By Cecilia Fernandez, Primary Teacher This time of year inspires many of us to reflect on how fortunate we are, on all of the things for which we are grateful. As parents, we strive to teach our children a model of generosity and empathy. However, this can be a difficult concept to teach young children, as it is an abstract idea. Children learn best by concrete examples and they are developmentally egocentric during the first years of life. Dr. Andrew Meltzoff, co-director of the Center for Mind, Brain and Learning at the University of Washington states that based on research, the capacity to imitate is “pre-wired” into our DNA. When infants imitate, it is the beginning of “being like the other person”. “Later that can flower into empathy, which is the ability to become like the other person in emotion and perspective.” Our job as parents and guides is to help the capacity for imitation to grow into real emotional empathy and compassion. Nurturing empathy can begin with simple games of imitation and progress into asking open-ended questions and reflecting on feelings, making comments such as “You must have felt very sad when that happened.” Children’s books can be a helpful resource when teaching children the importance of giving. They can facilitate conversations, ideas and plans. Some of the classic books that showcase different ways of giving are: The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein; It’s Mine! By Leo Lionni;The Gift of Nothing, by Patrick McDonnell; The Man in the Clouds, by Koos Meinderts; The Invisible Boy, by Trudy Ludwig Children in a Montessori classroom begin to learn about giving at a very young age, when they learn responsibility for the materials in the class, to [...]
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By Cecilia Fernandez, Primary Teacher Children’s books can be a helpful resource when teaching children the importance of giving. They can facilitate conversations, ideas and plans. Some of the classic books that showcase different ways of giving are: The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein; It’s Mine! By Leo Lionni;The Gift of Nothing, by Patrick McDonnell; The Man in the Clouds, by Koos Meinderts; The Invisible Boy, by Trudy Ludwig Pebble Tossers is a free, local resource organization that offers volunteer opportunities for children and families of every age and ability level, from “kitten cuddler”, which helps to socialize cats as future adoptees, to delivering sandwiches to homeless citizens. Setting the model of giving and empathy not only during the holidays, but throughout the year is the the most powerful gift we can give our children.
By Kim Taylor, Adolescent Guide Dr. Montessori believed that during adolescence “the individual child is becoming a new born social being who did not exist before…in this sensitive period he is prepared to take up his part in the social life of humanity” (Montessori, Dr. Montessori’s Third Lecture). Here at Arbor, our Adolescent Program guides keep this idea at the forefront of their pedagogical planning and discussions. As Montessorians, the guides in the Adolescent Program have been entrusted by Dr. Montessori to guide adolescents, the “social newborn,” toward realizing their capabilities through providing independence and liberty in an appropriately prepared environment, so that they may be of service to greater humanity as a moral adult functioning effectively in society. Dr. Montessori asserted that early adolescence (ages 12-15) is a time similar to infancy with regards to physical growth and mental development, that both periods are times of great transformation (Standing 115); the 12 to 15 year-old must observe and experiment with how adult society works, much like the 0-3 year-old observes and experiments with materials in their environment and how they work. Dr. Montessori recognized that one’s work with the head, or intelligence, and the hand is quite interrelated; she offered several examples, such as: that the hands of man express his thoughts, the development of manual skill keeps pace with mental development, artistic creativity is materialized in some form of work and for that the hand is necessary, and she goes on to say that perhaps the whole business of intelligence is to guide the work of the hand (The Absorbent Mind 150-1). In our Adolescent Program at Arbor we fulfill this aspect of Montessori’s philosophy regarding Adolescents and their education in [...]
