by Michelle Becka
Do you remember the description that Montessori offers in The Discovery of the Child, in which the Golden Bead materials that she had originally designed for the Elementary children instead became adored and cherished by the 4 and 5 year olds in the Primary classroom? Anyone who has worked in a school serving multiple levels can attest to the power of having Elementary classrooms in sight of Primary age children; the level of intrigue that the younger have for the older children, the love and affection for their “old” environment that the Elementary have for their former Primary classroom, it is such a fabulous opportunity for cross pollination.
This cross pollination is actively occurring at MNW, and in fact is one of the many benefits of our facility, in which all three levels of training are offered in the same building. Recently, Sarah Werner Andrews, one of the Primary Trainers, who is also Elementary trained, offered the Primary students a lesson on the Pythagorean Theorem. This lesson employs the Constructive Triangles, which in the Primary are used for language and sensorial exploration. Once the child is in Elementary, the same triangles are used to prove the Pythagorean Theorem. The Primary students were excited to see this connection and to get a glimpse of what the child experiences once they leave the Casa.
Another great connection was made when one of the Elementary students shared the story of The Coming of Life with the Primary course. The students hung onto Katie’s every word as she dramatically described how it all began! Afterwards, we had a brief discussion about how the mind of the Second Plane child is different from that of the First Plane, and we decided we would love to meet again to hear the next story in the series.
Montessori saw this work as Education for Life, and it is so excellent to be able to see the larger picture; to train at one level, yet still get little insights into where the child has been, and where they are heading, on their path of self-construction.
Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Michelle Becka obtained her BA in Sociology from The University of Arizona in 1994. After moving to Portland, she discovered Montessori education. She attended Montessori (Institute) Northwest when it was located in Oregon City, and graduated with her Primary Diploma from MNW and her Masters in Education from Loyola University Maryland in 1997. Michelle worked as a Primary teacher for 17 years at Childpeace Montessori in NW Portland, and became a Primary Trainer at MNW in 2017. Over the years, she has done many workshops on topics such as non-violent communication, positive phrasing, helping children solve conflict, and yoga with children.