Monday, September 23, 2019

New Beginnings

Fruit stamping at the Art Table
We have started a new year.  

I love the beginning of a new year.  I love that it is full of possibilities and fresh starts.  This feels like a big year for me.  It's the first time in five years we've had a big shift in staffing.   This shift feels good.   There is a new energy in our classroom.  It's infectious and so much is happening both on the Montessori working front but also creatively.  Teachers are making new materials for the shelves.  

There are a lot of Grace and Courtesy lessons happening right now also.  Lessons on how to receive something and say,"Thank you" and how to ask for something and say "Please".  The best, most positive way to effect change is to model it and be open to all the ideas and possibilities.  

So I am watching and listening.  I am listening to our children, and listening to our teachers.  This past year I was taking a management course at a university.  I learned so much, especially about leadership and what a leader looks like.  I am excited to mentor my new teachers.  But most of all I am excited to teach leadership in my classroom.  One of the biggest parts of a Montessori classroom is the mentoring that happens.  The older children naturally mentor the younger children.  We don't call this out and say it is mentoring it just happens very naturally.  It is a beautiful thing to watch unfold. 
Parts of the Sunflower


Fall arrived today; it was the subtlest of shifts.  That same sublet shift is starting to happen in our classroom. We are hearing: "I am bigger" / "I can do more" / "I want to do it myself" / "I want to be the leader" / "Show others how to do it" / "Let them know they can do it their own way."

I've never been more excited about all that I see and hear unfolding around me.  It's going to be a fantastic year!


Table Scrubbing
"It is necessary for the teacher to guide the child without letting him feel her presence too much, so that she may always be ready to supply the desired help, but may never be the obstacle between the child and his experience". ~Maria Montessori

Friday, November 2, 2018

Montessori Moment

{Montessori moment} ~ A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. ~Ms. Michelle

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

A Visit to Lefferts Gardens Montessori School

At the end of April,  I had the chance to visit Lefferts Gardens Montessori School in Brooklyn New York.    I actually went to the talk they were hosting for teachers and parents on the Tuesday evening when I arrived.  Dr. Marlene Barron, a Montessori educator was giving a talk on how Montessori Principals develop Self-Regulation.  I was very excited to attend and listen to Dr. Barron's talk.  In the end, the talk was about children and making real life choices and how we chose to expose them to life all around them and those choices.  Why we choose Montessori and what Montessori children do in their days that is so very different from other programs.  We also looked at Forest schools in Scandinavia and how those teachers are inspired to reach and teach their children with their natural environment every day no matter what the weather is.  As a Montessori educator myself I was excited to have Dr. Barron share her experiences and knowledge from her many years in the field.  Dr. Barron, echoed what I already knew but,  sometimes when your in it every day for many years it's comforting and reassuring to hear from someone who is still so passionate about Montessori today as she was 50 years ago.  This fed my soul.  It needed feeding.  I was craving a learning opportunity for myself and here it was right in front of me. 
Movable alphabet work.  Three letter phonetic spelling.
A few days later, I returned to the school to do some observations.  I got to spend time in each of the classrooms at the school from toddler to elementary. 
The Casa classrooms were charming and felt like an extension of home.  I love how in New York every square inch of space is used.  Waste not want not.  I saw it over and over again.  from thoughtful and fully used spaces in the classrooms to cutting hand towels into smaller usable sizes so they are not wasted.  I cam away with brilliant ideas and a renewed sense of self.  I am a Montessori teacher, and I must stay true to my calling and the philosophy of our method for teaching.  It's so important to be the student from time to time.  to take that time to reflect and create space.  That's when the ideas come and where that sense of renewal comes from. 

