Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Apple Pie!

"The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, "The children are now working as if I did not exist."
-Dr. Maria Montessori
It's officially apple harvesting time! For weeks, the children have been munching on the crunchy bounty growing on the apple tree in the yard, begging their parents at the end of the day to let them pick more apples to take home with them, and toting around little buckets of fallen apples during play time.
Today, we decided that the apples were ripe enough to celebrate the first week of fall with one of our most popular baking projects-homemade apple pie. To prepare, the children took turns carefully scaling a small ladder and picking apples from the tree (there was a never-ending line of enthusiastic children for nearly forty minutes- no sooner would they climb the ladder and pluck their selection, than they would race back to the end of the line to anxiously await another turn).

Once our basket was brimming with crimson specimens, the children carried it into the kitchen to begin their preparations.

The apples were peeled, cored, and spiral sliced using an old-fashioned, hand cranked, apple peeler and corer. The children thought this was lots of fun!

They particularly liked the spiral slices of apple that it produced!

The children made quick work of the mise en place for the pie. It was time to begin baking! The children mixed together the fragrant ingredients,
rolled out the pie crust into 1/8" thick sheets, cut it into rounds, pressed it into individual pie tins,

and ladled them full of the apple filling.

Perhaps most exciting, was the leadership exhibited by the eldest students in the classroom. One of the greatest benefits of the Montessori environment is the mixed age group; this permits the oldest children to assume additional responsibilities and serving as role models to the younger student. This allows older students to review concepts, consolidate their own knowledge, gain confidence and leadership experience. Additionally, it fosters an authentic sense self-esteem by permitting them to make a meaningful contribution to the classroom community. Simultaneously, it provides younger children with good role models and exposure to more sophisticated uses of language, social interactions, ways of thinking, and advanced lessons.
It would be hard for me to imagine behavior more worthy of imitation than that of the oldest children in the classroom today. The eldest children led the younger children through the baking activity- tying their little aprons around their waists, explaining the ingredients, helping them roll out their dough, and gently assisting them in preparing their little pies. They were helpful, patient, and kind. Sometimes, all the teacher needs to do is sit back and observe (and, perhaps, beam with pride).

All that was left for me to do was place the little pies in the oven! Within minutes the entire school was redolent with the intoxicating fragrance of cinnamon and apples.

Fittingly, the children concluded the day by enjoying their Autumn refreshment on the patio next to the apple tree and a lawn covered with the first sprinkling of crunchy, fallen leaves. Honestly, what could be better than warm apple pie in the company of friends?

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