The Record Summer 2015 - A Passion for Play

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A Montessori Guide's Passion for Play

In this issue of the RECORD, Professor Lisa Amundson explores the connections between play and learning. She describes the differences in a typical Montessori classroom, just one of the many classroom observation experiences GC education majors gain as part of their training: "Missing is the stark silence that fills many classrooms across our country; missing too are the independent desks and pages of standardized, multiple-choice questions that come to mind when we picture children deep at work."

For Steph Plant '09, the sight of children deeply absorbed in play means a job well done. A primary guide at Metro East Montessori School in Granite City, IL, Steph instructs 24 children between the ages of 2.5 and six as they explore the hundreds of learning materials in her classroom.

Steph Plant

“I’m what they call a guide,” Steph said. “I’m trained to know how to present the materials to the children and to notice cues by watching them play. It requires trust that the materials have all these beautiful, intrinsic lessons inside of them.”

Materials include colorful cubes, prisms, and rods; a washboard and washcloth; a water table with pitchers and basins; and cloths for polishing brass and silver.

“The whole trick with the materials,” Steph explained, “is to offer children an independent experience with a concrete, hands-on, manipulative experience with numbers and letters and things that develop and hone their muscle memory and fine motor skills; well-rounded experiences with shapes, lengths, colors, tastes and smell.”

Guides possess a deep understanding of the materials and the process by which children learn through interacting with them. As part of her training at the Montessori Training Center of St. Louis, Steph was assigned a final project of drawing each individual material and compiling the pictures into her own textbook.

“Instead of taking a photograph, making a picture is a really good way to get something into your memory,” Steph said. “I’ve taken the time to measure each cube and represent them at scale. It was a really meaningful experience.”

In order to complete the assignment, Steph, who studied art at Greenville College, produced beautiful watercolor paintings of each material in her classroom.

When children are between the ages of 2.5 and six, according to Steph, their minds are especially absorbent to language, stimuli from the environment and to imitating adult behaviors. Therefore, she carefully considers her presence in the classroom and aims to be as courteous, hospitable, and gentle as possible. She also works to create an orderly environment, which she says contributes to the development of the orderly mind.

“The environment I want to provide for children to make a better world is one that helps them to be self-confident and loving and intrinsically motivated to learn,” Steph said. “I think if you have those three things, your life is golden. If you’ll do anything, you’ll make the world a better place.”

Watch as Steph shares her passion for the Montessori method.

Posted by Metroeast Montessori on Tuesday, May 26, 2015

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Photo/video credit: nathanlucy.com.

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