In her book To Educate the Human Potential, Dr. Montessori said, “It’s only after you learn something that formative activity begins.” This is what we see all day long in the Elementary classroom – formative activity. This formative activity is the “Great Work” that is often referred to when discussing the psychological characteristics of children aged six through twelve. At our recent Parent Day, we discussed these characteristics. Great Work refers to what the children do after they know the mechanics of a material. Geometry is an area where a significant amount of Great Work occurs.
When I was growing up, Geometry was one of my least favorite subjects because we were required to memorize formal proofs and theorems. Everything was taught out of a textbook and there were never opportunities for actual manipulation of materials. Our Montessori students are so fortunate because they are able to use concrete materials to explore complicated laws and theorems. They are able to do so sensorially and through this are able to make connections between the patterns and relationships they discover. This encourages the development of logical and deductive reasoning and allows for the abstraction of knowledge.
In the last year, members of our classroom have been exploring more handwork options. The work of the hand expands the creativity of the students and they are able to realize a great deal about form and structure, as you can see in the photos. These particular students received lessons about the Geometric Solids. They became very familiar with the materials and then were able to recreate the various solids using toothpicks. This was very precise work – requiring a great deal of measurement as well as abstract thought. The students working on this project made each solid into a beautiful and themed piece of art, which shows the depths of their creativity and imagination. They will have their work on display in the classroom if anyone would like to stop by and learn more about their Great Work.
Blog post written by: Rachel Webb, CMS Elementary Directress