I first heard the story of Hugo De Vries and the butterfly larvae in the context of the sensitive periods while in training – I still have the notes I furiously scribbled down at the time. In the decades since, I have heard the story repeated in other training courses. A few years ago, I set out on a quest to find the primary source for this reference – not Dr. Montessori’s writings, but the original work by De Vries. With so many scientific publications having digitized their archives, I was sure that I would be able to find the original paper. I was surprised, however, that I could find only Montessori literature that made any reference to Hugo De Vries, the sensitive periods and the Porthesia butterfly.
AMI trainers are having spirited discussions about this topic and I feel that everyone should feel encouraged to explore and experiment as to what ‘Montessori All Day’ can be in a culture such as ours in the 21st century.
There were only three elementary programs in Portland at the time this article was written, yet eight people showed up to the first meeting of SEEDS. It was the most concentrated local Elementary event our city had ever seen!
Recently, as part of the foundations course, our elementary students divided into groups to study and discuss different aspects of the Exercises of Practical Life. Following their discussion, each group organized the information and created a presentation of key points to share with their classmates. The students presented on the history of Practical Life, the different sections of Practical Life, the characteristics of the materials, and the importance of key elements like points of interest and analysis of movement. At MNW, we understand that students learn a great deal by explaining their ideas to others and by participating in activities in which they can learn from their peers. Learning with and from each other is a necessary and important aspect of building a positive learning community.
Recently, our primary summer course students explored variations with the Sensorial materials. When we speak of variations, we refer to something which the child does spontaneously out her own activity with the material. These spontaneous inventions are an important aspect of the child’s interactions with the materials; they result from the discoveries she is making based in the purposes of the activity. Variations are never shown to the child – this would rob the child of the joy and certainties of her own discoveries.