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

The Mysterious Trinomial Cube

DSC_0354

Today, we’re going to highlight on one of our students’ favorite works; the trinomial cube. There’s real beauty behind the intricate details of this mathematical work, details that are hard to notice at first glance.

The direct aim of this work is rather obvious; to build a puzzle in a box. The indirect aim, an introduction to algebra and preparation for the formula a+b+c³. DSC_0349 (1)

The child approaches the box with curiosity. It’s elegant details can spark the interest of anyone. Children are inherently captivated by mathematical materials. The colors, the difference is sizes and heights…”Why these specific colors?”, “Why do they fit together like that?”…DSC_0343

While there are many hidden lessons in this puzzle, the child is actively working towards building a concrete foundation for the abstract nature of the formulation, which they will later expand upon. The puzzle helps the child grasp the concept of a+b+c³ at such a young age, rather than simply memorizing the formula.

Through the child’s discovery, they come to unlock the intricate layers of the trinomial cube.DSC_0356 (1)

To begin, the guide carefully opens the box, and lays out all of the pieces, organizing them in different manners. With little, to no words, she places the cubes upon the lid, pairing the colors to one another. Each layer is placed in the box upon completion. The child is then invited to do the work on their own. There are many variations of the trinomial cube that call upon the child’s creativity, imagination and critical thinking.

“These small objects fascinate a child. He must first of all group them according to their color, then arrange them in various ways, making up a kind of little story, in which the three cubes are three kings, each one having a retinue identical to that of the other two, the guards being dressed in black. Many effects can be obtained through the use of this material…when playing with this material, a child forms a visual image of the arrangement of the objects and can thus remember their quantity and order. The sense impressions received from these objects furnish material for the mind. No object is so attractive for four-year-old children. Later on, by calling the kinds a, b, c, and writing the names of the separate pieces according to their dependence upon their own king, five-year-old children, and certainly six-year-olds, can store up in their minds the algebraic formula for the cube of a trinomial without looking at the material, since they have fixed in their visual memory the disposition of the various objects. This gives some idea of the possibilities that can be attained in practice.” (Montessori, The Discovery of the Child)

To see the lesson in full, click on the link below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEZnNFxsnS8#t=13

Primary Art Gallery

Our Annual HBMH Art Gallery is in full swing! Our friends have been preparing for this event for quite some time now. We encourage our families to take the time to look at each piece, allow your child to point out their art works.

This event is hosted annually as part of “National Youth Art Education Month.”

“Creativity is basically an attitude, one that comes easily to young, but must be sustained and strengthened lest it be sacrificed in our too logical world”. (Marzollo and Lloyd, 1972)

In our student community, we encourage creativity through the use of the child’s imagination. Creativity leads to self-exploration and discovery. Art is one way that children can creatively express their emotions, or tell a story. Art comes in several different forms. It can be through painting the “parts of a flower” after tracing the different pieces at the light box, or it can be written in a simple poem. Even pin-pricking an object or shape and gluing it onto another piece of paper is a very detailed and meticulous form of art that the child creates.

Montessori supports the idea of independence, “I can do it for myself, I can think for myself. I can create.” (Miller, J,  2001)

One way that we promote and encourage different forms of art in our classrooms is by providing materials that the children can confidently use on their own, with little adult guidance. They aren’t given a list of instructions on what to create, or a “kit” to complete; the end result being exactly the same as everyone else’s. Instead, they are free to choose their works and materials, creating whatever their heart desires.

When a child is encouraged in the creative process this can also help increase their concentration, it allows them to lose themselves in their work as they engage themselves in the process completely (Miller,J, 2001). Since art and creativity go hand in hand it is then we look at how Montessori encourages art in the classroom. She realizes the need for self-expression and having the means for communicating these ideas. She takes into mind the abilities of the child in this endeavor. (dailymontessori.com)

In our Montessori community, it’s the process of the child’s creation that we emphasize, rather than the end result.

We hope to keep the art on the walls for the remainder of the month. It’s so wonderful to hear the children explain the intricate details of each piece of art to their families. They’re all so proud of their hard work!

