Social Development in a Montessori School

In a Montessori school, educators don’t merely teach lessons out of a textbook everyday, like you may see in a traditional school. Many of the lessons that Montessori educators teach are valuable life skills that a child will carry with them for a lifetime. Montessori schools focus on developing every aspect of the child – physical, social, emotional, and cognitive. These elements make up what Dr. Montessori calls the whole child.

We know human beings are social creatures by nature. We not only depend on each other to fulfill our physical needs, but emotional and spiritual as well. The idea of “culture” is based on the myriad of different ways that groups of humans have devised to meet these needs.

In the Montessori classroom, you will notice that social development takes place in many forms. Some of these include:

Mixed Age Groups

Mixed age classrooms are a signature element of a Montessori school because Dr. Montessori believed that children learn from one another. This is proven in the Montessori environment where you will often see an older child happily helping his younger peers and gaining social maturity from being a role model. The younger child may learn new concepts from the older child and as she looks up to the older child, she will begin to see that she too, will be just as capable one day. Growing together is natural, as children instinctively know when to offer help, encouragement, and comfort to those around them. Hence the mixed age group means that children have the opportunity to interact with both older and younger peers, all of who are at varying levels of individual development. The mixed age group provides daily opportunities to practice patience, tolerance, and receiving or offering assistance. Younger children look to the older children with admiration and for inspiration, and in turn, the older children help and teach the younger children.

Mixed age groups are also a contributing factor competition avoidance among children in the classroom. In the structure of a mixed age classroom, children feel less pressure to compete and more motivated to collaborate and assist one another. The social discipline that Montessori observed describes how children spontaneously interact with each other. Children show:

  • Self-controlled and purposeful interactions with others
  • Mutual spontaneous respect
  • A willingness to help others
  • Spontaneous responsiveness to the needs of others
  • Evidence of feelings of benevolence and sympathy towards others in the group
  • A non-competitive attitude

Small Group Lessons

Although the Montessori focus lies in individual progression and many lessons are presented individually to the students, some lessons are presented to students in small groups. These small groups are great for dialogue and encourage children to share their thoughts regarding particular subjects. The safe environment of the small group also makes children feel comfortable expressing novel ideas with their peers. The small group sessions improve a child’s conversational skills and helps them grasp and understand important concepts.

Set Amount of Materials

Too many materials in the classroom could cause clutter and confusion. However, if there is one complete set of materials for the classroom, then the children will benefit from a sense of order. If a child wants to work on something that involves a material already being used by another child, then they will have to respectfully wait their turn. This teaches the child the virtue of patience and provides them with the opportunity for maturity.

Lessons in Grace and Courtesy

Developing the social skills of grace and courtesy is a key component of the Montessori curriculum. In a Montessori environment, children learn how to interact appropriately with each other and with adults through dialogue. Some of these interactions including greeting and hosting guests into the classroom, preparing and sharing snacks with peers, and exercising appropriate mealtime behavior. One of the main values that are taught in a Montessori classroom is respect. By teaching respect for their peers, materials, and themselves, Montessori educators plant a seed of compassion and empathy in the children.

In a Montessori classroom, children learn how to resolve conflicts and issues by making peace with others. This is often done at the “peace table” and achieved through sharing a “peace object” of some kind, such as a rock or a flower, which is passed back and forth as the children acknowledge their feelings and express themselves.

Social Development at MASS

Montessori observed that there were “phases through which social life must pass in the course of its natural unfolding.”

At Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs, we have created a rich, well-prepared environment designed to meet the needs of our young children. The classrooms at MASS are carefully constructed to help children understand the world around them. Our educators focus on helping children form a positive self-image and develop respect for all life.

 

 

Montessori in the Kitchen: Cooking with Your Child

When you walk into a Montessori preschool, you may notice that some of the learning materials look like miniature versions of every day houseware or cookware, such as storage bowls, teapots, and pitchers. A good Montessori preschool will have a wide variety of these materials for children to use in the classroom during what is called practical life activities. The purpose of these activities is to help the child gain control in coordination of movement, become an independent individual, and develop a sense of being and belonging in society.

“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.” – Maria Montessori.

Cooking with kids has great rewards and provides many teachable moments. As you cook with your children, you can over the sounds of the alphabet, help them learn about math through measurements, and explain kitchen science, such as how water boils. There are many age-appropriate topics that can give an indication of practicing the skills in an environment that is conducive to learning.

Although your child will learn a lot from the practical life activities in a Montessori preschool, you can continue these types of activities at home by cooking with your child. You can keep your child learning at home in the kitchen by following age-appropriate recipes for food preparation and cooking.

