|March 13, 2013|
By Kristin Tubic (MAB Faculty / Guest Blogger)
When the child goes out, it is the world itself that offers itself to him. Let us take the child out to show him real things instead of making objects which represent ideas and closing them up in cupboards – Maria Montessori
On Valentine’s Day this year a bug landed on my pink sweater. I didn’t notice it but a child from my class did and warily cautioned me that it was there. I studied it more closely – It was about half an inch long, black, had six legs and wings. By this time a small group of children had gathered to look at the strange creature on my arm. It started to head towards my shoulder so I let it crawl onto my hand instead so the children could get a closer look. When I moved my hand down to their level there were a few gasps and the area around me got noticeably wider as many feet shuffled backwards. Only when the bug decided not to move again did small heads start poking closer to look. A few seconds later the bug suddenly flew up and away to a nearby light. Again there were scared gasps and one child even ran away from the area when the bug took flight.
I find that this is a common reaction among children. Such yells and gasps can be heard when a spider or stinkbug appears on the classroom floor. I often wonder how such young children can have a phobia of bugs – I think it should be the opposite way around – they should have a curiosity and interest. Is this phobia learned from parents or is it because many of these children have not spent enough time in nature?
Growing up in Australia many animals such as cockroaches, bats, frogs, geckos and spiders routinely found their way into our house. It was such a regular occurrence that sometimes we didn’t even both to escort them back to the outdoors.
In the classroom setting we will sometimes get the bug catcher out so the children can have a close up view of little critters without much fear. Other times we will get a cup and paper and simply let the animal go back into nature. We remind the children that all animals, no matter how small should be taken outside and not hurt in any way.
The wonderful season of spring is just around the corner. The beauty of flowers popping up from the soil and the new leaf buds on the trees make it a pretty awe inspiring time. I grew up in the northern part of Australia that had a rainy season (summer) and a dry season (winter). We never really celebrated the changing of the seasons because you really couldn’t tell when they stopped or started. We could swim in the ocean all year round, the trees never lost their leaves, no snow ever came, and even frost was a very rare event. Needless to say, the first time I experienced the four seasons was when a moved to a northern US state in 2001. So to me, as I suspect for many of the children, Spring is still a magical time.
Spring is a great time for you and your child or children to get out into the great outdoors. The challenge posed to you in this blog is to set aside at least one hour a week to let your children explore nature. This exploration can be unstructured or structured. It can be a nature walk close by to where you live, an exploration of a local park or stream, a hiking outing or simply spending time among the plants and bushes in your garden.
In unstructured exploration your job is to follow the child, not for the child to follow you or your agenda. See what they start looking at, touching or smelling. Equip them with a magnifying glass that they can hang around their neck. If your child is hesitant, you can make suggestions like, “I wonder where that ant is going? Let’s follow it.” If your child asks you a question and you don’t know the answer, be truthful and say something like, “You know what, I have no idea how long turtles can hold their breath underwater for, we can find out when we get home.” A simple question like this can, depending on the child’s interest and age, lead to a simple search on the Internet or a budding interest in ‘all things turtle’ at the library.
In a structured exploration you could let your child know that today we are going on a scavenger hunt to find certain things in nature – this could be a list you’ve made together, or for younger children pictures of what you plan to look for –such as an acorn, a maple seed, a pine cone, a large stick, spotting a cardinal etc.
Other ideas from structured exploration idea are:
- To bring a camera and try to find as many different leaf types as possible (or flowers, animals, seeds).
- Older children can bring a journal and sit in one place and describe in words or pictures what they are seeing.
- Bringing paper and crayons and seeing how many different types of rubbings you can find.
- Be silent in a natural area for 5 minutes and then talk about what you heard.
- Have a picnic in the park or near a stream.
- Make a small raft out of twigs and tall grass and watch it float down the stream.
- Go fruit or flower picking
Getting out into a natural setting is also a great way for children to enhance the information in their brains. A child who sees a nest in a book many come to think that a birds nest is two dimensional, brown and fluffy. Upon actually seeing one in real life and being allowed to touch it, their brain will reorganize itself to include words like prickly, made out of twigs and mud, and three dimensional. A child can see how big a nest is, whether it has a smell, what color it is and what it is made out of. The bottom line is a picture in a book can never replace the power of holding an object in real life.
