Sometimes you just have to take a leap of confidence in the Montessori method and the lessons one is so familiar with. I am very limited in regards to the Montessori materials that I have to work with at The Bridge. I would love a gently used binomial and trinomial cube or the small or large hexagon box, but I don't have them...yet. So...as Montessorians around the world have been doing for decades, I modified another material in order to present a work that I felt would be stimulating for and serve the needs of one of the seniors at The Bridge who does not have dementia. Instead, he has other medical issues that require that he be supervised and that he be in a setting that would also provide him social interactions.
I had bought a Chinese Puzzle at a church rummage sale to give as a gift for a fellow Montessori teacher thinking she might like to use it as an extension for constructive triangles. I never had the opportunity to give it to her, so it has been sitting on a shelf in my apartment for a year and a half.
I recently had a wonderful conversation with the head of a Montessori school in British Columbia. We talked at length about how paralyzed a teacher can become if what is in her album is not on her shelf. Maybe a material is broken or has been promised to be order under the next year's budget. Should the teacher move ahead with the lessons skipping over say the multiplication board and presenting the division board, if there is no multiplication board? Multiplication can be presented with the bead box and other materials besides the board. At a refresher course years ago in Florida, the keynote speaker stated clearly, "Follow the child, not your albums."
The person I wanted to present the constructive triangles to isn't a child. They are an adult. The lessons are already modified to fit the needs of an adult. So...I had this beautiful Chinese Puzzle that kept whispering to me, "Susan, use me at The Bridge in place of the constructive triangles. I am such a beautiful material. I am small and delicate and I invite curiosity." Finally, I decided that it would be perfect for this particular senior.
It was mid-morning when he arrived. I waited for him to get settled. I then approached him and invited him to work with me. He immediately agreed to. I directed him to a table in the back. I picked the puzzle up off my desk and joined him.
Before I revealed what I was holding in my lap, I told him that I had something very beautiful and delicate that I wanted to share with him. I paused for a deliberate minute and then placed it on the table in front of him. I asked him to carefully open it. He did so with precise movements. He pulled the enclosed material out from the decorative cover and placed it on the table.
I then leaned towards him and said, "There are triangles and squares inside and we can make things with them." He smiled and then carefully opened the package. He studied the yellow, wooden material for a minute.
I asked him to take one piece out at a time. He did and immediately he started piecing the shapes together to create something.
After he made one thing, he made another and then another. He was very pleased with his third construction calling it a rabbit.
The hand loves to engage and this action engages the mind. Maria Montessori wrote, “The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence.” She also wrote, “We found individual activity is the one factor that stimulates and produces development.” The child's mind is not the only mind that needs stimulation for development. The need for mental development spans a lifetime.