Saturday, July 10, 2010

Summertime and the living is....Montessori

     Summer camp began this week and, after months of lousy weather, the temperatures suddenly soared to the mid-thirties. Some people love hot weather. I am not one of those people. Nor are most of the 20 children who spent the week with me and Ann. However, having been involved in the camp for several years, we are pretty well versed in how to keep the little ones cool.

     Our camp is run the same way the classroom is run. Individual activities are set up to follow a logical sequence and to foster independence. All of the sensorial, language, cultural, and math activities are left on the shelf.  However, there are a couple of activities that are set up only during the month of July. These are the hot-glue table and the clay table. I'd like to take credit for both ideas but that wouldn't be honest.  : )

    The idea for the hot glue table (indeed, most of the woodworking activities) came from a fabulous book called Woodshop for Kids by Jack McKee. (I've linked the title of the book to Amazon but the book can also be purchased through Montessori Services). This book is a must-have for any teacher wanting to include woodwork in the classroom.

Hot glue creations

Hammering and sanding

The idea for this drill press came from Jack McKee's book.  After a bit of searching, I found it on Ebay.  I'm pretty sure the seller thought I was nuts when I told him what I wanted it for.  The little boy in this picture is 5. 

This little girl is 3.

     The clay table idea came from The Moveable Alphabet blog by Susan Dyer (no relation).

Cleaning up after making a clay snake (or snail, or owl, or cube........)

Once the clay is dry, the creation can be painted.

     In addition, many of the practical life activities are tweaked to reflect summertime activities and the art shelf is expanded with new materials and projects.

Art shelf from last year's camp.

     Our school is situated in the middle of a small city and the neighbourhood children are welcome to play in our yard after school and on weekends. This tactic has kept vandalism down but means most of the outside environment has to be dismantled and brought into the classroom every evening. It also means putting everything outside every morning. Add this to the usual preparation work that is required in the classroom each morning and we have to be at school very early so that both environments are properly set up for the children.

From this.....

to this......
to this!

     Some parents may not fully understand why a child would prefer to continue working with the didactic materials rather than some of the summer activities. For example, a couple of years ago, one mother came to me with a concern. She wasn't happy that her daughter was coming to "camp" but was working with the long chains from the bead cabinet.

     Once I assured her that I had not forced or even suggested the work to her child, I went on to explain that this was normal and to be expected in a Montessori program. Her child did not find the chains boring, difficult or tedious. Quite the opposite. She thought the chains were great fun – especially the 1000 chain – and worked on them every day for a week with another boy. Summer camp gave her the opportunity to master a work she hadn't finished when school ended in mid-June. In fact, once the novelty of the new activities has worn off, most of the children return to the other shelves and resume the work they've been perfecting during the school year.

Summer camp is really just a continuation of the year.


Lindart said...

Hi Cynthia! We just finished our first week of camp as well. Doing it a little differently than yours as we have several non-Montessori kids, so all didactic materials are off the shelves, re[placed by open ended activities such as lego, blocks, etc. I love your set-up, and all the woodworking activities! I wish we had a deck like yours! Our first week was Little Artists. Pop over to my art blog at Lindart.blogspot.com and see what mt little artists did! They were thrilled with their "masterpieces" and enjoyed the 4-day process immensely! I hoping that week will be the last for me as we have hired a summer camp teacher - I need the rest (hah! I need time to work on my classroom!) I would love to pick your brain on a few things - e-mail me!


Cynthia Dyer said...


I did pop over and view the children's work. Awesome! More ideas I will probably "borrow". : D

Should I contact you at the school?

Melva said...

Wow, can I come to your camp? It looks like such fun, and isn't it true that kids want to work and learn if the materials are appropriate and the time is right.

Cynthia Dyer said...

You are welcome anytime, Melva!

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Cynthia Dyer said...

Thank you very much for the award! I am excruciatingly busy at the moment (with summer camp and all the admin. stuff needed for Sept.) so I might not be able to fufill the requirements . I still really appreciate the thought.

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