Metamorphosis Elementary School Of Monticello Inc

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Going Out


Every Friday at our school, we take a walk. We have already practiced walking in line, keeping three big steps between our friends, walking in a pair holding hands, and grace and courtesy regarding how we walk and observe. We also practice how we greet the people we meet. 

We walk up our driveway heading into the sun in the early morning. We know we are heading east. We admire whatever we observe in Mim's -that's what the children call me...long story - garden as we move toward our school's street, State Street. This Friday we wondered at my crazy bamboo that is high as the sky to these children.

We said hello to Jasper the Boston Terrier and Sputnik the Jack Russell watching from a window, and eager to go with us. Not this time guys. Then we stop because we are at the end of the drive, and State Street has become a very busy street. I remind the children of the vendor selling caps in one of our favorite stories, Caps for Sale. "We look to the right of us--no cars. We look to the left of us--no cars. We look behind us--no cars." They love to act this out. But then we make silence. We listen. Our eyes and ears tell us it is safe to cross on the crosswalk. Across the street we see the sign for Lone Beech Road. We know it is Lone Beech. Lone means "one all alone." There stands one ancient Beech tree. Before we cross the next street we meet one of our neighbors who lives a couple of blocks away. Mrs. Gans says, "Good Morning!" I tell the children that Mrs. Gans' husband exercises every single day no matter how hot or how cold or how rainy. She confirms that. We learn that Mr. Gans writes speeches. Exercise helps him think. We tell her we are glad to see her, and she seems so happy to see us, and we all say our goodbyes. Now we are walking along the old, old Hospital wall. It is covered with lichen.

"This is lichen. It is living. It is a plant AND a fungus. The plant and the fungus work together to live."

On State Street, the street on which I grew up, their are eleven ancient sycamores. We love them. "A sycamore is a living thing that cannot move by itself. It is a plant." Some of us know that plants can make their own food. We know that the roots take up water and minerals, that move up the stem to the leaves. We are amazed that a tree trunk is a stem. (Actually this fact never ceases to delight me too when I think about it. Wow.)

In the fall, sycamores shed their bark. This reminds us of a snake! It's fun to collect the colorful shapes from the ground. Soon we will find their beautiful seeds.

Oh my goodness, there are lichen growing on this sycamore. 

The tree had a low branch. People used a saw to remove it. The tree caught a virus, and made its very own "bandage." It is called a "burl." Trees can make their own food AND their own band-aids. Can you believe it? 

Uh Oh. We see fungus. These are shelf fungi. They are living but cannot move on their own. They have a job. They are decomposers. They return old or injured trees to the earth. The trees become soil again. After we observe these beautiful fungi for a bit, we realize there are no leaves on this branch. The branch is no longer living.

We admire this fire hydrant. It is non-living. It is man-made. It is equipment that fire fighters must have in case of a fire. So interesting to observe and examine! Next we saw the mail carrier, Mr. Tom. We watched him unload so much mail, throw his heavy mailbag over his shoulder, and carry a box to a neighbor. We said, "Good morning, Mr. Tom."

TIMELESS! A boy and a stick and a fence.

We walk far. We walk all the way to our teacher Miss Katie's house. We admire  her flag and her gardens that are shared with neighbors. She has lots of nice kale. Maybe we will make some soup!

Walking along we met Miss Katie's neighbor who bakes cakes at our local grocery store. Her whole back yard is a garden! She told us that she has so many tomatoes.

Miss Katie said that she knew friends who had to take trees down, lift up their house and repair it. Tree roots are strong! We know that they are long too, and can go all the way under and across streets. We found evidence!

These roots are exposed.

They went under the sidewalk and lifted it up. It cracked.

The children loved this newly replaced section of the sidewalk. They noticed it right away.

Almost back to school. This is the place where I played as a child, my children played, and my grandchildren played for a short while. This is the bridge that my friends and I could walk under, knowing that we were under State Street, to the other side. This is the place where there is a gigantic, incredible fossil that probably only children of previous generations know about.

Our beautiful creek

"Do fish live in there?" "Why yes they do, and lots of minnows, frogs, salamanders, crayfish and other living things. There is plenty of algae too." Our children love algae, but many still call it "allergy," so our plecostomus is referred to by some of the children as, "the allergy eater."

Home again home again jiggity jig. 

p.s. Although I don't like to end on a sad note... Neighbors do not allow children to play at the creek anymore. To read about it, see below.

