As you can see above, Casa South wasted no time getting back to work this past week.
“Everybody’s very happy to be back, happy to see their friends, to get in touch with the jobs that they know, and are getting new presentations already,” said Pat this week. “The girl is Polishing Wood and the boy is doing Colour Box 1. All the polishing jobs start out simpler and get progressively more complex. For Polishing Wood we use three different cloths — put the polish on, rub it in, and a buffing cloth. Colour Box 1 is primary colours. It involves matching and learning the names of the colours. We also play games where they can find something that’s blue and bring it to the table, then find something that’s yellow and something that’s red. If there are any issues with colour and seeing colours or recognizing colours, or in the language, then we can identify that.”
In the background, Pat is preparing a new ‘pinning’ job for the environment. It is a job that involves cutting out a shape on paper by perforating it with a large pin (like a thumbtack).
Casa South’s Serena also had a busy first week back. Above, Serena is giving a presentation on how to properly wash a table in a Montessori environment.
“Washing a table is one of the second-year jobs, and it’s more complex. There’s many steps to it. We don’t wash a table in Casa the same way you wash a table at home. It’s designed specifically to have several different steps because you want them to have their level of concentration elongated and heightened, and be able to see if they can follow the sequence of steps. They have to get the table wet, then get the soap on the brush, then wash the table, then dry the table, and then clean everything up.”
The washing and cleaning instruction continued for Serena in the Casa South snack area.
“That’s all about personal responsibility,” explained Pat, “cleaning your own dishes, cleaning your own spills, and doing it in an appropriate manner so things don’t get broken.”
Pat did want to ensure you all know that we do re-wash all of the dishes in the sanitizing industrial dishwasher before the children use them again.
Serena’s handiwork instruction continued later in the week with a presentation of the Sanding Wood job. When asked why on earth we are teaching Casa children to sand wood, Pat replied, “Cuz it’s fun!”
“Practical life activities are all about control and coordination of movement,” she elaborated. “You have to be able to hold the block, hold the sandpaper, do the motion, and actually have it be purposeful. We started off with a very rough piece of wood in September and it’s getting very smooth; you can see the parts that are still rough and the parts that are smooth.”
Pat tells us that Casa South goes through a number of blocks of wood each year for this first-year Casa child job.
Kids with knives! Kids with knives!
“That knife has been grinded… ground?. This knife has been dulled with a grinder. It will cut paper but nothing else, and we show them that,” said Pat. “I’ll take the knife and put it cross their hand so they can see that it won’t cut them and they’re not afraid to use it. We go over knife safety — you always want to be cutting away from you. We go over the fact that it’s still a knife and you could still hurt somebody with it, so it doesn’t lie around.”
The purpose of this job is to learn how to use a knife and, “there is an indirect fraction aspect,” explained Pat. “You start off with a piece of paper and cut it in half, then the half into quarters and the quarters into eighths. All those pieces of paper go into other jobs, so, again, it has a purpose beyond just the cutting.”
“Again, it’s control and coordination of movement,” said Pat of the yoga activity available to the children in the DVMS Casa environments. “They look at the card and try to mimic the movement as best they can. It can also help us see if there is anything out of the ordinary with large motor movement. Everybody has different levels of flexibility, it’s surprising how unflexible some kids are. Movement is huge. There’s always movement. All of the activities that we have, especially in the Practical Life area, involve movement. There’s no sitting still with them. It has to do with the importance of the mind-body connection — body’s moving, mind’s growing.”
“This is one of the ways that they can do subtraction,” said Pat about the Subtraction Snake Game being set up above. “You start it with a snake that is a foot long, and you get one that is only, say, 3 inches long, and they see that something that was long has been made short, and that’s subtraction. There are coloured beads and clear beads, and he counts up just like an addition snake. You count to ten, and replace, say, a six and a four with a ten-bead section. You learn all the combinations of how to make up ten or, say, fifteen. If you get up to 15 and want to take away eight, you can do that, and then there’s a check at the end to make sure that they did it correctly. The material shows them if they are right or wrong, not me.”
The young boy above was doing some initial work learning initial sounds this week with a great material using some images and clothes pegs.
“You have to know what the letter-symbols are on the clothes pegs, then you have to realize that ‘basketball’ starts with the sound /b/, then you have to find a peg with the sign /b/ and clip it on. It’s fairly simple, but there’s a lot going on there. You have to understand what the picture is and identify it — vocabulary building, understand what the first sound is, find that sound written on the clothes peg, and match it up. This is a language activity but it is so much more than a language activity. You’ve got practical life within the language activity, developing hand strength and coordination — when they first start the activity they have a hard time holding the peg, and holding the piece of paper, then getting the peg onto the paper in the right spot.”
Some Casa South boys also took advantage of the sunny nature of their environment this week, on a cold, cold morning, to sit in the warm sunshine and read a book together.
“Casa South is a lovely, sunny classroom,” said Pat. “They do this often. Somebody will get a book out and start reading it, or they’ll find something that’s interesting and they’ll gather around and start talking about it. From there they start getting interested in doing project work. We have a lot of third-years doing projects right now. When they start doing project work in Casa we have to guide them a little bit. I had one boy come in and say he wanted to do a project on ‘history.’ I said, ‘Well, you’re going to have to narrow it down a little bit.’ We narrowed it down to Egypt and now he’s doing a project on Egyptians. We have another girl doing a project on plants, and that ties directly into their presentation on Plant Care.”
Pat would also like to request that children refrain from bringing backpacks to school. With the abundance of winter clothing necessitated by the late onset of winter, there is simply not room for backpacks as well. For the most part, the backpacks only contain lunch bags which can be easily stored in their cubbies.
All of the Casa staff would like to remind you to be sure to send weather-appropriate clothing to school with your children every day.
“Just a friendly reminder to please make sure your child comes to school every day with boots, snowpants, hat, mittens, scarf, neck warmer, whatever it is that they need,” said Casa East’s Elizabeth. “Even though some days you may think, at home, it’s too cold to go outside, it is a decision that is made at the school at recess time, based on the windchill at the school, so every day we need to be prepared, and know that the school will make the best decision for the children on any given day.”