Cooking with Infants

With the proper guidance, you can encourage your little one to help you make dough for pizza or bread. This is a simple food preparation that you can get the youngest children involved in. Children between the ages of one and two should be able to help you by adding and mixing the ingredients or by kneading the dough.

Cooking with Toddlers

Children under the age of three do not need to be in a traditional classroom setting in order to learn, they simply absorb everything in the environment by experiencing it and being a part of it. It is therefore important to provide the child with an environment that is healthy and positive, since this is what the child will absorb.

The following are activities that refine their motor skills in the kitchen environment: spreading on crackers, peeling and slicing, shelling peas, egg peeling and slicing, adding and mixing ingredients, kneading dough, and helping to set the table. Helping with food preparation tasks, such as tearing the lettuce for salad and spinning the salad, are part of their tasks.

You can ask your toddler to help you make a salad. Children between the ages of two and three should be able to help you with food preparation tasks, such as tearing the lettuce for salad and spinning the salad. They can also help you with more difficult tasks, such as peeling and cutting apples with an apple slicer/corer and peeling and slicing vegetables. These are tasks that require careful supervision though, as they will be using sharper objects.

Cooking with Preschool Aged Children

Having preschool kids in the kitchen is first and foremost done with the intention of involving them and having them participate in the preparation of mealtime. Secondly, it is done to help them learn the valuable life skill of cooking. Lastly, it is done with the aim of refining their motor and executive functioning skills through a sequence of steps.

These activities build the child’s independence and increase their sense of self-involvement. Most of all, the child will enjoy the process, not just the product. Some age-appropriate activities that will help a preschool aged child get started include the following: squeezing orange juice, peeling and slicing vegetables, spinning salad, using a hand whisk, washing and tearing lettuce for salad.

For children ages 3 and up, you can start making actual recipes. Children in this age group will be able to use kitchen appliances with your supervision and will be able to measure ingredients with measuring cups and spoons. At this age, they follow along with pretty much any recipe you can think of, as long as you simplify it for them!

Cooking at Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs

In our Montessori preschool classrooms, the toddlers and primary age students participate in practical life activities that include the use of food preparation materials. For toddlers, the practical life activities help develop gross and fine motor skills, as well as gain a sense of independence. For primary aged children, the practical life activities play a huge role in helping them understand the world around them, as well as form a positive self-image.

 

The Importance of Sensorial Materials in Montessori Preschool

One of the things that set a Montessori preschool apart from normal daycare is the materials that are used in the classroom. In a regular daycare, children are usually given a variety of toys or educational games to keep them entertained throughout the day. In a Montessori preschool, however, the children are provided with unique learning materials that are designed specifically to foster sensorial development.

Dr. Maria Montessori believed that children began having sensorial experiences at birth. According to Dr. Montessori’s studies, as children grow up, they explore and learn by interacting with their environment through their senses.   This unique period in a child’s development happens between the ages of birth and six years old. To help children express, classify, and broaden their sensory experiences, Dr. Montessori designed the Sensorial materials.

The purpose of the Sensorial materials is to aid the child in refining the child’s pitch, temperature, and weight and is utilizing language in describing these qualities. These materials are an integral part of developing the whole child — directly building the “mathematical mind” and indirectly preparing for writing.

 

Below are some of the Sensorial materials used in a Montessori preschool.

Visual

  • The Pink Tower, the Brown Stair, and Red Rods are used to develop discrimination of differences in three, two and one dimensions respectively.
  • Cylinder Blocks (Knobbed Cylinders) are used to develop the child’s visual discrimination of size, which prepares the child for later work in math. Handling these knobbed cylinders also indirectly prepares and strengthens a child’s hand for writing. 
  • Knobless Cylinders develop a child’s visual discrimination of gradations of size in a series. The Knobless Cylinders also fine tune a child’s muscle coordination and sharpen concentration skills.
  • The Color Boxes come with matching, as well as gradient style color tablets that the children manipulate in order from darkest to lightest. This helps children identify colors and develop visual discrimination.
  • The Geometric Cabinet includes trays that contain insets of a variety of plane figures, which help children develop visual discrimination of shape as well as learn the names of the various figures.
  • Constructive Triangles are used to form plane figures and help prepare children for geometry by refining discrimination senses.  
  • Binomial and Trinomial Cubes develop a child’s appreciation for the beauty of form in three dimensions. The cubes also indirectly prepare the child for mathematical concepts involving the binomial and trinomial theorems. 

