By Polli Soholt
Reflecting on my experiences as a Montessori practitioner as well as a consultant, I am always amazed at the various ways the Prepared Environment supports creative expression. Observing in various environments, I have seen many beautiful little touches in individual exercises that draw the child’s attention. In addition, many environments also have interesting artifacts and art prints that influence and enrich the child. One of the characteristics of our environments is that they are beautiful. The child’s Absorbent Mind incarnates this beauty, and it is expressed in many different ways. Sometimes they speak, write, sing, play games, or use art and craft materials to express themselves in areas of individual interest. The path to creative expression is paved with a beautiful environment and what is necessary and sufficient to enable them to explore their unique areas of interest in meaningful, creative ways.
When I consider the art and craft materials, I am delighted at how Montessori’s theory once again provides experiences for the children that support the development of every aspect of their lives. The children use their hands as an instrument of their minds just as they do with the moveable alphabet or by writing words with a pencil. I have witnessed children using paint, crayons, colored pencils, scissors, collage, and clay as their own extensions of other aspects of the environment which have been meaningful to them. It was amazing to see a child draw a series of pictures about Egypt and after coloring them, write some information about each picture to create a poster that outlined the information she had absorbed over a few weeks’ time about that country.
I learned from experience with the children that if we provide them with a few opportunities that introduce the art and craft skills, they will expand them as necessary in order to express themselves through art. I have observed children developing their skills with the art and craft experiences that began quite simply, allowing the child to learn how to use the individual types of art media. Once the skill was established, they were able to expand on it. The Montessori concept of exploration of the environment applies to these experiences as well. I have seen children going beyond the initial use of the crayons, scissors, paint, clay, and glue to create intricate work that reflected their other interests.
Early in my career working with the children, I learned about providing a place where the older, experienced children could collect various tools and supplies and combine them in any way that they wished to create even more elaborate projects. I was delighted and humbled by the art and crafts that these experienced children produced, given the appropriate tools and supplies, the freedom to explore with them, and the understanding that there was not one static way that these supplies and tools had to be used. It became clear to me that this work had a spiritual aspect to it, as it was a manifestation of the inner life of the child.
“We do not give lessons in drawing or in modeling, and yet many of our children know how to draw flowers, birds, landscapes, and even imaginary scenes in an admirable way. Our children very frequently adorn the pages of their writing or arithmetic with drawings, sometimes adding to a page of calculations the figure of a child in the act of writing, or surrounding it with a fantastic decorative border.” The Discovery of the Child, Maria Montessori. Fides: Notre Dame, 1967, p. 306
Join Polli on Saturday, April 23rd, 2016, from 9:30am-3:00pm, at Rainbow Bridge Montessori School for her workshop:
Creative Expression: Art Activities in the Children's House.
Polli Soholt is an AMI Primary trainer and consultant. She is a highly-regarded author and experienced Montessorian of over 40 years. Her writings on the classroom, parent education, and Montessori have been published in numerous journals. Polli is leading our Primary course in San Francisco, California.