Primary Session
Exploration of Science Through Art / The Beauty of the Practical Life Material and Grace and Courtesy
Presenter: Michele Aspinall

March 16 – 17 2019

The Exploration of Science Through Art

In the area of science, the first plane child requires infinite hands-on experiences before introducing abstract concepts like naming and classification. These tangible skills inspire the child in a primary environment to gather additional knowledge that goes above and beyond our albums. Through this interest and further exploration, the 3-6 child discovers that “science” surrounds him.

Art can help us make sense of the world. Science can often become too difficult to grasp for the young child. Michele’s expertise in the area of art has changed the way her children see the world. Classifying, Life Cycles, Botany, Physical Science, Human Anatomy, Weather and Seasons are areas of science that are presented in Michele’s All Year class and then further explored using a variety of art media. Through these art lessons, the children are able to express what they have learned. This artistic expression has enabled them to absorb information that might have otherwise been out of their reach.

No PHD needed in order to optimize the science area in your very own environment and to ultimately unleash an untapped enthusiasm within the child. Michele will share with you her science presentations as well as the art materials used to explore the many possible extensions from this often-neglected area of the primary classroom. Participants will leave with practical ways to integrate science into the prepared environment and how to approach it in a way that supports and encourages the child’s natural curiosity.

The Beauty of the Practical Life Material and Grace & Courtesy

The area of practical life lays the foundation for work in all areas of the primary classroom. Use of proper names helps to develop language. Careful sequence and presentations develop order and exactness necessary for math work. Polishing, scrubbing, and baking develop a sense of social responsibility and appreciation for the environment. Work with the dressing frames develops independence. All of the work in the practical life area helps the child establish a healthy relationship with the surrounding people and environment, one in which the child sees herself as affecting change rather than being affected by it.

But how to get the children interested? This is not always so easy. One aspect of this challenge is to make the materials beautiful. No plastic. No Rubbermaid. Instead, copper and glass, and wood and fabric. Presenter Michele Aspinall has a unique gift for assembling irresistible Practical Life exercises. During this session she will share her secrets with you. Another aspect to be considered is making Practical Life relevant. Michele has created an environment with exercises that meet the real needs of the classroom today. The standards like table scrubbing and silver polishing remain. But Michele has carefully considered many other tasks that need to be accomplished in the Montessori classroom and guided by Montessori theory assembled materials to meet those needs. One of the most popular exercises is baking.

Most importantly, Michele has worked endlessly on Grace and Courtesy Lessons that address some of the social difficulties many children are currently exhibiting. In Michele’s recent article for she says, “The prepared environment is also a Social Environment. ‘What is social life if not the solving of social problems, behaving properly and pursuing aims acceptable to all? [It is not] sitting side by side and hearing someone else talk…’ Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind. This is what makes our spaces so unique and special, children interrelating through work and play with their peers. With this interaction, empathy, compassion, kindness, and beautiful positive character traits are learned for life. There is beauty within each child that is nurtured and brought about through our Grace and Courtesy lessons. We were taught of these lessons their importance and the impact they could make on our environments, but these lessons are particularly easy to push to the side. We don’t see them. They are not visible on our shelves. Oftentimes we don’t see the positive impact within the lesson itself. Grace and Courtesy lessons petrified me in my first few years of teaching. Practical Life, Sensorial, Math, and Language, these lessons in our albums are so meticulously mapped out for us to follow step by step. Conversely, there is so much that can go horribly wrong in a grace and courtesy lesson. When Hildegard spoke of Grace and Courtesy she made it sound so easy, so magical, and so beautiful. It is all of that. Nonetheless, she neglected to tell me that there will be times that the children will find me uninteresting, my words will come out wrong, and occasionally they might even walk away in the midst of a lesson. I urge you to persevere! I did. Make grace and courtesy a priority at all ages. Don’t stop. Let it germinate in your environments. The list of possibilities is endless and at the same time critical in maintaining beauty within your environments: observing a friend, taking a turn, greeting a visitor, making an apology, and offering comfort . . . let these lessons reign! If you make Grace and Courtesy a priority, you will begin to see beauty in a different way – beauty in every interaction.”

Join Michele as she revitalizes the Practical Life materials for you and reinvents Grace and Courtesy lessons that will enable an overall attitude of graciousness and respect throughout your environment.