This is how Ella discovered this “invitation,” which was really not intended to be an invitation at all, as I was not sure if I wanted to present it to her, and had left it on my desk. She found it and brought it to her table, took one look at it, and walked away.
First of all, the presentation needs to be set up in a way that invites work, as below (this is the completed activity, the invitation would have the pompoms on the plate and the bowl empty):
But even when set up like this, Ella was not interested in the invitation (only completed it once) because it broke the first rule of Montessori practical life work which is that work must have a purpose. Transferring orange pom-poms from a bowl to a plate with tongs is not an activity that the child is likely to have every observed or encountered in real life, so this invitation lacks meaning. That is not to say that imagination can not transform a practical life material — as I am writing this, Ella is sitting beside me scooping waterbeads with a mini-ladle from a large container into a smaller one, likely because it is markedly similar to the process of transferring boiled peas into the blender before making soup — but that imaginative recasting needs to placed in a context if it is going to work.
For this week’s sensory bin (yes, bin singular) I decided to switch things up and create a more Reggio Emilia-style “provocation,” providing open-ended materials for Ella to explore and use to create her own expressions. I provided some Montessori twists, such as the tongs, melon-baller, and moveable letters (A, B, C, and G), as well as placing the provocation on a playmat (a defined work area from which the materials were not allowed to stray).
Ella really enjoyed this provocation, though I wish I had added a few more materials. She laid out patterns with the materials, and practiced scooping the rocks and pompoms, and used the tongs on all of the materials. She also sounded out and named the letters in the bin, but didn’t seem to appreciate that the letters weren’t connected to any other aspect of the activity; it was really wonderful yet frustrating for me to watch her investigate the materials, searching for a connection between the letters and the rest of the provocation, knowing that I hadn’t provided any extension opportunities for her. Improvement for next time! Sensory, letter recognition, fine motor control.
For nature study, we dressed warmly and went outside to watch the sun rise and discussed the different colours that we could see. In that bright morning light, we also threw around a wobbly orange ball with stringy bits which I intended to represent the sun. Nature study, gross motor control.
For an older child, it would be fun to build upon this idea of the ball as a sun and discuss orbiting, then spinning around the ball. Science.
We also searched for orange flowers and vegetables in the garden, and found a few of my favourites: squash blossoms! (Which Ella calls squash bottoms…) Nature study, food appreciation.
I had to actually purchased some orange art for this week, as I have sadly neglected this colour in my art collection! I found this well-priced geometric turtle print on etsy, and I loved that a portion of my purchase went to support the Endangered Sea Turtles of Florida. Ella does understand that the things we own abide by our family’s values system, though she doesn’t fully grasp all of the intricacies of that yet, but this would be a great opportunity to discuss using money to support values systems with older children, and also explaining your own family’s values systems in terms of paying for art or art exposure. Art appreciation, family values.
We focused on using mixed media in our artwork, incorporating the materials from our earlier orange provocation, as well as some orange foam cut outs and red, yellow, and orange crayons and markers. By simply providing these colours alongside the orange materials, Ella understood that red and yellow make orange, without need for me to describe the process. We also made an orange “hat” from some found materials. Art creation, fine motor skills, colour and shape recognition.
For bath time, we made some orange kool-aid and gathered some spongy orange “basketballs” that serve as a great (reusable) substitute for water balloons. We used the orange bucket as our “hoop” and also had a orange bath crayon. It would also have been cool to have prepared a yellow and a red kool-aid and have physically mixed them together, but Ella did really enjoy pouring the jug of kool-aid into the bath water. Sensory, practical life, and gross motor.
This week I really struggled with finding books incorporating the colour orange! We ended up reading our Paddington Bear book and then having orange marmalade on scones (with clotted cream, of course), to drive home the “marmalade is orange” tie-in, and then I also told a made-up fable-version of the Jungle Book, emphasizing on the orange tiger, Shere Khan. Older children might enjoy Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach. What other orange books can you think of and recommend? Literature study.
We watched videos of tigers, orangutans, and monarch butterflies, and I showed Ella pictures of our visit to the Brookfield Zoo, where she saw tigers and orangutans. We also talked about being gentle with animals and how sometimes animals need our protection from people who are not gentle; Ella’s Aunt Kat is an animal advocate and has actually worked with an organization that specifically supported an orangutan sanctuary, and Ella really loved hearing about a grown-up caring about animals in a big way and was really happy to learn about our own family’s support of WWF (starting to understand that we can use our money to help others), with the aid of pictures. Nature study, spiritual, family values.
For food, we ate red lentil burgers (look orange), roasted orange peppers in stir-fry, peaches, carrots, more of Sophie Dahl’s butternut squash and parmesan soup (couldn’t help myself), Jamie Oliver’s deep-fried, ricotta-stuffed squash blossoms(!), homemade sweet potato fries, and tumeric-curried vegetables. You could also have oranges, cantaloupe, dried apricots, or nectarines. We drank David’s Mango Fruit Punch (iced) tea, which I think you can only order online at the moment. Nutrition, number recognition in measurements, fine motor control.
I also used orange week as a big fat excuse to take a trip to our favourite beach and get some french fries from Mackies, which is famous for its orangeade (and orange signs, and orange benches…)
I had a different plan for spiritual development this week, but Ella was really interested in continuing the conversation about kindness toward animals and taking care of them, so we discussed the responsibility that we have as stewards of the Earth to also care for animals, and how it would feel to be a scared or hurt animal. This also built on Ella’s understanding of bees from our visit to a bee farm during yellow week, when it was explained that most bees won’t sting if they are left alone, but that when we scare them they might sting to protect themselves and their family. Its important to me that my daughter not have a fear (even a “healthy” fear) of insects and animals, but rather respect their natures and need for “space.” Spiritual, nature study.
What will you be doing for orange week?