As we begin October, the children are continuing to adjust to their new schedules and to the routine of school. The moments of anxiety and hesitation have almost passed. As young as they are, the children clearly understand and accept the arrival procedures…temperature taking, water bottles out, backpacks in cubbies and hand washing. They have impressed us with how quickly they have gotten used to these protocols. Also, they are getting to know us and learning to trust us, allowing us to attend to their individual social and emotional needs and to assist them in their classroom choices and activities.
The sea creatures featured in September will be on the shelves a little while longer as we continue to talk about the different types of whales and sharks and learn some of the habits of seals, manatees, squid, and dolphins. Then, as the month progresses, we will turn our attention to all things related to the fall…apples, pumpkins, kinds of trees/leaves, and the classroom shelf materials will reflect these autumn themes. In Practical Life we will be scrubbing pumpkins. Sponge squeezing, water pouring, table scrubbing and baby washing have already been introduced, and these skills are important as the children tackle pumpkin scrubbing. We will talk about the different kinds of apples…how they look and how they taste. In Sensorial we will be tasting the Macintosh, Granny Smith, Red and Golden Delicious, Cortland and Rome Beauties. Also in Sensorial, in addition to the many fall-themed puzzles, we will be bringing in the classic Montessori building activities such as the Broad Stair and Red Rods, as well as the Geometric solids (sphere, cone, pyramid, rectangular and triangular prisms.) The Language shelves will include matching and discriminating the kinds of apples and leaves. There will also be fall sequencing and go-together activities. While many trees are still quite green, we will be observing the changes in colors on our walks to the playground. We will be showing the children samples of oak, maple, sassafras, gingko, aspen and sycamore leaves. Young children are really keen observers of what is around them, and in the past they have truly enjoyed sharing their knowledge of the different kinds of trees/leaves. They are welcome to bring in samples of leaves from the trees in their backyards or at the park. Also in Language we have brought in name tracing and “punching” where the children make small holes with a push pin around sea life and now autumn shapes. “Punching” is a very valuable pre writing and fine motor exercise. In Math we will be counting and adding apples, leaves, pumpkins and acorns with concrete objects. And of course at the art tables and in the book corners will be many fall-related art projects and story books.
A popular October tradition here at school is our bulb planting. We will be planting crocuses, daffodils, tulips and hyacinths near the playground and around our entrance. On circle we demonstrate how to prep the garden bed with a large shallow container of dirt, and we use the necessary tools (claw, spade, bulb planter, and watering can) for the prepping and planting of the bulbs into that box of dirt. Then, when we move outside to do the actual digging of holes and planting, the children have a good idea of how to do it. We explain that our bulbs are planted now in the fall while the ground is still soft, but will not bloom until months from now in the spring. The children will see for themselves that the bulbs will stay deep down in their “cozy beds” through the rest of fall and winter undisturbed by rain, snow or frigid temperatures, and will emerge as beautiful and colorful flowers next spring. Particularly interesting to them is that we will cover our beds with pine straw to deter the always hungry squirrels from finding, digging and then munching on our bulbs. Squirrels do not like the smell of the pine straw. It is a nice lesson that highlights the natural changes in temperature, on the ground, and in the trees that each of the seasons brings.
The highlight of the month for many children is Halloween which falls on a Sunday this year. The children do not wear their costumes to school beforehand. It makes what is already a very exciting time a little to long for children so young. We will be celebrating here with songs, treats and games, but not costumes.
In October we begin our year long theme of “Peace”. In its simplest form, peace is being kind and caring towards others. It also means playing happily with others, and sharing and enjoying activities with family and friends. We will present a series concrete lessons through the course of the year. We have begun by setting up in each classroom a “Peace Corner” which includes a low table upon which is our Peace Bowl. Next to the bowl is a small dish of pretty stones. The children are encouraged to place a stone in the Peace Bowl if they feel they have shown kindness even in the smallest way to a classmate. It could mean helping a friend clean up his or her work, comforting a friend who is upset, giving up a seat next to the teacher or a place in line to someone who seems to really need that place, helping a classmate button or zip a coat, or assisting a teacher with classroom set-up or clean-up. On circle we demonstrate what constitutes an act of kindness by play-acting with the children different examples of how to be peaceful. In the beginning of the year (now), many children just love to throw the stones in the Peace Bowl…maybe because of the sound or feel of them. Gradually, though, they begin to understand the importance of each act which shows respect and kindness towards others, and the value of these acts in creating a happy and peaceful environment conducive to learning and to positive social interaction. As teachers we play a role in all of this. When we observe a child showing kindness, we will encourage that child to go and put a stone in the Peace Bowl. Eventually, though it takes time, many will do it on their own, and report back to us, proud and happy that they have been a kind friend. Over the next couple of months, our Peace lessons include what makes our “love lights” (how we feel inside on any given day) shine or be dimmed, and we will also tackle conflict resolution (always a challenge with young children) using our Peace Flower which will also be placed on our Peace Table in the Peace Corner. We have a nice repertoire of books that demonstrate for pre-school children how to create peace and kindness in the classroom. This year, we are somewhat surprised but very happy to report that despite the fact that we have been back for only four weeks, the children seem to be remarkably settled, showing respect for and kindness to each other. We are also impressed by their nice listening skills and attention during circle time, story time, group movement and game time , as well as the general times of transition. And in all the classes they are so busy and productive which is also really key in the establishment of a peaceful and beneficial learning environment.
“Peace is not something you wish for.
It is something you make, something you do,
something you are. And something you give away.”