The Beauty of a Child’s Imagination

The child’s imagination is a beautiful thing.

A few days ago, I was able to witness spontaneous creativity at its best. A few friends chose quiet rug works while the rest of the children were sleeping (hence the dark lighting in the photos below). They chose familiar works that had been practiced so many times before.

The first chose to work with the brown stairs. She fashioned the prisms in a way to imitate an art easel. She took the smallest prism and used it as a “paint brush”. The largest, as her canvas. I have to point out the satisfied look of achievement when she finished her masterpiece, and sat back to observe.13254477_10209963074981699_4247165993987414362_n13255945_10209963077101752_8728604753358836456_n

The other child I observed chose the knobless cylinders as her work this afternoon. I’ve seen her manipulate this work in many different ways, mastering all of its variations. I believe in this particular set of photos, she was pretending the cylinders were little people. The boxes represented their house. She showed such great concentration and enjoyment as she worked. 13256106_10209963076661741_2458312059209810681_nDSC_072813263669_10209963077661766_3575737498091857058_n

Our older 5 and 6 year olds enjoy working with familiar works…as if they’re revisiting something known rather than discovering something unknown. To witness such pure joy and satisfaction is truly amazing. When you let a child’s creativity flourish, letting their imagination lead the way, the end result is very rewarding.

The Remarkable and Timeless Nature of the Montessori Materials

DSC_0013This time of year is typically the kick-off for parent tours, or those looking for fall enrollment. One of the many things I enjoy most while guiding new parents through our hallways is the opportunity to show off the works in our classroom. If they come at the right time, they even get to witness the beauty of a Montessori work cycle in motion. The families seem to be amazed at the pure quality of the Montessori materials, and how everything in the classroom is…real.

Montessori classrooms are beautiful. They resemble tiny living communities for the children, complete with authentic, real materials. It’s common for Montessori classrooms to have wood shelves, filled with wooden works. Porcelain pitchers in the practical life area. Glass cups and plates in the kitchen, and glass vases for flower arranging. The use of real materials shows the child that we respect their work; we want them to have “real life” experiences. We want them to learn to handle the materials with care, and to carry their bodies in a cautious manner.Prepared Environment_Flower Arranging

Montessori materials are absolutely beautiful.

Each material was designed by Dr. Maria Montessori with a specific goal in mind, brought forth by observing the children, as they experimented with the works. She was a scientist, and spent many years creating, manipulating, and revising her works according to what worked best for the children. She understood human development, and developed a pedagogy based on just that. Montessori materials allow for the child to work independently and spontaneously, bringing forth a subconscious love of learning.

Children have a desire to explore; to manipulate objects into whatever their mind desires. For our young, primary students, we do not use computers in the classroom. According to Paula Polk Lillard, “It appears that children six to nine years old develop best when their hands are more directly involved with manipulating materials in their work. It is essential during this period that the children learn to think clearly and read and write in an organized manner. Computers are therefore not included in the prepared environment for use in research studies and creative writing until the upper elementary level.” (Montessori Today) Continue reading

A Helping Friend

Why we Take Photographs in the Classroom

When we take photos of our children in the classroom, it’s a very meticulous and careful process. Each photo is taken and shared with a specific goal in mind; to help our parents understand the natural learning process experienced by each precious child that comes to our school. It’s hard to fully grasp and understand all of the magnificent things your young child is learning each day, by a simple, brief conversation with them at the end of the day. Most of the time, they’ll repeat the last thing they did just before you picked them up, rather than highlight on a special memory from the day. It’s hard, as parents, to entrust our children in the care of others for 8-11(+) hours per day, and not know exactly what they’re doing at any given point. That’s why we love to share these memories in photos! Whenever given the opportunity to do so, and depending upon the level of disruption, admin. will try to sneak into the classroom and photograph these special moments; two friends working together, an older child helping a younger child, a classroom celebration, or a child so engrossed in concentration that they don’t even notice we’re there. There is so much that we look for as “photographers”, rather than simply snapping a quick photo of the environment. Our photos are meant to educate, inspire and motivate, all the while helping you feel the natural emotions embodied within every portrait.

We observe and respect the child’s concentration…the child’s concentration is spontaneous and precious. It’s not necessarily “rare”, but beautiful whenever caught on camera.

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We try to photograph periods of “normalization”, when the child, or group of children are under intense concentration, working on something that engages their interest. Through this process, children gain self discipline and peace. This is the work of the materials in the environment; truly something to be captured on film.

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Some children have been with us 5+ years, so we’re able to capture photos from infancy through young childhood. We have the opportunity to photographically document their growth over several years.
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Lessons and mastery. Many of the works in our environment require weeks, even months to master. We’re able to photograph the entire process, from the preliminary lesson all the way to the child’s mastery and application. We focus more on the process of learning, rather than the “final product”. We want to capture the child’s expression when they’ve reached that level of self accomplishment. These moments are extremely precious to us.DSC_0305DSC_0310

On special occasions, we’ll even have the opportunity to capture a child’s first steps, illustrating the child’s new-found independence.

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Dr. Maria Montessori spent a lifetime observing and documenting the developing child. I always tell our families, the best way to truly understand what your child is doing in the environment is to observe. It is so difficult for us as Montessorians, to document their growth in a weekly progress report, because there is so much more depth to it than simply stating what they’re currently working on. Pictures truly speak louder than words! We take photographs to help our parents understand the amazing things their child is doing in the classroom, and to further educate them on the power of the pedagogy.

We thank you for sharing your little ones with us, and giving us the amazing opportunity to witness them grow independently, spiritually, and academically. Our gift to you is these precious memories!