Mexico City 2018 – Art, Food, Music, & Montessori

1 graduation

Graduation

Please join me for a return to experience AMI Montessori in Mexico City. The main purpose of my visit was again to serve as an oral examiner for the AMI Montessori A to I (Assistants to Infancy), birth to three, course. But as always in this Montessori world a guest is greeted with grace and courtesy and a desire to joyfully share culture, which includes food, as Mexico City is famous internationally for this element.

Above is a picture of the graduating class seated with us two examiners, the teacher trainers, their course assistants, and my translator. I was pleased to see that the medical doctor who graduated from this course in 2016 is now the guide/teacher in the infant community for children from one year to 2.5 or 3 years of age, returning to Puebla on weekends to take care of her medical patients.

2 santana and carrington

Santana and Carrington

This year I had an overnight flight from San Francisco so in order to stay awake we went to the Bosque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Park), one of the largest parks in the Western Hemisphere, measuring 1,695 acres. Large pictures of Santana and other important Mexican historical figures grace the black iron fences that surround the garden, and museum signs heighten our excitement as we approach the Museo de Arte Modern (Modern Art Museum) to see the special exhibit of the works of British/Mexican artist Leonora Carrington.

More on Santana here: here: Santana

More on Leonora Carrington here: Carrington

My hostess was surprised that I had never heard of this artist so I explained that since I love the Impressionists and Post-impressionists has crowded out a lot of art history and I need to be educated about surrealism. And my eyes were opened; what an interesting person.

3 carrington kitchen best

Saint Teresa in the Kitchen

This was one of my favorites of her painting. Carrington urged women, in both her writing and her graphic arts, to own their power. Saint Teresa, in the black and white tunic of the Carmelites, is seen as the patron saint of gastronomy. She was famous for her ecstasies and here she hovers over a boiling caldron in the center of the kitchen frying an egg in miraculous rapture. For Carrington the kitchen was an exclusive place for coming together and for experiments; the analogies between cooking, magic, and painting turned it into an alchemical laboratory.

4 frida

Frida Kahlo

Frida, Surrealist or Realist? Last time I was here the lines to get into the Casa Azul, or the “blue house”, the home of this famous Mexican artist, were around the block and there was no time to wait so it was a treat to relax and spend my second day exploring her home and art. If you do not know this artist the best introduction is the 2002 movie “Frida” staring Salma Hayek.

More on  Frida Kahlo here: Frida

5 staff and nogado

Chiles en Nogada

Again it is a treat to be here during the season of this famous dish. This year the AMI 3-6 trainer, who was in Mexico City for a month, brought each of us our on special blue and white plate from Puebla, and a Chile. We enjoyed them over lunch in the institute staff room.

Here is a little of the history of Chiles en Nogada. Agustin de Iturbide, Emperor of Mexico from 1822 to 1823, signed the Treaty of Cordoba which granted Mexico its independence from Spain in 1821. The event took place in Veracruz and on his way back to Mexico City he stopped in Puebla. The townspeople of Puebla decided to honor the Emperor—and independence—by creating a special dish using local ingredients. The Augustinian nuns of Santa Monica convent came up with Chiles en Nogada, which means chile in walnut sauce. It is made of poblano chilies stuffed with a mixture of meat and dried fruit (a special vegetarian version for me) and decorated in the colors of the Mexican flag: pomegranate seeds (red), parsley (green), and a sauce made of fresh, carefully peeled walnuts (white). To this day the nuns earn money by the painstaking task of peeling the walnuts for local restaurants. It is considered very patriotic to order or serve this dish.

6 grasshoppers and fire ants

Grasshoppers, Fire Ant Eggs, and Tequila

We work very, very hard at Montessori exams. The trainers are not the ones who test the students so no one can be “prepared for the tests.” The exam questions are sent from the Association Montessori Internationale in Amsterdam, and the oral examiners are selected from around the world. This is one of the reasons why AMI Montessori teachers are so well prepared for their work. The pressure is on. But several times a week we manage to have our discussions over delicious meals.

A vegetarian eating insects you say? Well, I just tasted, considering it practice for the probably main source of protein in the future as Earth’s population grows and grows and grows; and no one argues with eliminating a few million of the eggs of the dreaded fire ants!

More on fire ants here: Fire Ants

And now for the tequila. I had tasted this drink before, but on this occasion it was served in the traditional manner. First one takes a bit of salt in one’s hand and licks it up. Then a little taste of fresh lime juice followed by a sip of tequila. Finally a sip of the famous sangrita. The combination was delicious.

