When I meet young adults, and they tell me they attended a Montessori School as a child, either in my school or another Montessori school, I ask them to share something they remember about the Montessori school.
Answers are typically:
“I remember peeling a carrot”
“I remember making my own snack, spreading jam on a cracker, then getting to eat it”
“I remember being with Ms. Colleen in the garden”
“I remember this garden being so much bigger”
While students in a fully implemented Montessori classroom are fully immersed in academic work, building their foundation for learning, it is typical that their memories include the hands-on garden activities. Rarely do I hear “I remember this really fun worksheet that I got to fill in!”. In fact, I am pretty sure no alumnus has EVER said that to me lol.
“He does it with his hands, by experience, first in play and then through work. The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence.” – Maria Montessori
Writing this blog, rather than tell you the benefits of a fully implemented Montessori program and explain why it is so important that children be a part of a growing garden, I would like to show you. Very much like the Montessori Guide, we ‘show’ the children.
“What the hand does, the mind remembers.” – Maria Montessori
Here are some memories I hope the children hold in their hearts. These stories are from our MSOSV gardens this 2021 year.
Oliver works hard almost every day to make sure the plants are watered. We offer him various pitchers and watering cans but he likes to pick the biggest one, big watering cans mean they carry big and heavy amounts of water. When carrying the pitcher, Oliver is very wobbly, sloshes the water around causing spills, but tries very hard to keep it all in…and the small amount that’s left (sometimes it’s a tiny stream), he’s super proud he can bring it to the plant. He’ll do that several times until satisfied.
To the untrained eye, this might look like Oliver is just playing with water. We all know children love playing with water.
Here is what is actually happening:
Oliver is developing concentration, which leads to confidence. Oliver is also developing a “love of learning”. With concentration, confidence and a love of learning; sitting at a desk when the time is right, Oliver will be ready.
“The teacher’s task is not to talk, but to prepare and arrange a series of motives for cultural activity in a special environment made for the child.” – Maria Montessori
“Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.” – Maria Montessori
When entering our Calaveras Montessori School, everyone gets to walk through the garden to get to their classroom.
Last week, the children released ladybugs into the garden.
Each day, when Aarav arrives, he doesn’t put his coat or lunch box down, he joyfully moves around the garden checking on the ladybugs as they have settled into the garden.
As Aarav carefully observes the ladybugs, he might discover the perfectly ripe strawberry hiding under the strawberry leaf. He knows he can pick that strawberry, wash it and enjoy this very special treat.
While enjoying the strawberry, Aarav might notice the flowers that have bloomed in the garden. Aarav might then, ask for the scissors, and carefully snip the stem of the flower or two.
By now, Aarav will put his lunch box away, hang up his coat.
He isn’t finished with his morning arrival though.
Aarav will pick out a table vase, fill it with water and place the beautiful flower he cut into the vase. Aarav will then place the vase on the snack table for the friends in his class to enjoy for the entire day.
Aarav is independent, he is confident and has developed a love for his community, his friends and his environment. Aarav will take this kindness, compassion and care into his future. Something we all want for our children.
“The education of a small child, therefore, does not aim at preparing him for school, but for life.” – Maria Montessori
One of the nice components of the Montessori classroom is the mixed ages. The children in the primary environments are ages 3 to 6. When we had to group siblings together during the Covid-19 restrictions, it was easy for us to have siblings together.
Freddie is a 3rd year student (kinder) and Emma is 4. Like most big brothers, he protects and helps his little sister. Well, in this case, the roles were reversed. Freddie, not a fan of “bugs” was reluctant to interact with the ladybugs released into the garden.
Emma stepped right up (I am quite certain that Emma is the family member who takes care of the “bugs” in her home). We all need an Emma in our lives!
Emma carefully introduced the ladybug to her big brother Freddie. See the joy on their faces as they have this shared experience.
In the 3-6 mixed age classrooms, generally we talk about how the older children mentor and help the younger children. The younger children look up to the older children and aspire to grow and learn and become that leader. In this case, the roles are beautifully reversed.
In this photo you see Caroline, she was concerned that some friends might step on the ladybugs and that the ground was too cold for them, so she spent the time to pick the ladybugs on the ground and relocated them to the flowers.
This little girl with the snail is Kyler. While out in the garden, she saw the snail moving. She started watching it and told me that the snail is “dancing” and she wanted to also learn the snail dance. Can you guess what happened next?
It was June 2019, the children looked out the window of the Sycamore classroom, only to discover that a mama duck had chosen the front planter box to make her nest for her duckling eggs. Pretty soon, the children enjoyed observing the mama duck and ducklings right from the classroom window.
Then it happened! One of the ducklings fell from the planter box. The children noticed and called for help. Ms. Sarah and Ms. Marissa came to the rescue, helping as carefully as possible to assist the baby duckling back to its home.
In the Montessori classroom, the guides follow the children and follow the environment. In this case, the guides quickly prepared a unit on ducks and how they migrate, build their nest and hatch their eggs. This was a very exciting and realistic unit for the children at Main Street Montessori.
But hold on…
The ducks have returned after their winter. The duck has chosen a new nesting place for her eggs, and new home to the ducklings. But this time, not in front of the school. As we began preparing our garden beds, for spring, the children in our Maple classroom found the nesting mama. The mama duck chose the planter inside our garden on the playground. If you look closely, you can see mama duck, tucked in our dense vegetation.
The children are once again learning about the ducks, nesting, hatching eggs and hoping to see the baby ducklings early this summer. What a treat for us all!
What will your child remember from the Montessori preschool? If you attend one of our schools, we would love to see you and your child as they grow. Of course, we will ask “what do you remember?” As we work with the children every day, we are filling our own treasure chest with beautiful and fond memories of the children. We hope that your child carries these memories with them as well.
What a joy it has been to write this blog. Thank you to all of our Montessori guides and leaders who make this all possible.