Our School in “Lockdown” and Beyond

What an incredible journey we have all had together over the past few months, dealing with the restrictions of lockdown and our fear and sadness at the impact of the pandemic.

We couldn’t go to school, we couldn’t go out, we couldn’t see family and friends but here at the Maria Montessori School for 2-12-year-olds we kept a vital link going with our Montessori family, embracing the technology of Zoom. We met every weekday from 9 o’clock, sharing elusive concepts such as zero, the decimal system and the making of teens and tens, often with little more than bits of paper. We also shared poetry, stories and songs and used homemade Moveable Alphabets to write our words and sentences. We studied the amazing world we inhabit: its flora and fauna and human endeavours such as architecture, culture, agriculture and cities. We made our own clocks and learnt how to tell the time whilst looking at the history of clocks and Salvador Dali’s dripping melting clocks.

The children also benefitted from the experience of being at home and becoming contributing members of their household by performing tasks such as setting the table, writing shopping lists or folding laundry. They enjoyed playing games with their family or joining friends for activities on Zoom. Outside they helped with gardening tasks or created their own gardens. They also simply enjoyed listening to birdsong or observing bumble bees.

Now many of us are back at school and our classrooms are a little different: the shelves are in the middle and the tables are around the outside. Where we needed extra space at our Hampstead site a marquee has arisen in the garden and the children have made it their own: their place of learning, with joy, anticipation and giggles.

Our children could not wait to put their hands to work again with their much-loved Montessori materials. They have been making their own times table charts, world maps, chains of four and body maps with the vital organs that make up ‘us’.

Everyone has enjoyed being out of doors more than ever before. Children at our Hornsey Rise site are planting and caring for vegetables including tomatoes.

Children at all our sites have created wormeries in their gardens so they can peek underground and see first-hand the contribution of one of the smaller, but vital, inhabitants of the planet.

There is no greater universal sound than the steady hum of children’s voices and laughter, busy with purposeful activity. Maria Montessori said: “The teacher’s task, is first to nourish and assist, to watch, encourage, guide, induce, rather than to interfere, prescribe, or restrict.”  To see this in practice at our school, to help the children to help themselves, even in new and sometimes more challenging circumstances, is a joy to behold and a testament to the ongoing strength of Montessori principles and ethos, whether at home, in the classroom – or in a tent!

Karen Gelson
Acting Deputy Head of School and Lead Teacher at Hornsey Rise Children’s House