By Lisa Anderson
Spending this time of the year with children reminds me of the beauty the holidays have to offer. Our students come from a variety of backgrounds and we try to acknowledge each family’s cultural traditions and share the joys of the season. This year we are celebrating the winter solstice and preparing for the New Year focusing on the interconnectedness of all living things on Earth. As Montessorians, we are always looking for ways to give back to the Earth and celebrate what we have been given. The winter solstice is a perfect time to reflect. It is a spiritual journey that we, as humans, can take. The celebration we are sharing, from our classroom this year, takes root in Waldorf traditions.
Each week we focus on a different aspect of our world and reflect upon its gifts. As we add each element to our discussion we will also add a concrete representation of that element to our display. This four week journey will lead up to December 21 – the Winter Solstice.
Week one – the mineral kingdom reminds us of the beauty of our natural world – rocks, seashells, and crystals.
Additional Montessori activities can include – rock washing and shell stringing.
Week two – the plant kingdom draws attention to the plants in our world that give us life – the food we eat, the air we breathe. Some families may have a tradition of cutting down and decorating a live evergreen tree for their home. Others may even decorate their home using evergreen boughs, fruit or pinecones
Additional Montessori activities this week can include –making pomanders and spooning cranberries.
During week three – we reflect upon the animal kingdom. This is a wonderful week to remember the animals that give us any gifts – from honey made by bees, to eggs laid by chickens, to the wool from sheep that provide us with clothing. Each plays an important part of our daily living. Making bird feeders to care for the birds during the winter is a great activity for this week. Some Christian families may even recall the nativity scene and the animals that played an important part of the Christmas story. The donkey that carried the young woman traveling to Bethlehem and the animals that gave their home to this family as she gave birth to their son.
Additional Montessori activities this week can include –making beeswax candles and bird feeders.
Week 4 – is the celebration of humans and the interconnectedness of all living things on Earth. Each person has a special light in them that can be seen by others in our kind actions and words. This may be a great opportunity to make homemade gifts or take the time to do something nice for those we love.
These discussions lead us on our journey of reflection (spiraling inward) in preparation for the winter solstice – the longest night of the year. A time of darkness that has lead the way for many of the festivals of light during this time of the year. In our culminating activity, each child will walk through a spiral crafted from objects found in nature (rocks, evergreen branches, etc.) in a darkened room. Once they have reached the center they will light a special candle and leave it along the path as they walk out again. As each member of our community takes a turn the room will become illuminated – bringing light to the longest night. This journey is also symbolic of the light we carry into the world and share with others. Each one of us makes a special contribution to our community, to our world, and our light shines brighter. Once the winter solstice has passed we can then begin our journey through winter (longer days) and look forward to spring and the promise of new life.
About Lisa Anderson
Lisa is the lead teacher in the Trillium Montessori morning class. She has been in Montessori education for over 18 years as a teacher and program coordinator. She earned her BS in Early Childhood and Montessori Education at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia. She taught Children’s House (3-6) for 7 years in PA before moving to Raleigh in 2002. Lisa spent 11 years at The Montessori School of Raleigh where she taught Lower Elementary (6-9) for 8 years and most recently was their Learning Support Coordinator. Additional training in Orton-Gillingham, Handwriting Without Tears and learning disabilities has allowed Lisa the opportunity to dove-tail her passions to reach all children in the Montessori environment.