Artfully Montessori: Children Celebrate the Season of the Trees!

THIS SENTIMENTAL SEASON OF COLORFUL LEAVES IS A GREAT TIME TO EXPLORE THE MAGIC OF TREES WITH YOUNG CHILDREN! There are "family trees" and tree families...trees that grow rings for each year of life and the wonderful "sister tree" that the little ones can care for in the Children's Garden!

All photos in this article are by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company

A few days ago, I walked into one of the Montessori classrooms where I teach music, and I was welcomed by a darling display of the children's hand made "family trees." The entry to the classroom was papered with these giant collages the children had made that represented their families in the form of "trees." 

Each child had cut shapes out of large sheets of brown paper and then put the shapes together to form their own unique tree, complete with a trunk, several branches, and sometimes even roots! 

Fortunately, these children could actually use Montessori materials like the brown prisms, red rods and the leaf cabinet insets to construct their collages. Their family members were portrayed as leaves on the "family trees" and some of the children even drew a rendition of each person on each leaf!

I found this "family tree person" (pictured above) very unique and delightfully enchanting!

It looks like one of the children decided to create a more organic form for the branches of the "family tree" pictured below. I love the ingenious arrangement of the leaves. The dad in the family is towards the top of the tree and then the mom is a little lower and the child is even lower situated next to a little "tree house."

The family tree pictured below has a sort of swirling wind in the background and the "dad" and "Henry" are attached to form the shape of a heart. Don't you just love the 3-d branch that is curled and projecting out from the collage!

I think the appeal of using giant pieces of paper to construct these art collages, is the dramatic impact they have when they are all grouped together along the walls of the classroom. It's like a "forest of family trees!"

I was impressed that the teachers in this group had designed this activity as a late afternoon project and how beautifully the children executed their art even though they were a bit tired by this time of day. Such an engaging activity!

To go along with the beginning of the year curriculum that is often typical in the Montessori environment, these "family trees" were a great extension. This group had already been working on the concept of understanding the self through self-portraits, the study of the human body, and developing self care skills like hanging jackets and washing their dishes after eating. And, we teachers all agree that an important part of  young children's images of themselves is their families and how they identify with them.

Years ago, when I was teaching in an ECE program at the American College in San Francisco, I was introduced to this great children's book pictured below. My student who brought me a copy of the book, was in a same sex marriage and she had a beautiful little boy who was what she called "their miracle baby!" This lovely children's book has examples of a great variety of family structures, including gay couples and their children.   

 This book is available at Amazon: Who's in a Family at Amazon Books

All Families Are Special is another one of my favorites about diversity within communities as well as within families. These books that touch on just about every type of family configuration are important to place in the child's environment. Families take so many different forms!

This book is available at Amazon: All Families Are Special at Amazon Books

Back to trees! The Montessori curriculum has so many resources for children to really study trees from a scientific, yet age-appropriate standpoint. 

Knobbed puzzles of trees and their parts are attractive to the very youngest children as well as the older ones. As the child develops skills, the tree puzzle pieces can be traced, colored in, pin-poked and then pasted together onto an art paper background for a beautiful botanical arts display.

There are lovely Montessori leaf & tree identification cards to carefully examine and match or categorize. Just about the most popular activity in all the Preschool groups I have taught over the past 20 or so years, has been the "Parts of..." Booklets. Below, is a 4 yr old working on his "Parts of the Tree" book.

4 yr old constructing her "Parts of the Tree" booklet

Four yr. old girl: "I'm proud of my Parts of the Tree book!"

Many children love to count the rings of a cutdown tree trunk to see how old the tree was. The Montessori activity pictured below has little number label cards set up as a math activity for counting the rings of the tree stump. The number cards are actually plant labels from the garden shop. The pointed ends are perfect to place next to the rings as they are being counted. 

Young children are always looking for accurate information about the world around them, and tree identification guide books should definitely be part of the early childhood environment.  I have found that the Fandex series, including the Trees one pictured below are really fun for children. I always laminate the individual cards before I attach them to the Fandex ring so that children can handle them over and over again without tearing or bending the cards. Sometimes, I put only a few of the cards on the ring. For Preschool aged children, I put no more than 10 cards at a time on the ring and I choose trees that the children will see in the neighborhood. For even younger children, I put only 4-6 cards on the ring and rotate the cards often.

This book is available at Amazon: Fandex TREES at Amazon Books

Every guide book that I have ever put in the children's book corner has been pored over by one child after another. I choose guides with photos rather than drawings and the children love to look through these little books. My favorite  guide to trees is the one from the National Audubon Society pictured below.

This book is available here: National Audubon Society Tree Identification Book at Amazon Books

Many years ago, I taught a group of Preschoolers who decided that they loved the flowering peach tree that was on our school playground and they started calling her "Sister Tree." They would lovingly hug her and sit & chat under the tree and even play house around this lovely young tree. 

I decided to provide an outdoor Nature Art Tray and the children would make adorable arty constructions to hang on "Sister Tree's" branches. 

In 2007, when I traveled to Ireland, I went to Bridget's Well in County Kildaire and there I discovered a "prayer tree"  decorated with bits of ribbon, chains of beads, crocheted flowers, and even pieces of colorful clothing. Each little decoration represented a prayer from someone and it reminded me of our little children back home and their decorations for "Sister Tree!" 

Ahhh trees!

That's me sitting in the bent willow arbor at Bridget's Well! I met Mary, the artist that created the arbor at the County Kildaire Farmer's Market the next day.

This article is dedicated to my dear friend, Ingrid, who died of cancer two years ago today at the age of 41. Ingrid was a certified tree arborist and the most devoted nature lover I've ever known. She was also my favorite person to sing Blue Grass Music harmonies with. Many, many of us miss her very much.  

I'm so glad you came to visit my blog and I sure hope you enjoyed it! Leave a comment if you have a moment. I love hearing your ideas.

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