some of the children enjoy doing the lesson while blindfolded and exclaiming "Ta Da"...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Cutting with Scissors

I also updated my cutting lesson with this nice little set (I really like the little wooden box for the scraps and the nice rounded stainless scissors- they seem better proportioned to the child's hand and the children were much more successful with them than they are with Fiskars).
Cutting with scissors is a very difficult task for young children. In Montessori classrooms, they cut strips of paper with progressively more difficult patterns of lines (moving from straight vertical cuts toward wavy lines which require them to turn the paper as they cut).

Pasting Lesson/Collage Box

I have been putting some effort into updating my art area of the classroom. Although I have seen numerous examples of art shelves and art materials in the course of my training and previous employment, I wasn't quite satisfied with the quality of my materials- many of which were made of plastic (which I try to avoid using whenever possible) or not as aesthetically pleasing as possible.

One example was the pasting lesson/collage tray that I have been using. The paper bits were stored in a plastic bin that I had purchased at a hardware store (for lack of something nicer) and the paste was stored in tupperware containers with slits in the plastic lids, as I had seen in my training. Montessori schools generally make a point of having children apply paste with brushes or small spreaders (as opposed to glue sticks or glue bottles) because it serves as one more opportunity for the child to develop their fine motor skills/pincer grasp for handwriting.

So, when I discovered this beautiful birch alternative- with a nice little wooden brush and a nice little glass jar (with a lid that they can screw and unscrew), I had to have it. So far, the lesson has been a big hit in the classroom- it is generally one of the first lessons off the shelf in the morning (and when someone dropped it while carrying it back to the shelf, it became a very nice sorting lesson).

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Cloakroom Bench

With crisp Autumn mornings finally here, we (I) decided that the cloakroom was in need of a bench to assist the children in removing their warm clothing.
The children have adopted the practice of sitting on the little step into the kitchen to accomplish this task, and seem especially fond of using this low step (even when offered a chair). So, we (Josh) got to work making this adorable little bench for them- a mere 6 3/4" tall (to match the height of the step).
When you enter the cloakroom from outside, it really looks as if elves must live here.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Open House!

You are cordially invited:

Please join us for Bloom! Montessori School's Autumn Open House!

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009
11am- 1pm
701 James Street, Longmont CO
We are located at the intersection of James Street and Grande Ave, behind Valley Nissan- one block South of Ken Pratt Boulevard
No RSVP required!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Darling Gift from Urban Infants

When plastic water bottles die they hope to end up in the hands of Kelly Friedl...

As you may know, sleep is very important to the lives of young children (and to me personally). Being adequately rested improves their memory consolidation, capacity for abstraction, metabolism, and yes, their little outlooks as well.

I really loathe the childcare practice of having children nap on mats on the floor- it just doesn't seem very cozy to me. So when we opened the school, I made a point of purchasing nice little cots for each child (so the nap room more closely resembles the sleeping quarters in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs than a therm-a-rest convention) and instead of mismatched linens, we supply each new student with their own lovely little tot cot.

The tot cots that we purchase come from a lovely brother and sister owned company called Urban Infant which specializes in making environmentally friendly infant and toddler products. We absolutely love the them (Urban Infants also has really wonderful recycled mitten clips and some really cute baby shower gifts)! These cute and cozy little linen sets are very durable, machine washable, have a built in pillow and pocket, a place to label the linens with each child's name, and they roll up nicely like a yoga mat. They are also made out of recycled PET plastic water bottles! In fact, their tot cots are so amazing, that they have been sold out of them for almost a month!

Today, my shipment finally arrived (just in time for our new students!) and it contained a little gift for the children- this adorable wooden kitchen utensil set! I can't wait to break out a new vegan muffin recipe and start mixing! Incidentally, one young boy asked me today if we could make more of the vegan muffins we made out of the Veganomicon cookbook last week!
To learn more about Urban Infants, please visit their website at There is a short, optimistic video about plastic water bottles and landfill waste that makes me cry every time I watch it... you and I are raising the next generation.