Acknowledging the Winter Solstice
Long ago, as we do now, people experienced the change of seasons from summer to fall and fall into winter. The leaves dropped from the trees, the plants turned brown with frost, and the animals hibernated. The days grew darker and shorter as the air grew colder.
The people were afraid. What if the warmth of the sun never returned? They feared for the plants and animals, their sources of food.
But the people watched the sky, and slowly the light began to return, and with it, the abundance of spring. The air began to warm and the plants began to sprout once again. Sure enough, with each passing year, the seasons shifted in a predictable rhythm.
The people wanted to remind themselves that the light would come back. Each winter, they lit candles to gather together around their glow during the darkness of winter. They brought evergreen boughs indoors to remind them that the green plant life would eventually return.
It is with this in mind that our community rolled beeswax candles to bring home and gather around during the winter break.
Beeswax Candle Making
As a Montessori educator, I tend to eschew the “adult-directed” activities that seasonal craft projects can sometimes become. This year, I got to see how our mixed-age dynamic empowered the children to take over. I prepared a table with the necessary supplies and gave one lesson on rolling candles. I made a list with each child’s name and a checkbox, so that my assistant and I could ensure that each person made one.
After watching the lesson, a kindergartener said: “I can stay here and help everyone make their candles!” I accepted, and we made sure there was an additional chair beside her for the person making their candle. I told the children that when the chair beside her was empty, she would invite an available child to sit with her and make their candle. As with anything else in the classroom, a child could trust that they would have a turn when it was available, and so we went about our morning. Each time I glanced over, I saw the older child sitting patiently beside a different younger child (or peer), each deep in concentration.
At the end of the morning, the kindergartener brought me the completed checklist and a tray of beautiful candles, each labeled with childrens’ names written in her own cursive handwriting. They were imperfect and lovely. It was a wonderful encapsulation of a semester together in our mixed-age community.
I am so incredibly grateful to have shared this year with all of you– thank you for your commitment and support. I can’t wait to see what the New Year brings for the FCMS community!
December was a peaceful month in the classroom. The children practiced for our holiday concert, which was quite exciting. It is always fun to have all of the Primary classrooms together, as well as be joined by the Elementary children the night of the concert. Thank you to all that attended!
With the shortening of the days, the children learned about changes in nature that occur in the ‘temperate zone’ where we live. We discussed the noticeable changes in temperature, as well as the gradual increase of darkness, and how these things affect wild life, plants and food supply. This discussion tied in nicely with the Winter Solstice, an event that some people celebrate by having a feast with family and friends, bringing evergreens into their homes, and lighting candles as a reminder that the daylight will begin to get longer as winter continues. The children also rolled beeswax candles to give to their family as a Solstice gift.
Winter is an exciting time of celebrations held around the world. In additional to the Winter Solstice, we discussed the customs and traditions of the following winter holidays: Diwali, Loi Krathong (lantern festival of Thailand), Kwanzaa, Christmas, and Hanukkah. The children were surprised to learn that lighting candles is an important part of each of these holidays!
Thank you to everyone that has helped support our classroom this semester…our community is enriched because of your time and generosity. May your holiday break be restful and your New Year be filled with love, light and many blessings!
December seemed to fly by! It was delightful practicing for the Holiday Program in the days leading up to the program. After the performance, children remarked how much fun they had performing on a stage – it was many of the children’s first time on stage! We had the opportunity to learn about singing together as a group (so that all of our voices sound like one voice) and we practiced with a “pitch pipe” so that all of us knew which note to begin on.
We continued to experience the shortening of the days as winter approached, and we had the opportunity to talk about the winter solstice, or the day in which there is the least amount of light and most amount of dark. We discussed how we will begin to notice the days getting a little bit longer each day after the solstice.
We have been exploring Geography in our classroom lately. Children get the opportunity to explore the globe, which portrays how our earth looks when it’s seen from space. We learned that the globe contains land and water, and that we call the different portions of land “continents” and we call the different bodies of water “oceans.” Then we identify each of the continents’ and oceans’ names. With this exploration comes great opportunity for conversations, stories, and photos of different ecosystems, cultures, and geographic regions.
As I reflect back on the semester, I am reminded of the child’s constant growth development and I see the strides each child has made. It is an honor to be apart of each child’s experience of learning and growth. Thank you for all of your support.
