Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Practical Life with the Elderly - Coffee Work (Updated)

Coffee grinding is now available at the Bridge. When I put the tray together, I paid particular attention that each of the pieces on the tray where familiar items to coffee making. The 1950's sugar and creamer set were a 50 cent find at the local thrift. The creamer was still going to be used for pouring and the sugar bowl was going to be used for holding the coffee beans. A metal, measuring cup was also placed on the tray, as well as a small pair of tongs. The tongs are to be used for picking up split coffee beans one at a time - a point of interest component of the work, as well as for strengthening the prehensile grip.

The first senior to use the work completed an entire Montessori work cycle: removed the work from the shelf, did the work, returned the work to the shelf. This is the first time this particular senior engaged any material for such a long period of time and put the work away without assistance.

In the photo below, the senior has taken the coffee grinding tray from the shelf and brought it to the table. He then removed each object from the tray, one at a time. As noted in a prior post, the red, paper place mat is used like an underlay. It designates a work space.

He then returned the empty tray to the shelf.

Coffee beans were poured into the small bowl from the glass container that holds them. He used the metal measuring cup to scoop up some of the beans.

 He poured the whole beans into the grinder.

Before he started to grind the coffee beans, he used the small tongs to pick up individual beans that had been split onto the table and returned them to the bowl.

He had difficulty turning the handle of the grinder while he was seated, so he stood up.

After working for several minutes, he sat back down and then opened the grinder to view the ground beans.

He poured the ground beans into the pitcher/creamer.

Next he poured the beans he ground into the can that holds the coffee used to make coffee for all of the clients at the Bridge. 

When he was finished with his work, he went and retrieved the empty tray from the shelf. He then returned all of the items to the tray. 

He returned the full tray to its designated place on the shelf.

There were some split grounds on the place mat. He asked me how he was going to clean those up. I then guided him through the steps for folding the paper place mat. I told him to carefully fold the paper in half. I asked him to note how the grounds moved toward the center crease when he made that first fold. 

After it was folded in half once, I asked him to fold it a second time. 

 "Corner to corner," I said and he did.

Then he rub the side of his hand down the paper to flatten it slightly.

He then carried the folded paper with its contents to the garbage.

He looked at me afterwards and said with a big smile, "People are going to be drinking coffee made from the beans I ground today! I think it will taste good!" I had a cup and it was excellent.


A few days later, a second senior engaged the material. After attempting to turn the handle of the grinder sitting down, she made an adjustment. She lifted the grinder and placed it down between her thighs. She did a wonderful job grinding the beans. She spoke to me while she worked. She said the following: "I just love the way fresh ground coffee beans smell. I just wish coffee tasted the way it smells, but it doesn't and that's why I am a tea drinker." Here are a few pictures of her working with the coffee grinding materials and a short video of her also do just that.

Let me point out first though, that she likes to do things her way, which is totally fine, so she "skips" a lot of the steps noted in the work by the first senior. She has explained her "skipping" of steps to me by stating the following, "I just don't have time for all that, dear. I have much to do and not much time to do it in." 

She started grinding away.

She checked to see if the grinding was working. She didn't think it felt right when she turned its handle.

Next she felt the coffee with her fingers and thought that it wasn't fine enough.

She then repositioned the grinder between her thighs. She felt this position was much more suitable.

She was quite pleased with the coffee that she had ground. She added it to the canister of decaf. coffee used to make coffee for all the seniors attending the Bridge. Do you think she looks like she enjoyed doing the work? I do!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Nutmeg Grating II - Practical Life for the Elderly

I can't help it! I have to share these photos with all of you! The nutmeg work is such a perfect work for use by the elderly. So many of the seniors crave to use their hands for purposeful work again. A woman who has never used any of the Montessori materials previously eagerly engaged nutmeg work a couple of days ago. I simply invited her to help grate some nutmeg for me to use in making cookies next week and she was using the work moments later.

As with the senior I wrote about in my first post on nutmeg grating, I asked her to first carefully rub her fingertips across the grater so as to familiarize herself with it (this was of course after she brought the tray to the table and emptied the tray). She did this.

