Friday, May 14, 2010

Montessori Journey

Last night, my husband and I attended a "Montessori Journey" at the school my son will be attending next year for 1st grade.  They let the parents simply observe (without talking, chatter, discussion) the Montessori materials for a bit.  This is the first step when introducing a Montessori lesson to a child.  The directress (teacher) does not "teach" anything in that first interaction with the material.  They let the student observe.  It is in the 2nd step, that the lesson is actually taught to the child.  At this point, they had the parents sit down and explore a few lessons.
I had a lesson in land and water formations.  There were 8 trays placed on a table.  Each had a land or water formation sculpted inside of the tray with clay.  I poured water into each tray.  I watched each tray fill up with water. (I also had to be sure I divided the water into eight somewhat-equal amounts - not to overfill.) I observed how the water played a part in the land and water formations in each tray (lake, gulf, bay, strait, isthmus, peninsula, etc...)  I placed a card next to each tray to identify each formation.  Then, I turned over a card that was the "control" for the lesson.  I checked my answers - a couple were wrong!  (But, no one was there to say, "That is not correct."  I was able to correct my own work - self correct. Next, I had to clean up my work.  I could not just dump the water back into the pitcher. (Although, that is what I wanted to do.) Part of the lesson was taking a small sponge and soaking up all of the water and ringing the sponge out into a different pitcher.  This took awhile.  At first, I didn't think the sponge could hold that much water.  I thought, "Oh, god, I poured way to much water into the trays!"  But, sure enough, little by little, all the water gracefully made its way into pitcher.  It almost felt meditative - quite zen-like - the act of methodically and rhythmically soaking up and ringing out the water.  At last, I took a towel and cleaned up any last droplets.  I made sure each tray was straight, and that the pile of cards was stacked neatly, and that the control card was turned face down for the next student.  
Wow!  What a treat it was to experience Montessori in this way!  It urges the student to take time - not to rush.  Such an important thing to instill in our little ones who are growing up in a very fast paced world.  So many different areas of learning went into that one lesson - not only geography, but reading, matching, fine motor skills, organizing, self-correcting, cleaning up... 

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