Children's House of Durango provides an enriched learning environment for children based on Maria Montessori's philosophy and method. Due to the nature of our "house" each subject is separated and taught in individual rooms with a teacher that is trained within her subject area. The teacher in the classroom remains constant and the students rotate throughout the week on a set schedule. During the course of a day a child will be exposed to 2 morning classes and an afternoon class of their choice. Our program includes the five Montessori subjects, Practical Life, Sensorial, Math, Language, and Cultural. In addition, we incorporate Spanish as a foreign language, art, and music appreciation.
Practical Life is the cornerstone of the Montessori Method and is the building block for all the other subjects such as Language, Sensorial, Cultural, and Math in the primary level classroom. It consists of simple, daily activities using objects that are familiar and recognizable to the child. Through the materials in the Practical Life area, children are able to explore their natural curiosities. They become independent, self-reliant, and are given the tools necessary to function in society.
The purpose of Practical Life is to provide both physical and developmental skills through direct and indirect aims. The direct aims of Practical Life are to develop coordination, concentration, independence, and order through prepared activities that are attractive and draw the attention of the child. In working with these materials the child indirectly obtains emotional enrichment, social skills, physical development of both fine and gross motor, objective and independent judgment, and learns natural consequences.
The four main areas of Practical Life are:
In the Montessori classroom the purpose of the Sensorial materials is to refine the child's sense perception by isolating each sense. Maria Montessori described in her own handbook that the aim of Sensorial education is,
"...an inner one, namely, that the child train himself to observe; that he be led to make comparisons between objects, to form judgments, to reason and to decide; and it is in the indefinite repetition of this exercise of attention and of intelligence that a real development ensues." - Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori believed that children take in information through their senses. She stated, “The hand is the instrument of the mind.” In other words, the Sensorial materials allow the children through the use of their hands to make a mental connection between an abstract idea and its concrete representation. Through the use of didactic or hands on learning materials a child is able to refine their sense perception, problem solve and make associations of concepts they have learned and apply them to their environment and the outside world.
The three main aims of the Sensorial materials are to stimulate cognitive development, to develop discrimination of specific qualities, and to develop an ability to make judgments and comparisons. The materials are designed to isolate the sense in order for a child to perceive the single quality within the work. For example, the pink tower is all one color so that the child can discriminate visually the difference in the size of the cubes as they graduate from smallest to biggest.
Within the Sensorial Area five senses are introduced. They are:
In addition, Maria Montessori included a fifth sense called stereognostic, which is the feeling of form without the visual sense.
In the Montessori environment children are exposed to math in all areas of the classroom. It begins in Practical Life, where the children are pouring, spooning, tweezing, and practicing skills that prepare them for mathematics.
Within the Math area there is a sequence of materials and each layer is built upon the previous one. Therefore, it is important to enable the child to set their own pace and to observe each step of the way. The children must be able to manipulate the materials through their senses to build a concrete foundation before they can think abstractly.
The introduction to Math begins with the "basic five" materials. These include:
The "basic five" lay the foundation for the remainder of the Math materials and are essential in teaching mathematical concepts. Through these materials the child develops a concrete understanding of quantity 1-10 and the symbols represented for each.
Once a child has mastered the concept of quantity and can associate the numeral (symbol) to the number (amount) other math concepts are introduced. These include:
- addition - subtraction - multiplication - division
Language is the expression by which a civilized society can communicate.
It is, "...the central point of difference between the human species and all others."
- Maria Montessori
Passed down through generations, language reflects the individual culture in which the child lives. Children are not taught language, but rather they absorb the sounds, syllables, words, and syntax around them beginning at infancy.
Maria Montessori believed that language develops through two internal aids that coincide together and drive the child to act on impulses beginning at infancy through the age of six. She identified these two aids as the "absorbent mind" and "sensitive periods." The absorbent mind acts as sponge and enables the young child to take in information without effort during a specific time frame. A sensitive period refers to an innate sensibility driving a young child's development to acquire a specific trait. Once acquired, the sensitive period for that trait ends.
The Montessori environment supports the sensitive period of language through the use of not only the Language materials, but also the materials in the Practical Life and Sensorial areas.
The three stages of language development that Maria Montessori identified are:
-Visual perception skills
-Grammar and word study
"What does not exist in the cultural environment will not develop in the child." - Maria Montessori
Establishing cultural awareness in the young child aids in their ability to care for others and establishes their sense of place within the world. Therefore, it plays an important role in the Montessori classroom. Cultural development enables the child to make connections between himself and the physical world around him.
The Cultural curriculum includes the following subjects:
Within each of these subjects the child, through the use of didactic materials is exposed to the five animal kingdoms, life cycles, continents, studies of the Earth, space, landforms, and various cultures. In addition, living things such as plants and animals permeate the Montessori environment. The children observe and care for these living organisms. In doing so, they absorb the wonder of the natural world.
Text by Alicia Zepeda. All rights reserved.