bevfollowsthechild

Just another WordPress.com site

Big, real practical life work! June 7, 2017

At this time of year, when the weather is good and the children are full of energy, what a gift it is to come across an opportunity for real effort, and really big practical life work!  Scrubbing furniture is one such opportunity, and helps the children to prepare for the end of the school year.  “We are washing everything before the end of the school year, so we will leave our classroom clean and ready for the start of next school year.”  This big work can be done within the classroom, or out on the playground.

 

Practical life that is real and necessary is so much more meaningful than works on trays on shelves that practice skills, but don’t have any real-life purpose.

Today, due to having to reschedule three times (don’t ask!), we finally had a big delivery of bark for our playground.  This bark was needed for under the swings to ensure safety in case of a fall.  Our old bark had just become too compressed and worn out.  After rescheduling three times, our parent volunteers were thin on the ground, and the bark pile seemed enormous,  (Three truck loads!)  What could we do?  One of the teachers suggested that some of the children might like to help.  We had a handy supply of child-sized rakes, shovels and buckets, after all!  Thanks, teacher, for reminding me of how competent and capable and eager to help children can be.  What started off as a few children ended up as a school wide effort, with everyone involved except the two year olds.  (They were napping, by this time).  During an hour long effort in the morning, followed by an hour long effort in the afternoon, the children, with the help of a few teachers and a handful of parent volunteers, moved and spread three truck loads of bark.  What an amazing effort.

What was especially sweet was that as we were working this morning, children from the other school that shares our play area sat down to watch the effort.  After our children had gone inside to get cleaned up and rehydrated, they came up to me and asked if they could help, too.  I was already very hot and pooped out, but I couldn’t resist, so I filled one big bucket for every child.  They were so happy to join in the effort.

One of our kids told me, “I just love helping my school.”  This fits in 100% with some of our values – child-centered, dignity (of work), and community.  I hope parents involve their own children in the real life of their homes, including yard work!

 

 

Outdoor Science School ~ Day three. It’s all about perspective! May 24, 2017

Today we travelled by public transportation and a long walk to reach Roundtop Park, one of the highest points in Pullman, and a remnant of the original Palouse prairie.  Part of the challenge of today was the weather.  The temperature dropped about thirty degrees from yesterday, and there was a fierce cold wind blowing.  We got a very concrete lesson in being prepared for changes of weather.  Many of the kids were under-dressed in shorts and T-shirts, and were feeling very cold.  We made an emergency trip back to one of our family’s home to stock up on jackets, hats, gloves and long pants.  Lesson learned, we hope!

The theme of today was perspective.  We spent part of the day getting up close and personal with individual prairie plants, and using a plant guide to identify the plants.  We also considered what we might have named a plant.  I loved the name given to a type of grass by a child ~ ‘purple seeds’   From the photos you can see how intent the children were on seeing ‘up close’ and noticing detail.

Above is one of my favorite photos,  At outdoor science school, no desks are needed for learning and work!

We also switched perspective, because we were up high, and looked out at the landscape.  We drew and talked about what we saw.  We also talked about what we noticed using our different perspectives.  This is similar to using binoculars and a magnifying lens, two tools we have been using throughout our outdoor science school.

Part of today was also spent in being a child in nature – having fun by running, climbing, jumping, and pretending to be animals!  We ended the day by composing a song about perspective!  I hope we will sing this for parents at our presentation tomorrow at 1:00.  Tomorrow morning the children will work on inquiry projects, and will present their findings to the group and parents after a picnic lunch.  This week has gone by too fast!

 

Outdoor Science School ~Day Two. It’s all about the water! May 23, 2017

Today we had another beautiful day for our outdoor science school ~ blue skies, sunshine, high around 80, but a wonderful breeze!  We walked along the South Fork of the Palouse for a day focused on water.  IMG_3953Our morning base was under our favorite willow tree.  This tree provided us with much needed shade for snack, and our first activity, getting close to something we found in nature ~ a piece of bark, a leaf, a rock, a bug . . . We shared with a friend what we noticed, and what we wondered.  “I noticed this piece of bark has some moss growing on it.  And I wonder where the bark came from?  Did it fall off the willow tree?”

IMG_3959

Someone noticed some very strange fungi growing on the tree, and then we all got up close and personal with our favorite tree.  We found more fungi, spiders and their webs, ants, holes that might be homes for living things . . .

IMG_3967

Next wIMG_3984e worked on a water cycle game.  We imagined we were a droplet of water, and we followed this water droplet through a journey.  There were various stations representing clouds, ocean, rivers, ground water, animals, plants.  We spread out around the various stations.  At each station there was a bag of colored beads and a dice.  We took a bead at our station (e.g. white bead for clouds, blue bead for rivers) and then rolled a dice to tell us where to go next on our water droplet journey.  The dice were loaded in favor of the real water cycle, so we found ourselves spending a lot of time at the cloud and the ocean station.  That makes sense!  There is a lot more water stored in the oceans, than in plants and animals, for example.  This was a fun way to explore the water cycle.( Check out https://www.facebook.com/TheMontessoriSchoolofPullman/ to see a video of  the journey of a couple of droplets of water. We then spent time building miniature water sheds.  We used backpacks, water bottles and rocks, and a black trash sack to build mountains, valleys and lowlands.  Then we used spray bottles to represent rain to see how water would gather and flow, as in lakes and rivers.  We added ‘stuff’ to represent pollutants, and then let it ‘rain’ some more to see what would happen.  The pollutants spread throughout the watershed.  We thought about where we might build a house on our watershed, where we might farm, how we would provide spIMG_3985ace for wildlife . . . We drew our watersheds.

