Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Wearing Masks in the Montessori Environment

wearing masks in the Montessori environment
We shall walk together on this path of life, for all things are part of the universe, and are connected with each other to form one whole unity.
—Maria Montessori
To Educate the Human Potential, p. 6

As of August 4, 2020, more than half the countries in the world have mandated the use of face masks to help reduce the spread of the Covid-19 virus. (Which Countries Are Requiring Face Masks?) For Montessori schools that have returned to in-person learning, the international use of masks to help reduce the spread of disease has been a topic of discussion. From concerns over getting young children to wear masks, to teachers’ fears of limited non-verbal communication, mask wearing protocols can seem daunting if you are caught unprepared. 

One way of reducing your concerns and the concerns of your community is to think of how mask-wearing aligns with Montessori principles. As well, integrate mask-wearing into the daily routine and introduce related practical life activities to help your students feel comfortable wearing masks in the Montessori environment.

Mask-Wearing and Cosmic Education

Montessori child wearing a mask. Photo by Helena Lopes from Pexels
Mask-wearing, whether we like it or not, is a social movement of moral obligation. In the early childhood years, we stress being kind to all living things. In the elementary years, we help children explore and discover cosmic connections, understanding that all living things on earth rely on each other to live in peace and unity. In 2001, Camillo Grazzini told the 24th International Montessori Congress that “Cosmic Education results in creative attempts to lead a new and different kind of human life, with responsible participation in all natural and human phenomena.” (p 84) As responsible global citizens, is our duty to protect and defend our neighbors. At this time on earth, wearing a mask is a cosmic responsibility.

Practical Life Activities

wearing masks as a practical life activity. Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels.
Practical life activities are a means by which we promote independence and social responsibility in the Montessori environment. Hygienic practices of washing one’s hands, blowing one’s nose, and coughing or sneezing into one’s elbow are generally taught to toddlers and preschoolers and are sometimes reviewed in the elementary years. As children learn these practices, they gain independence over their bodies and contribute to the well-being of themselves and others. Mask-wearing can be approached in the same manner. 

Here are a few ideas of activities you can present in the Montessori environment.
  • Where to find a mask
  • How to put on a mask
  • Ensuring correct fit, covering both nose and mouth
  • How to remove a mask and where to place it for eating and drinking
  • Where to put a mask when you’re done wearing it for the day

Lower and upper elementary students can even learn how to sew masks. These masks can be used as a fundraiser for the school or as a service-learning activity where masks are donated to the community. Whether you decide to provide masks for your students or they are provided by individual families, masks must be washed to maintain hygienic standards and reduce the spread of germs. (Visit the American Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to learn more.) 

While it may seem like mask washing would be a great practical life activity, children should not participate in washing masks to prevent possible contagion. 

*The care and distribution of face masks may be regulated by your local government. It is always best to check with your local health services to make sure you are following their guidelines.

Michelle Zanavich — NAMC Tutor & Graduate

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, November 24, 2020.


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