When your student takes all the numbers out for the hundred board and they get mixed up!
When I got to speak with the teachers, I heard the some of same things that I struggle with.  "How do you get to everyone every day?"  "How, do you manage this and what about when the children use all the Sensorial materials at once?"  What I heard was so very reassuring and so very much like my own classroom. 
Math Shelf
"Does it all have to be perfect?"  No, it doesn't and sometimes we make ourselves so crazy with the need for perfection.  There is perfection in all the imperfection and I need to appreciate that.   I am working on appreciating that.  Lefferts Gardens Montessori School, is in a converted house.  It has three floors and a basement space with a beautiful library in it.  They use the parks and many green spaces all around them.  I loved walking around neighbourhoods and discovering all the little parks tucked into tiny places in the middle of a space you would not expect it to be.  A wonderful example of this was the High Line Park.  A converted rail bed turned into a green space above the city.  I walked it one of the days I was in New York.  All along the path, different Preschool groups were there playing and having lessons outside.  There was also a volunteer community garden group maintaining and looking after the garden spaces all along the path.  It was wonderful. 

I soaked up as much as I could.  I enjoyed all of the artwork I got to see and I felt the love at this school so very much.  From the parent support at Dr. Barron's talk, to the kind and loving environment the teachers and administration have created at this school.  It was truly a morning well spent.  I hope I get to go back, next time maybe I can teach them yoga!
The jobs board in the classroom.  Each child is assigned to an area or shelf to care for each day.  Its very much teach them to do it themselves.  Such a sense of pride and ownership in these classrooms.  It was overflowing. 

Library.  A fantastic use of this basement space. 


The last day of my trip I was able to connect with Ms. Wendy's family.  It was important for me to connect with her family.  It helps me keep her with me.  She was my Montessori mentor and a very dear friend.

Friday, February 23, 2018

This Montessori Moment


{Montessori moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Color and Pattern

Some of the children have been experimenting with color, patterns and shapes in the classroom.  Maria Montessori spoke about the sensitive period for development and refinement of perception through touch, smell, taste, hearing and sight.  This happens from birth through 4 1/2.  The sensorial materials such as the pink tower, broad stair, color tablets and  the geometric cabinet are a great way to develop this sensitivity. Children learn about color and shading by using the color tablets.



Engaging in art activities extends and refines what we learn from using the sensorial materials.
We learned about symmetry and color by painting hearts in different ways.  The children have also been experimenting with color by mixing primary colors  with eye droppers and mixing colors with plasticine.  In addition to learning about primary and secondary colors, these activities are a great way to promote fine motor development. They have been using their newly mixed colors to make temporary designs on a black canvas.

Posted By~Ms. Melanie


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Last few Months at Oxford Street

Apple Finger Painting
 It's hard to believe we are into February already.  The last few months have flown by and I have been quiet in this space.  I am not going to say I am sorry for being absent from here.    I've come to learn, that we live in a world where all we do, is say we are sorry.  Sorry for so many things.  I am not sorry that I am busy teaching in my classroom or that I choose to spend my evenings with my children (one is in his final year of high school and getting ready to leave us).  I started Maple Tree when he was two and in two months he will be eighteen.  My life is shifting as it should and I am getting ready for the next transition.  A smaller family, empty nest and making a choice to slow down.  I don't want to be in front of a screen all the time and I don't want to live with regrets.  There is lots of self reflection in my life these days and one of the things I have reflected on is this blog.  Melanie and I have made a plan to update this space two maybe three times a week.  We will each be responsible for one post each a week and I may post a Montessori Moment on Fridays if time permits.  That feels like a great compromise for me and really she should write her thoughts on her classroom as I should on my classroom.  So here, is a breakdown on what we did in the fall.

We've done a lot a work on Part's of the Apple with Nomenclature cards and labeling the parts of an apple.  This work expanded at our Art table and we set up a space for the children to enjoy a sensory experience with finger paint.  I loved how this project unfolded and how each child's versions was so
Sewing Acorns with Cardboard and Yarn
very different from the next one someone else painted.  Sensory work whether it's painting or working with Pink Tower, Red Rods, Geometric Solids, etc is so very important.  It is extremely calming. comforting and grounding for children.  Paint is just a wonderful extension  of our Montessori Materials.