Tactile

Geometric Solids help a child develop the muscular-tactile sense as well as sharpen the visual perception of solid figures. Geometric solids also indirectly prepare a child for geometry and its language.

Touch Tablets, Thermic Tablets, Fabrics and Thermic Bottles develop a child’s tactile senses as they touch and feel varying degrees of roughness, softness, temperature, and texture.

Auditory

Sound Cylinders and Bells develop a child’s auditory sense as they learn to distinguish volume and pitch and become more sensitive to sounds in their environment.

Olfactory and Gustatory

Smelling Bottles and Tasting Bottles allow a child to discriminate one smell from another or one taste from another. The child then applies this knowledge to other smells or tastes in the environment.

Montessori Materials at MASS

At Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs, you will find an extensive collection of Montessori materials. Unlike your average daycare, Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs is focused on enhancing each child’s sensorial experience on a daily basis. We take extra care in providing the most age-appropriate Sensorial materials in each of our classrooms.

 

 

Montessori Philosophy: Celebrating World Holidays with Your Child

As a Montessori parent, you may be looking for new and creative ways to incorporate the Montessori philosophy into your family lifestyle at home. One of the ways you can do this is by developing an appreciation for different cultures by celebrating world holidays. Culture is a major topic of study in the Montessori curriculum and by celebrating world holidays, you can easily teach children about the various traditions and rituals that people celebrate around the world. Here are just a few of the holidays that you can adopt at home to teach your children about the beauty and value of other cultures.

Diwali              

Also known as the Hindu Festival of Lights, Diwali is a five-day festival celebrated by people in Fiji, Guyana, India, Jamaica, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. Representing the renewal of life, Diwali is a holiday filled with many rituals that honor this tradition – such as lighting diyas (lamps), cleaning homes, opening windows, and wearing new clothes.

Chinese New Year

As one of the most prominent and celebrated festivals in the world, the Chinese New Year is celebrated at the turn of the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar. Each year is characterized by a different symbol in the Chinese Zodiac, such as the Year of the Tiger or the Year of the Dog.  The Chinese New Year is often celebrated with many different traditions such as cleaning, having dinner with family, repaying debts, playing games, and consuming special foods. It is also customary for children to receive red envelopes filled with money in honor of the Chinese New Year.

Kwanzaa

A celebration of African-American Ancestry, Kwanzaa is all about honoring ancestors through food, gift sharing, community service, history, and family. The week-long celebration dedicates each day of the week to a different principle:

  • Umoja -Unity
  • Kujichagulia – Self-determination
  • Ujima – Working together
  • Ujamaa – Helping our neighborhood grow
  • Nia – Purpose
  • Kuumba – Creativity
  • Imani – Faith

Hanukkah

Also known as the Festival of Lights or the Feast of Dedication, Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that is observed for eight nights and days. Hanukah is celebrated by lighting a candelabrum each night called a menorah, eating fried foods such as potato latke (pancakes), playing a game with a dreidel (a four-sided spinning top), and giving gifts.

Earth Day

This special holiday is celebrated annually with worldwide events on April 22nd. This holiday is celebrated in order to demonstrate support for environmental protection. Celebrated in 193 countries, Earth Day has a different theme each year, such as “End Plastic Pollution,” “Environmental and Climate Literacy,” and “Clean Earth – Green Earth.”

How We Celebrate Culture at MASS

At Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs, we have found many ways to integrate culture within our practices of the Montessori philosophy. Along with celebrating numerous world holidays, such as the Chinese New Year, MASS students also participate in the Model United Nations conference – a forum that provides students with the opportunity to learn about other countries and hone in on their diplomacy skills.

Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs also offers a new international, multi-language extension program called the Global Language Academy at Sharon Springs (“GLASS”). The GLASS program provides young minds with the opportunity to learn a second language and understand different cultures while growing in the era of globalization. Courses in Mandarin, Spanish, Hindi, Farsi, German, French and ESL (English as a second language) are all offered under the GLASS program.

Last but certainly not least, we have the MASS International Festival.  This yearly event offers a day in which we not only have fun, but also learn and experience many of the cultures found within our amazing community, and beyond.  The event unfolds with a flag raising ceremony followed by the parade of countries. Then, children receive passports – becoming world travelers as they tour different countries while they visit each classroom community. Each country (classroom) offers the child a unique experience with the opportunity to engage in crafts, music, food, or other activities.

Montessori Education: Creating a Garden with Your Child

Nature is an important element of a Montessori education. When you watch a seed grow into a flower, you get to witness one of the many miracles of nature. In the same way, seeing something you nourish with the proper nutrients develop into something beautiful is exciting and gives you a sense of accomplishment. At Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs, our outdoor garden allows our students to experience these feelings daily.

