Friday, September 9, 2016

Why You Choose Montessori

Before the leaves begin their transition to vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow. Before the morning air gets fresh and crisp. Before the urban gardeners are shuttling potted Borghese Plum, Sungold, and Brandywine tomato plants from patio to porch to avoid the frost, the sounds of eager and excited children can be heard as they head back to school.

For some parents, the hugs, kisses, and tears of their child’s first day at elementary school is still a couple of years away. Some of these parents may be dealing with the separation anxiety (their children’s and their own) of the first day of pre-school.

The scene at Maple Tree Montessori, the first week of September is equal parts calm and angst-ridden. There’s excitement and trepidation, reticence and effusiveness, shock and comfort.

Transitions to new situations are always tricky, especially for developmentally-sensitive pre-schoolers but a Montessori school is a warm, inviting, and a natural environment that allows space for children to acclimate rather quickly.

Upon entering Maple Tree Montessori, the first thing most people notice is the natural wood – not just the shelving, but the tables, chairs, and learning materials. You won’t find much in the way of plastic or other synthetic materials in a Montessori school.

Montessori schools are named after Dr. Maria Montessori, the first female doctor in Italy. She was a physician, philosopher, educator, feminist, and humanitarian. She was a deeply spiritual person. Dr. Montessori was also nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Her method, based on years of observation and research, led her to develop a child-centered, alternative educational philosophy that aims to tailor the children’s environment to their developmental levels. The goal is develop a child that is a “complete human being, oriented to the environment, and adapted to his or her time, place and culture.”

The children are introduced to self-correcting Montessori-specific materials that present learning concepts and develop skills in a number of areas, including practical life, sensorial, language, math and so on. Teachers in a Montessori school observe children and watch for signs that new material can be introduced.

The key to the Montessori method is that the children’s learning is self-directed. They choose their work from a well-structured and well-stocked classroom. Montessori students learn on their own, and are encouraged to help and teach each other.

Each day at Maple Tree Montessori, you’ll find several children setting the tables for lunch. The plates, glasses, and cutlery are set on top of tablecloths and napkins that have been recycled from thrift-store bed linens and men’s dress shirts. A few children will arrange some flowers in small vases and place them on each table. A few other children will help serve lunch, which is made fresh in the Maple Tree kitchen every day. After the mid-day meal, more children will help clear and wash the dishes in the sink custom-made at the children’s height.

A Montessori classroom is the children’s house – literally. Dr. Montessori called her pre-school the Casa dei Bambini. Everything in a Montessori classroom is child-sized to promote competence and confidence – to create a small children’s world that they can negotiate with self-assurance.

When the leaves do change colour and cover the sidewalk with their abounding tapestry in autumnal hues, the young pre-school students from Maple Tree Montessori may be found walking outdoors gathering this natural harvest, along with a recently vacated bird’s nest, and a nearly-hollowed tree branch. These will join some seashells, fossils, and feathers on the science and nature tray in the classroom, where the children will peruse and inspect their treasures with a magnifying glass and their naked eye.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Science is Everywhere

 I initially found the thought of science camp to be  intimidating.  I do not consider myself to have a particularly scientific mind.  I did not have anything to worry about however because the children certainly do have scientific minds.  It seems that children are natural scientists.  They make their guesses, they test it and then draw their own conclusions.

We enjoyed looking through the microscope and seeing what everyday objects look like up close.
 We explored the way force starts, stops, speeds up movement and changes5 directions.

We experimented with levers and fulcrums.  We learned that the distance traveled is different depending on where the fulcrum is placed
What happens when you mix vinegar, paint and baking
soda?  A great big scientific mess!  That's what happens!

Inspired by Rosie Revere, Engineer we made inventions from loose parts.
 Making shadow puppets helped us explore the science of light and shadow.

Posted By Ms. Melanie

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Crazy for Art

I think I've gone a little crazy importing the pictures from the last two weeks!  I just find it hard not to share everything your children have done.  We had a very full two weeks of Art Camp at Maple Tree.  I have loved every single project and I gave a lot of thought when I chose the projects thinking about all the different abilities of my children.  Not every child loves art or getting messy.  I really wanted my children to have sensory experiences with their art and I think we accomplished that with great success.

From tracing around bodies and feeling tickled to experiencing the size of ones body and just how much paint it takes to paint it.  The children really loved being traced and then painting themselves.  Such a simple project really and yet so very rewarding especially when you stand back and look at everyone.
 We used simple materials for this project.  Recycled drafting paper, markers, and tempera paint.

 We also looked at Monet.  I've done other projects on Monet with the children and this one was different in that we used real flower for stamping our impressions.  I set up two stations for this project.  We had a table with water colours and the children were really applying the paint very quickly.  The idea was to watch the colours bleed together.  There was so much discussion about what happens when blue and yellow mix to make green and red and blue to make purple.  After the water colour was applied we move to the next painting station.

The children applied acrylic paints with flowers.  They absolutely loved pressing the flowers into the paint and then stamping their water colour painting.  the effect was really quite stunning.
 We talked about Monet and his many famous paintings and his style of painting.


 We also experimented with small canvases and rubber bands.  Turns out that was so much easier for the children to use than string.  We had the children wrap the canvases with rubber bands and then we stamped water colour paint on the canvases.  When the stamping was done we threw salt on the painting to see if it would create an interesting effect.


 Another project we did was inspired by our love of metal insets!  I pulled out all kinds of circles for tracing. Rolls of tape of varying sizes and lids from containers and of course our circle metal inset for tracing.  After all the tracing the children were invited to colour in their circles with either marker or water colour paints.  This project was so simple and so very beautiful.  Each child's creation was so very different and beautiful.

 We did a lot of outtings.  We went to water parks, play grounds and to see a puppet show.


