"One day some little spirit awakens; the ego of some child takes possession of some object; attention becomes fixed on the repetition of some one exercise; executive skill perfects itself; the irradiation of the child's countenance indicates that its spirit is being born anew."
-Dr. Maria Montessori, 'On Discipline - Reflections and Advice', AMI Communications, 1991, 4, 21
Of all the lovely Practical Life materials, one of our favorites is Flower Arranging, part of the Care of the Environment series of lessons.
Like all Practical Life lessons, Flower Arranging supports the development of independence, concentration, coordination and order in the child. Learning to carefully pour the right amount of water into a vase to allow for thedisplacement of the flower stem, or how to measure the height of the flower along the vase before cutting the stem to assure it's just right when it's arranged in the vase, or cleaning up the cut stems and trimmed petals before placing the vase in the classroom... these all require independent, practical skills like cutting, measuring and visual discrimination and the physical coordination to accomplish them. Reflecting on the arrangement of the flowers and keeping a tidy workspace supports the child's developing sense of order. And, of course, practicing attention as one attends to the precise height of the flower before cutting the stem or admires the balance of colors between different flowers in the vase supports the child's expanding concentration.
But Flower Arranging also responds to the child's natural drive toward beauty and balance, and allows the intrinsic wonder of admiring the beauty in nature its place in the classroom. The lesson is as much about the opportuntiy to reflect on beauty as it is the practical skills the work demands. It is naturally motivating to the child, and a gift to observe as an adult, as children are fully absorbed in the aesthetic practice. And, of course, unlike many of the materials that are returned to the shelf after the child is finished, Flower Arranging contributes to the peaceful clmate of the classroom as table by table, vase by vase, our environments become filled with tiny arrangements the children have created.
Catherine McTamaney, Ed.D,
Christopher Academy Alumna