Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Sweeping and Dusting Lessons: care for the environment exercises in the Montessori preschool

Care of the Environment
They begin to care for the environment because of the irresistible urge to develop movement and the development of the will. The child needs to care for their environment as a critical developmental activity. In response, we prepare the means of development and link the children to the activity according to her needs. Consider activities such as dusting and sweeping.

For the activity of sweeping, children need the dustpan and trashcan. There are two separate skills to teach children—sweeping together the dust, then dumping the trash away. We present the use of the broom and dustpan separately, to break down constituent components. It needs to be similar to brooms used in her culture. Analyze every step in the sequence of actions. Analyze your movements at each step, to exaggerate for demonstration.

Look for dustpans that sit directly on the floor, handheld. The hand brush should be slightly narrower than the pan. Observe the edge being flush with the floor. Observe the stiffness of the bristles—firm is for outdoors or carpet, and soft is for hard indoor floors. For beauty, the brooms, brush, and pan should hang on hooks with cord through the holes, about an inch from the floor.

You will want to demarcate the area on the floor for sweeping, like tape of a certain area, to visually focus the area that they will be sweeping while gaining the skill. Instead of using the little jar of soil, you could also use hole punches or collected dry leaves and flowers from houseplants.
In contrast to the dustpan and brush that is for the floor, also look for one that will be on the table. Two to three brooms and dustpans per class would be appropriate.

Fold the dusters from a square of cloth with a star in the middle. Show the child how to fold all the  corners in toward the star. Then, repeat a second time with *those* additional corners being drawn in. It is grasped in the middle. The table is prepared with “dust” or dirt on it. After wiping all the edges of the surface toward the child and going down the edge, and then going down the long side. The flannel side should be making the contact. They will bundle the soil/dust on their way to the trash, unfold it, and start again as a triangle. It has a potential to connect them with nature entering the house.

Once the child has mastered these skills as an isolated practice, you can make it more complex by allowing a child to dust a complex surface, or the interior of a surface, rather than just a flat surface. How do you dust the moveable alphabet box? How do you dust the pink tower? Additionally, allow them to complete sweeping in conjunction to varieties of spills and soil, perhaps after coming in from recess or after snacks. You can add additional dusting tools to increase the complexity, in actual environmental situations. When you have the natural cycle of activity, at the end of the day, an assistant or two will go around sweeping and picking up piles. Students will reset the order of the shelves, dust individual objects, and plants. Every object in the room should be cleaned once a month, and the child who has been using a specific material and loves it and wants to care for it will receive a lesson on how to clean that material. 

Jeannot Jonte Boucher is a Montessori educator and parent in Dallas, Texas. 

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