Then she took a nutmeg from the glass container that holds them and went to work.

After working on the nutmeg for about fifteen minutes, a couple of the other seniors asked where she was. I told them what she was doing and invited them to go and view her work. One at a time, they did.

The first "visitor/observer" told the woman grating that she was doing very good work and that she, herself, really enjoyed the smell of nutmeg.

She offered to hold the funnel in place as the working senior brushed the grated nutmeg into it. "Hold the funnel straight up," the grater instructed the "visitor."

The second "visitor/observer" came over after the first left. She commented that nutmeg was quite a hard nut and that the work must be taxing. She, too, aided in holding the funnel for the woman doing the grating.

The woman grating continued for about 10 more minutes after her "visitors" had moved on. She had grated a lot of nutmeg and pledged to do more soon.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Nutmeg Grating + Practical Life with the Elderly

This is the nutmeg grating tray that I prepared for seniors to use at the Bridge. I purposely chose a large, yet beautiful, grater for their hand size. Three particular seniors were on my mind when I put the tray together, believing that they would immediately be drawn to the work. However, I think most will find it an enjoyable activity.

I placed the prepared tray on the shelf and then approached one of the three seniors I mentioned above and asked them if they would like to use a new material. They stated that they would. I invited them to follow me to the back room where I showed them the nutmeg tray. I asked that they remove the tray from the shelf and bring it to a table nearby to do the work.  A bib apron was included with the tray and the senior put that on soon after they were seated. Also, a red paper place-mat was placed before them on the table to designate a work space, such as an underlay does in the Primary classroom.

Next, I invited the senior to remove all of the items from the tray. As mobility is a big factor in elder care, I returned the tray to the shelf myself.

So as to familiarize the senior with the materials on the tray, I asked him to carefully rub his fingers across the grater. He said he had never felt anything like that and, too, he had no prior experience using a grater.

Next, I asked him to remove the lid from the shaker and to insert the funnel into it. He did. Then, I asked him to take one of the whole nutmegs from the small corked jar and to rub it across the grater.

After he had done this two or three times, I asked him to smell the nutmeg and to tell me if the scent reminded him of anything. He answered that it smelled like eggnog. I agreed that it did.

He then returned to grating the nutmeg. He was very focused on the work and worked silently.

When he had grated a small amount into a powder, I showed him how to use the brush I had purchased for this work.

He then lifted the grater over the funnel, swept the nutmeg powder into it and into the shaker.

He continued to work with the materials for about fifteen minutes and then announced, as he usually does, that he was done. He capped the shaker and returned all of the materials to the tray.

He then rose from the table with the nutmeg tray in hand and returned it to its correct place on the shelf.

Last year, when I was flying from Juneau to Fort Worth for the 2012 AMI Refresher Course, I sat next to a man about 30 years old. I told him I was a Montessori teacher. He quickly responded that he had gone to Montessori school till he was 6. He followed this statement with an immediate question, "Do your students do nutmeg grating?" "Yes," I answered. He continued,"I have such great memories of doing that work and bringing it home in a baggie for my mother. I remember all these little bags of nutmeg piled up on her kitchen counter. Gosh, I wish I could still do that work!"

I am happy to say that nutmeg grating is a work for those of all ages. It is now available at the Bridge!

Monday, February 4, 2013

When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?

My work with both children and elders has revealed to me that all beings crave moments of silence and wonder.

Children in a Museum of Modern Art

In many shamanic societies, if you came to a medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions: When did you stop dancing?  When did you stop singing?  When did you stop being enchanted by stories?  When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?

Gabrielle Roth 


(Thank you to Parabola Newsletter - via email - for the above image and text. Visit here: Parabola.)

Montessori Stories for the International Congress in Portland this Summer

I posted earlier that I am the press and media volunteer for the 2013 International Montessori Congress being held in Portland, Oregon, July 31- August 3 2013.

