Thank goodness for a brief respite from all the rain, we actually had some sunshine yesterday, enough for Belle to go snail hunting in the woods with a friend after school. I really didn't want to leave, it was so nice to be outside for longer than ten minutes. This morning we started out our school day on the playground, the children really needed to be able to run, climb jump and yell. It worked beautifully, the class was a picture of concentration when we went in to work.
Belle's teacher and I were chatting the other day about the grassy patch off to the side of our classroom. Her class is wanting to landscape it to make it a toddler zen garden and perhaps an area for us to do some gardening. We began talking about the outdoor environment, she was telling me that our school is the first that she has worked in where the children have recess, at her former schools they simply used the outdoors as an extension of the classroom...something I have just been thinking a lot about and have even posted about. It also led me to think about a post I had read on another Montessori blog where a teacher had to defend herself in a way to a parent who was upset that the children weren't given enough chances to move around.
In actuality, if you look at a Montessori classroom at all levels there is a great deal of movement happening within. For toddlers, it is a crucial part of their development. As I was reminded a few weeks ago, for the very young toddler, movement is their work. Carrying something as simple as a block or even a tray can be very challenging for those who have just gained control over their bodies. I have two younger toddlers who are just moving out of their need to move; their mornings were a lot of walking around the room, stopping briefly to watch others at work and carrying a material from a shelf to a table or rug only to take it right back to the shelf again. At the beginning of the year it bothered me to have children "wandering" and wondering where I was going wrong by not getting them engaged in activity. Now as they are beginning to work with more focus I can see that I did the right thing by letting them be. One of them spent almost twenty minutes working on spooning rice into through a funnel into a bottle and then pouring it back into the bowl. He would start to put it away and then say, "I do it again." this happened three times until finally he was satisfied and moved on to squeezing a sponge. He worked with many materials and I noticed that for the last week he has been working more and moving less.
I think the big difference in why children in traditional schools need "recess" is because they are expected to spend the majority of their day sitting at a desk. Montessori children are up and moving, caring for their classroom, choosing their materials and carrying them; sometimes one piece at a time; to a table or rug or even practicing control by walking on the line. I do think they need a chance to be outside to breathe fresh air, to explore and learn more about the world around them and yes, to have a chance to burn off a little extra energy but the need is definitely as great as their traditional school counterparts. I do also think that spending a day outdoors is wonderful as well (as previously stated), so much can be gained from nature!