Here at MAB we think of the outdoors as an extension of the classroom. Aside from the unstructured recess time there are many other ways the children get to experience the outdoors. In our class we like to do nature walks with magnifying glasses and baskets to collect natural objects. We then at a later time analyze and sort the objects, always returning them after we have finished studying them. Sometimes we bring a large blanket into the courtyard and look up at the clouds – watch their movements and shapes that are formed. We also observe if there is a breeze, if we can see butterflies or birds flying in formation. On a beautiful day many classes will bring a table or art easel outside so the children can work in the great outdoors. Scrubbing the exterior of the building, cutting the grass with scissors, weeding, and planting flowers, herbs, fruit and vegetables in our garden beds are many other ways we incorporate the outdoors with education.
Some ending thoughts and ideas are to make sure you allow your child to be an explorer. Let them pick up an ant or poke their fingers in the stream. A fun thing to do is go for a walk in the rain and let your child know that today it is alright for them to splash in the puddles. At another time, allow them to walk barefoot so they can experience what it is like to feel the squishy mud between their toes and the slipperiness of the grass or the hardness of the rocks.
Children are fascinated by nature. We just have to make sure, as parents and educators that they have enough exposure to the wonderful greenery Northern Virginia has to offer.
Below are some links that you may find helpful.
|December 5, 2012|
By Bart Theriot, Head of School, Administration MAB
I own an iPad, iPod, iPhone and a desktop computer. I also have two televisions, thousands of channels of cable and a Sony Playstation 3. I even have a record player. I am no stranger to electronics and technology and clearly I am in favor of their use –judiciously of course. However, it is also my job as a Montessorian and as a father of three boys to constantly analyze the manner in which children experience life. From my observations, I am convinced that our society is approaching a point where “boredom” no longer exists. Depending upon your view of boredom, that might sound like a good thing, but the implications of this for our children could be more drastic than you may realize.
I placed the word “boredom” in quotes because its definition changes depending upon whom you ask. As a child, I remember complaining to my parents that I was bored. My friends and I would even commiserate over our boredom when we were together. At the time, I don’t think we really knew what it meant to be bored. To some, the opera may be boring, and to others reading a book is a total snore. Various forms of boredom are used in prison and even as a means of psychological torture. For now, let’s agree on the following general definition for the word: “Boredom –the feeling that results from a lack of personally interesting/engaging stimulation.”
However you define it, boredom can be downright painful –especially if you aren’t mentally prepared for it. An increasing number of us aren’t, which is why we have invented so many external means of avoiding it. Filling our downtime with entertainment has become such a part of our lives that we unwittingly project this idea onto our children. Not to mention that we have extra reason to promote the concept since parenting becomes much easier when your children are entertained.
So what do we lose when we are so easily able to escape boredom? One thing we lose is patience. If you don’t believe me, leave your phone at home and then head over to the DMV. I’ve written about the importance of patience right here on this blog and I’m certain all parents agree that it is an important life skill. You can say goodbye to creativity, too, which is often borne from boredom. We also lose the ability to engage with our environment –especially the human beings around us. Here I’m speaking more in evolutionary terms since staring at your smartphone doesn’t immediately erase your social abilities. Over time, however, if the bulk of our society continues to walk around with eyes glued to smartphones and iPads, I promise there will be a widespread drop in the ability of humans to interact face-to-face. Raise your hand if you think in-person human interaction is something we can do without.
There is an important distinction if we apply the thoughts above to our children instead of ourselves. The difference is that we adults (most of us anyway) already have these important skills to lose. But children have not yet had the chance to develop these skills and it is our responsibility as parents to ensure that they take advantage of the limited opportunities they will have to do so.
I remember when computers came equipped with the game solitaire as a standard program (now you get Youtube and who knows what else?) and businesses all over the country had to develop internal policies to prevent staff from spending more time playing cards than working. Clearly management wrote these policies because they knew that playing solitaire meant lower productivity, I also like to think that they recognized the value of boredom for their employees (and to their business).
