Thursday, December 4, 2008

Season of Giving in the Montessori Classroom: Activities for Good

season of giving NAMC montessori activities girls make cookies
I recently posted the following journal topic on the board for my Upper Elementary Montessori students: What is the true meaning of the holiday season? Many children wrote that it is a time to come together and spend time with loved ones, and some wrote that now that they are older, they are beginning to understand that it’s more about the giving than the receiving.

I love holiday time in the Montessori classroom. As with all children, there is a sense of anticipation and excitement. There is also something else – a palpable feeling of altruism.

After sharing what they had written in their journals, my Montessori students were overcome with the idea of helping others during the holiday season. A class meeting was called and the children decided that the best way to help others was to give something of themselves. I readily agreed and immediately thought “What a great practical life skill!”

Season of Giving in the Montessori Classroom: Activities for Good

After some deliberation, my students decided they would make and decorate Christmas cookies. Everyone was very excited. They immediately got to work and formed groups. Some had to research recipes and make a list of ingredients we needed from the store. Some took inventory of the kitchen and made a list of what tools and utensils they needed to bring from home. Others created permission slips for going shopping with me. Another group started researching organizations that would benefit from our cookie-making project.

season of giving NAMC montessori activities girls writing
We decided that we would make cookies for the local Ronald McDonald House. The Ronald McDonald House charity provides a “home away from home” for families of children who are in need of serious medical treatment. Many families with sick children must travel long distances, and the cost of travel, food, and lodging can be quite expensive in addition to the cost of health care. The Ronald McDonald House offers housing and emotional support in an environment that is dedicated to the “well-being of the whole family.”

The children were deeply touched by how so many lives are affected by this charitable organization. We contacted the Ronald McDonald House and explained our intent. The children were pleased when their efforts were met with enthusiasm and gratitude. They were even more excited when they were told that three children from our class could accompany me when delivering the cookies.

Our Montessori classroom became a flurry of activity. Flour-covered children appeared like elves from the kitchen, munching on cookies deemed “imperfect”. Even dish washing became a joyful occasion when the result was so exciting.

Because I could take only three children to deliver the cookies, the children decided they would put their names in a basket and those who were drawn would get to go. A total of six names were chose in case we needed alternates if someone became ill.

The day came to deliver our cookies. The children had made several types of cookies and carefully wrapped them in beautiful baskets. Everyone helped load my car and off we went. We were greeted by a member of the Ronald McDonald staff who offered to give us a tour of the facility. The children were impressed and touched by the stories our guide shared with us.

When we returned to school, the children who had delivered our cookies gave a report on what had transpired on their trip. We all spoke about how we felt about our project. The children agreed that this would be one of their favorite Christmas memories for years to come.

*****************
Children of all ages can help bake and decorate cookies. Your local assisted-living centers and children’s hospitals would welcome your tasty donations. (Please call ahead to check for their guidelines for donations).
I like to use an easy sugar cookie recipe.

Easy Sugar Cookies

What You Need:
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
What You Do:
  • Using an electric mixer at medium-high speed, cream the butter, gradually adding the sugar. Beat in the egg until evenly mixed, then blend in the vanilla extract and salt.
  • With a wooden spoon, stir the flour into the creamed ingredients, about one third at a time, until evenly blended. The dough may seem soft, but it will firm up when refrigerated.
  • Divide the dough in half. Flatten each portion into a disk and seal in plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.
  • Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Cover a sturdy baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly coat the foil with cooking spray. Between 2 sheets of waxed paper lightly dusted with flour, roll the Easy Sugar Cookie Dough to a 1/4-inch thickness. Remove the top sheet.
  • Cut out the cookies with cookie cutters. Use a spatula to transfer the shapes to the baking sheet, leaving about an inch between cookies.
  • Bake for 8-10 minutes and transfer to a rack to cool.
  • When cool, decorate with frosting and sprinkles.
Here are some links to craft-related blogs:

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. © the North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Thursday, December 4, 2008.

3 comments:

  1. Your post brought tears to my eyes! and made me think of our local hospice here in town and the hospice my stepfather passed away in almost 3 years ago.

    I have recently joined a Giving Challenge that I share with my son... it really is amazing what giving does--not just for the receiver, but also for the giver.

    Here is a link to the Challenge http://www.29gifts.org/

    ReplyDelete
  2. Altruism at its finest! Thank you very much! Its so easy to get distracted by the mass consumption all around us and knowing that children are carrying the torch of altruism lighten my load. Best post ever! Doug

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you for your kind words. Children truly do understand the meaning of kindness and often teach us more than we can ever teach them. Just giving them the opportunity to show their natural empathy and compassion is all it often takes. The best of the season to everyone!

    ReplyDelete

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