The Junior Campus follows the Montessori method of education and focuses on the whole child approach. The Montessori principles address the physical, social, emotional, cognitive and the spiritual development of the child. Every Montessori classroom is a prepared environment – an environment that is structured, is developmentally appropriate, provides freedom of choice and scope to experience and internalize.
There are 10 Montessori environments. Each is a multi-age classroom with children from 3.5 to 6.5 years of mixed skill levels. Each environment has around 30 children with 2 certified Montessorians. There is also an Akka (support staff) in each environment to support the children when necessary. There are additional Akkas available on every floor to help the children through the campus. A Montessori environment has four primary areas of learning – Exercises of Practical Life, Sensorial, Language and Arithmetic. The Montessori materials are manipulative to different degrees and provide a bridge from concrete, experience-based learning to an understanding of the abstract.
Library, Yoga, Bhagavad Gita, Art & Craft, music and outdoor play are the other activities the children participate in, experience and explore. These give children ample opportunities for creative expressions and joyful experiences. Celebrations, house visits, field trips and carnivals are an integral part of the three-year learning journey.
Exercises of Practical Life (EPL)
“The organization of man has three parts – brains, muscles, senses. Movement is the final result to which the working of all these delicate mechanisms leads up. In fact, it is only through movement that the personality can express itself” – Dr. Maria Montessori in her book, The Absorbent Mind.
The aim of the EPL activities is to help the child in taking care of the self, taking care of the environment, taking care of social relations and also in learning early life skills. These activities help improve the child’s hand and eye coordination, increase control in the coordination of his movement and gain independence. Rolling and unrolling of the mat, pouring of grains from one container to another, opening and closing of containers, making of buttermilk and lime juice, cutting carrots, pounding pottukadalai(roasted Bengal gram), washing hands and washing chowkis are some of the activities offered under EPL. These activities help our Pre-Primary children settle in the environment and form a foundation for all other activities in the environment.
‘The senses are gateways to intelligence. There is nothing in intelligence that did not pass first through the senses.’ – Aristotle
The primary purpose of the Sensorial Activities is to help the child sort out the many and varied impressions given by our senses. The Sensorial materials help refine the visual (seeing), auditory (listening), olfactory (smelling), gustatory (tasting), baric (weight) , tactile (touch), thermic (change in temperature) and stereo-gnostic (feeling with the eyes closed) senses. Cylinder Blocks, Brown Stairs,Long Rods, Pink Tower,Colour Tablets, Noise Boxes are some of the materials in the Sensorial area. The materials follow a developmental succession and are scientific and precise.Control of error is inbuilt in the materials, this helps the child in self correction and thereby develops the child’s confidence and become independent. The child explores and discovers the concepts they have learnt through exploratory activities. Working with all the sensorial materials prepares the child for reading and writing.
‘There is in every child a painstaking teacher, so skillful that he obtains identical results in all children in all parts of the world. The only language men ever speak perfectly is one they learn in childhood, when no one can teach them anything!’ – Dr. Maria Montessori
Language starts from day one in the Montessori environment. The child comes with the language which he is not conscious of . The child needs to enrich and become conscious of this wealth of spoken language in him . To develop further, the child needs a prepared environment which enhances opportunities for direct as well as indirect learning.
Enrichment of vocabulary and phonemic awareness happens through storytelling, songs and rhymes, name lessons, picture cards, planned conversation and Sandpaper letters. The child is encouraged to express his ideas orally as well as in writing. Children are introduced to activities which help them understand and appreciate the world around them and to share their ideas and experiences with others. It is wonderful to see the ‘explosion’ into reading and writing happening in the Montessori environments.
‘Human intelligence is no longer a natural intelligence but a mathematical intelligence. Without a mathematical education, it is impossible to understand the progress of our time or to participate in it. In its natural state, the human mind is already mathematical; it tends towards exactness, measures and comparison.’ – Dr. Maria Montessori.
The abstract subject of math is given a concrete form through the materials created by Dr. Maria Montessori. When children are introduced to numbers, the quantity is given first and then the abstract concept of symbols. Children gradually learn to associate the symbols with the abstract concept. The child is introduced to the decimal system of numeration followed by the four basic operations namely addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, introduced through parallel exercises. The Arithmetic materials which are the means of development helps the child to get clarity of the concept. When these concepts get internalised it leads the child to carry out these operations independent of the material.
Both Tamil and Hindi are offered at an elementary level at Grade 1 to introduce both the languages during their formative years. The curriculum and learning activities are designed to focus on listening and speaking skills and to help children develop the vocabulary required for a strong foundation in the languages.
Transition from Pre-Primary to Primary
Children develop an environmental bonding over the period of 3 years at the Junior campus. The transition process is meticulously planned and thoughtfully supported in order to ease them into the new environment when they move into the Primary. A tour of the Senior Campus is arranged, with the Acharyas and their peers, to provide an experience of the new environment. Teachers from the Primary visit the Junior Campus for periods of observation to understand the children and the work pattern. This is followed by a detailed discussion between the primary teachers with the pre primary teachers to understand and plan the curriculum for the upcoming year. The curriculum ensures a smooth transition taking into account the literacy and numeracy skills learnt in Pre-Primary.