 We made marble art with shaving cream and liquid water colour.  I really love liquid water colour.  The colour is so very intense that I've been using it when I make play dough as well. It's so much more vibrant than food colouring.
 For this project the children sprayed shaving cream into a large tray and then we used droppers to apply the liquid water colour.  Then the children mixed the colours with tooth picks and popsicle sticks.  We used special water colour paper and pressed it into the shaving cream.  You MUST use water colour paper for this project.  The water colour paper really absorbs the paint and the marbling.  When you lift off the paper you use a scraper to scrape the shaving cream away to reveal a most beautiful marble painting.

 We tried Bubble painting.  Using water colours again and straws and soap to create colourful bubbles.  Once the bubbles were big enough the children pressed their water colour paper on to the bubbles to collect their bubble impression.  This was fun.  It was fun to make the bubbles and then see them appear on the paper like magic!

 We made rainbow fish.  Based on the story Rainbow Fish.  I've had metallic paints for a while that I've been waiting to use.  We used celery to stamp the scales out on the fish and when the paint was dry we had the children go over the fish with orange and blue water colour paints.


 Our last project was painting with water balloons.  This was slippery and fun and the children really loved getting their hands messy.  Again, lots of colour choice and colour mixing for the children.  we really encouraged mixing and stamping.  The glossy yellow paper was donated a few years ago and I had been saving it for this kind of project.  We used Acrylic paints which really hold up beautifully on the glossy paper.
So, that is a wrap on art camp.  I really love doing art and I feel it is so important for children to make art.  To many early learning environments don't do enough of this.  Children need artful experiences like they need love.  Art is love.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Space The Final Frontier

Painting the Sun
 It's mind blowing how fast and busy two weeks can come and go.  It's also stunning to me just how much we managed top pack into those two weeks!  Space the Final Frontier is the start of our Summer Programming at Maple Tree.  I like to change things up a bit for the next eight weeks for my children and give them a different space and break from their regular routine and Montessori Year.  For the next eight weeks we will be doing Camp in two week blocks.  Each Camp has a different theme.  We just finished our two week Space Camp.  It was so much fun and very, very full.  I know my children went home tired every day.
 We kicked off the start of camp with these beautiful Sun Paintings.  We had the children apply paint and then we used plastic wrap on top of the sun to smoosh the paint and blend the colors.  to finish the painting the children pulled our the rays of the Sun using their fingers.  This piece of art was one of my favourites as it was simply stunning when it was finished.
A number of years ago I made a Solar System out of felt.  I bought a large piece of black Sparkly  felt and then hand stitched the rings for planet placement.  It's not perfect but it's close enough.  I actually made two of these.  One I hand painted and I didn't like and this one I hand sewed (much nicer).  I also needle felted each planet and did my best to make them all to scale.  I did a circle activity with the children and presented this work.    It then went of on the shelf as work that the children were free to take out and use.
Working with the Solar System

We also had planets and other space themed things out at our felt board.  I watched as the children came and went from this space creating their own stories and doing imaginative play.  It was sweet.
We had many Outings, this one was to Neptune's Garden!

We had a day of RED!  We went to the Red planet for our outing (Commons Play ground) and we did all things red on this day.  We made a lot of strawberry jam for the cupboards followed up by biscuit making for strawberry short cakes!
Biscuit Making
What can you do when so many strawberries come into the school.  We made strawberry short cakes twice in two weeks!
Trip to Jupiter (York Redoubt)
This was a very full day almost entirely spent out at the park.  It was one of the best days!

All work and no play isn't much fun.  I firmly believe there is a balance and an argument for both.  I set up this play space area for one and the children came and went from it  a lot in the last two weeks.  I suspended the solar system above the play table sop it would really feel like space.
We had lego come out in the afternoons to ship making.  I love lego.  It is one of the most brilliant toys out there!

 We made a solar system out of paper with a spinning sun.
 Galactic Space Dough

  • large mixing bowl
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons of cooking oil (we used Canola)
  • 1 1/2 cups of salt
  • food coloring (I used black liquid water color.  It;s what I had on hand and it worked perfectly)
  • Lots of glitter 
  • This is a no cook play dough.  Just put everything into a bowl and mix it up.  I added the glitter lastly when all the dry ingredients were mixed in.  This was a huge hit!
We made Moons.  We used a mixture of shaving cream and glue with black liquid water color and let the children go crazy making crators.  The sensory experience alone on this project was so worthy it!

 The biggest project we did during this two week period was to make a solar system.  Each child made their own.  It took two weeks as there were many steps.  Each step was easy and fun to do and after a morning outing it was the perfect way to have some down time in the afternoon.  We started by having all the children make the planets.  I pulled out my big box of modelling clay and the children got to work making each planet.  We organized these all on wax paper and labelled each child work with their name to keep it all organized.

Close up of Planet Earth and Mars

To finish this project up the children painted card board with a mixture of black paint and glue to represent the milky way.  I hot glued a foam ball (the Sun) in the centre of each milky way and the children painted the Sun.  The last few days has been about the children using wooden sticks to attach their planets to the solar system.  It was a big project but we took our time and each step was another part of the project and an art experience on it's own.  

 We made crazy Crayons.  It's funny to me how long the children wanted to sit and peel paper off the old crayons.   I guess it makes sense as children like to pick things or pick at things.  We broke up what wasn't already broken and sorted by color and placed into a silicon baking cup tray that was star shaped.

 And now we have new crayons!  I sent two home with each child.  I love how they turned out.  So save your broken crayons.  You can make new ones again!  We baked ours in a 350 degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes (until they were melted).  They need to cool completely and harden up to come out of the tray or they will break.

So that's a wrap for me on Space Camp!  I'm glad it's a long weekend~I am exhausted :-)