Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Montessori and the Elderly - Practical Life Activites

The list of practical life activities to be performed by the seniors at the Bridge, an adult day program for the elderly, is growing. Yesterday, I brought with me to work a rug sweeper I bought for a $1 at our local salvation army: called Sallies by locals. Before I made the purchase, I stood in the store and looked it up and down while I imagined the happy faces of those who would soon be using it. Too, I thought about a few of the seniors that wander and wondered if rug sweeping might provide them an opportunity to feel useful via a domestic work that they may be familiar with while providing them movement. I grabbed it, paid for it and brought it to work on Monday morning. My boss looked a me as I carried it in, smiled and said, "I got it. Great idea. They are going to love it." And yes they did. But before I post pictures of that work, I want to share with you two other practical life activities frequently done by the seniors at the Bridge.

Too, I ask that you allow me to edit another well known Maria Montessori quote which reads, “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed." My amended version reads, "Never help any individual with a task at which they feel they can succeed." As in the classroom, the greatest obstacle to the success of the seniors is the desire for the staff to "assist" them or to do the work themselves. Let them do it themselves, but yes, it's OK to stand near; how else would I have taken all my photographs. That becomes my activity and it gives my hands something to do instead of so call assisting; I take photographs.

Cloth folding is done every morning:

Salt shakers are filled as needed:

and the lids are polished:

Finally, rugs are cleaned:

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Collage Art with the Elderly - "I live in all these clams."

Today the art project was designed to celebrate Earth Day which was Monday. Magazines were handed out to the seniors along with a single piece of white, art paper by our local Alzheimer's educator. She invited the seniors to cut out images that celebrated something about life on earth. Everyone's came out great. Here are two of them below:

I noticed the work of one of the seniors who I have posted about before. She is from an island here in S.E. Alaska. She lived with her large extended family in a smoke house near the water. Her collage was composed of images of clams and of clamming.

What really caught my eye was what she wrote on the bottom of her paper,

"I live in all these clams."

After I read her words out loud, she looked up at me and said,

"Yes, I live in all these clams; my memories do. 
I really miss living that way. I want to go back home."

Friday, April 19, 2013

Chapbook of Poetry and Art by the Elderly at the Bridge

I am so excited! The first chapbook of poetry and art created at the Bridge has been printed! The seniors at the Bridge were surprised to see their names under their pieces, but their response was simply, "Can my family have copies?" "Yes," was the response from all the staff here. Not every senior that attends the Bridge has entries in the chapbook simply because some had no interest in participating in the those activities. In a person centered care facility, the senior elects what activities they chose to participate in.

The chapbook is such an amazing collection. I will share more this weekend, but today I simply want to celebrate its printing.  Yahoo!

Oh and yes, the cover art was done by one of the seniors...

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Montessori pioneer Mother Francine Cardew dies

Franciscan Mother Francine Cardew, a pioneer in Portland Montessori schools, died this week. Mother Francine helped establish Southeast Portland’s Franciscan Montessori Earth School in 1977. The school’s basic philosophies melded the experiential learning ideas of Maria Montessori with the earthy and peace-focused spirituality of St. Francis of Assisi. Mother Francine stepped down from her post as leader at the school in 2008, but continued to serve by building the school’s endowment. She lived with the Franciscan sisters in Bridal Veil and was a member of St. Henry Church in Gresham. Mother Francine did post-graduate work at Georgetown University and held a master’s degree in education from the University of Portland. The Oregon Montessori Association named her principal of the year for 2003. In 1993, Associated Oregon Industries Foundation selected her as principal of the year for all of Oregon. She served on Portland’s Archdiocesan Pastoral Council and held posts in national Montessori associations. In the mid-1970s, she served as associate superintendent of elementary education for the Archdiocese of Portland. She held a similar post in the Archdiocese of Vancouver, B.C., where she was also a member of the Royal Commission on Education and a lecturer on Canada’s Catholic education system.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Practical Life with the Elderly - Nutmeg Grating (My 300th Post)

Today this senior simply walked in, hung up her coat, turned to me and said, "What do you have for me to do today?" We were walking arm and arm moments later to the back table. I got out the nutmeg grating materials and she got busy.

I really have no more words to describe her work because this short video captures it all. Enjoy.

 "I don't mess around..."

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Over The Rainbow - Art with the Elderly

A rainbow or snowbow, as someone recently called one when it was...well, yes, snowing out, is such a favorite image to paint by artist of all ages. That was the project led by the art instructor from our local Alzheimer's Association this past week. I even painted one. What was truly wonderful was just how different each of them came out. Some chose the traditional, pastel colors associated with the rainbow and others adjusted that palette by electing to add the colors that appealed to them that moment. One participant added words to hers and it reminded me of an art book I had seen years ago at Whitney Art Gallery in NYC.