For more about the creek, see the article in Montessori Life written by my daughter, Chris Sanantonio. It is called Nature Abandoned: Where Have All The Children Gone?
I was going to link it like I used to be able to do, but now all the links I find are ones I have to pay for! Well, it is in the 2008 Vol. 4 Issue of Montessori Life, and if my daughter answers her phone and gives me a link, I will post it tomorrow. 

And finally, go out with children. Not to an amusement park, or Disneyland. Walk around the block at the child's pace. Walk through the town. Walk your neighborhood. Walk through a park. Savor the things and the people you see. Just like a child does. Show your child how to address people. Help them to get the movement they require to develop optimally. Show them how to look carefully and closely. Hurt no living thing. Just walk...and look. Dr. Montessori knew that children thrive on this activity. Look through the child's eyes. See everything afresh. You will thrive on it too.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day

On this Labor Day I have been thinking of people who have labored intensely, in one way or another, to keep Montessori thriving and growing. And I am thrilled that now we not only have computer technology to access information, conduct research, and make the creation of materials a breeze, but also that we are connecting to each other - all around the globe! I could not have imagined this when I began those decades ago.

I've mentioned in earlier posts that I found my way to Montessori as a result of my dissatisfaction with traditional education. It was sheer good luck that I met Rita Young, who was the administrator of Champaign Montessori for 25 years. She invited me in, opened my eyes to a classroom that stunned me, and totally changed the course of my life. She put up with my daily questions when I was enrolled in my St. Nicholas training, and personally instructed me with many of the materials. When I called her, in tears, from Memphis, where I took my examinations, to tell her that I just wasn't ready - I knew I would fail the exams - she gave me no choice, telling me that the feeling was commonplace. She told me that when she took her exams, she drew cylinders, and that her hand looked as if she was ringing a bell because she was so nervous as she tried, shaking, to return each knobbed cylinder into its place. She acknowledged that the exams were completely overwhelming, but that I could do it, and I was to march right back in there. And I did, straight back in to instructors who were serious, stern, and intimidating. When I finished, I was completely exhilarated when I heard my head teacher say to the assistant, "This one's gonna fly!" I've never forgotten that moment.

Over the years I've attempted to attend as many Montessori training workshops as I could possibly fit in, or afford. I've been delighted by the opportunities to keep growing as a Montessori educator, with folks like Celma and Desmond Perry, and now, Anna Perry, and others like Eva Parucci, Karen Riggenbach, Marite Kucinas, David Kahn, Don Czerwinsky, Tim Seldin, and so, so many other great Montessorians. These are dedicated people who often had classroom jobs, but also made time to conduct classes to help others along the path.

And now I think we have what I believe is to be the first real Montessori Movement of my lifetime. We have groups like the Montessori Madmen promoting and teaching nonstop, great websites, blogs, videos that teach teachers, videos that teach parents, books -- all resulting in more publicity for Montessori education. We have this incredible tool called Facebook, with which we can connect with practically every Montessori school on the planet. Talk about sharing resources. Talk about a feeling of solidarity!

With advances in technology, we've come so far from the days of cutting sandpaper to make our own letters and numerals, or from wrestling that exasperating clear Contact paper to laminate, only to end up with a crease or a bubble! We still hear, "What is Montessori?" But we are more prepared than ever to answer that question. We are not just the only evidence-based, scientific method of education in the world. We are a method of education that meets or EXCEEDS every single goal, (and then some,) set by today's experts in the field of education and human development. But today, I want to remember that we are people. Those who carry the torch for Maria, whether we get compensated adequately or not. Those who work endless hours after class, preparing special materials for the group, or even for a specific child. People who use their holidays and weekends to give tours to parents, or set up a booth at a festival to promote Montessori understanding, or teach a workshop to teachers or parents. Dr. Montessori worked tirelessly for children and families. She labored day and night. So many other wonderful people have kept the dream and the hope and the reality alive. They have followed in her footsteps, and I'll bet they have not complained about the hard work.

So my thanks, respect and love to all of my mentors, friends, (around the cool to be able to say that,) and colleagues in Montessori on this Labor Day. I consider my work in Montessori education to be my life's greatest privilege, and I know that many of these folks feel the same. It doesn't feel like work does it guys? That's because it is a genuine Labor of Love.