A great way to incorporate these environmental principles of a Montessori education outside the classroom is by creating your own garden at home. By creating a small garden in your yard with your children, you can share these joyous feelings with your little ones and expose them to the wonders of nature.

What to Grow with Your Child

While there are dozens of different crops that can be planted in a backyard garden, it is a good idea to choose crops that are easy to grow, grow relatively quickly, and are fun to harvest. In this way, children do not lose interest in the garden because it is taking too long for it to grow.

One of the best crops for a child to grow is a sunflower because it begins sprouting in one week, and once it is taller, it will grow hundreds of seeds that can be eaten or replanted. Not to mention, the vibrant yellow color of the flower’s bloom is beautiful to look at every day. Lettuce and snow peas are other great options because they grow quickly as well as deepen a child’s appreciation for vegetables. Many children tend to love cherry tomatoes and carrots because they are particularly fun to harvest and eat!

Tips for Gardening with Your Child

In order to make gardening a fun experience for your child, there are several things you can do. Give your child their own gardening plot or put them in charge of a particular crop. This will keep them engaged, as they will feel responsible for their section of the garden. Giving your child real gardening tools instead of the plastic one made for kids is usually a better idea – as long as you are supervising – because the plastic ones break easily and often frustrate the child. This also makes your child feel that their work in the garden is just as important as yours.

Instead of buying garden starters, you should begin by planting real seeds. This will help your child gain a better understanding of a plant’s life cycle and feel a greater sense of accomplishment once they harvest their crop.

Lastly, you can help your child build a scarecrow for the garden. This is especially useful if your child starts to become bored with gardening, since it will help regain their interest in protecting their crops.

Virtues Learned from Gardening

There are several important virtues of a Montessori education that your child will learn from gardening. Growing a crop does not happen overnight; it requires patience, dedication, and hard work. A child will learn that they must continue taking care of their crop in order for it to grow. They will enjoy seeing it blossom as it goes through different stages of its life, but they must continue nurturing it in order for it to fully grow, bloom, and produce fruits or vegetables.

Children will also learn responsibility and ownership through an at-home Montessori education involving the environment. If they are put in charge of growing a particular crop, that crop becomes their responsibility and they will feel a sense of ownership over it. Once it is fully grown and harvested, they will feel proud that their hard work created something useful for their family. Studies have shown that children who garden are happier and more confident in their abilities.

 

Building Appreciation for the Environment Through Fun Science Activities

In a Montessori education, nature plays a key role in inspiring wonder in children. The Montessori philosophy emphasizes forming a strong bond between children and their environment. By getting your child to play and learn through outdoor science activities, you can begin a lifelong appreciation for nature.

Here are a few fun and engaging science experiments that you can do with your child to help them connect to the environment around them.

Worm Observation Tower

Little animals like worms are often fascinating for children. If you find that your child is captivated by these little critters too, they will love creating a worm observation tower. This is also a great opportunity to teach your child to be kind to animals by handling them gently.

To make the worm observation tower, choose a glass vase or bin that you don’t mind getting dirty and have your child fill it up with sand and dirt. Pour a small amount of water into the container to make the soil damp and easier for the worms to crawl through.

After the container is prepared, help your child go worm digging in your garden or lifting rocks and seeing if there’s anything wriggling around underneath. Then you can fill your container with any worms you that you find and let your child watch as they crawl around. Your child will enjoy observing their new worm friends as they poke around through their temporary home!

The Science of Sinking and Floating

This fun and easy activity is appropriate for children of all ages. Start off by going on a nature walk with your child and allowing them to collect any objects that they find interesting, such as leaves, flowers, rocks, sticks, and acorns.

After they collect their treasures, have them sort them into two piles: one for objects that they think will sink and another for objects that they think will float. Then you can fill a bowl with water to test out their theories. Allow them to experiment and see if they can make a floating object sink by putting other objects on top of it. This is a great chance for you to teach your children about weight and density.

What Type of Rock is This?

The fossil layers give us clues about how the environment has changed over time. Limestone is a unique rock because it is made up of these layers. Because limestone forms through evaporation, it can be found in a variety of environments.

Children are usually impressed by limestone rocks because they can also be used as chalk. Encourage your child to look around damp environments, such as creeks or lakes, for brownish-yellow and grey colored rocks. After your child collects a few rocks, put each rock into a separate bowl outside.