During December the children had many things to be excited about. They were enthusiastic about the snowy days, watching the deer eat from what is left of our garden, and the winter break. All of this excitement fueled their work and there was an increase in doing work together. Children were building stories together and then each creating their own illustrations about them. Multiple children would take out different addition works, decide on an equation, solve it, and then compare answers. A few children began building continent maps outside of the puzzle frames, they then tried arranging their rugs so that it looked like a large map of the world.
The spike in interest towards geography spread throughout the classroom. As older friends continued using the continent maps, younger friends took out the puzzle map of the world and noticed the connection between all the maps. The children were sharing information about the continents and world with each other; including what animals lived where, if it was a hot or cold place, and they pondered whether North America and South America created a large island (I do not think they came to a final decision).
To celebrate the winter solstice the children listened to a story and learned why people bring evergreen and candles into their homes during the winter season. Each child then rolled their own candle, decorated it with evergreen, and brought it home to share with their families. We also took this time to discuss different holidays that are celebrated around this time.
When I look at the children in our classroom and think back to the beginning of the school year I am overcome with joy. The children’s love for their work has led them down a beautiful path of development. Every day they are working on organizing and connecting their body and mind, learning what they are interested in, and becoming part of society. I look forward to sharing this upcoming semester with all the children and families in the FCMS community.
Happy New Year 2020
Thank you for all of the loving, kind thoughts and messages I received before the holiday break. I enjoyed each and every one of them. Throughout the month of January, I continue to enjoy the tasty treats, lovely smells, wonderful opportunities, great additions to my library, yummy coffees, and nights out on the town.
January has been busy with many projects and new lessons…always reading and writing, always perfecting.
After a wonderful break, we are right back with our studies, working diligently on our short stories, math lessons, spelling bee, art, geography, and history…especially time line research.
The Upper Elementary students came into our classroom and gave us a Clock of Eras presentation:
The Clock of Eras uses the analogy of a circular clock to represent the development of our planet in geologic time. … The Clock represents geologic time on the Earth since its birth to the present, from the initial events that brought about the formation up to now. Each hour represents approximately 375 million years.
The presentation motivated us to look closely into the Time Line of Life. The story weaves through the different periods of each era starting with the Cambrian Period of the Paleozoic Era. As we move through the different eras, new life forms are introduced and some, like the trilobites, die off. The telling of the story initiates (plants the seeds) lessons in biology, zoology, botany, ecology, and microbiology.
We celebrated Chinese New Year. We integrated language, art (the dragon head), singing, geography of China, cultural aspects and we learned some new traditions. We paraded our Dragon Dance, made a Good Luck Symbol, ate oranges, had a dumpling- making workshop, cleaned the classroom, celebrated with poppers instead of fireworks:) made noise, identified our animal zodiac, and presented red envelopes with coins for luck. We decorated with the color red, though our three day celebration was quite multi-colorful.
We will continue to learn to read and write Chinese. Ms. Jones helps us perfect our skills.
A child who has become master of his acts through long, pleasant and interesting activities in which he has engaged, is a child filled with health and joy and remarkable for his calmness and discipline.
~ Maria Montessori
Happy Year of the Rat!
December was a short month, but it was packed with excitement! The children worked very hard to get ready to perform Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for FCMS’s winter performance. They did an amazing job and knocked it out of the park! The children built the sets, designed some of the costumes and memorized their lines. Ms. Jay, our assistant, was key in supporting the children develop their acting and stage skills because of her experience and education in the theater. I am very grateful for her support. Thank you to our parents for all of your generous donations of supplies, costumes and supporting the children to learn their lines.
The children have had many visitors in the classroom as well this month. Mrs. Staley (Brenda’s mom) continues to visit to teach crochet and a fiber art craft this month. To prepare for a visit from an origami artist, we read about Sadako, a Japanese girl who inspired the world with her peace cranes. The artist taught the children how to fold their own cranes, in addition to bringing her own chandelier of 1,000 cranes she folded.
As the semester came to a close, the children all reflected back on the year so far, noting their successes and challenges. They also planned work they want to finish, going outs and areas of study they would like to explore in the second semester. These reflections were printed on their progress reports. Many children commented on how proud they are to be discussing philosophy questions, writing essays and stories and working on complex math problems.
Lastly, I can hardly believe half the school year has gone by. It has been an honor and a joy to spend time with the children, and I look forward to another semester of watching them learn and develop.