IMG_3987

What a special place for lunch!  We sat on the riverbank, surrounded by the sound of rushing water, and ‘snow in spring!’  The cottonwoods were releasing their seeds, and it looked like snow!

Our afternoon was spent checking out whether the Palouse River was ideal habitat for salmon.  We used tools to measure the temperature of the water, the acidity and the turbidity (How cloudy) of the water.  From a song, we learned that salmon like clear, cold water and fast flowing water.  We also observed to see if there was food (aquatic macro invertebrates like caddis fly) and shelter, like rocks and snags.  Our conclusion was that the habitat would not be ideal – water too warm, for example – but might be possible, but the fish would be stressed.

On our walk home, we noticed that some of our students were really dragging towards the end.  Our last stretch was uphill in the heat of the day.  However, at the end of a full day like this is a strong sense of, “I did it!”

Roll on tomorrow, and another full day of outdoor science learning!

 

Math in the Montessori environment March 25, 2017

Take a look at the focus with which these children from the 3 – 6 environment explore with the math manipulative!  All of these students are pre-K

Below ~ an overview of Montessori math materials for the lower elementary years!

Below ~ a brief overview of math materials in the 3-6 year old environment

Finally a brief overview of math manipulatives in the toddler room

 

Montessori Memories February 18, 2017

Filed under: Montessori education,Montessori memories,Mother,peace,Practical Life,Uncategorized — bevfollowsthechild @ 6:22 pm

16826004_10208585533099345_3254929054996917078_oWhen I first saw this photograph, recently sent to me from one of the children in the photo, I thought that it was a photo of me, around 1984, working in a childcare center.  And then I realized it was just my back yard. We are dying Easter eggs.  The child, now grown, said that she always remembers doing interesting things at our home.  I think I was meant to be a Montessori teacher!  I loved cooking with the children, setting out pouring games, and our favorite, the doll’s clothes laundry.  Most of the time in Texas, this laundry was set up outside, but on cold days, I would string a washing line up in the den!

Looking back, I realize my first exposure to Montessori was in a friend’s home in England.  She never called her home a Montessori home, but I remember how peaceful and calm it was, and how activities were available in baskets on shelves, ready for the children to choose.  Anna, my daughter, used a knife to cut up her own snack while we were there.  We left England when Anna was two and a half, so she was very young to be using a knife.  That is my confirmation that this was indeed a Montessori home.  There was the right size knife for Anna to use.

My next exposure was at Arlington Country Day School.  I was looking for a preschool for my daughters, Anna, now four and a half, and Elanor, almost three.  Once again, it was the sense of peace that really hooked me in.  I was close to tears when I realized that this is where I wanted my children to go to school, but also because I had found my passion!  I wanted to be a Montessori teacher.  Thirty-two years later, I am still passionate about Montessori education.  The sense of peace and joy remains an inspiration.  I am full of wonder that after so many years children still surprise me with new and unique ways to learn, problem solve and create with the materials.Just look at the variations below!

HeAnna loves pouring games. Love the wellington boots and apron!re are a few more photos from the eighties!  This is Anna, long ago in England, playing pouring games.  When I saw the water works in practical life at the first Montessori school I visited, I thought, “Pouring games!  my children will love this!”

My one year old son washing dishes at the kitchen sink, while big sis helps!

 

The Montessori Advantage ~ Excellent Executive Functioning Skills! October 22, 2016

Filed under: Child Development,impulse control,learning,Montessori education,Uncategorized — bevfollowsthechild @ 11:45 pm

11934944_10153555355176774_4321930277428401165_nPhoto caption ~ “May we watch you work?”  Impulse control practice!

I have thought long and hard about what I call ‘the Montessori advantage’, that special characteristic of Montessori students that allows them be successful in later schooling, relationships and work, and to become the people they were meant to be.  At the recent annual conference of the Montessori Institute of America the keynote speaker, Dr. Steven Hughes presented on Education for Life.  You can find out more about Dr. Hughes here: http://www.goodatdoingthings.com/GoodAtDoingThings/Welcome.html

I had the pleasure (and the fear – it is very hard to follow a keynote speech by Dr. Hughes!) to present on the development of Executive Functioning skills in children.  These skills (short term memory, flexible thinking and impulse control) are an important part of education for life.  These skills help us succeed in school, at work, in relationships, and as a parent.  You can hear more about executive functioning skills by following this link to a short video: http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/inbrief-executive-function-skills-for-life-and-learning/

I think that Montessori schools provide children a wonderful environment for the practice of these skills, and like any skill, practice helps develop and strengthen the skills.  The video clips in the executive function overview include many set in Montessori schools, yet Montessori education is never mentioned.  That’s why I think it is important for us to join the conversation as Montessori parents and teachers.  ‘Executive functioning’ are buzz words in education right now, and this is something Montessori education excels at ~ providing the opportunity to practice, develop and strengthen working memory, flexible thinking and impulse control.