To identify limestone rock, pour vinegar on each rock and wait a few seconds to see what happens. Little bubbles will form all over the rock in less than a minute if it is a limestone, while nothing will happen to other rocks. This is the perfect opportunity to tell your child that a chemical reaction is going on because the vinegar is an acid and limestone is a base. Explain to your child that when an acid and a base mix, they create heat, which is the reason the bubbles formed.

Solar S’mores

Solar s’mores are a creative and delicious way for children to learn about how strong the sun is! You can create a solar oven by grabbing a leftover pizza box, covering the top of the flap with aluminum foil, and covering the bottom of the flap with plastic wrap. Place black construction paper on the bottom of the box and line the sides of the box with additional aluminum foil.

While you create your makeshift oven, you can explain the function of each step to your child. For example, you can explain how the aluminum foil works to reflect the rays of the sun and how the black construction paper is used to absorb heat.

When your oven is ready, your child can fill it with all of the necessary ingredients for s’mores – graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate. The s’mores will usually take around an hour to cook like this. While you wait, you can explain the virtue of patience to your child. When you see that the chocolate and marshmallows have melted into something gooey, you and your child are free to enjoy your delicious solar s’mores!

 

 

Developing the Whole Child in Montessori School

In a Montessori education, one of the main emphases is on the development of the whole child. While a traditional school may focus mainly on developing a child’s cognitive abilities, a Montessori school, like Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs, aims to develop every aspect of a child. These aspects include the four major elements that make up what Montessori refers to as the whole child: physical, emotional, social, and cognitive.

Physical

Dr. Maria Montessori believed that knowledge, learning, and movement were all interconnected and that learning through the senses engaged the whole body. That is why movement in a Montessori environment is so important. By ensuring that children are moving around and staying physically active throughout the day, the Montessori method promotes physical growth and maturity.  Not only do physically active children develop stronger muscles and bones, but they also tend to have an easier time falling asleep at night.

Another positive to developing the physical aspect of a child is the opportunity they get when they play outside. Outdoor play allows children to be exposed to all of the beautiful things that nature has to offer. The outdoor environment is also the perfect place for children to use their senses. Outdoor objects like plants, rocks, and animals can serve as a classroom as well.

At Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs, we encourage our students to move about both inside and outside the classroom. Our students participate in physical education activities on a regular basis and are able to participate in additional enrichments including tumbling, playball, and tap-ballet.

Emotional

Dr. Montessori also believed that developing the power to love through flourishing the inner peace and depth of the soul should be one of the most important goals in life. Learning how to recognize and manage emotions, therefore, is a very important life skill. Because many conflicts in life are a result of a person feeling hurt by another’s actions, it is crucial for children to learn at an early age that their actions can affect other people.

In a Montessori school, the value of respect is highly emphasized. If students get into a disagreement in a Montessori classroom, they learn how to talk about their feelings in order to resolve the issue peacefully. In a Montessori environment, children also learn how to recognize what emotions others are feeling by looking at body language and facial expressions. Through the development of emotional intelligence, children are able to form stronger bonds with others.

Social

Another key part of developing the whole child through the Montessori Method is recognizing the importance of social interactions. One of the main features of a Montessori school, multi-age classrooms, takes this into consideration. In these classrooms, children are grouped according to the plane of development they are in, rather than the traditional method of grouping based on exact age.

Multi-age classrooms, therefore, allow students to interact with children of varying ages, which helps young children feel more comfortable with older children. Older children also benefit from being in multi-age classrooms because it develops their leadership skills by being able to serve as mentors to the younger students and assist them with their work.

Cognitive

In the Montessori approach, the classroom expands far beyond four walls. To a Montessori student, the world is their classroom. With this in mind, it is important to note how the world plays a key role in the Montessori method’s aim to foster creative thinking, problem-solving abilities, and the drive to learn and challenge oneself. With the world as their classroom, students learn to view themselves as global citizens and begin to recognize and appreciate the beauty of different cultures and traditions.

In a Montessori environment, children begin to understand that they are part of a greater universe and therefore they develop a moral responsibility to protect our planet for the future. They also develop a profound respect for the natural environment and understand the importance of practicing good virtues. Art and music programs allow children the outlet to express themselves while computer classes help prepare them for our technologically progressing society.  Through a combination of these subjects and Montessori approaches to learning, children develop the cognitive skills necessary to succeed today.

 

At Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs, our child-centered Montessori Method of education values the human spirit and strives for the development of the whole child. In our Montessori school classrooms, our dedicated guides work on developing every the physical, social, emotional, and cognitive aspects of the whole child on a daily basis.