So...I am on the hunt for personal stories from Montessorians, and others at large, about their upcoming trip to the Congress. Perhaps you are one of the eighty break-out speakers from around the world. I would love to hear your story and write about it for your local newspaper or for a media outlet in Portland. Maybe your school held a fundraiser to pay for the teachers to attend the Congress. Tell me about that fundraiser. I want to know all the details.

Also...if you know about anyone who attended the first Montessori teacher training in 1913, please tell me that story as we are piecing together a very special exhibition for the Congress about that training. The Congress has been given two very unique artifacts from that training and they will be on display. Personal stories about the individuals that attended that training would be wonderful to add to the exhibition.

I want to hear your stories and then share them with others via the written word.  

Here is my contact information:

Susan Y. Dyer
Congress Press and Media Volunteer   

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Montessori Materials Filling The Shelves at the Bridge, An Adult Day Program for Seniors, Slowly But Steadily!

I am so excited to write that more and more Montessori materials are being used at the Bridge.  It is a wonderful thing! Eight months ago there were none. Then there was one science tray with magnets on it. Now there are six shelves and I just asked my boss if I could use a second bookcase and he agreed. Remember, these are adults that are using the materials, so the shelves must meet their physical needs and measurements.

Needing more classification cards, I printed off the constellation cards and the animal family cards found here:  Montessori for Everyone.  Next, I asked my assistant to cut them and to create folders for them from file folders that I had left over from a package I bought for home. She did an excellent job:

Piecing a phonetic object box together from two boxes I had saved from one classroom or another I worked in was my morning task. As there is no way to laminate the materials here (although one reader suggested folding clear contact paper over the materials and I will be trying that soon), I spent a few minutes digging through the art supplies here and discovered a bag of small, wooden shapes. I pulled out several of a shape that made me think of labels for bead chains, got myself a permanent marker and went to work.

I have an even number of objects for the box, which is what I was taught in my training. However, the pig for the box has a wee broken leg that needs gluing, so it will join the others next week. I wrote in print on one side of the wooden labels and cursive on the other, as I do not know the reading skills / or levels of all the seniors who attend the Bridge.  They came out looking just fine:

Shortly after I put all of the materials into the refurbished phonetic object box, it was in use.

After he placed all of the prepared labels next to their matching objects, I handed him pre-cut strips of paper for him to write the words himself. He then replaced the wooden labels with his handwritten labels.

His labels; great work!

(for the lesson on how to present a phonetic object box to children see here: )


Here is how the Montessori "area" currently looks. I might move one tray to another shelf soon or add this or that, but all of the materials on the shelves have been presented and used by one senior or another at the Bridge. As a person-centered care program, each individual has a choice to participate or not. The number of those choosing to engaged the Montessori materials is, like the materials on the shelves, increasing. It's a good thing; such a good thing!

This is a large bookshelf. It is where most of the materials are housed.

Here are close-up photos of each of the six shelves and a description of the work on each shelf:

Shelves on the left in the photo above:

Top shelf (left to right) -

1. Contemporary art slides and viewer housed in a large brown box with gold trim. These are for art appreciation and art education.

2. Three bells that are used for the Bell Game - A Montessori Control of Movement Activity,

3. Tray with new classification cards - Constellations / Animal Families. (This tray will be moved to a language shelf when I get the second bookcase).

Middle shelf -

1. Leaf washing tray and extra supplies, which are housed in the nearby tin.

Lowest shelf -

1. Wood polishing tray and objects to be polished, as well as cloths for polishing.

Shelves on the right in the photo above (left to right):

Top shelf -

1. Science tray for magnetic / non- magnetic.

2. Two balancing eagles that were used in a Science for Seniors activity and are now available to experiment with independently.

Middle tray -

1. Silver polishing tray and objects to polish, as well as cloths for polishing.

Lowest shelf (left to right)

1. Phonetic object box.

2. Singular / Plural

3. Classification Cards - Phases of the Moon

4. A box holding a space for future work.

So that's it...wait, I need to move some things around again.  Tomorrow, I am presenting nutmeg work to a couple of the seniors! I have everything I need in my tote bag! Let the smell of nutmeg return to my day! Photos will be posted!