Wednesday, April 15, 2015

History of Montessori in Russia

Recently, I was able to visit the Institut Detstvo (Institute of Early Childhood) at Herzen University in St. Petersburg, Russia.  Having the opportunity to be surrounded by so much history and culture of the city is of course inspiring, but this experience is one that left me completely awestruck.  Here, I was able to view and handle the originally made Montessori materials from the early 20th century which were brought to Russia by visionary, Yulia Ivanovna Fausek.  A biologist by training, she became interested in early childhood education and heard of Maria Montessori's Children's House in Rome.  After spending time there herself, she became one of Russia's major influences in bringing Montessori education to the country.  In fact, she opened the first Montessori school in St. Petersburg in 1913.  The collection of materials housed at the Institut Detstvo are the original collection that first entered Russia when Fausek personally delivered them.  These materials were not only used in her school, but were also part of teacher training courses and even presented to the Tsar and Tsaritsa at the Winter Palace.  After Fausek's school was shut down by the communist revolution, the materials were brought to Herzen University (1925), and have remained there to this day.

Herzen University's 'Institut Detstvo' - Institute of (Early) Childhood.  Here, students study to become preschool and Kindergarten teachers.
Sign by the main entrance to the building - Institut Detstvo.

Maria Montessori's, 'Handbook to My Method.'

Pages from the handbook describing the Pink Tower, Brown Stair, and Number Rods.  You can imagine how many pictures I wanted to take of all the pages…!

Description of the Baric Tablets.  I have a special affinity to this particular material as my Master's Thesis was based on materials usage, specifically the Baric Tablets.

Yulia Fausek's book, One Month in Rome in the "Children's Houses" of Maria Montessori.  Notice the year of publication and subsequent name of the city - Petrograd.

Original sets of Cylinder Blocks.  As I was handling them, I was told that the entire collection of materials is one of only three remaining in the world.  Humbling and awe-inspiring.

Description of Material, Goal (Direct Aim),  Indirect Aim, Age, Vocabulary for the lesson with Cylinder Block "C."

Original Bells with details of the lesson.

Tens Boards.

Touch Tablets.  And yes, I proceed to feel the boards just as I would be giving a lesson…!

A set of Color Tablets for gradation.

Details with the Color Tablets.

Sound Cylinders.  Do you need to ask if I completed the work?! ;-)

Feeling the varying weights of the Baric Tablets, thinking to myself the whole time about whose hands had also done the same thing with the same materials…

Naturally, I had to hear the sound of the bells!

'Authentic set of materials of Maria Montessori from the scientific collection of the Department of Pre-School Teachers'  Institute of (Early) Childhood - Herzen University

'The main part of the collection was made from the highest quality wood available at the beginning of the 20th century and has a stamp of the manufacturer: …'
With a portrait of Yulia Fausek at the Department of Early Childhood Education at Institut Detstvo.
This was one of those time when I wish I had better photography skills!  What a gift to have had this experience.  Upon returning home, my husband asked me, "What was it like?  Were the materials any different?  How did they feel?"  My response was not only a summary of this experience of holding history in my hands, but also representative of what has turned out to be my life's work: "No, they weren't any different or foreign at all.  They were perfect and felt just the same.  It was as if I had been a part of it forever."

Monday, April 6, 2015

A Bit Like Home

Another opportunity to observe in a Primary classroom at the Mikhailova Montessori School reminded me of home.  So many similarities, yet so many new ideas:

Reading and writing practice with phonetic word cards and Small Moveable Alphabet.

Writing/Tracing practice.  Notice the cursive font and Sandpaper Letters nearby...

Chalkboard:  A table set up for practicing writing on lines.  

Stunning fiber artwork against the vibrant wall color and framed by beautiful plants.

This long table caught my eye as it is ideal for math work with the large Addition and Subtraction Charts.

Two friends enjoying Soap grating, whisking soap water, then blowing bubbles.

Extension work with the Cylinder Blocks.

Knobless Cylinder extension activities.

Rolling a game die and finding sum of ten with colored bead bars.  

Reading and putting together names of classmates by syllables:  "Ki-ra," "Da-sha," and "An-ton."

Reading practice - the child places the clip on the corresponding word.  

Reading numbers and making quantities.
After my classroom observation, I was fortunate to be able to meet with the staff and discuss all things Montessori.  They wanted to know more about my school, see pictures, share information about theory and philosophy… what a joy to connect with Montessorians all the way across the globe!  We all came away not only with greater understandings each other, but also with renewed appreciation of our global Montessori community.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

While You Were Out:

It has been quite an adjustment for me to be away from my classroom for such a long period of time.  Of course, I am grateful for the opportunities and experiences we have been afforded during my family's stay in St. Petersburg, but how I've missed the daily interactions and happenings in the classroom!  Thanks to the wonderful teachers at my school, I have been able to stay in close contact and know that progress continues being made in great strides during my absence.  Here are just a few photos of current activity in the classroom:

An engaging math extension activity - counting elephants to go along with an Asia theme.

Carefully constructing and walking the maze with the Red Rods.

The 45 Layout.  I am so, so excited to see this out!

Practice skip counting with the Square Chain of 9.

Writing practice. 

Naming the Geometric Solids.

Matching the Geometric Cabinet shapes to their cards.

Kanji writing.

Squeezing orange juice.

Lots of flag work.

Constructing the layers of the Trinomial Cube.

Animals of the World and World Map.

Pouring with a syrup server.

Dry Transfer shelves.  The color yellow corresponds not only with number four in our Short Bead Stair theme, but also with the continent of Asia.

Practical Life:  Wet Transfer activities.
Just looking at the pictures makes me miss my classroom even more!  I am forever grateful that I have such dedicated staff to give their care attention to our students during my time away.  Thank you, and I miss you all!  

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Toddler Room Observations

The sun was warm and bright, embracing the room with sense of peace.  Small children, most with their caregiver, sat concentrating on spooning, pouring, transferring sand and beans.  I noticed their attention to tasks, how they intently worked, and marveled at how focused and joyful they were.  Stepping in into the Toddler Classroom at Mikailova Montessori School was a bit like being transported in to a familiar yet brand new world.

This was the first time I had formally observed in a toddler room and I remain so fortunate for the experience.  I saw firsthand how such an early introduction to the Montessori method is not only beneficial for children and their parents, but also how an early start can positively impact the Primary 3-6 classroom.  Can one imagine if all 3-6 students had the opportunity to develop their concentration, coordination, independence, and order before stepping foot into the Primary classroom?

I very much enjoyed my time in the toddler room and remain in awe of the children.  Also, to all the Toddler teachers out there - thank you!  Thank you for providing our students such a positive foundation for their Montessori experiences.  Intrigue and inspiration were the main features of my visit to this classroom.  Here are a few photos from my observations:

Entering the classroom  -  such inviting shelves.

Exploration with natural materials.

Tactile development with various textures available for exploration.

This plant stand design is genius.  Firstly, the entire placement of the stand is intended to act as a room divider (beautiful!).  Secondly, look at how each plant has its own tub underneath for catching overflow (practical!).  

Gross motor development.

Practical Life shelves.

Stairs and slide - notice the texture tiles going up the stairs...

Object Permanence Boxes.