On Friday, February 7, we hosted an evening of family fun and learning. Parents experienced a sampling of the many lessons their children engaged in over the last few months. "Me and My Parent Night" was an opportunity for parents to understand firsthand the process children undergo to achieve mastery in a three-to-six classroom.
For example, consider how children learn about primary and secondary colors. A child first gains an understanding of the primary colors (red, yellow, and blue) by using colored tablets in Color Box 1. Upon mastery, the teacher presents a follow-up lesson using three bottles of primary-colored water, an eyedropper, a laminated mat, and squares of paper towel. Each child drops colored water onto the mat and places a paper towel piece over it. By doing this, the children can observe how color is absorbed, spreading in a circle. When they use two colors, the colors mix as the liquid settles into the paper. The children observe for themselves the phenomenon of making secondary colors (orange, purple, and green). It is what Dr. Montessori called a sensorial lesson, in which children learn best by doing or experiencing for themselves. When the children have completed their work, they clean the area, restore the materials, and take home their samples.
It is striking how much each child gains with such an activity, including learning how to use an eyedropper, observing absorption, learning how to clean a wet spill, how to put on an apron, how to use a clothespin to hang wet paper, and how to restore the work area for the next child.
Also, stop and consider the multitude of skills a child must master before taking on the color activity--it is astounding. This includes the use of sponges, spoons, tweezers, aprons, un/folding towels, carry trays with glass containers, pouring liquids, using a funnel, and remembering where each item is located.
Now consider the other lessons in the Montessori classroom. Think of the tiny objects used for sorting by beginning sound, the golden beads and moveable alphabet, and all the other materials present in a beautifully prepared environment. Envision 25 children moving about the classroom choosing work, doing the work, restoring the work, and finally selecting the next activity to complete. This cycle occurs every day in a Montessori classroom. Credit for such an orchestration goes to incredibly talented Montessori teachers who work tirelessly to ensure that their students work successfully towards reaching their unknown potential.