At the Parent’s Orientation, I overheard:

“Wow!  Are our kids really learning all this?” 

It’s a simple question.  Yet the look of incredulity and gratitude on the face of the parent asking it, had me surging me with Pride and Humility.

Pride because ILM is blessed with a dedicated team of the finest educators. Teachers who know how to nurture the spirit of curiosity and the love of learning.  Learning that is deep, immersive and meaningful.

Humility because I had forgotten what a beautiful experience learning can be.  Learning if done right is transformative.  Once you have learnt something, when you’ve truly owned it, you are not the same anymore.  You’ve evolved, you’re on a different path, you see the world with different eyes and you’ll never want to go back.  Witnessing that leaves me with immense gratitude and humility.

The objective of the Parent’s Orientation is to provide Parent’s an overview of what the children will learn over the year.  This is done by allowing the adults to enter the world of children. And walk away with an appreciation of how Montessori imparts concepts through simple activities instead of rote mugging.

The Orientation fully showcased why the students at ILM learn effortlessly and do not view the process as a chore. This is because the lessons are designed so that:
– There is a deep initiative to learn from the child, his or herself.
– The state of “Flow” – where time ceases to exist and the world recedes – is achieved.

Let’s take a look at how these presentations were conducted, what the parents learned in the process and why I am gushing so much right here. : )

Session 1: Buying the Presentations

At each Orientation, we try our level best to help the parents experience the learning, the emotions and the challenges their children’s face as they pick up new ideas and concepts.

This was no different.

To inculcate a spirit of value and a sense of financial responsibility in the children, our teachers at ILM have designed a system where everything that is used at school has to be bought.

Children are given fake foreign currencies of defined value and exact exchange rates.

The currencies used are changed every month. The currencies used at the Orientation were:
– Yen
– Maldives Rufiyaa
– Lira
– Dinar
– Russian Ruble

The Children are in charge of purchasing their own supplies at Indian prices, with these foreign currencies.

They not only do a lot of currency conversion math along the way they also broaden their perspective beyond the Rupee and start to recognise how global currencies interact.

The Teachers and Parents had numerous cute & hilarious anecdotes how the children became conscious of usage/wastage and displayed financially responsibility in school as well as daily life.

This was channelled into the Orientation. The parents – in the footsteps of their children – had to purchase their “lesson” (presentation) as well.

They got a live, first hand peek into how their little ones budget their funds and carefully manage the resources they consume. The mental agility that the children were developing to do this everyday – is really impressive!

Session 2: Chemistry – Stability in Diversity

I personally do not have fond memories of the Chemistry lessons at my school.

But then again, I did not have the privilege of a Montessori education.

Had my Chemistry explorations been this entertaining, I would not have missed a class. And I would have a deeper respect of why we as humans need others to thrive.

— You will get what I mean in a moment —

This presentation was akin to being shrunk by a cosmic ray and exploring the weird Quantum World up close.
Our teachers had drawn the atomic structure of different elements on the ground. The shells of these atoms were kept empty.

Parents were given pistachio shells to mimic electrons, and a set of rules applying which the different levels of electron shells had to be filled out.

It was fun doing this! But what was truly enlightening was the fact that these “elements” with empty outer shells were NOT stable.
They had to bond with other elements and create compounds capable of a stable existence.

As we created water and hydrogen chloride with other parents, we couldn’t help but wonder – how can chemistry be boring? How can a child forget this experience? After going through such a lesson, a child can’t help but look at the building blocks of the world around him in utter fascination.

Session 3: Astronomy – The Dark Side of the Moon

Scientists say that 45 percent of the surface of the moon is not visible from any part of Earth at any time. If that’s so, how do you teach that to children? If you were to teach that to your child, how would you do it?

I tell you how I would do it. I would show them pictures in a textbook. Or at best show them a YouTube video about it.

However, that’s not how it’s done at ILM Montessori.

At ILM, the children are given an assignment to:
– Observe their beloved “chanda mama” for 28 days straight
– Sketch what they see.

On doing so they’ve sketched the entire cycle, all the way from a New Moon, a Waxing Crescent, Waning Gibbous to a Full Moon and all the way back.

Following which they are asked to participate in the below Presentation that we went through as Parents. I will try my best to describe what the Presentation covered. But you had to be there to experience the magic of the lunar revolution, recreated by mortals.

Four parents crossed arms and became the earth. Someone held a hula hoop and was the moon. Someone held a torch in the dark room (because the moon is visible at night) and posed as the sun.

Since the moon completes one rotation around the earth in 28 days.
And it follows an elliptical orbit. The parent masquerading as the moon replicated this motion.

The parents who clustered as the earth rotated (as the earth does once every 24 hours) and observed how they could see the “moon”.
In doing so we experienced how:

  • We see just one Phase of the moon at any point in time.
  • The whole world sees the same Phase as the Earth rotates
  • Finally there is that far side of the moon that no one ever sees!

Straight out of a conspiracy theory, but we lived it. 

Session 4: Geometry – The Circle of Life

At my school, I was told what Pi is. And I was told that the formula of the circumference of a circle is 2*Pi*r and that of the area Pi*r squared.

At ILM children do not learn formulae. Nor do they arrive at them. The children at ILM get to step into the laboratories of the Archimedes and “discover” them.

The parents got a little taste of that through two presentations.
In the first one, they were given a compass and asked to draw random circles of different sizes.

Itty bitty ones, huge ones, and everything in between.

Then they used string to measure the circumferences and diameters of them all.
They observed that the ratio of the circumference to the diameter remained constant. This value is the famed Pi.
This is how we know that the circumference of any given circle is always Pi*d or 2*Pi*r.

The second presentation was more complex. They were asked to draw a circle, cut it out and then cut it up into 16 equal wedges (triangles). These wedges stacked tip to base alternately created the rough shape of a rectangle.
Now the base (length) of this rectangle was the radius of the original circle. And each side (height) was half the circumference.
Since the area of a rectangle is its Length * Height, this came to r*r*Pi or Pi*r square.

Here’s a quick YouTube video that explains this in under a minute.

There was a session on Languages – but that is a post for another time! 

This is a lot to take in. We left the Orientation in awe and gratitude, looking forward to yet another wonderful academic year for our children and ourselves at ILM Montessori.