Dr Montessori was one of the first educationists to see the relationship between the brain, senses and muscles. In Dr Montessori ‘s view movement is of great importance to mental development provided the action is connected to mental activity. Montessori declared that purposeful movement is what not only drives behaviour but also learning.
Movement in a Montessori School takes a number of forms – that provided by the design of the environment and the movement associated with organised games, dance and drama.
Physical Education is an important part of Montessori Education
In the Children’s House the children are free to move around the environment; collecting the number rods one at a time, ten times helps them to build a muscular memory of the ‘concept’ ten. The child sees ten rods, picks up rods ten times, physically carries ten rods one at a time to the lesson and away from the lesson. He is learning the decimal system not only with his mind but also with his whole body.
Montessori said “Work is inseparable from movement”. Since it is the child’s work to learn, the educators are mindful to incorporate purposeful movement into the learning programmes.
In the Children’s House, the children take a break when they need it, to water the plants or sweep outside. As the children grow older there is less of a need for breaks but there are the possibilities for working off their physical energy in the garden or sweeping the verandas provided they inform their teacher of where they are going.
The Montessori classroom has many opportunities for children to be active. For example, the children have the option of working on the floor, spreading out and taking more space than if they were confined to a desk. There is a variety of furniture to sit at and on. The children are free to move about the classroom to gather their materials, have a snack or take a break.
The Montessori Walking the Line activities help the children develop their balance and precision whilst walking with exercises of increasing difficulty.
There are weekly formal movement lessons given to the classes. The Children’s House have perceptual motor movement lessons – fundamental skills such as catching, throwing, hop skip and jumping.
Social & Emotional Health and Physical Education
As a Montessori School, each class is run as a micro community that is part of the macro community that is the school. Each class has a span of three years in it. This is a deliberate arrangement to provide a community in which there are children to look up to, children to take care of, opportunities to take a tutoring role and to be a leader.
The school is a small school providing the children with many opportunities to practice their relationship skills. When best friends fall out, there are not enough children to find another friend too many times so it is important to learn how to make up and get on. All the adults are addressed by their first name. This can and does lead to the occasional disrespectful behaviour and the staff use the incidents to help the children learn how to speak to people.
In the classrooms there are practices and activities to help the children learn the rights and responsibilities of living in a community. Chairs are always tucked under tables to give people a clear passage; tables are for food and working at; equipment is put away in the manner in which it was found so the next child will have a good experience with it; children and staff greet each other each morning and shake hands when leaving the classroom at the end of the day; mats are put out to denote a work space to be respected and to delineate work space and aid focus. Grace and courtesy lessons are given on the mores and manners of society – saying Thank you, Excuse me and apologising for offensive speech and behaviour.
The children learn through the Montessori Silence Game activities, the sound of silence and restful feelings that come about from moments of stillness and quiet.
Through these varied practices and activities, the children at Casa Mia develop strong social and emotional skills that stand them in good stead as they move in the larger high school environments.