"If children are allowed free development and given occupation to correspond with their unfolding minds their natural goodness will shine forth," Maria Montessori
Last year, Suzy was always ready to wash a table whenever needed. She really put elbow grease into her work. I can easily remember her bent over a table with her shoulder rotating with each circular scrub. I am mostly reminded of cursive writing when I recall or view table washing. It is easy to see a row of lower case, cursive es in the small circles made in the suds.
I would never have thought of wood working, specifically the sanding of wood until a week or so ago when I watched Suzy sand the rim of a stool she was working on. Watching her and looking at photographs of her work later, the memory of all those tables she washed came back to me. I also saw amazing concentration, attention to detail, an effort towards perfection and a commitment to work. When I looked closely at her eyes behind her googles, I saw a young girl captivated by the task before her - the sanding, designing, painting and assembling of a small, wooden stool.
Everyday last week, she came right in, sat down at her table and continued her work. She remained occupied with it until outdoor play and then returned to it. She only stopped to have snack or to ask for materials such as paint or various sized brushes. Other children stopped by on occassion to observe her work and to compliment her. She was encouraged by her community, but relied on her own inner abilities to continue. Her progress seemed effortless.
I introduced wood working projects to a couple of students after the first continent doll/puppet theatre performance (the first of several to be performed this upcoming school year). The wood working projects that have been completed so far include a tool box, a wooden basket, a space shuttle and Suzy's soon to be completed stool. Most of the other, older students have since expressed interest in doing wood working projects.
I bought each of the kits at a local thrift store on various occassions over the summer. The head of our school was so impressed by the work that he has ordered more. However, they were not intended to be a group project. Instead, I saw them as extensions of Practical Life, like making a pillow. I am exploring what more I can make available to third or fourth year students who need to do something with their hands but no longer seem interested in carrot or cookie work. I think the wood working projects might be it - at least this year. Enjoy the photos - they are self-explanatory.