Practical Life

The art of flower arranging

Flower arranging is part of a traditional Montessori school.  On Monday we usually get a bouquet of flowers and put them out at the flower arranging table.  Children are given a lesson on how to complete this task.  It involves many steps and young children are quite attracted to the whole process.  First the put on an apron, fill the small water pitcher, get a vase and a doily and choose the flower to be “arranged.”  Usually they put one flower in a vase (after it is properly trimmed) and place that vase on a table.  They notice that the classroom looks beautiful when they are finished.

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This past week we were lucky enough to have a parent who is also a Montessori trained teacher come to give us a lesson in flower arrangements.  Melissa has been to many workshops and classes to learn this skill.

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Melissa brought in many types of flowers.

She showed the children how to choose the ones to begin with and them trim them down.

Start with the greens and begin at the bottom.

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The children were captivated by this lesson.

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Melissa demonstrated just how they should cut each flower.

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Melissa created this beautiful arrangement for our classroom.

She also graciously prepared many small mason jars for the children and left all of the flowers so they could practice this skill all week.

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Some of the children absorbed so much of this lesson.

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One three year old arranged several jars full of flowers and took them home at the end of the week.

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A huge thank you to Melissa for her generosity and time! We are so lucky to have parents that are willing to share their skills with the children!

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A Holiday Gift for our Families

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The children worked hard to make a holiday gift for their families!

We decided to make centerpieces for the table since they arrange flowers every day.

First we took some Oasis, cut it into pieces and soaked them in water.

These go into the bottom of the glass jars.

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We then had many pre-cut (in flower arranging they cut the stems but we decided to save time and space to cut to size beforehand) flowers to push down into the oasis.

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We also numbered how many flower they could take from each category.

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The children carefully placed the flowers in the oasis and would often hold the jar back to see how it was looking.

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When finished, they would often admire their work.  They were quite excited to take these home.

A work like this allows them to contribute to their family.

After completed, the children then decorated their own bag.

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Absolutely stunning!
We hope our families enjoyed their centerpieces!
Happy Holidays to all!
We look forward to a wonderful 2014!!!

Sewing neckwarmers!

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Our sewing practice has paid off!  The children have been sewing so much this year.  First, they practiced with a running stitch.  We sewed on vinyl and cardstock.  We then practiced sewing a whipstitch on vinyl and then with small felt tubes.  The children that are ready and have been practicing began to sew neckwarmers last Friday!  They are happy to have them to keep their necks warm!

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Sewing helps with the development of fine motor skills!  It is also a very important practical life skill to have.

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The children were very happy and proud of their neckwarmers!

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The Whip Stitch

Part of the sewing curriculum at AACH involves learning the whip stitch.  We use this stitch to sew items like neck warmers over the course of the year.  First we give a lesson on sewing a whip stitch on vinyl.  Teaching on vinyl allows the child to understand how their hands are supposed to move and to feel the movements involved in  making the stitch.

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The child is also able to see how the stitch should look once completed.

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After the child has had some practice on vinyl, they can move on to sewing on felt which requires a sharper needle.  This task is more challenging as there are no pre-cut holes to follow.  We will continue to practice this skill and then move on to sewing those neck warmers, we will need them very soon!

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Strawberry Hulling (and eating!)

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A wonderful and tasty practical life (food prep) activity is strawberry hulling. Here the child learns how to place their fingers in the special tool. (First they put on an apron, carry the tray to a table and wash their hands.)

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The child then takes off the green part by pushing down the tip of the huller and twisting.

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After she is done hulling she places the green part in a small bowl (to be throw away or composted later) and eats the yummy strawberry!

Washing a Cloth

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Step 1: Fill up the bucket. (this is after the work has been set up and an apron or smock is put on).

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Step 2: Get the cloth wet.

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Step 3: Place the cloth on the board and rub soap on it.

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Step 4: Place the board on your belly and begin to scrub the cloth by moving it up and down.

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Step 5: Rinse out the cloth and wring it as dry as possible.

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Step 6: Take to drying rack and use clothespins to secure.

Step 7: Repeat or clean up the work for the next child.

In a Montessori environment, we encourage self-sufficiency. Children at this age are learning to master their environment as well as the movements of their body. Multi-step activities such as washing a cloth allows a child to have the opportunity to build confidence, independence and concentration. At this point, most children will not be washing cloths with a washboard but this activity encourages concentration as the child becomes fully absorbed into their work. If you were to observe this child you may have seen joy and serenity and a sense of accomplishment at the end.

Table Washing (even the bottom)!

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One of the favorite activities in the classroom for teachers and students is table washing. This activity has so many benefits! It is a multistep activity that allows concentration to develop. On this day, two of the afternoon children decided to wash off pencil marks from the bottom of the tables. We helped them flip the table over (after they looked under and found the markings) and they completed everything else. They were so engrossed in this work! At one point one of the children looked at me and said, “This is just too much fun!” Such joy!

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Sifting Flour

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Last week the children were able to experience how to sift flour. We always have a food prep activity on the shelves and this was one of two. (The other was mashing a potato and eating it!)

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We really feel multi-step activities such as this are great for developing concentration and organizational skills. The child puts on an apron and takes the tray to the table. He then opens the flour container and scoops out some flour into the sifter. He then squeezes the handle on the sifter and watches it come out of the bottom. This child completed this activity for quite a while, demonstrating those concentration skills. He was absorbed.

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The last part of an activity like this is to clean up. This child knows how to use a table brush and removed all of the flour so the table was ready for the next child.

Graham cracker crushing

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In our food prep area this week, we introduced “graham cracker crushing.” Here the child takes the tray to their work area, puts on an apron, washes hands and places a banana and a graham cracker on the tray. They put the graham cracker in the mortar and pestle and grind it up. Then, they peel the banana and slice it with the knife. Using a toothpick, they dip a banana slice into the disposable bowl and eat! Having multiple steps within activities helps the child learn how to follow directions and organize thoughts! What a yummy way to do so!

Pancake Lunch- How to use a knife!

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Learning how to use a knife can be tricky! Even those of us with 11 year olds may find ourselves teaching them again at the dinner table. To help the children in our classroom learn how to use a knife, we decided to make a pancake lunch!

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Our daily lunch routine consists of getting the lunch box, setting the table with a plate, fork, knife, spoon and napkin, emptying the contents of the lunch on our plate and eating. One utensil that is barely used is the knife. So, on Tuesday, the children had a chance to 1. spread butter and 2. cut with that knife.

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First, the child must hold the knife in the dominant hand with the three outside fingers wrapped around, the pointer on top and the thumb wrapped around to meet the other fingers. This is the same grip as the fork and is very strong. The child is shown how to steady the pancake with the fork and then use the knife to make a sawing motion.
The childen enjoyed their pancake lunch and now know the basics for using that knife. A little extra practice at home and they will be on their way to cutting their own food!