Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Planning and Celebrating a Montessori Harvest Festival: Activities and Organization

NAMC montessori harvest festival activities vegetables
Halloween is a holiday that many Montessori schools and families struggle with. While children love dressing in costumes and trick-or-treating, Montessori adults worry about scary costumes and overloading on sugar-laden candy and treats. As a child, I looked forward to Halloween almost as much as Christmas. As a parent and teacher, I strive to make sure the children in my care have a safe and enjoyable celebration.

This year, Halloween falls on a Friday. To promote a sense of community, provide an evening of family fun and entertainment, and host a school-wide fundraising event, why not have a harvest festival? Rather than celebrating a day of spirits and fright, celebrate the bounty brought forth by Mother Earth. Here is a detailed guide to help your Montessori classroom's Harvest Festival become a wonderful success.

Planning and Celebrating a Montessori Harvest Festival: Activities and Organization

Choose a Theme
Having a theme is a sure way to unify the Montessori community. Choose a theme that is part of the Montessori curriculum: peacemakers, literary figures, mathematics, historical figures, and real-life heroes. Encourage both children and adults to create handmade costumes to wear during the festival. All Montessori classrooms can make decorations. Lessons in the 3 R’s – Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle – can be incorporated into the decorations so children become aware of environmental responsibility even when organizing a party. Using recycled paper and non-toxic paint will be of further benefit.

Recruit Volunteers
A well-run event relies heavily on great organization. An event of this nature is always easier when there are plenty of volunteers. If you break the tasks down into “do-able” categories, chances are you will have more success with other events in the future.
There are two main types of planning needed: “big picture” event planners and table coordinators. Depending on the size of your school, these jobs may be performed by individuals or committees.

Volunteer 1: Event Planners or Committees
Fundraising
  • Solicit and collect money and donations
  • Maintain list of donations
  • Write and distribute thank-you notes after the event
Craft and Game Tables
  • Recruit table coordinators (volunteers who are willing to coordinate one specific table)
  • Order supplies
  • Maintain list of activities as well as back-up plans
  • Facilitate table set-up
Food
  • Solicit food donations
  • Assist children in food preparation
  • Set-up/break-down table
Publicity
  • Create and distribute flyers
  • Post on school website
Sports/Races/Pumpkin Patch
  • Recruit volunteers to coordinate events
  • Order prizes/ribbons (all participants receive awards)
  • Organize races
Decorations
  • With the help of the Montessori students, create new decorations
  • Get hay bales
  • Set-up and break-down on the day of the event (recruit a team)
Volunteer 2: Table Coordinators
These volunteers will organize a craft or game table activity. Tasks include:
  • Recruit day-of-event volunteers to run the table
  • Schedule volunteers into 1/2- or 3/4-hour shifts
  • Create a list of supplies needed for event coordinator to order
  • Coordinate set-up and clean-up of table
Harvest Fair Activities
There are plenty of fun activities that center on a harvest theme. It is important to make sure you have equal representation for all age groups. Activity tables can feature such activities as pumpkin painting, goody bag stamping, clay impression necklaces, cupcake decorating, leaf rubbing, face painting, photo booth, and “guess how many candy corn” are in a large jar.

Here are just a few additional games and activities that I’ve found from Celebrating the Fall Harvest: Games and Activity Ideas for Kids (S. L. Amon, 2000).

Pumpkin Seed Toss - Number and lineup 5 small baskets or crates; then have the children stand 3 feet in front of the first crate and toss seeds into the crates in sequence. Small prizes can be given for each of the crates they get their seeds in.

NAMC montessori harvest festival activities vegetables corn
Corn Husking Race - Give each child 4 ears of unhusked corn and race to see who can have all of their corn husked first.

Pumpkin Walk - This is like a regular cake walk except instead of numbers, place pictures of several fall items on the floor for the children to walk on and call out the names of the items instead of numbers. Use fall themed music such as "Turkey In The Straw" or "Jimmy Cracked Corn".

Floating Pumpkins - Number the bottom of the small gourds that look like miniature pumpkins and float them in water for the children to choose one for small prizes.

Musical Bales - Play musical chairs with bales of straw instead of chairs. A scarecrow in the center makes a fun decoration for this game.

Turkey In The Straw - Fill a wading pool with straw and hide a small picture of a turkey in it for groups to dig through to see who can find it first.

The Squirrel Game - Let the kids pretend they are squirrels gathering nuts for the winter. Give each of the kids a small paper bag, then toss out several unshelled nuts onto the floor and let the kids race to see who can collect the most. Older and younger children should be separated for this game. Another way to play this game, (if you have a way to corral a large quantity of leaves) is to hide nuts beneath a large pile of leaves and give the kids a set amount of time to find as many nuts as they can.

NAMC montessori harvest festival activities vegetables pumpkins
Pumpkin Race - Set up starting and finish lines and have the children race to see who can get their pumpkin over the finish line first using only their feet to slide the pumpkins along. No kicking the pumpkins like soccer balls!

Scarecrow Relay - This game is a little messy, but a whole lot of fun! Divide the children into two equal groups and have each group form a line. Provide identical scarecrow costumes for each group consisting of a pair of bib overalls or an old faded pair of jeans with a rope for a belt, a flannel shirt, a straw hat, & a basket of straw or the softer version of straw-like material that is sold in craft stores. The first person in line is to put the scarecrow costume on over their clothes and stuff the straw under their hats and inside the flannel shirt or bib overalls. Once they are completely dressed they must go to the end of their line, remove the straw & costume and pass the items as they are removed up through the line to the person at the front of the line. That player can immediately start dressing in the costume as each piece to the costume is received. Once he/she is completely dressed, he/she moves to the end of the line. Repeat until each player has been dressed in costume. When the last player has finished passing up the pieces to the costume, have the first person in line lay the complete costume out on the floor in front of the line. The group that finishes first is the winner.

Include the Children
When planning an event like this, it is easy to do it all ourselves. Why not turn this into a practical life experience for the older children in your Montessori community? Encourage the Upper Elementary and Middle School students to prepare the evening meal. Eating a meal together is a great way to promote togetherness and community. An early dinner of simple harvest time foods such as chili or chicken or vegetable soup, whole grain breads, and apple and pumpkin pie should be perfect on a chilly autumn evening. The meal is served by the students.

Older children can help decorate the school grounds. Let them create set-up and clean-up teams. Middle Schoolers can help direct traffic, collect ticket money, or run game tables.

It is possible to celebrate secular holidays in the Montessori school. All it takes is a little creativity to create a fun-filled evening for your community that will have children saying “Wow! That was fun. Can we do it again next year?”

NAMC's Lower Elementary Advanced Practical Life manual includes section on the students preparing a spring tea, as well as other social graces and practical life activities.

Also see Celebrate Halloween Montessori Style: Activity and Curriculum Ideas.
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 Wednesday, October 15, 2008.

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