A Montessori Field Trip: Westside Montessori

Although I currently teach in a Montessori Upper Elementary 9-12 year old classroom and love it, as most people know, my heart will always belong to 3-6. However, what most people don’t know is that right in the middle of my Montessori heart there is a small yet brightly glowing centre and that centre is a well executed Montessori infant toddler programme.

I have been so fortunate to know Bettina from Westside Montessori School for almost as long as Quentin has been earth side but due to COVID last year and us being in Nigeria the year before, this was the first time I’d ever been able to observe in her infant toddler summer programme.

It was worth the wait.

The attention to even the smallest detail is something Westside is known for. From simple puzzles for the youngest child to a beautifully laid out movement area for toddlers on the go, the environment welcomes everyone.

Mischa, the lead Montessori Guide whom I’ve met previously was so welcoming of me being in the space and we chatted about life as we both now have university aged kids, but what I loved most were her interactions with the children. She was kind and patient but also light hearted. Even when a young child stood precariously on top of the slide, which by the way holds the most fondest of memories for me (if you’ve been round for awhile you may remember scenes like this).

Perhaps what is the most amazing aspect of this infant toddler space is that during the school year it is an equally stunning and detailed elementary classroom (did you notice the empty bed cabinet) and so every single elementary material must be carefully packed away into on site storage and the artwork lowered to bring it down to a toddler’s sight line. So much hard work and dedication from the staff and I’m grateful to have been able to see it before I return to my own classroom in the coming weeks.

If you are new to Montessori and wondering what to look for in a school space for your child, the list is simple:

  • A clean, bright, well thought out space
  • Montessori classroom materials specific to the age group and the ability for each child to proceed through those materials at their own pace (unsure just ask)
  • A focus on independence for the child regardless of age
  • A Montessori trained Guide that cares deeply for the children in the environment, not only speaking in a manner learned in their Montessori training but also experiences joy right along with the children

Our Shelves 15 Months

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A Prepared Environment: A natural, beautiful space that is prepared with cognitive and social developmentally sequenced materials.

At 15 months he’s walking (sort of) and going through an intense Sensitive Period for vocabulary.
With this in mind, I have put some new activities on Quentin’s shelves.

From top left: A basket of animals featured here. Next, a Practical Life dry pouring work. This is his second dry pouring activity and he is really refining his coordination of the wrist. His pouring has gotten much better. Next, his Fruit &Veg nomenclature cards featured here. I’ve put 3 pairs in the tray: apple, banana, carrot. He recognizes each picture, but doesn’t always match the carrot correctly. Last on the top is a DIY imbucare box with a rectangle block. I’ve just switched out the round cylinder box he had there before. Sometimes he forgets that you have to turn the rectangle to fit the sides properly, but mostly he gets it. This won’t engage him much longer.

From bottom left: A tray of wooden painted acorns for colour matching. Quentin actually prefers to use this as a touch sensorial material. Over and over he picks up as many acorns as he can in one little fist and then carefully puts them back in the tray (not matched to the proper colour). Next a shape puzzle. He can now take out all the shapes and put them back correctly. Next, a DIY clothes pin pincer grasp activity. He mostly still pulls the pins straight off without the ability to “pinch” them open. However, I continue to demonstrate the correct way and leave it at that. Lastly a lock box. Thanks to Rachel for her insight on this amazing material. He can now work most of the bigger locks. Although it is too heavy for him to carry, he still drags it out and uses it everyday.

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I finally decided on this work mat from Montessori Services. It works well for Quentin as it is not too heavy.

It’s amazing to see that after months of me modelling it, Quentin now stands up, picks up whatever he has been working on and tries to put it back on the shelves. A “Keeping it Real” moment: he usually drops it halfway there. But he’s trying to do it. I have never given him a “Lesson” (demonstration). I just slowly, silently, pick up the material with both hands and slowly carry it back to the spot where it was on the shelf.

Although I have seen it many times before with many different children, the Absorbent Mind is truly a humbling and awe inspiring thing to witness.