Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Circle of Life in the Montessori Classroom: Activities for Sharing Birth, Marriage, and Death

NAMC montessori classroom circle of life activities birth marriage death new babyCelebrations and rituals are important in the lives of children. Through them, they learn that we experience the circle of life, death, and the large milestones in between. Children feel deeply; they express joy and grief openly without reserve. It is therefore important that the circle of life be celebrated within the Montessori community.

Celebrating Birth

Recently, our art teacher and her partner adopted a new baby. Because they found out about the new baby at the last moment, the children were very surprised. When Baby Autumn was old enough, Miss Ruth brought the baby to each Montessori classroom to introduce her to the children. My Montessori lower elementary class was in complete awe. Each child gathered around Miss Ruth in quite reverence, as if drawn to her and the baby by a cosmic force. To honor a new baby in your community:

The Circle of Life in the Montessori Classroom: Sharing Birth, Marriage, and Death

  • Plant a tree to honor the new baby.
  • Organize a Welcome Book. Children can write a note, poem or letter to the new baby and add a picture of themselves so the baby will be able to "see" who wrote it.
  • Discuss any Welcoming, Dedication, Naming, and/or Baptism ceremonies that the children had. Since they were too young to remember, encourage them to bring pictures, keepsakes, or articles of clothing that represent their special day.
  • Discuss the importance of names. Research each child's name and their meaning. The children can then draw pictures or write a poem about what their names mean.
  • Ask the children to bring in a small, thoughtful gift for the new baby. This doesn't have to be store bought. In fact, those that are hand crafted are most treasured.
  • Make a Wish Book. Have the children make a special wish or advice for the new baby. Record these and present them to the baby.
Celebrating Marriage

In November of 2006, my husband and I were married. I had begun teaching at a new school in August and my upper elementary students were very curious and excited. After all, many had been to weddings, but they had not had the opportunity to experience a teacher getting married, especially during the school year. There were talks about my dress, the flowers, the ceremony, and the reception. Because we had a small wedding (only our families) the children were disappointed they were unable to come, but found a way to celebrate my special day with a surprise bouquet of flowers and handmade cards full of best wishes. Two of my girls even made me a blue necklace and bracelet so I had "something blue" to wear for traditions sake.

Other ideas may include:
    NAMC montessori classroom circle of life activities birth marriage death heart drawing
  • Making and decorating a special cake together to present to the bride and/or groom
  • Listen to traditional "wedding music" and discuss how it makes them feel. (Some suggestions may be the "Bridal Chorus" from Lohengrin by Wagner or Pachelbel's Canon in D.
  • Discuss different wedding cultures from around the world.
  • Sample some traditional wedding food.
  • Invite parents to share their memories of their weddings or watch their wedding videos.
  • Invite the children to write their ideas of "what it means to be in love"
Understanding Death

Death, though sad, should not be hidden from children. Grief is a very real and deep emotion that children should be allowed to experience. They need to know it is ok to grieve and what it means to mourn the loss of someone we love.

NAMC montessori classroom circle of life activities birth marriage death family huggingLast week, one of our Montessori lower elementary teachers experienced the loss of his father. The loss was very sudden; his father had been diagnosed with brain cancer just a few weeks beforehand. During these kinds of situations, it is important to explain to children how devastated we all are when we lose a loved one, and how important it is that people express their grief. It is a very appropriate time to explain to children how much grieving members need support during this time of healthy, deep sadness. Brainstorm with the children how, as a classroom community, they can support a grieving friend. Some examples are artwork to send to the home or funeral, baking cooking for the reception, or planting flowers at their friend’s house.

Celebrate! Celebrate life and celebrate a life well lived. Celebrate with our children so that they may, in turn, teach others to celebrate in this, the great Circle of Life.

(From Disney's The Lion King Lyrics by Tim Rice; Music by Elton John)
The Circle of Life

From the day we arrive on the planet
And blinking, step into the sun
There's more to see than can ever be seen
More to do than can ever be done
There's far too much to take in here
More to find than can ever be found
But the sun rolling high
Through a sapphire sky
Keeps great and small on the endless round It's the Circle of Life
And it moves through us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the Circle
The Circle of Life
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Tuesday, May 6, 2008.

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