Before the instructor started the activity, she played a CD of Judy Garland singing her classic version of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow." So participants could sing along, she passed out copies of the lyrics to each of them. This was a wonderful way to get everyone in a rainbow painting mood.

Here are a few of the paintings done by the seniors. I added my box kite version of a rainbow held by a seafaring me on the small sailboat I hope to own one day. No pot of gold for me. I want a boat to catch the wind in and to sail across Alaska's bountiful bodies of water.

Paintings done by the seniors:



 My box kite rainbow:

Two more paintings done by two different seniors:


Leaf Washing 2 - Botany for the Elderly

This woman's love for this work is palpable. I can feel her joy when I stand near her as she cares for the plants. I invite you to view these photos, watch this short video and to feel that joy also. Yet, too, she has a deeply felt connection to the plants and feels that they are God's creations.  She feels, and you can see it in the expressions on her face and in her posture, she is in service to the plants, to their care and well being. She apologized to one of the plants when she accidentally tore one of its leaves and had to remove it. She said she was sorry that she caused it harm. Her conduct recalls Christina Rossetti's famous poem:

Hurt No Living Thing

Hurt no living thing:
Ladybird, nor butterfly,
Nor moth with dusty wing,
Nor cricket chirping cheerily,
Nor grasshopper so light of leap,
Nor dancing gnat, nor beetle fat,
Nor harmless worms that creep.

While she was digging into the center of the plant to ensure that she had gotten every leaf, she came across a lovely surprise:

After a moment or two, she continued with her work. We have decided to clean and paint the bird next week. She will then return it to the plant and pot.

She raised up two leaves and said to me, "See the difference. They love it. Look how beautiful they are. Emerald green is the color I see when I see them like this; like beautiful jewels."

She stretched out the length of the plant and washed each leaf as if she was washing the small palms of infants' hands. 

The Montessori methodology is for individuals of all ages.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Mystery Bag - Objects / Sensorial Activities for the Elderly

A few posts ago I wrote that I was about to go on a hunt for a beautiful bag to use as a second mystery bag; this time for objects. I was also going to go on a hunt for the first set of objects to go in the bag. Always rotate or exchange objects in mystery bags and in various other work such as magnetic/non-magnetic. I just put several different magnets on the tray last week and took away a few. This keeps the materials interesting and draws their attention.

My treasure hunt began at the local Salvation Army. I found the bag and the basket there. The objects were found at the thrift, mostly in my home and at work. I put the tray together or basket and added it to the shelves. When the work did come off the shelf, it did so with the coin mystery bag. Seeing that they were similar reassured the senior that he would enjoy this work and that he was capable of doing this work.

I also re-demonstrated how to place a tissue onto the blindfold before putting it on so as to reduce the spread of eye infections.

He pulled one object from the bag, felt it with both hands and then named it.

He named them all correctly but one; the shell.

In the bag there is: a cotton ball, an eraser, a child sized silver fork and spoon, a child sized pair of scissors, a shell, a silver bracelet and ring and a length of ribbon.

Here is the link to the lesson outline for the mystery bag. Just adjust the age to all ages : )
Montessori Primary Guide - Mystery Bag Lesson.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Art with the Elderly + Complete the Picture

Every other week, a couple of the staff and I run an art activity with the seniors. I came across various ideas on the web that used either part of a photograph or a cut out image from a magazine (click link for an ex.). The participant completes the picture adding what they feel is missing. They may add a tail to a cat or they may give it wings. This is their choice.

There is a well know story about Maria Montessori visiting a school and observing children drawing a picture of a cow. She noted one young girl was coloring her cow purple. Maria approach the child and stated in a very respectful way that she was interested in why the girl had chosen to paint the cow purple. The girl answered in a very matter of fact way, "Because God forgot to make purple cows." And there it is in a nutshell...

For my prep work, I scoured magazines for images, cut a dozen or so out, cut off pieces of the images so that the seniors could reconstruct them as they artistically chose to and then glued the remaining pieces of the images to large sheets of white paper. Here are two examples:

I was excited about the project, but wanted to also include a simpler, introductory art activity so that the seniors had a good understanding of the concept of completing a picture or image. For the more advanced artists in our group, I often refer to introductory work as simply a warm up exercise such as athletes do before playing.

I returned to the web and found exactly what I wanted. Basic images of well known animals that required completion. Here is one example:

For these printables go here.

So here are the works of a few of the seniors. The first group is of the completed printables noted above:

I had to add a close-up of this remarkable piece:

Here are photos of several of the collage pieces done by the seniors, myself and another staff member. 

Art work by seniors:

The dog was finished by another staff member:

My elephant:

The rooster below is the art work of one of the seniors. I want to note the eggs below the rooster. The senior said to me when she saw me observing her drawing, "I know that roosters don't lay eggs. I'm not that feeble minded. But, I want my rooster to have eggs. This is my art and so I am going to give my rooster eggs." And so she did.