by Cecilia Fernandez, Primary Teacher "If we are to teach real peace in this world... we shall have to begin with the children." -Mahatma Gandhi Have you ever wondered why Montessori is sometimes referred to as “Education for Peace”? Surely it is not simply because we celebrate Peace Day! Gandhi often praised Dr. Montessori for her approach to world peace. That approach is what sets Montessori apart from other perspectives and it is what we do every day in our classrooms, not simply on one designated day. Although our Primary curriculum teaches peace through lessons in geography, cultures around the world, and the traditions and rituals that bind us together, talking about peace is simply not enough at this stage of development. As adults and guides in the children’s lives, we set the framework for peace in the way in which we interact with one another, in the respect we provide through every exchange with the children. The lessons on the interconnectedness of life that the children will receive at the Elementary level begin at this age, when we take the time to honor every living being. For instance, instead of killing insects, we carefully transfer the helpless creature outside by using an implement that allows for close observation and awe through a magnified view before letting the insect out. The natural living plants and animals that depend on us for their care also support the spirit of peace in our environment. The children care for our plants and fish by watering and feeding them as necessary. They marvel in the outward expressions that they can perceive when care is needed: “The fish was hungry! He is eating!” Or: “That plant looks droopy; I am [...]
The International Day of Peace (or Peace Day) was established by the United Nations in 1981. It is observed around the world each year on September 21. According to the UN, "Peace Day provides a globally shared date for all humanity to commit to Peace above all differences and to contribute to building a Culture of Peace". For those of us in Montessori, this idea is nothing new. In 1948 Dr. Montessori wrote, "Times have changed, and science has made great progress, and so has our work; but our principles have only been confirmed, and along with them our conviction that mankind can hope for a solution to its problems, among which the most urgent are those of peace and unity, only by turning its attention and energies to the discovery of the child and to the development of the great potentialities of the human personality in the course of its formation." (From the foreword to "The Discovery of the Child") A goal of peace has always been the cornerstone of Montessori education; we want to make the world a better place through the child. We believe they are our truest hope. This year, Arbor will step up its celebration of Peace Day. At the Lavista Campus, the Primary, Elementary, and AP students will work together to create a collaborative art piece in celebration of peace. We will also gather early in the morning to read the UN Peace Day proclamation and sing in unison. At the Scott Campus, we invite all families and children to be a part of another collaborative art project. In an effort to spread peace beyond our campus, each family will receive a decorative peace rock that has been decorated either by the [...]
By Becca Fernandez, Lower Elementary Teacher Ask any Montessori elementary child what they did on the first day of school and you are likely to hear, “We blew up the volcano!” Indeed, a bit of baking soda, some red paint, and a splash of vinegar is the highlight of the first of the five “Great Stories” that serve as the foundation of the elementary curriculum. The purpose of the stories is to set the scene for all aspects of learning during the elementary years. Each lesson we offer and each area of study the children decide to investigate can be related back to one or more of the Great Stories, helping the children to find context and meaning for their discoveries. The first story begins with a bang, The Big Bang. It traces the formation of our universe, right down to the shaping of our own planet Earth. Sprinkled throughout the story are a series of simple science experiments the children may repeat that illustrate some fundamental laws of the universe. A handful of confetti mimics the attraction of particles. Molasses, oil, and water separate into layers according to their varying densities. The stunning volcanic eruption accompanies the section of the story describing plate tectonics and the early cooling of the Earth. In the end, the children are reminded that all of the particles in the universe follow a specific set of laws. The second story picks up where the first one stopped. The Earth was composed of water, rocks, and air. It looked nothing like our planet today. What could have happened to change it into the world we know? Some tiny particle became sensitive in a new way. It had a new [...]
Dear Parents, The beginning of a new school year is my favorite time of the year. It is so full of hopes, dreams, and possibilities. It makes my heart so happy to reconnect with students and families, and hear about the adventures of childhood. As I read news articles over the summer, and tried to process the current state of the world, I kept bringing myself back to my classroom and this school year. I found myself feeling a deep sense of gratitude for the work that happens in our classrooms each and every day. Here at Arbor, our classrooms are communities; each rich with a variety of diversity, and each holding an opportunity for social conflict. Children at every level have an opportunity to practice and repeat doing hard things. We value the conflict and the congenial resolution at every level. Toddlers who are learning to share, primary students who spend lots of time with grace and courtesy lessons, elementary students who learn to engage and eventually mediate conflicts, and adolescents who go out into the world and put these skills to work. With each and every step students are reminded that we are more alike than we are different, and there is always the opportunity to choose to love, to help, and to contribute to a greater good. These children are our future. Each and every one of them will go out into the world and carry on the hopes and dreams of humanity. In the words of Dr. Maria Montessori, "We then become witnesses to the development of the human soul; the emergence of the New Man, who will no longer be the victim of events but, thanks to his clarity of vision, will [...]