DSC_0241DSC_0240DSC_0232DSC_0233DSC_0235DSC_0243 DSC_0242DSC_0239

Leaf Pile

I had to capture a few photos of our friends enjoying a leaf pile. You would have thought it was the best day of their lives! They spent almost an hour gathering the leaves (by hand), making a pile, and then taking turns jumping in the pile, or throwing them up in the air. It was a great alternative activity for this cold, wintry day!

DSC_0283 (2)DSC_0297

Tiny Toes

Exploring through senses #Hbmh #preschool #Montessori #nido #infant #string #senses #littletoes

A photo posted by Healthy Beginnings Montessori (@healthy_beginnings_montessori) on

 

Broom Experiment

“The Prepared Environment intrinsically fosters creativity, the foundation for all human progress. Montessori cautions that the power of imagination will develop from whatever the child finds in the environment. It is creative people who will continue to advance civilization. For this reason educators must take care that the precious commodity of creativity is maximized rather than wasted; art, music, literature, poetry, invention, medicine and science are the products of creativity.” ~ Maria Montessori

Miles Miles_broom

Preparing Montessori Children for the 21st Century

(True story from one of our toddler community members, now enrolled in our Primary Program)

Hi there, I’m a little over two years old. I am a student in the Strawberry Community. One evening, while waiting for mom, I decided to assist my teacher with cleaning. After sweeping for a short time, to my surprise, for reasons I’m not sure, I had an urge to try something different.

  • Critical Thinking – Can the broom stand alone, free from my hands?
  • Adaptability – I move and reposition the broom to various locations in the room, does this help?
  • Analyzing & Assessing – Is it possible? Over and over again, I tilt, lift and shift while slowly pulling my arm away
  • Initiative- I trust myself – I have the confidence to try something new, I am in a community that respects and empowers
  • Curiosity & Imagination – I am inquisitive, I want to know, is it possible?

The broom was his “work”. He is in an environment that fosters creativity and independence; he is left alone to analyze and assess as he formulates a plan. He was able to work uninterrupted; concentrating on the task at hand. He remained focused well over 20 minutes showing no signs of frustration or fatigue, he was engaged in “purposeful work”. He was intrinsically motivated, the absence of clapping and cheering allowed him to remain focused. Despite the fact that the broom continued to fall, perseverance triumphed.

This work was assisting in the development of his coordinated movement, eye-and-hand coordination and concentration, he was forming his own ideas relevant to human life, the ability to think and reason coherently and logically.

-Written by Ms. Tami, Owner/Head of School, Healthy Beginnings Montessori House

HBMH Summer Camp 6: Natural, Environmentlly-Friendly Art

Our primary friends are thoroughly enjoying this week’s new Summer Camp 6 theme “Discovering and Creating Natural Art Projects: Good Earth Art“. Several friends are using their creativity to make natural art by incorporating items such as rocks, leaves, sticks, and other environmental resources. Our hope is that they will learn to recycle and use natural materials for art, while developing an awareness of the environment and a caring attitude towards the earth.

Our camp themes were designed to feature creative hands-on activities that build skills, bodies, and excitement. We offer an environment that fits the needs and interests of all our children, incorporating Montessori principles that foster independence and freedom with responsibility. I’m hoping to update our blog all summer long to show the children as they progress through the different themes.
Good Earth Art_7
Nature collages made with items found in our outdoor environmentGood Earth Art_10Hand-made stained glass mobiles created from twigs, leaves, grass, flowers and other items gathered from outside. Of course, these were gathered after they had fallen to the ground and were no longer a part of the plant/tree. Remember, nature stays in nature!
Good Earth Art_8Good Earth Art_9Natural “ice paint” art! We added a few drops of paint to an ice cube tray, placed popsicle sticks into each ice cube and put in the freezer overnight. The results were pretty cool! (pun intended) 
Good Earth Art_3Good Earth Art_1Good Earth Art_4Leaf tracing was a great way to draw and compare leaves to the ones found outside.
Good Earth Art_5Sand was also incorporated into many of our art projects. The children absolutely love working with sand as it stimulates their senses in several different ways; touching the soft grains and manipulating different shapes, they’re able to challenge their visual senses as they dig for shells in the sensorial discovery box, or even just enjoying the sound of the soft grains sifting through their fingers. Using glue and sand, we created nature scenes, including flowers, trees, sunshine, and so forth. 
Good Earth Art_2Good Earth Art_6Next week we will be exploring “art appreciation” and discovering new, great artists…stay tuned for updates!