What’s the value of boredom? Why is something that we consider an annoyance actually so good for us? For starters, boredom, and time spent “doing nothing” may be the birthplace of creativity (look at just about any sport out there from basketball to jai-alai and I guarantee it was invented by a creative and perhaps very bored individual). You could also say the same for many inventions, books, songs, paintings, plays, poems and other works of art not to mention some pretty important thoughts and discoveries. In point of fact, James Naismith, Isaac Newton, Leonardo DaVinci, Ludwig Von Beethoven and Martin Luther King, Jr. may not have considered themselves bored at all. However, they certainly had less options for “entertainment”, so when they had “nothing to do” they painted, wrote music, thought, spoke and invented amazing things. They discovered their own passions and abilities and used them to change the world. Watching a movie, playing a video game or reading what our “friends” had for lunch on Facebook is not creating anything. In fact, these things actually take away from the time where we could be discovering our own abilities and creating something uniquely wonderful.
Even if you aren’t creating a masterpiece, boredom is still a great time for your brain to take action. We all carry thoughts with us –especially children, who’s brains, because of their higher number of synapses, are literally jam-packed with ideas and questions waiting to be resolved. At times there may be so many ideas that they actually interfere with one another, making concentration difficult. A little boredom can be just the thing to allow the brain to catalog all those ideas and sort of reset itself to make room for new thoughts. Boredom is our brain’s opportunity to stop and smell the roses.
When a child says he is bored, often times it is not because there is nothing to do, it is more likely because there is nothing he wants to do, or that he may need to be creative in finding something to do. Now, children complaining of boredom is nothing new, but new technology allows parents to respond in a very different way than that of our parents. As a young child, when I told my parents that I was bored, nobody handed me a smartphone or even bothered to suggest options for my entertainment. Knowing my parents, I suspect they wouldn’t have reached for the iPad so quickly even if it was available. No, I remember hearing “Go outside and find something to do and don’t come back until dinner.” Thus, I was left to develop my own methods of handling boredom.
At the time, this was not the response I was looking for and I’m certain that I muttered a few things under my breath as I sulked my way into the back yard. Sometimes I made mistakes. Occasionally, I even got into trouble. Sometimes I learned more about myself and the world around me and even created some pretty amazing things. Other times I returned to my parents hours later just as bored as I was when I left. Still, no matter what I did during each of those times of boredom, I developed patience, self-reliance, character, honesty, creativity, problem solving, ingenuity and a host of other critical life skills that I use every day in my adult life. It was that downtime –that boredom, as much as anything else, that helped me to become the person I am today.
Children need to struggle. They need to fail and make mistakes and they need to experience times where they must rely on themselves and their own abilities to solve problems. This is where true character and grit come from and it is often where the greatest discoveries are made. Every time we save our children from “boredom” we stand in the way of their independent development. At the same time, we send them the message that not only is boredom something to be avoided, but that it is someone else’s responsibility to provide the tools to do so. So the next time your child starts showing signs of boredom, before you reach for the iPhone or step in to solve the problem, remember that message and realize that you may be taking away from your child the very skills you want him to develop.
|July 20, 2012|
Hello and welcome to our brand new website!
If you are new to MAB or Montessori, you’ll find an excellent introduction to both right here on this site. We also have a fairly expansive list of references and links to other sites concerning all things Montessori conveniently located in “The Cubby” . We are still updating some of the content on a few of the pages but that should all be taken care of soon. If you are considering enrollment for your child, please click on the “Visit Us” button at the top of the page and schedule a tour. Thank you for your interest. We look forward to speaking with you soon!
For our returning parents
Welcome back parents! And may I also add “how awesome is our new site?” There’s so much potential here we can’t wait to jump in! We are in the process of developing individual classroom pages which will give you even more access to your child’s daily experience with newsletters, pictures, video and other information. The site also holds a wealth of information both on the school and Montessori -there is always more to learn. We’ll be updating this blog with all sorts of interesting topics and we look forward to your comments and feedback. We’ve also taken a big step in trying our hand in the world of social media. Facebook and Twitter represent two excellent means of sharing information and reaching out to our community. We are also adding many of the student forms to the site -some of which can be completed online. The FAN page is also going to be updated, but we encourage you to join our Facebook group MAB FAN Officers & Volunteers to be sure you’re kept in the loop. In addition, we will be adding a paypal button both to the FAN page and the MAB home page shortly.
Please take some time and play around with the site. We would love to know what you think. Please send feedback and suggestions via email by clicking on the “Contact Us” button at the top of the screen.
Enjoy the rest of your Summer!
Head of School, Administration