Today, I am delighted to introduce you to my good friend Virginia Lozuke. Virginia is the head of school and lead teacher at the Montessori Farm School in Durham, NC. She was inspired to write this post as she enjoyed some time at the beach this summer. You can follow her awesome school on Facebook.
Earlier this summer I had the great fortune of spending two full weeks with my family at the beach in Surf City, North Carolina. Perhaps you remember sharks were in the headlines almost daily and swimmers were few and far between. My teenage children were self managed and not swimming for fear of sharks, so I had lots of time to work on a blog idea I’d had in my head for a while. “Great Ideas for Summer” went from a short list to a 5 page (with the potential to be 50) exhaustive manual in no time. I needed to refocus. I walked the beach and looked around. I was making it too hard, too complicated, and way too long (much like this introduction!). So here is the beach portion of that blog, and I’ll save the rest for spring.
The beach, if you can get there, is a rich Montessori classroom. The materials are beautiful and readily available. Your child will naturally gravitate toward certain activities, so this is less about “giving a lesson” than honoring the “work” they are already doing.
To say that the beach is a sensorial wonderland is almost an understatement. One can hear, feel, see, smell, and even taste the ocean. And that is only the beginning. What about the shells, and if you’re lucky enough to be on Topsail Island, the myriad of polished quartz pebbles that litter the sands? Gathering them is a pleasure in itself, but then the fun begins. One can use the shells and stones for tons of sensorial activities. One can sort by color, size or texture, grade by color, size, or texture, and even match by color, size or texture. Check out the pictures below for a few quick ideas.
Grading smallest to largest
Sorting by color
As I worked with the stones, I began to see Montessori lessons everywhere (we teachers don’t know how to vacation). There were opportunities for handwriting and numeral writing practice. A shell and some sand beat paper and pencils everyday. And there were ample “counters” all around us to go with those beautiful numerals.
Letter writing practice
Numerals and Counters
In addition to all these opportunities for indirect handwriting preparation there will also opportunities for indirect reading preparation. One of these skills that we value in our classroom activities is the refinement of visual discrimination. It is this skill that later helps a child see, notice, and differentiate subtle differences between letters like “p” and “d” and “b”. The beach was full of opportunities for visual discrimination work. I was taking the easy road, filling my basket with large stones I could pick out by eye without a whole lot of crouching at the waterline. My family on the other hand, had a more dedicated approach and eyes trained for the smallest details, and at the end of the two weeks my daughter had more than 75 tiny shark teeth each found one at a time in a mass of shapes and colors. Check out the mass below:
What I saw
What my daughter saw
No matter where you are, opportunities for your children to build their intelligence through experiences are all around. Sometimes, as was my case, you just have to close the laptop and put your feet in the sand first to find them.
Virginia Lozuke is the Head of School at Montessori Farm School in Durham, North Carolina. She fell in love with Montessori when researching options for her then three year old daughter and has taught for twelve years. She loves chatting about all things Montessori, but especially incorporating farming, gardening, and cooking projects into the student’s experience. Her classroom, housed in a nearly 100 year old building, is filled with light from giant windows, art (from children and adults), plants, animals, students and laughter. Her family creates the beautiful jewelry at My Bella Montessori