This is the last of four posts about the Montessori Primary Classroom at Montessori Preschool @ Copperfield.
Part IV discusses character education in the Montessori classroom, recess, and lunch.
Our primary environment (ages 2 ½ – 6 years) is specially prepared to provide children opportunities to explore the natural world, acquire language, and develop socially and independently. The Montessori Method teaches children to care for their environment, themselves, and one another with love and respect.
A popular trend in early education is the discussion of character traits, such as empathy, discipline, and friendliness. As our students grow in the Montessori Primary Classroom, they are asked to lead, motivate, and encourage their younger peers. For example, in the below photo, our Kindergarten students lead a demonstration of a volcanic eruption. After studying the geological features of a volcano, students sat around the demonstration table and watched our Kindergartners pour baking soda and vinegar to create an “eruption”.
Another example is when a new student joins a classroom. Our Kindergartners are assigned to welcome the student and show them the various sections of the classroom.
Outdoor play and enjoyment of nature are especially fun in our enormous backyard. Children unleash their physical and creative energies by playing basketball, running races, building forts, and playing house.
Our backyard has oak and pine trees, which are home to sparrows, crows, blue jays, and cardinals. The Montessori Directress uses outdoor play to reinforce lessons on the seasons, nature, the weather and interpersonal skills.
After recess, students wash their hands and use the restroom.
Lunch time is an opportunity for students to assert their independence using the same skills learned in Practical Life. Children are never fed and are encouraged to use utensils, cups, and napkins appropriately without spilling any food. Parents often send notes to their children in their lunch boxes.
During lunch, students chat about their day, sitting with friends and laughing over jokes. Given our international student body, students are exposed to cultural diversity early on through food. They see and smell their peers’ meals – Indian parathas, Mexican carne asada, and Brazilian plantains.
After lunch, children wash their hands and use the restroom in preparation for nap time. Children who do not nap attend a Spanish or Yoga class. The Montessori work period resumes at 1:30 for additional work time, storytelling, and songs.
A day in the Montessori Primary Classroom is highly active and dynamic. Children work independently, under the guidance of a Montessori Directress. In addition, students are not just trained in language and math at an early age using the Montessori Method – but also in skills that lead to future academic success like concentration, discipline, teamwork, and friendliness.
Like the Montessori Toddler Classroom, every section of the Montessori Primary Classroom connects with another section. For example, holding materials from the Sensorial section with the thumb and first two fingers strengthens finger muscles to hold a pencil for writing. Another example is the activity of pouring grains or liquids from one container to another without spilling. The same level of concentration is needed for advanced math topics such as addition and multiplication. All materials and furniture are child-size, so children can independently operate in the classroom without the aid of an adult. Children can select their own activities (within limits) and each material is tactile and colorful to encourage a love of learning.
It is a misconception to think a Montessori school is purely academic or “studious”. When you witness children concentrating on their work, it is not because they are bored – they are actively engaged in an activity, using their physical and mental capacities to solve a problem. When you see children sweeping the floor, it is because they are learning to take pride in a clean environment. You will find that a Montessori classroom – especially the Primary Classroom – lacks bright colors and highly graphic posters. This is not because we want children to learn in a dull, un-engaging environment – Montessori Directresses actually select beautiful pieces of art to train the child’s mind and eye in aesthetics. What better artwork to use than the work of the world’s great art masters? Furthermore, bright colors can be distracting in a classroom that encourages thinking, concentration, and discipline.
And of course our children have a lot of fun in school too during our annual field day exercises, monthly holiday events with their families, and class parties.
Maria Montessori commented “…education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being.” When observing popular successes in 21st century education like Kumon or the Khan Academy, one finds that the encouragement of self-learning is common to these initiatives. The teacher remains at a distance – directing the student’s learning towards their own self-made discoveries. Indeed, this wisdom was observed over 200 years ago, when Dr. Maria Montessori conceived her internationally-recognized philosophy.
© 2012 Post and Photos by Montessori Preschool @ Copperfield
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