Art Experiences for the Montessori Child
Montessori wanted her prepared environment to have real works of art hung at the child’s eye level. She also insisted that the rooms be well kept, clean and attractive to the children with fresh flowers & plants or objects from nature. In most Montessori schools I have been into there are objects of art for the children to explore, either visually or by touch.
Most of the Montessori emphasis on art comes from the development of the hand, the “prehensile organ of the mind”. The Montessori environment provides extensive materials & activities to develop and train the hand. Predominantly, the Insets for design, which are geometrical stencil shapes used to prepare the child’s hand for writing.
A lot of the exercises of Practical Life within a Montessori curriculum are artistic in nature, for example; cutting, weaving, sewing, use of stationery tools, stencils, paint, chalks and special holiday projects, yet they are also presented in a formal manner. Materials are freely available but the child manages to take responsibility for them and their use.
One of the most important elements is to leave the child free to develop as interfering can interrupt the inner drive for expression. It is extremely hard not to comment upon the child’s work and try to find a title or explanation for it, yet the work should exist for itself, ‘art for art’s sake’. The pictures do not necessarily have to resemble anything we recognize, nor be anything that needs words to explain them.
There is a commonly accepted approach to art appreciation within the Montessori curriculum. The child is exposed to a variety of art forms, crossing a range of styles and techniques, past and present. In looking at the diversity of artistic style and accepting art as a personal expression can help free a child from anxieties about his own work. The Art Teacher uses these forms to bring awareness to how drawing and paintings are made. It is another way for the child to see and explore the ways artists work. The form made by the child is then enhanced and completed as the child desires. Young children often love the process more than the result and should always be encouraged to express themselves freely.
Each child learns in a different way, that is why music is taught using all of the senses. Through moving, speaking, singing, listening, playing simple instruments, and exploring reading and writing music, the child experiences music as a process that becomes incorporated into their lives.
A variety of music activities is included that will not only allow them to explore music, but will also help them build self-confidence, curiosity, self-expression, listening skills and self-control.
When the child enters a Montessori primary classroom environment, the use of music as a spontaneous expression continues and the teacher gradually introduces the ‘elements of music’ in a more structured way. There is an in depth explorations of these elements with the music teacher who comes to our school once a week.
Beginning with the walking on the line and progressing to other natural expressions of movement, such as running, skipping, and galloping, the child begins to associate certain rhythmic figures with bodily movements. Also, through the use of echoes, both verbal and rhythmic (clapping, tapping knees, snapping) children acquire a vocabulary of simple rhythms.
Through daily singing of songs, nursery rhymes and fingerplays, children begin to acquire a sense of pitch. The Montessori bell material affords the child the opportunity to hear musical sounds in isolation – to match, grade, and name them. Work with both the pentatonic and diatonic scale patterns gives exposure to different pitch relationships, which are the building blocks of melody.
Children are introduced to the instruments of the orchestra, with their various tone qualities, and learn the names of the instruments and their respective sounds.
Children hear pieces with different gradations of volume, a quiet lullaby, a strong march.
Children realize through listening to selected music that there is a form to music, just as there is a form (syntax) to language.
As teachers introduce music, whether vocal or instrumental, its place and time of origin is given so children begin to relate music to history and geography.
Foreign Language Instruction
Preschool children are naturally inquisitive and eager to learn new skills such as a foreign language. They also have the ability to learn them much more easily and completely than older children and adults. In addition, instruction need not be formal. Preschool children benefit from a simple immersion in the language when they simply hear and react to it in as normal an environment as possible.
Children who learn a foreign language at a young age are much more likely to develop native, or near native, pronunciation and intonation. This is because they find it simpler to mimic the speech patterns of all languages at a preschool age. This skill can help make their use of a foreign language indistinguishable to that of a native speaker.
Preschool children are able to subconsciously differentiate the area of the brain concerned with language learning, according to the Center for Applied Linguistics. This skill means that after learning one foreign language from an early age, even if only to an elementary level, they are later more easily able to learn additional foreign languages. Unfortunately, this ability appears to disappear at age nine.
At Montessori Discovery Garden, Spanish is the foreign language of choice. The children are immersed in the language twice a week. One part of the immersion is a formal class where instruction is given. This instruction includes vocabulary, making projects, singing songs and playing games. Spanish is then spoken exclusively during the lunch and recess periods so they are exposed to the language spontaneously. The children receive two hours of the foreign languare twice a week.
Children derive enormous benefits from yoga. Physically, it enhances their flexibility, strength, coordination, and body awareness. In addition, their concentration and sense of calmness and relaxation improves. Doing yoga, children exercise, play, connect more deeply with the inner self, and develop an intimate relationship with the natural world that surrounds them.
When yogis developed the asanas many thousands of years ago, they still lived close to the natural world and used animals and plants for inspiration. The physical movements introduce kids to yoga’s true meaning: union, expression, and honor for oneself and one’s part in the delicate web of life. Yoga with children offers many possibilities to exchange wisdom, share good times, and lay the foundation for a lifelong practice that will continue to deepen.
Our program engages the entire mind, body, and spirit in a way that honors all the ways children learn. Breathing exercises help children to slow down, increase more awareness and make non-reactive choices. Balancing exercises help them to bring them into focus and develop alignment, strength, flexibility and grace. Standing poses help them to become stable, strong and grounded. Bends, twists and stretches are great energizers and helps to tone the body inside and out. And finally we rest and become still and self aware in our shavasana pose. Now we are ready to go out into the world with a new sense of loving ourselves and all people that we will encounter.