Thursday, November 22, 2018

Children's Tree Nursery

Last year we started a "children's tree nursery", and at the very beginning of the school year had all the children collect tree seeds from trees around their neighborhood or wherever they could find them. We amassed a nice collection, looked at all the differences in each seed, talked about ways of propagating, and where these seeds had come from. Each child picked one and planted it a few weeks later. Our idea was that we would take care of these trees, repot them every year, and children would take their tree home as a graduation gift at the end of their three years with us.

It was a great idea in theory. However, the plants grew so quickly that by the end of just six months, most of the plants were begging to be repotted in larger containers and stood taller than many of the children. On Graduation Day we lined up the third year children's trees along the entrance of the school and they took their tree home (hopefully to be planted in their yard).

Clearly though, keeping the second and first year children's trees for one or two more years would have meant dealing with pretty enormous plants and I was afraid they would get pot sickness (if that is a thing, where plants don't grow anymore because they've been confined to a too tight container for too long).

I decided all those remaining plants would be donated to the school and have been planting them in our own garden while I thought of a better plan for this year.

Our Family Holiday Picnic is next week, and it's the first event that parents and children attend together at our school. On that day, families will plant a tree seed together with their children and decorate the plant pot together. We will take care of these trees in our tree nursery for the remainder of the year. On the Moving on Ceremony Day, the last family event of the year (and last day of school) we will line up ALL the trees and have the families take them home. Six month old trees will be perfect for planting at home and a lovely gift for everyone to take with them on that day. I think that involving the parents in the planting of the seeds will also give them an incentive to plant and care for the tree in its future home.

I like the closing of this circle and like thinking of 25 trees being planted every year around the island.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

To teach inclusion,
include others.
To teach kindness,
be kind.
To teach caring,
be caring.

To teach how to work,

During our beautiful afternoon work period, when we only have the second and third year children present, I notice that if I go about my usual routine of observing first, it takes a while for them all to get back to the rhythm of work (or indoor play, whatever you will to call it). I have been working instead. They come in and they find me working. I choose materials that I find fun, challenges with blindfolds, bells work, practical life. Some of the children notice right away. At the beginning they found it super funny, very large me at the tiny table knitting- "What are you doing?" they would ask me. "I'm working". If I needed to stop to give a reminder, or to help with something, I would, and then resume my work as I would have them do. The more I have been doing it, the more normal it has become. The ones that notice are sometimes influenced by my choice and want to try it too (especially if it's something that they have not seen another person try before). It seems logical to me. If I want them to work but they always see me in my chair observing or helping or giving lessons, I am not modeling any work as they know it. When it is possible, and there is nothing more pressing to do, I will then. I think I should have snack with them too, and drink tea in the afternoon at the snack table as well. That sounds fun to me.

This year more than any, there is a real lack of pressure on the children to work in any particular area of the classroom. Other years, I confess, I have pushed math  in particular, for fear that children moving on would not be "ready" for elementary (especially elementary Montessori, as if it was less forgiving than when they go to mainstream schools). Since I have seen the fallacy in that and removed all the pressure on the children, given them real free choice, I see a much more balanced environment arise. The children choose from all areas. Not everyone from all areas, but everything is getting used. When something is becoming too much of a comfort material, we take it away for a few days and see if it brings children to discover other things that had forgotten existed. We have less on the shelves than on other years, but what is there is really getting juiced.

I feel we are headed in a good direction.