One of the things that we are most proud of at Arbor – aside from our students, families and staff – is that we have become a benchmark for Montessori in the world. Every year, we host Montessori student teachers from around the globe who come observe in our classrooms and learn from watching our students and our teachers. (In order to become a certified AMI Montessori teacher you must complete a mandatory number of observation and practice teaching hours.) Last year we had visitors from Haiti, Japan, Mexico and Israel. Another milestone for us was when the president of AMI came to Atlanta last year on a visit from AMI headquarters in Amsterdam. He asked to visit only one school in the metro Atlanta area: Arbor. I’d like to share the unique bond that we’ve forged with a Montessori school in Israel. The school is named Derech Hayeled, "The Way of the Child," and is in a suburb a Tel Aviv. It is the first Montessori elementary school in Israel. (School logo below.) It all started when AMI elementary teacher trainee Dmitry Ostrovsky observed once and student taught twice with our elementary teachers. He is a passionate teacher who is committed to bringing AMI standards to his school. Dmitry introduced me to his head of school, Nir Raveh. I then started consulting with Nir through email and the wonders of video conferencing in April. This resulted most recently in my taking a consultation trip to the school last month. (Here's a photo of Dmitry and his family.) During my week in Israel I observed in all five classes, worked with lead teachers on classroom management and their prepared environments, consulted with English teachers (who must teach [...]
Each day, the children spend their days actively engaged in many activities. They sing songs, have conversations, help roll rugs, prepare snack, set up for lunch, observe the work of others, and (of course) explore with the Montessori materials. The materials are beautiful, purposeful, enticing means for your child to learn in the classroom. Practice, repetition, and exploration with the materials help them to make new connections and master of a variety of skills- from baking to auditory discrimination to reading. The children’s work with the materials and their engagement in community life are equally important aspects of your children’s education. At the end of the day, we often observe enthusiastic parents greet their child with a smile and the age-old question, “Did you have a *new* lesson today?” Your child may look perplexed or even sad because he did not get a *new* lesson. In fact, children only get a few *new* lessons each week. New lessons are a way to introduce a new concept in one of the four areas of the classroom- Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, and Math. After the initial presentation, it is important for a child to practice with the material, refine techniques, explore new ways to engage with the material, ask questions (to teachers and friends), and ultimately master this new concept. Some lessons have several extensions that are introduced at a later time and may not be perceived as a *new* lesson. Some concepts come easily, while others take a good deal of work for the child to master. The art of being a Montessori teacher comes from the guide’s ability to balance offering *new* lessons and encouraging the children to work independently. We know that the child’s [...]
Oftentimes, when I get off of work, my husband Nate will ask "How was your day?" Sometimes, I particularly enjoy sharing how things went: an anecdote from the classroom, new work that I've introduced. There can be particular joy in offering insight into the way I spend 1/3 of each day. Still, other times I see him, and when he asks, I say "Fine," and then move the conversation on to other things. Maybe how his day went, or how we will spend our evening. Sometimes about what good articles he's read that day, or if there were any good stories on NPR. Sometimes we just cherish a quiet car ride together, listening to our baby, William, babble in the backseat. I have already had my day at work, and now I just want to enjoy my family. It is the same for children. When they see their parents at the end of a busy day, sometimes they may have things to share--something that happened with a friend, a new lesson. But many times, having had a long morning, often filled with a variety of activities, they don't want to talk about it. They have had that part of their day, and now it is over. They may even not remember large parts of their day. What happened in the past is the past. They are so excited to be reunited that what happened during the day seems unimportant. When pressured for information, sometimes the children will make things up, seeking to fulfill what is being requested of them easily so they can move on to the next step. Sometimes, they will clam up, not wanting to speak at all. They may [...]