Spring has finally come to its senses and decided to stick around for a while here on the coast of Maine. The children have shed layers of snowsuits, hats and mittens, and heavy coats and now run about the playground joyously unencumbered. This time of year is poignant for many reasons: teachers reflect on another school year gone by in a blur, thinking of how much and how quickly the children have grown while in their care. Children begin to ponder the idea of moving to new, bigger schools and are filled with excitement, anticipation, and, yes, a bit of nervousness as well. All of these emotions bring about a strong case of “the wiggles” in a classroom of twenty-four 4 and 5 year-olds! How to effectively treat this dreaded end of the school year affliction? The answer is found in activities that keep little hands busy, busy, busy.
Working with one’s hands is a surefire way to cure restlessness so we have begun to pepper the classroom with new activities that help bring back calm and focus to our daily routine. The children have started making their own world maps- a huge undertaking of tracing, pin-punching, and assembling each continent onto a poster board. Food preparation is in the works as another activity for the kids to dive into. We plan on making orange juice, slicing bananas, and making hummus during our morning work times for the remainder of the school year. And of course, we look to the outdoors as another way to engage the children- making art in nature, digging, planting, and exploring our courtyard and surrounding nature preserve.
Maria Montessori once said that, “The human hand allows the mind to reveal itself.” Through these end of year busy hands works, the children have found a place to put their worries and anxieties of what’s to come. And slowly but surely, the classroom regains balance and calm.