Learning Through Sensory Discovery

Our HBMH friends have been enjoying this week’s Summer Camp theme, “Learning through Sensory Discovery”. With so many options to choose from, they are invited each day to pick and choose which sensorial materials they would like to work with, then given the opportunity to create and manipulate a masterpiece of their own. It is truly amazing to see their creativity unfold as they put their minds (and hands) to work.

Our camp themes were designed to feature creative hands-on activities that build skills, bodies, and excitement. We offer an environment that fits the needs and interests of all our children, incorporating Montessori principles that foster independence and freedom with responsibility. I’m hoping to update our blog all summer long to show the children as they progress through the different themes.

Children use their senses to learn. At a very young age, they have a natural desire to discriminate objects by their similarities and differences, using their visual, auditory, tasting, olfactory (smelling) and tactile abilities. Each sensorial material in the Montessori classroom was designed to better define these abilities, not to mention all of the abstract lessons the child is learning from the same work such as introduction to language, reading, writing, math, and so forth. Children are given the opportunity to exercise their senses through working with different textures, colors, shapes, dimensions, masses, tastes, smells, temperatures, pitches and intensity of sounds. Not only do these works advocate creative expression, but they also promote abstract thinking.

Knobless Cylinders

I chose to work with the knobless cylinders. Using a guide, I created a beautiful design, displaying each group of cylinders by their relationships in height and diameter.

Pink Tower

By diminishing my vision, I’m able to utilize my tactile senses to feel the lengths and heights of each cube as I build my tower in decreasing size.

Pink Tower_Yellow Cylinders

The bright colors of the yellow cylinders and pink tower stimulate my visual senses. Each cube and cylinder is graded by decreasing size and diameter, and placed in order to create a tower taller than my body! This work is also indirectly preparing me for counting, geometry, and other mathematical lessons by giving me an in depth understanding of varying dimensions.

Color Tablets_1

I’ve chosen to work with the Color Box III, which allows me to grade the tablets by intensity of color (darkest to lightest).

Apple Sound Test_1

Our Apple friends participated in a group activity to test their auditory senses. Using different musical instruments and a blindfold, Ms. Patti tests our ability to identify and distinguish between each sound.

Resources: The Namta Journal, Volume 37, Number 1, Winter 2012

Parent Resource: the Trinomial Cube

There is so much to discover using the trinomial cube; a favorite work in our primary community. This blog article, courtesy of the Baan Dek Blog, unfolds all of the intricate details involved in the trinomial cube, and the true beauty behind this awesome mathematical work. Definitely a “must read”!

THE TRINOMIAL CUBE

Baan Dek

“There are so many layers to Montessori.

No where is this more apparent than in the simplicity and elegance of the trinomial cube. While the primary aim may seem rather obvious, to build a little puzzle in a box, the secondary aim, an introduction to algebra and preparation for the proof of the formula (a+b+c)3, just blew us away.

The mystery of the material summons our attention. We approach the box with curiosity. We are enchanted by what it promises. We are allured by what might be inside. “What is inside?”, we ask ourselves. With our fingertips, we start to explore.

As we unfold the wooden box and engage, an entirely new world slowly reveals itself. The colors seem to call out to us. Black, red, blue and then yellow. “Why these colors?”, we wonder. Little by little, or more literally, piece by piece, we begin to see more.

“There seems to be an order here.” “Why these shapes?” “What’s going on here?” Then, as if naturally, we begin to form a rough idea of the concept behind the work. “I think I understand what’s happening.” “I can figure this out.”

…While children are inherently captivated by the mathematical precision of this seemingly innocuous puzzle, noting the different heights of the prisms, they are actively working to build a concrete foundation for the abstract nature of the formulation, which they will later expand upon.

…With Montessori, children are constantly working to create the foundations they will need to explore abstractions on their own terms. While many of us encountered this auspicious formula at some point, (a+b+c)3, very few of us had the opportunity to understand and grasp the concept, in such a visceral, hands-on type of way. What’s so key in this process is that it is by discovery alone that children come to unlock the intricate layers.

“ Whereas most of us had to memorize mathematical formulas, eventually solving the problems we faced, children who grow up with Montessori, will understand the problem, before they are faced with the formula. ”

In many respects, they’ll be able to see what it is they are solving…”