Observations of individual children’s overall development is shared with the primary teachers to understand each child better and to support the children in their progress. During their early days at the Primary, the pre-primary Acharyas visit them to connect with them, make them feel comfortable and at ease.
A homeroom system is followed in the Primary, to maintain similar trust and bonding between the acharyas and the children as they had experienced in the Junior campus.
Bhagavad Gita chanting is a tradition at Hari Shree and a regular activity in the Junior Campus. Chanting has a plethora of benefits. Among them is its intrinsic ability to calm the mind and induce rhythm, politeness and togetherness. It is also believed to strengthen memory, concentration and improve diction.
All festivals are celebrated with great joy and fervour. Parents and grandparents are invited to participate in some of the festivities.
Sports Carnival has children playing games in a carnival set-up. The aim is to create a fun atmosphere for children where they can employ their abilities of coordination, dexterity and skills to play games, at a pace comfortable to them. The school believes in a no-competition approach where even sports is an opportunity to participate and work together. Turn-taking, patience and unhurried activities, the fulfilment and joy of completing a task, collaboration and teamwork are skills that the children learn through these sports activities.
There are no winners or losers, only very happy children.
Based on the week’s theme/topic, short field trips are organized to places like the nearby supermarket, post office, fire station, park for children to have experiential learning. An annual field trip is organized for each grade level to an age-appropriate destination. It provides concrete experiences for the children to explore and observe.
House Visits to peers’ houses are planned every term for the children. During circle time acharyas have a brief discussion on how the children will need to conduct themselves while visiting their friend’s house. Children express their gratitude to the hosts by creating a handmade memento. Such opportunities provide children to learn to present themselves, to exchange courtesies and to share their goodies like toys and food.
Parent Child Program
The parent child program was conceived by Pujya Swami Dayanada Saraswati. Separating the child from the parent at a very early age causes emotional trauma. The pain impacts their relationships and how they perceive life.
Swamiji advised people not to send children to school at a very early age. In this era of accelerated growth, children are sent to school very early but the presence of parents along with the children is necessary at an early age. The parent-child program at Hari Shree, where the parent accompanies the child to school for the Pre-Primary years is designed to help the parents and children overcome the separation anxiety.
Research shows that a mother is the basis of a child’s exploration of the world. The human child, unlike other animals, has a long period of dependency – almost up to seven years – before moving on to independent exploration. The reason for the dependency is not just psychological or emotional but biological – organisation of the sensory information into perception – laying a strong foundation for future development. Once the child is ready he/she can move on to explore the world around with confidence and power. This transition is successful, only if the child has an unquestioned safe place to instantly return to. Thus, respecting and co-operating with nature’s plan of 3 billion years of evolution leads to full development of intelligence.
Hence a healthy bonding between parent and a child is an absolute necessity to develop a healthy relationship with people, regulate emotions and perform better academically and socially.
Transition from Home to School
Learning to be apart from family, even for a few hours, is a tough transition for a young child. It can cause intense pain and anxiety. Some children exhibit it explicitly, while others do not. However, all children go through this developmental phase of separation anxiety. They outgrow it gradually by 5 years. Intense separation anxiety can lead to anxiety disorder due to increased sensitivity of the Limbic system, and learning and memory impairment due to reduced growth of hippocampus.
The new school environment, with new adults and peers can be overwhelming for a child. However, it is in the inherent nature of the child to play and explore. Even if the school is a safe and joyful environment, the child still feels the absence of the parent. It is a mixture of complex emotions that he cannot express. At the end of the day, the child may exhibit happiness on seeing his/her parent. It is out of relief to be back with them and assurance that he/ she is not abandoned.
The parent of a Pre-Primary 1 child comes to school for a period of one month and stays in school during the school hours for the child to have trust in the environment. Whenever the child wants to see the parent, the parent can come to the environment to assure the child and help the child to settle with his work. This gives the child the assurance that he / she is safe and not abandoned and the school environment is not a threat.
Parents are also allowed to be in the environments if and when their presence will help the child settle. Parents’ presence makes the children feel safe. They feel assured that they are secure in a new environment and feel supported by their parents.
Parents have an opportunity to learn about culture, parenting, Montessori education, theatre, yoga and many other subjects of interest when they are in school through the programs organised for them.
This program thereby helps both the parent and the child.
How can the Parent be Supportive during the Program
Parents being emotionally available for the child when the child comes to the parent is a major source of support for the child. The child comes to see the parent because he /she needs the parent’s attention for various reasons. They need the assurance that they are loved and safe. This time may be as short as a few seconds, a few minutes or longer.
When we force the child to go back to the classroom the entire purpose of the parent program is defeated.
The child not coming to see the parent during the class hours is not an indication that the child does not need the parent. The child knows the parent is available, that knowledge that ‘my parent is available and I can visit them anytime’ gives a sense of security and allows the child to play and learn to the fullest.
The parent-child program started off as a six-month program and is now a one-month program.
When the child needs more support, parents are encouraged to stay for a longer period of time.
This period is an opportunity for parents to interact with other parents. This also strengthens the bond between the children and helps in forming a community.
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