Arts at BCMS
[The child’s] environment must be such that it can arouse in him a feeling for, and an understanding of, music.
- Maria Montessori, The Discovery of the Child
Music education and appreciation begin at the very start of a child’s time at Brush Creek Montessori School. In the Saplings classroom, toddlers sing simple songs at circle time, the teacher plays soothing music from a variety of composers and artists during work time, and the children explore rhythm and sound by playing percussion instruments. Also, Nick Simmons, our very own ukulele teacher, comes in once a week with a variety of instruments to sings songs with the little ones.
In Amber and Redwood (Primary) classrooms, music is an integral part of the curriculum and the students have access to special materials for understanding and using the Diatonic (Western) scale. Students learn to match tones and begin the process of music reading. As in the toddler classroom, the children sing songs at circle time, and a variety of composers and musical artists are featured during the work time. When the students are ready, they are given the opportunity to study the similarities and differences between classical composers’ work. The students learn to use a variety of instruments and to read rhythm charts.
In our Eucalyptus (Lower Elementary) classroom, music study and appreciation continue to intensify and develop. June Lee Saler works with the children twice a week to continue the work on rhythm and note reading that students began in Primary, but they now use the flute-like recorder to play simple songs and rhythms. Choral singing is introduced and the students are encouraged to research composers from a variety of cultures and historical periods. Musical performance is introduced and the students have opportunities to demonstrate their skills during special events and festivals. The students take field trips to musical performances at venues such as the Green Center at Sonoma State University to encounter live, professional music.
Finally, in Sequoia classroom, at the Upper Elementary level, students’ work in music study is continued in the BCMS band. Students choose an instrument that appeals to them and are expected to practice to continue to improve their skills. June Lee Saler comes once a week to teach ukulele, and students get to practice their band instruments twice per week. Choral singing continues and is refined, reflected in wonderful performances at special occasions. Field trips to live music performances help inspire and reinforce the knowledge and skill set the students have been building since the beginning of their time here at BCMS.
If we try to think back to the dim and distant past…what is it that helps us reconstruct those times, and to picture the lives of those who lived in them? It is their art…It is thanks to the hand, the companion of the mind, that civilization has arisen.
- Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind
The visual and sculptural arts are also integrated into the Montessori curriculum at all levels. From the children’s earliest days in the a Montessori classroom, students are exposed to and coached on a variety of media to explore and refine their understanding of how the various media look as they are being used. The Saplings children get to see a variety of different art works hung on the walls, in books, and created by themselves and their peers. Refinement of hand/eye coordination helps the child become more and more successful at creating an image they want to make.
Art continues to be ever-present in the Amber and Redwood classrooms: a variety of images, some from famous artists, decorate the walls of the classroom. Beautiful sculptures and other visual arts are lovingly collected by the teacher to place in the classroom to inspire the creative urge in our students. The proper way to use a variety of media (including crayons, colored pencils, markers, paint, clay, paper, etc.) expands the child’s opportunity to express themselves through the visual arts. Our art teacher, Lillian Myers, visits our Primary classrooms one morning per week to work with small groups on special projects. In the classroom, material that helps them refine their skill at discriminating color, shape, size, depth, texture and volume are available and presented to the children when they show they are ready. Students are able, through specially prepared materials, to distinguish famous works of art, artists, artistic styles and schools. This provides for a foundation for further study in the Elementary level.
During their time in Eucalyptus and Sequoia classrooms, students continue to build skills in a variety of artistic media and techniques with Lillian. These techniques are employed in research and other projects, when visual aids are useful in demonstrating a student’s knowledge of the subject. Study of art history is introduced to help the students understand how art fits into the context of our culture. Students take field trips to museums, galleries, sculpture gardens and more to further their understanding and appreciation of the visual arts.
All people are human beings with imaginations. Imagination is something great which reflects the light and asks for enlargement.
- Maria Montessori, The Child, Society and the World
Through dramatic play and games, Toddlers and Primary children learn expressive language to help relay their feelings, wants and needs to the other people in their lives. Teachers use role-play to model the behavior they like to see in the classroom. Children use dolls and dress up clothes to pretend to be the caring adults they see in their own lives, or characters they’ve seen in books or other media. Once per week, our Drama teacher Lillian Myers, brings music, costumes and games to the preschool environments to further exploration of movement, feelings and expressive language.
In our Elementary program, drama and theater become serious topics of discussion and practice. The children explore the dramatic arts both through time and across cultures, and act out stories and plays. Instead of celebrating Halloween, we celebrate Day of Honor - each child chooses, researches, and prepares a monologue performance based on the life of a historical person they admire. Each year, under the direction of Megan Watt, the Elementary classrooms (sometimes together, sometimes separately) perform a play to showcase their work in theatrical arts. The students help with the design and decoration of sets, costumes and scripts. As with all areas within the Montessori environment, the Dramatic Arts build and reinforce other curricula in the classroom; language arts, music, fine arts, history, mathematics, science, social studies, physical movement and more are all incorporated in the Drama program.