Monday, November 12, 2012

Botany in the Montessori Learning Environment

Children “learn by doing” and that is a key element in the Montessori Method. 

Students learn about the different parts of a leaf. The lesson is first explained to the group by the Directress.  The next part of the lesson is for the students to “go out” into their environment and bring back what they have found into the classroom.

The use of beautiful materials within the Montessori classroom goes hand in hand with the overall learning process.   By using the “Botany Cabinet,” the child learns the shapes and names of the leaves by tracing their borders and matching them to those they actually found in their own environment.  This enables the child to actually see and touch and learn.  We refer to this as a sensorial experience.

The children absorb a limitless wealth of impressions, taking in all of the elements of the world around them.  This lays a foundation for the love of learning for years to come.

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Day Out

Brother & sister experiencing a day out.
Parents often ask how they can extend their child’s learning from school to home. There are countless ways to do so, but perhaps the most important piece of advice I can provide is for them to do something as a family. Children learn by their experiences. This concept is at the cornerstone of the Montessori Method.

The experiences gained by a day out are immeasurable. Touching, feeling, smelling the world around heightens learning and provides children with lasting memories. A trip to the zoo or a museum offers the chance for a child to not only imagine being in a far off, exotic environment, but actually experiencing a close replica. It almost becomes an adventure.

Although a wonderful family event, it far too often becomes simply that...a singular event - a day out. Imagine the possibilities and the excitement that you could generate before and after your trip with just a little effort. Not only would this give your child a better experience during the day out, but also has the potential to turn your trip into a lifetime memory.

Here are a few simple ideas to do just that:
  1. Visit the local library or download some books related to the place you’ll be visiting. Read the books together. This will create excitement for your child but also help you understand your child’s perspective on where you are going. Make sure to read a good selection of both fiction and non-fiction books, to spark your child’s creativity while giving a foundation of knowledge.
  2. Make a scavenger hunt. Print out or download to your phone images that you expect to see on your trip. If your children have seen a painting or sculpture and know a little information about the artist, a trip to an art gallery becomes magical.
  3. Create a collage. Before your trip, use old magazines or print out photos of what you expect to see. During the trip, give your child a camera. I have yet to meet a child that did not love taking photographs. After the trip, have your child use their photographs to make a collage to display in their room.
  4. Go on a letter hunt. B is for Butterfly. During the day, have your child spot items that begin with each letter of the alphabet. Take a picture, upload your photos to one of the many online print services and create your own letter book from your trip.
  5. Cook a meal inspired by your trip. I saved the best for last (at least in my opinion). Nearly everything we do can have a connection to food. Cooking with your children is wonderful, so much can be learned and the experience in and of itself is simply fun.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Civics - The Montessori Way

Election Day has passed. I was amazed at how many students came to school yesterday proudly wearing an “I Voted” sticker. This badge of honor indicated how many of them had the opportunity to visit a polling station and begin to understand our country’s political process. However, as a school that embraces the Montessori philosophy of education, nothing teaches like doing.

Snack Election at The Boyd School - Reston
Children at a young age begin to understand cause and effect; or in this case, sow and reap. Early Childhood students at The Boyd School - Reston Campus were given a real-life and age-appropriate civics lesson. Yesterday, they were presented with two alternatives for the snack today; homemade ice cream or Rice Krispies treats. Votes were individually and privately cast. Today, the children will be making homemade ice cream as a result.

Students in the Upper Elementary School at The Boyd School - Westfields Campus participated in the Youth Leadership Initiative at the University of Virginia Center for Politics. After independent and shared research through the use of various media, the students were given the opportunity to form their own decisions based on each candidate’s platform. The culminating Mock Election yielded additional learning moments when their results clearly showed that personal preference and outside influence do impact the results when a blind vote of each candidate’s platform was far from in-line with the actual ballots cast.

Giving children the tools to make informed decisions and helping them understand the cause and effect of their actions will benefit them greatly throughout their lifetime.