Isn’t this unbearably cute? A tiny tot, all decked up in an important green apron! And giving his best to the task of scrubbing his classroom windows. And that too of his own accord. Of the many things that I find fascinating about the Montessori Method, is its ability to engage little ones in the most basic activities with full dedication and focus.
Learning is most certainly not limited to Language and Mathematics. A student should never develop a blinkered approach to education. There is learning in everything. That’s what makes Maria Montessori such a genius. Her Montessori method is so holistic and wholesome to the development of a child’s character. Other than Language, Arithmetic, Culture the “traditional” subjects, there is an entire section that’s dedicated to the “Exercises of Practical Life” or EPL.
What are these Exercises of Practical Life?
Practical life Exercises are just that, they are Exercises that a child can learn how to do everyday living activities in a meaningful and purposeful way.
The Exercises of Practical Life are divided into three main areas:
- Care of the Person: Here children learn skills to help them be independent. Skills such as buttoning, zipping, washing etc.
- Care of the Environment: Activities include pouring, sweeping, cloth folding, dish washing, taking care of plants and animals.
- Grace and Courtesy: These are all about the art of social interactions. Walking, sitting, greeting others, manners, how to interrupt a teacher or another child.
It’s my environment so I’m going to keep it clean!
One of the primary activities of Taking Care of the Environment is Cleaning. Cleaning is such a wonderful practice. It gives ILMites a sense of purpose and accountability. When I see the tiny tots all spic and span in their aprons, striding towards the sprays and rags with a sense of determination, it really makes my day. They don’t have to be pushed into what they do. The drive and the motivation come from within.
As the kids sweep away fallen leaves, wash their cutlery, mop the floor and scrub the windows till they sparkle, one can almost hear them thinking, ‘This is my school. It is my responsibility to make it shine and that I will. You better not do anything to sully it!’
You should come visit us . It is a once in a lifetime experience to witness the great discipline of the little ones.
What are the other lessons when learning to Clean?
However cleaning isn’t just about characteristic traits like pride and ownership. It plays a very important role in honing organization skills, focus and concentration and the ability to follow instructions that are multi-step.
The whole practice is far more challenging and rewarding than any exam where the only thing tested is the proficiency of the student at rote learning.
- Each cleaning activity needs the kids to follow a sequence of activities – choosing equipment – selecting objects and areas to clean – avoiding jostling partners – keeping away the rags, mops and bottles. This improves the power of concentration and cognitive awareness.
- There is attention to detail and creativity. A stubborn spot may not be reachable with the regular mop. Maybe they need to switch to the one with an extended handle? And where can they get it? Ask the supervising teacher of course.
- Kids test themselves out in real world scenarios where they must make conscious, logical decisions.
- There is organisation and completeness. The activity doesn’t end at just the cleaning. It’ ends when the cleaning brushes, rags and sprays are stored appropriately after the task is done. And the cleaning itself must be of a certain ‘standard’.
- Children feel independent. And indeed grown up. They see their parents regularly engage in these activities and they realize that they have the strength and the control required to carry them out. And well! This is a huge confidence booster.
- Cleaning requires energy. It exerts the body and is a great break from mental stimulation.
- Little ones develop a sense of accomplishment at a job concluded satisfactorily. There is no adult intervention. They learn to start the project (say scrubbing the floor) and end it – all on their own.
- And most importantly, they get valuable co-operation lessons as they share the same set of cleaning implements and often defer to their classmates wishes by letting them clean a window they had initially marked for themselves.
This quote from Montessori Services sums up the many benefits of something as simple as cleaning very effectively:
“A basic premise behind Maria Montessori’s philosophy of early childhood education was that every child is eager for work, even when the work seems like chores to the adult. Through the activities of Practical Life, children not only perform a task; they are also forming foundations on which to organize skills and intelligence. Nowhere is this premise more evident than in Washing and Scrubbing exercises. Through these activities, children develop concentration, become aware of order and sequencing, gain control over their movements, become more independent, and learn to care for their surroundings.”
If the citizens of India can master the importance of cleanliness, the lesson of co-operation and the magic of hard work and focus, the future is sparkling, indeed : ).