I had wanted to share a post here showing the work we had on our shelves for St. Patrick’s Day, but never got around to it, and I sort of missed the boat on getting a Spring Practical Life and Art post up as I had planned, though I’m going to put the pictures in the end of this post anyway, in case it helps you get in the mood.
At the same time, I wanted to touch on this whole idea of themed work in the Montessori classroom. I have heard and read mixed opinions on the practice of putting themed work out for various holidays. The arguments against that I have heard say that children don’t need cute themes, that they’re inspired to work regardless, and that work should be simple and uncluttered. I agree with all three of these statements, but I still love to change the work on our classroom shelves to reflect current holidays and seasons. I don’t go too crazy, because beauty and simplicity are what make a work appealing without distracting from the direct aim, but I do make a number of small changes with each seasonal change, and for many holidays in between. Here’s why:
Simple changes in a work create a point of interest that may call to the child who has forgotten about a work, but had not yet mastered it.
Making an old work new again helps build confidence, and encourages creativity. Some children in Montessori classrooms will so internalize the “right” way to work with certain materials, and the idea that they shouldn’t do work without having first had a lesson, that they never dig deep and explore extensions and variations on their own. When a work is changed to match the seasonal theme, it looks new, but the skills practiced are the same. This means children who have already had a lesson can dive into “new” work without waiting for a presentation, and the confidence and enthusiasm this creates can carry over to other work in the classroom, too.
Changing things inside [the classroom] helps bring children’s attention to the changes happening outside, rooting them in seasonal rhythms. Not all of us live in areas where there are four seasons, each standing in stark contrast to one another. Holidays and observances are an important part of every culture, and they help build the concepts of time and of history. We had our first real snow during the first week of Spring this year, but the colorful work inside reminds us that Spring is indeed upon us, and that warmer is on its way.
Common themes can unite math, language, art, practical life, and culture, in a way that makes the connections between them more natural.
I thoroughly enjoy spending a few extra hours in the classroom around seasonal changes. As an added bonus, it keeps me thinking about the materials we have available, and watching closely to see what’s working and what isn’t. Below, you can see some examples of small changes I made to welcome spring.
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