We set up Early Sewing work on our Art shelf.  The children who have mastered the Stitching block and moved on to this work. We do a lot of sewing in our classroom.  I am a sewer and I think this is a very important part of Practical Life work that all children need to know how to do.  I've had children come to school with a hole in their sock only to go to the shelf and get the materials to sew it up and put it back on their foot.  There is such a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment knowing you can do that for yourself.  Maria Montessori once said, “The essence of independence is to be able to do something for one's self.” “The child can develop fully by means of experience in his environment. We call such experiences 'work'.”  This is just one of the many great examples of independence at work. 
 We did an artist study of Van Gogh in the fall.  I set up a vase of Sunflowers with a sample idea next to the easel.  The results were lovely.  It was wonderful to watch that unfold and see the children paint their own versions.


 






With our second year students we dove into the botany cabinet.  We took some time to really look at all the leaf shapes in the botany cabinet and then see if we could find matches for them in our outside experiences during playground times and nature walks.

Some of the second year children have been nature journaling through pencil work and water colour paint and pressing leaves in their journals.


We also took some time to set up pin pushing work using the shapes from the botany cabinet.  Many of our children made leaf books.  Pin Pushing work is fantastic, as it really helps children who struggle with a weak pincher grasp to develop that more and strengthen the hand. It was optional to write the names in their leaf books and many children chose to do that.  


Cutting, Glueing and Printing are such important pieces of work and children really love to cut paper and use glue.  

We looked at Georgia O'Keefe in October  and Poppy Art Ideas showed up at the art table and in our practical life shelves in the classroom.  From tearing paper into tiny pieces to making poppies, to Pin pushing them out from paper to sewing them into pins with buttons.  We found many ways to appreciate poppies and talk about Georgia O'Keefe.

Poppy Button Sewing
Poppy Pin Pushing Work

Extension work with Natural Geometric Shapes



Van Gogh Self Portrait Work
When we looked at Van Gogh's Sunflowers we also set up an independent work space so that children could explore the idea of making a self portrait.












Namaste ~ End of Yoga class

Some of you may or may not know but in September I started my 200 hr Yoga Teacher Certification and in June I will be finished with that credential.  I Did my Radiant Child Yoga Teacher certification back in the fall of 2011.  I was personally practicing yoga long before that.  I can truly say that having yoga as part of ours days at Maple Tree has been a wonderful addition to our program.  Every day I witness the benefits of children connecting to their breath and movement.  Right now, my work around this is about the teachings and how they relate to every day life.  I am learning so much right now and by extension your children are learning so much right now.  Kindness, Strength, Softness, Breath and Movement.  What to do when they just want to collapse in tears and how  to channel that energy in a positive way.  Yoga has been a gift not only to me this year but also to my children.

Van Gogh Starry Night

 I so loved this large group project.  Kathy Barbro, Art Projects for Kids is a wonderful site that has for sale large Pdf available to all kinds of paintings.  You print them out in 8x11 size sheets and put them together like a puzzle to make a large master piece.  We used Soft Pastels on this project and I sealed it with Hair Spray when it was finished.    It was a calming, community based activity that we had going on for several days in our classroom that the children could come and go from.  Many would tuck into their usual Montessori work and during transition from one thing to another they would pause and stop and settle in and add their mark to the project.
This pastel master piece made it's way into school as a gift for me.  This little boy was clearly taken with Starry Night so much that he promptly went home and drew his own version.  I love that his Mom, let him go for it with oil pastels!  I actually think I need to frame it.  Right now it sits in my office on the wall next to another smaller picture done in marker of Starry Night by another friend.  These are such wonderful gifts and in them if I look closely enough, teachings from my children.  Oh the gifts we receive each and every day.  We are lucky for certain.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

This Montessori Moment




{Montessori moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.