Community Service (also called Service Learning) projects integrate the academic and behavioral lessons learned with the Montessori concept of Cosmic Education. By teaching civic responsibility, children of all ages learn the value of being a contributing member of society. They see firsthand that they are able to strengthen the bonds within their own communities. Both beneficiaries and students are transformed by the power of the service.
Montessori Grace and Courtesy: Learning Through Community ServiceInfants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers
The key word here is intergenerational. Have you ever seen the eyes of an elderly person light up when they hold an infant or play with a toddler? And what preschooler doesn’t like to cuddle up on someone’s lap to hear a book read aloud? Part of the joy for young children is they are performing a service to their community simply by being themselves. Currently, approximately one in eight people in the United States is over the age of 65. By the year 2030, that number is expected to double.
With the shift away from intergenerational families in many parts of the world, bringing the generations together is a learning experience for everyone. Grandparents whose own grandchildren live hundreds or thousands of miles away feel important and loved and young children learn from the great gifts and wisdom our elders have to impart. There are adopt-a-grandparent programs scattered throughout North America, but feel free to contact your local senior centers or assisted living centers to see if they have residents who are interested.
Whether it’s mentoring younger children by reading to them and listening to them read, or helping build a home with Habitat for Humanity, Montessori elementary students are eager to learn about their world and their place in it. Their sense of justice has been awakened and they are keenly in tune with what is fair and unfair. They are open and eager to help others, whether it is a friend who has fallen on the playground or victims of natural disasters.
When incorporating service learning into your Montessori environment, take some time to help your Montessori students understand that not only are they helping others, but they are growing as individuals. Many times, children are so eager to help that they may not fully understand all of the implications. We can make this a true learning experience if we look at it as a big picture project, not just something to satisfy an immediate need.
- Mission statement (purpose) – Brainstorm with your Montessori students what the mission or purpose of your project is. Help them write it out. Putting it in writing helps give credence to your efforts.
- Task – Break down the project into tasks. Allow students to choose tasks for which they feel best suited.
- What I can learn – Every part of a service learning project is an opportunity to learn and grow. Help your students realize their potential.
- Journals – Students can keep a journal of their progress. What are they currently doing? How does it make them feel? What iss left to be done?
- Graphing progress – Incorporate math into your project by graphing your progress. A simple bar graph helps students see their progress.
- Reflections – At the end of project, allow time for your Montessori students to reflect upon their experience. This can be done first in a journal, then as a community sharing time.
- Future Ideas – Ask students if they have any plans for projects in the future. Will they build and expand upon the one just completed or will there be something new altogether?
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© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Monday, March 15, 2010.