“Nothing comes to the intellect that is not first in the senses.” The Secret of Childhood, Maria Montessori
A cornerstone of Montessori education is engaging all the senses for learning. The children experienced heavy and light by picking up, or trying to pick up, a large heavy pumpkin and a small light pumpkin. During snack time we tasted red and yellow apples. And we listened for the water when pouring from pitcher to cup. The children felt soft felt red and orange leaves and scratchy brown burlap fabric.
Maria Montessori also wrote how the hand is the instrument of the mind. It is not enough to see photos of pumpkins, but to touch and sense the temperature, to feel the weight and to feel the bumps and uneven texture brings meaning to the word pumpkin. Part of why we wash hands is to prepare the hand for the work in the classroom. Toddlers are transitioning from sensing mostly with their mouths to primarily tactile sensing with their hands.
The children ask to use the water table most mornings, wearing a smock to protect their clothes. How the children use their hands in the water affects their experiences. Some children like to put their hands under the water and feel the cool water on their hands. Other children transfer the ping-pong like balls between the water bins. Still some children like to splash and see where the water droplets end up.
At circle time children use drums to practice different types of touch. Using a rhythm pattern the children use their whole hand to play the drum, or just their fingertips or their fingernails. We experience not only the sound variance but also different ways to use our hands. Lucy, Mrs. Greene’s small white rabbit puppet, has also visited circle time allowing everyone a chance to pet her with gentle hands. Sometimes it feels good to use all of one’s power to push; there is a new pushing work on our closet door and rolling the big pumpkin around the classroom to satisfy these needs. For children with limited expressed language, touch is often an invitation to connect. On the occasion that the touch is uncomfortable for a child, teachers remind both children that ‘we touch each other gently’ and then teachers demonstrate gentle touch with each child.
Snack time just got a lot wetter! The children are now using small pitchers and cups for water at the table. (While they are still learning to pour and drink from a cup we also have their water bottles at the table to ensure they are able to stay hydrated.) As they learn, there are many spills and we model a friendly attitude toward spills and teach the children how to wipe up the water. We use an old fashioned apple corer and peeler to prepare our apples for eating. The children watch intently as this machine works to remove the peel and slice the apple. Pushing the crank is tricky work and exciting, meaningful work. Once the apple is peeled, cored and sliced, we examine the long string of red apple peel and break open the apple core to reveal the seeds. And then we eat juicy, crunchy, flavor-filled, fall apples.