An Observation at Glebe Montessori School

An Observation at Glebe Montessori School  

by S. Elizabeth Wisecup, Montessori Educational Consultant

During my observation of classrooms at Glebe Montessori School, it was evident how children naturally love to learn.  Dr. Maria Montessori noted, “The child should love everything that he learns, for his mental and emotional growths are linked. Whatever is presented to him must be made beautiful and clear, striking his imagination.”

This is the philosophy that guides Montessori teachers in creating a “prepared” Montessori environment.  A Montessori classroom is beautifully arranged with child size furniture and the shelves are filled with specific subject materials organized in sequential order.  Great attention is given to the detail and beauty in the classroom, all supporting the requirements necessary to meet the physical, emotional and educational needs of each child.

At the “Casa” level, children ages 2.5 to 6 are introduced to an enriched, comprehensive Montessori curriculum which includes Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Math, Cultural Studies, Music/ Drama, Science, Art and Foreign Language Studies. Guided by the teacher, the child advances according to his/her individual abilities.  The Montessori materials are designed to teach new skills. For example, the Sensorial exercises provide the opportunity for sensorial exploration as children learn to discriminate size, shape, color, texture, and sound.

The Practical Life exercises instruct young children how to take care of themselves and their environment.  Children learn to dress themselves, serve food, clean the table, arrange flowers, sew, pour juice and more. The indirect purpose of these exercises is to help them develop sequence, order, concentration and coordination.

One of the favourite Practical Life exercises in the Montessori Casa classroom is flower arranging.  For a three-year-old, this exercise requires concentration, organizational skills and coordination. There are many steps involved in the flower arranging process. During my classroom observation, the enthusiasm of a three-year-old boy wanting to place colourful spring tulips in a vase caught my attention.

After admiring the vibrant bouquet of tulips kept in a large bucket, he began with the preparations to start the exercise.  The child placed the table mat, the tray containing all the supplies, the pitcher filled with water and the vase neatly on his table.    He proudly selected three tulips from the bucket and gently placed them on his tray.   Using a funnel to pour a small pitcher of water into the vase, he measured the amount of water to ensure enough empty space would remain at the top of the vase.  He then gently lifted one long stemmed tulip, placed it against the vase to determine where to cut the stem.  He snipped, put the piece of stem in the waste bowl, and then put the tulip in the vase. He did the same for the second flower.  The third flower was snipped, but the stem was too long.  He quickly snipped again resulting in a very short stem, but he then realized it did not reach the water. With thoughtful consideration, he went to get more water to fill the vase and placed this very short stemmed flower in it.  Now the flower reached the water, even though the vase was almost filled to the brim.  He was so proud of his accomplishment and ever so carefully carried his vase of flowers to a special place for all to view!

My attention then shifted to a 4-year-old student who wanted to match number cards and beads with the Montessori math bank game material.  The bank material corresponds with the decimal system and is represented concretely with beads.  The child had placed number cards on a mat and now the teacher was selecting specific cards to create a very large quantity.  The number was 5,231. After hey read the number together, the student  was on her way to bring the exact corresponding amount in beads.  The student started collecting the bead material, first the one unit bead, then three ten bars, then two hundred squares and then five one thousand cubes. She returned to the teacher showing her tray filled with the bead material.  Everything was counted and checked. The student was so proud that she had successfully created such a big number with the bead material.

As I looked around the classroom, children were fully engaged and focused in the quiet atmosphere. Some students were practicing various reading and writing exercises with the Montessori materials; others were creating original designs with the metal insets. One child laid out geometric cards on a mat at on one side of the room, and placed geometric solids on another mat at the opposite side of the room. She selected one of the geometric cards, made a mental image of the two dimensional shape, and then retrieved the corresponding three dimensional object, walking back to place it on the matching card. An older child saw a younger child struggling to place some of the continent map pieces on the control map chart. He went over to ask if he could help, and the two happily proceeded to work together to reconstruct the map. It was welcoming to see how the children practiced grace and courtesy, saying, “Excuse me” and assisting peers.

My observations confirmed the success, happiness and sense of accomplishment children experience in a Montessori classroom.  As Dr. Maria Montessori said,  “Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment….One test of the correctness of educational procedure is the happiness of the child.”