Posted on May 17, 2017

Because we do not select children, educating all who come our way, we fairly represent those who live nearby. We have a vast wall-display which indicates this, with national flags appearing next to children’s names. At the time of writing there are 24 different nationalities in our school community. Within this mix are different cultures, foods, religious festivals, modes of dress, and so on. An important aspect of the Montessori philosophy is allowing children to realize the breadth and richness of human culture. One of the ways in which we do this is by way of a festivals theme each autumn. Festivals presented to the children include Eid, Chinese Moon, Sukkot, Shichi-go-san, Diwali, Thanksgiving, Christmas and more. This can, on occasion, lead to a little confusion as exemplified by the boy who, on seeing the new crescent moon (which heralds the end of Ramadan), said to his parents “The Hindus must be partying tonight.” And some quite sweet moments too, such as when a young girl, during the week of Thanksgiving, retrieved a Pilgrim doll from the role-play area, told the doll that she would take care of him, took him to the Reading Village (where no shoes are allowed), took off her own shoes and his slippers and started “reading” to him!


Posted on May 4, 2017

It is true that we have a puritanical approach to what children are allowed to eat and drink when at school, restricting them to fruit and water. Even worse, we make them cut up their own fruit and pour their own water; of course, help is available for the younger ones but it is still the children who complete the task.

Occasionally, however, we have projects in the school that require the children to expand and consider their understanding of food. One of these is, as part of the senses theme, taste. Lemon juice is only occasionally a favourite (usually enjoyed by a boy), and chocolate is always eyed with reverence, and a certain amount of surprise that such a thing can be taking place at school. This is probably why when Miss Kate, as part of the senses project, took the lunch bunch children (those staying all day) to the kitchen and allowed them to taste popcorn, raisins and cocoa, a little girl was heard to say once the tasting was over “Wow! That was a special treat”.

To train or not to train?

Posted on Aug 6, 2014

Whatever sparks imagination in children, they (the children) are not usually short of it. One morning, two boys arrived at the junk-modelling table. The possibilities of junk-modelling are unrestricted! We have seen boats with multi-function turrets (some to catch pirates, some to make biscuits!), castles, rockets (galore) and even space booster packs, strapped on with metres of tape. In this case, it was string that caught the boys’ interest. String is for tying, or, if you think of it as rope, it is for pulling…train carriages. Chairs make good train carriages, so the string was tied to the chair and the chair pulled into the middle of the room, to be joined by a second and a third, as the train got longer. Curiously, the boys seemed more interested in the process of moving the chairs than in the actual train; the train was just the excuse to move chairs. They tried to move teachers stools but had to agree with a teacher that these made a *lot* of noise. Thus, their effort to expand their activity led back to chairs: not just a single chair, but now two chairs. For this, a teacher had to be persuaded to tie two pieces of string together to allow for the second chair. Disaster! Two chairs could not be moved without one, or both, falling over, and although they persevered that result remained the same.

What, now, is the temptation for the teacher who has just arrived in the classroom to witness two boys pulling chairs that keep falling over? A mild admonishment of “in school we carry our chairs like this”? Not at Iverna Gardens. The teacher immediately understood the benefit of what she was witnessing: for 40 minutes those two boys were completely engaged, caused no disruption to those around them, caused no damage, problem-solved, role-played, practised their fine and gross-motor skills, and developed their concentration, self-esteem and probably their friendship too.


Posted on Jul 26, 2014

The summer term is (often) the term when we teach the children about the continents. Amongst many other activities, they make their own map of each continent and position on it items that represent features that can be found there eg Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, or the Eiffel Tower in Europe. For the South American map, sugar is one of the features, with Brazilians not only producing masses of the stuff but leading the world in sugar consumption (59 kilos per capita per year!).

Somewhat rashly, we use a sugar cube to represent sugar. This cube of deliciousness is stuck on to the map using PVA glue. The children don’t know what to make of this, coming (mostly) from families who, if they allow their children sugar at all, only do so when accompanied by catacysmic warnings as to its BADNESS. Thus, the children, who know exactly what a sugar cube is, will open the bidding with:

“Is this an iceberg, Miss Emily?” They know, of course, that it’s sugar. They know that you know it’s sugar but they also know (from experience) that, as an adult, you are going to deny it. They help you to save face by suggesting at the outset that it’s an iceberg.

“No, it’s sugar.” This is a most surprising answer.

“Real sugar for eating?”

“Yes, real sugar for eating, but this sugar we are going to use for gluing.” What the children think of this response is not known because by this time they have spotted the box of sugar cubes, which Miss Emily keeps as close to her person as is possible without actually ingesting it. If you ever want to make your child entirely invisible except for thumb and forefinger, keep a box of sugar cubes close by and watch it carefully. The child you do not see, hear or even sense. A leopard in the dead of night makes more noise than a child hunting a sugar cube. Just watch the box, and do not blink.

In time, the children realise that Miss Emily has been doing this for a lot longer than they have and they settle down, glue a cube on to their map and wait. They wait for the day when the map “goes home”. Ah, mother or no mother (and, in any case, mothers are no match for determined children), that cube is ripped off between school door and pavement and eaten glue and all.


Posted on Mar 20, 2014

Miss Susanna’s lunch bunch is nothing if not fun. This week she made an attempt at a mini-project on spring. With the London temperature close to zero, the children were less than impressed and decided to put the popcorn they had made (to represent blossom) to better use. One sought out reels of coloured ribbon, and the rest laid the table with plates and glasses of water. Once the entire area had been festooned with satin streams, the children partied. They talked and laughed and drank their water and declared, to a person, that it was the best party to which they had ever been.

Which all goes to show that much as the one year old prefers the wrapping to the wrapped, so the grand project is no match for water, ribbons and joie de vivre.