When looking at a Montessori School many people think that practical life only happens in the 3-6 cycle and is dropped in pursuit of the ‘pure’ academic studies in the 6-9 and 9-12 cycles. Practical life certainly starts in the 3-6 cycle. It continues in the 6-9 and 9-12 cycles and hopefully for the rest of the children’s lives.
In the 6-9 environment (Karak) at Casa Mia, on top of the regular chores the children learn in the 3-6 cycle (Koomal) such as dusting the shelves, empting the various bins in recycling, landfill and composting, scrubbing down the tables and watering the plants, the children have responsibility for the raising and lowering of the flag each school day taking care to fold the flag and never let it touch the ground. Last week the children learnt how to prepare couscous as part of their wheat studies taking home a bowl to share with their families. As part of their science studies and examining the states of substances they made corn chips.
(photos – raising and lowering the flag, preparing couscous, scrubbing tables)
The 9-12cycle (Maali) children have taken their practical life tasks one step further. The class will be having a sleepover in the school grounds this term and in preparation they have been learning how to put up, take down and pack away tents; how to roll up their sleeping bags and cook on a camping stove.
Practical life activities are a major part of the Koomal programme. Around five years old, the children need and want more than simple activities such as organising and cleaning. The sensitive period for order is beginning to pass and they are now moving into the next stage where they favour more elaborate activities such as cooking and sewing. They are inquisitive and want to know how and why things happen the way they do.
In Karak, the practical life activities build a bridge between the hands on activities in Koomal and become increasingly more abstract and real. In Koomal the children freely choose practical life activities throughout the day. In the Karak and Maali rooms the children are also involved in the practical life activities and are eager to participate and practice their newly acquired skills. The focus of the activities is the doing and making of real things.
Just as the practical life activities in Koomal help build independence and increase concentration, the practical life activities in Karak and Maali allow the children to develop and practice skills that will help them not only in other parts of the curriculum but throughout life as well.
Besides continuing to build self-esteem, self-confidence, self-control and concentration, the practical life activities assist with
Ø following step-by-step instructions;
Ø paying attention to detail;
Ø practice in sequencing;
Ø developing logical thought patterns;
Ø increasing the sense of independence;
Ø improving fine motor skills;
Ø restoring energy by choosing activities which calm and refresh;
Ø developing a sense of pride in a job well done
and the last but arguably the most important, showing respect for self, classmates, teachers and the environment by undertaking tasks because they care.