Just think of these examples:

Working memory ~ consider all of the distance games (matching pink tower or broad stair pieces, shapes from the geometric cabinet to cards on a rug across the classroom), three period lessons, matching games, remembering the sequence of a lesson, remembering where a work goes on a shelf . . .

Flexible thinking ~ so many works (knobbed cylinder blocks, binomial cube, trinomial cube, puzzles) encourage a child to persevere and try a different arrangement to solve the puzzle

Impulse control ~ walking on the line, fine motor control activities, just having one of each material so you have to be patient and wait your turn, watching a work without touching, waiting for a lesson. . .

With twenty children in a room, all moving freely and making their own choices of what to work on, you can see that our students get a lot of practice on focusing on their own work and avoiding being distracted by the movement and choices of those around them.  Their executive functioning skills get a daily workout.

As parents and educators, we can not only provide lots of opportunities for practice of these skills, but also set about providing the best environment to avoid long term factors that negatively impact the development of these skills.

  • Poor role models
  • Stress
  • Poor nutrition
  • Lack of opportunity to practice and develop

Please note: In the short term, tiredness, hunger, not feeling well, can also impact a child’s (and a teacher’s or parent’s!) executive functioningIf you consider how you feel less than your best when you are tired, hungry, stressed, not feeling well, you can see how detrimental these same factors are on a long term basis.  Within our school we provide lots of opportunities for practice, we stress excellent nutrition (no junk food), we provide a predictable routine, opportunities for gross motor play, yoga to prevent stress and our teachers strive to provide positive role models to our children.

When I consider the lack of opportunity to practice and develop, I think of two extremes.  When a parent or teacher does everything for the child, and prevents the child from making choices, making mistakes and facing natural consequences, the child does not have the opportunity to practice executive functioning skills.

When a child is afraid to make choices or make a mistake because of fear of ridicule or punishment, the child is also prevented from practicing and strengthening these skills.  Fear makes for stress, a long term factor that inhibits the development of executive functioning skills.

I have included some references and resources for interested parents and teachers.

References:

Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (2011). Building the Brain’s “Air Traffic Control” System: How Early Experiences Shape the Development of Executive Function: Working Paper No. 11. Retrieved from http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/building-the-brains-air-traffic-control-system-how-early-experiences-shape-the-development-of-executive-function/

(above links to 20 page full paper)

http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/inbrief-executive-function/

(above links to two-page summary of full paper)

Download a sixteen page guide to developmentally appropriate activities ( six months through adolescence) to strengthen executive function skills

http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/activities-guide-enhancing-and-practicing-executive-function-skills-with-children-from-infancy-to-adolescence/

Video overview of executive function, with many video clips set in a Montessori classroom

http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/inbrief-executive-function-skills-for-life-and-learning/

Fifteen-minute TED talk, about helping adults develop executive function skills, and the ability this has to lift families out of poverty:

http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/using-brain-science-to-create-new-pathways-out-of-poverty/

Thanks to the parents and teachers who asked me to share some more information about Montessori education and executive functioning.

 

Experience the great outdoors! October 19, 2016

img_3689I recently talked with a friend about experiencing the fullness of life.  When we live mostly indoors, either in central heating or air conditioning, in a very comfortable zone, we dull our senses.  I remember hiking on the moors in North Yorkshire (think Wuthering Heights), on a blustery day, with winds chasing rain showers and clouds, and meeting an old guy who greeted my friends and I with, “It’s cracking up here!”  (Cracking, think Wallace and Gromit movies, and Wensleydale cheese being ‘cracking good cheese’), and thinking, “Yes, it is cracking!  I feel so alive!”  So, that’s what I love about our River Walk.  Our senses come alive.  “Look at the trees!  They look like rainbows.”  “Smell!  It smells so good!”  or “Yuck, the mud smells so bad!”  “Listen to the water!”  “Ouch, this tree is so prickly!”  “Look at the river shining.  It’s like silver.”

I love that the children pushed themselves to walk a little further than was comfortable (about four miles) and braved crossing plank bridges across the river.  We spotted ladybugs gathering for hibernation, identified all of our favorite trees (Oak, Aspen, Willow, Maple and Spruce), and also experienced a little local history ~ the site of the first Artesian well, a comparison of the university  100 years ago with today ~ and viewed some local art (a mural by Pat Siler, a local artist).  We estimated.  “How far do you think we have walked so far?”  “How many ladybugs did we see?”  “How many toadstools do we think are right here?” “How tall is the Willow tree?” We measured the circumference of trees.  We compared – leaf shape, bark.  But above everything else that I loved today is that we spent  an amazing day together as friends.  Five hours together went so quickly!  It was cracking!  I leave you with an invitation to get kids outdoors as much as possible, and photos of our day, because a picture is worth a thousand words!

img_3618