But if for the physical life it is necessary to have the child exposed to the vivifying forces of nature, it is also necessary for his psychical life to place the soul of the child in contact with creation.
The last couple of days have been all bout being connected to the world around us. Well, okay, every day is all about being connected to the world around us, but today we got to see it right in front of our faces and in our hands. First, we started the day with the annual Salmon Release. Every year, our Upper Elementary class raises salmon in the classroom from eggs from the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery – Salmon in the Classroom program (feel free to send them some love – they run this amazing program on donations).
The whole school headed down to the river after our flag ceremony and gathered to serenade the fish with Sing Your Way Home before we set them free. Each child got a cup with a salmon in it and had a chance to check it out, name it, and memorize any other identifying marks so they could recognize it when it comes back, and then let it go into the river. This is the culmination of a school-wide effort led by the Upper Elementary of raising, learning and teaching about the salmon throughout the year.
The second event was a celebration of both Earth Day and Arbor Day where we opened the use of our new bench and trellis and planted grapes on either side. The student council decided that this area of the playground needed a bench and asked the middle school to build it as part of their community service work. Jake, who will be graduating this year, took it on as his personal project and designed and built a magnificent bench, 6 feet long and double wide so folks can sit on either side to enjoy the pasture and the playground. Mr. Joe, our facilities guy, mentored him through the process.
On Saturday we help our bi-annual Community Care Day. Projects included the regular cleaning of the road, pasture and barn (keep an eye out for a future effort to fix up the barn!), and work in both the front and back gardens. The butterfly and humming bird garden had a good first weeding, the meditation area of the Peace garden was prepared for future stones for sitting, and the beds in the vegetable garden got a good cleaning and turning over. We’ll be adding compost to all of these over the next week or so as well.
But the most powerful part of all this was how connected everything was. Upper Elementary taught the whole school about the life cycle of the salmon as the eggs hatched and grew. The elementary students helped the early childhood students to safely and successfully release their salmon. Many parents joined us this morning on our trek to the river, helping with traffic and enjoying the process. Every student in the school not only let a salmon go, they put a handful of dirt in with the grapes we planted. Our student council determined a need on the playground and negotiated with the middle school to make it happen. Jake worked on the structure while students watched during recess as one of their colleagues built a beautiful gift to the community.
One area of the Montessori philosophy that is not always seen as easily as the concrete materials such as the golden beads and sandpaper letters is the piece she termed Cosmic Education. This has roots in the Early Childhood classroom, but really comes into play at the elementary level as a structure of stories. These stories more or less correspond to the subject areas, but they are more than that. They provide, “opportunities to appreciate their (children’s) roots in the universe, to sense their place in its context, and to embrace the role this defines for their lives” (Children of the Universe by Michael and D’Neil Duffy). Days like this one make it so easy to see not only the importance of these connections, our roots, but the beauty in presenting them this way to students. Keep an eye out for more blogs posts on this topic.