January and Early February 2022: Sticking Together Through It All
I'd like to start this post with a big thank you to all our current families for their patience, perseverance, and grit these past eight weeks! The new year brought many changes to our pandemic policies. From there, we moved on to multiple days of program closure due to a high level of COVID transmission and a big winter storm (not to mention many days of absence among individuals and families due to COVID isolation and quarantine requirements from Columbus Public Health).
Just shy of 81% of our current community's households have experienced COVID this fall and/or winter, including cases and recovery among all four of our small team. I'm cautiously optimistic that this high level of exposure and our vaccination requirements in the building will come together to make COVID less of a concern—at least among our small community—going forward this year.
The precariousness of our ability to come together this winter has caused me to reflect on our children's motivations to meet their various needs. So much of what we offer in our environments and routines at CMC engage many motivations and meet many needs at once. However—as our community has ebbed and flowed in terms of attendance these past eight weeks—I have been struck by what first attracts and what builds lasting interest among the children. There are children meeting the basics like a full tummy and feelings of safety and ease; there are the undeniable urges to communicate, bond, and feel a sense of belonging; and—for those children that feel sated in the first two categories—there is the drive to learn new skills and develop new understanding.
Each morning, many in our community are attracted to our snack area. The children exhibit feelings of belonging and purpose as they complete small components of the preparation process under adult guidance. They also stretch themselves to try new foods and communicate about their preferences. However, as these pictures show clearly, our snack buffet each day is mostly about the pleasures of feeding oneself!
To the left, Jimena guides a group of children through the yogurt parfait making process. In the video below, one of our oldest community members carefully tries our paring knife for the first time.
Another way we come together to celebrate our most basic shared biology is through our birthday walk ceremony. Congratulations to Julian on turning five, Rita on turning four, and Lyanna on turning five (and thank you to their families for providing beautiful photos)!
I've been struck this winter by children seeking a sense of security through finding cover of different kinds. Sets of headphones have been a welcome addition to our Peace Cube and Couch.
Rita and Wally also described their innovation of checking underneath our tables and chairs for "crusty food and booger bits" during after-lunch cleaning crew one day with real pride and joy.
The children also seek out and find feelings of belonging and connection while moving and playing with peers in our movement room and natural outdoor environment.
Many of the Montessori materials and the specific ways of working with them found in Children's House East are also used by the children to seek out and find a sense of belonging and connection—I often think of the ways of working with materials that the children develop and reproduce as an important form of their community's culture. In the photos and videos below, I encourage you to pay special attention to reactions and interactions among our children while they develop new skills and understandings.
Below: Roshan builds just one of many Brown Stair towers this month; Calvin shows extreme care in dusting and cutting one of our succulent plants; Lou leads Hannah and Carsten in a game of Golden Bead Multiplication; Hannah's, Eleanor's, and Lyanna's small number cards are all laid out with care; Roshan pauses on his way to tour the room with his completed lacing frames; Julian, Carver, and TJ show off their Rainbow Beads in similar fashion!
Completing the Red Rod Maze (using the Red Rods, the Number Rods, or both) has also become an important marker of belonging and understanding in our community this year.
Lou carefully pulls the Thousand/Cube of 10 Chain down the mat for the first time while Wally and Carsten reflect on the cultural significance of the work. (Carver checks out all 38 years of my birthday walk mat in the background.)
Later, Lou adjusts each arrow after the chain sustained a big bump while Carver looks on.
Five children pour over the reorganization of the categories units, tens, hundreds, and thousands while "playing" Golden Bead Addition.
Many children support TJ on his journey of trading 20 tens for 2 hundreds.
Carsten seeks moral support from Lou and Israel in building the Pink Tower with a blindfold (on and off).
In the videos above, you may have heard another group of children discussing the colors, sizes, and shapes of various objects and wondered what they were up to. They were setting up another important cultural institution in Children's House East this year: a Rainbow Sound Game. Many children join our Sound Games each week seeking a sense of belonging but, in the process, find their place in the increasingly literate culture of the Children's House East community.
Below: Mia reads (primarily) what Kiki and Roshan point to; Yaz and Sir take a pause to look over some popular reference material; Oliver, Julian, and Carver match picture cards and objects to the letter that makes each one's first sound; Lou combines reading the names of construction equipment with matching to the letter or letters that make each machine's first sound; Lou deadpans for the camera after getting many laughs; children develop the fine-motor control and conceptual understanding needed to write while using a variety of different materials.
Of course, children at CMC often engage in activity without an obvious motivation to belong or define their place in our community. Once in a while, they even become so immersed in their own developmental or intellectual goals that they forget to meet their more basic needs—skipping a favorite snack, refusing an invitation to the nap and rest room, or even missing their body's cues to use the toilet!
Below: Carsten perseveres over many days in his first major cartographic undertaking; Asa focuses on the small button frame; Julian practices writing his new age in chalk and lines up the Number Cards against the Number Rods (in preparation for the Golden Bead work); Carsten delights in a game of memory during Break Session Care: Calvin get into the swing of the Addition Strip Board; Lou beams all the way at the end of the cube of six and then examines the relationship between three binomials; Rita works towards mastery of rubber band binding; Wally builds a fountain design with Graded Figures.
Roshan takes up the math work of some older children after carefully observing its patterns for over 20 minutes.
One of the things I have come to appreciate most about working and supporting children within the framework of the Montessori Method is the genuine flexibility each child is offered in fulfilling their motivations and meeting their needs throughout the day. As adults, we are just sometime able to glimpse some of what may be motivating a child in their development. Adult-imposed trade-offs between intellectual or academic development and a child's feelings of safety, comfort, and belonging are misguided; children, like all people, can only develop and thrive when they are supported in meeting their more basic needs.