The Earth Tortoise School
A Montessori Community for Infants, Toddlers, Preschoolers, and their Families
Our Toddler Community
Portland's most prominent mountain - that people know commonly as Mt. Hood - is named Wyeast by the Multnomah People. In honor of our beautiful lndscape and the people indigenous to the land we call home, our Toddler Community is named Wyeast.
Toddlers are developing the skills they need to become contributing members of their community. Through small activities such as mastering how to spoon beans from one bowl to another or pour water from cup to cup, toddlers are refining their hand-eye coordination and dexterity as well as learning the skills they need to be independent. Caring for the classroom is a large part of each day as children water the plants and wash the windows. Preparation of snacks and meals, setting the table, and washing the dishes afterwards help them understand a process from beginning to end. And at this "Me do it!" stage, children get the opportunity to care for themselves, learning how to dress themselves and use the bathroom.
Children are learning everything through their five senses and the sensorial materials in the classroom allow them practice using these senses to sort and understand the world around them. Grading from biggest to smallest, roughest to smoothest, matching colors, exploring tastes, textures, and smells teach them to notice smaller and smaller differences in things, vital to later intelligence.
Children are in a sensitive period for learning language from birth through puberty and at no time is this more apparent then during the toddler years. Communication is a huge and ever-present part of each day as we name everything in the environment, and talk with children in simple yet not "dumbed down" term and provide exposure to a huge variety of objects, pictures, books, and songs. We use baby signs and encourage the children to do so too until their spoken vocabulary expands. As their language does grow, we encourage this by asking open-ended questions that promote conversation, join the children’s activities and focus our interactions on the children’s interests using positive comments and encouragement. Providing feedback and comments on the children’s ideas and their work aids their processing and allows for scaffolding to understand concepts. Acknowledgement and validation of emotions not only expands their vocabulary and self-expression skills but also teaches empathy and self-regulation.
Subjects that are usually thought of as being "academic" are approached in a very natural, casual way as children begin to show an interest. Children have a need for order in their lives and will come to a place in their development when they want to understand categorizing and counting. Counting and sorting are done throughout the day with everything such as counting buttons on your shirt to naming the numerals seen in the environment. As children get older and ready for more, the math curriculum allows them to explore quantity with hands on materials.
Children are natural beings, at home outdoors. An outdoor classroom allows them to spend as much time outside as we can provide; gardening and harvesting allows them to see and appreciate where their food comes from and feel proud of the fruits of their labor. We study parts of plants and animals, talk about the weather, and encourage respect for all living things.
Art and Music
Not only will children have the opportunity to explore different art and music medium every day, these will also be wrapped up into each day's routine and the theme we are exploring at that time. Daily gatherings are filled with songs and who knows what might inspire a spontaneous outburst throughout the day….
"We discovered that education is not something which the teacher does but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being." - Maria Montessori