The word sangrita means little blood and was probably invented in the 1920’s as a way to cleanse the palate between sips of tequila and it was thought to be made up of the leftover juices of fruit salad. So it could contain pomegranate, tangerine, orange, mango, papaya, and so forth. Again this way of serving represents the colors of the Mexican flag: lime juice (green) tequila (white), and sangrita (red). I felt very patriotic.

7 soup and mole

Squash Blossom Soup and Mole

After this delicious traditional Meal meal I came home looking for squash blossoms to make soup, and since it is late in the season could only find enough to decorate the top of soup, but next season I shall plant zucchini and do it properly.

Mole contains chocolate and many spices; it comes in several colors, and is famous in Mexican cooking, and again it is the nuns of Puebla who might have invented it. Our version, Enchiladas de Mole Negro with cheese at the restaurant Azul Condesa, was a special treat. And it was followed by even more chocolate for desert.

More Mole information here: mole

8 hot chocolate

Champurrado

This is a delicious Mexican version of hot chocolate made with chocolate, flour, cinnamon and flavored sometimes with anise, vanilla, ground nuts, orange zest, and more, to make a variety of interesting drinks. The chocolate is packed into little individual tablets for storage that are melted, mixed with or milk, and then blended or whipped with a wooden whisk called a molinillo. The whisk is rolled between the palms of the hands, and then moved back and forth in the mixture until it is aerated and frothy. Then it is poured into a bowl made of cocoanut shell and drunk. There are many recipes on the internet ¡Buen provecho!

9 tea made by children

Two-Year-Olds Make Their Own Herb Tea

Things have changed in the Montessori 3-6 classes with the introduction of the Infant Communities for children from age 1, or walking, to age 2.5 or three. Pouring rice, lentils, or water, from small pitchers is common for other children who have not had much experience using their hands with challenging tasks. But in the Montessori A to I world children begin pouring their own water before they are a year old, yes, before they can walk. They water plants, fill basins with water to wash their hands, and want this work to be real, collaboration with the group, not mindless, repetitive activities.

I asked the Infant Community guide to show me how the tea-making was carried out by a 2-year old in her class. There are many steps, beginning with measuring and adding loose leaf tea to the pot, adding (previously prepared) hot water, waiting till the water reaches the correct color, setting the table with a place mat, napkin, cup and saucer and spoon, carrying the pot to the table, sitting down and enjoying the tea, putting the used tea leaves in the compost, the placemat and napkin in the laundry (to be washed and ironed by another child), and the tea-pot, spoon, and cup and saucer with the dirty dishes (to be washed by another child), all the time concentrating deeply and not being interrupted; and then going on to choose the next physically and mentally challenging and satisfying “work”. I have just described a series of skills included in the list of “executive functions” which are a more reliable predictor of academic success in later life than IQ, and the basis for real Montessori practice at any age “meaningful work and uninterrupted concentration” that produces happy people who then reach out naturally to care for others and the environment. Thank you Margarita.

10 church and market

Coyoacán (the “place of the cayotes”) 

The last afternoon after graduation I was hosted by the brother of the head of the AMI affiliate organization in Colombia, South America who lives in Mexico City. We went to Coyoacán to see the cathedral, the crafts market, and to enjoy Middle Eastern food. We were joined by the head of the AMI affiliate society for Peru. Both of these women were students in this course.

I was pleased to see a statue of San Martin de Porres who, along with Santa Rosa of Lima, is patron saints of my old home (for a short time) Peru. Coyoacán is the second most visited site in Mexico city, but the real pleasure was in enjoying it with friends after the intense week of exams and the graduation.

More on Coyoacán here: Coyoacán

11 algajores and friends

Peruvian and Colombian Montessorians

Here I am with these two women who will be first to take AMI Montessori Birth to Three information back to Peru and Colombia. They are passionate and inspired and I look forward to see what they, and all of the other students, do with this precious information. Yes, the picture on the left is more food, alfajores, my favorite cookie from Peru.

More on AMI Affiliated Societies here: AMI

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Back Home in California

Now I am back home, catching up on writing a 6th book Montessori book, and preparing for work in Europe in the fall. I don’t usually enjoy shopping, but this beautiful hand-made blouse and amber earrings are gifts and memories of that fascinating local crafts market on the last lovely day in Mexico City.

Stay tuned . . .

Hugs,
Susan

More here: Susan’s Home Page

Montessori Dream in Morocco

For my third trip to Morocco I was honored to have a part in the first AMI Primary course to be given in this part of the world. This is something that I have dreamed about for years, to be part of Montessori teacher training for children from age 2.5 to 6 where I could share what I learned in my very first course at The Maria Montessori Institute (MMI: See more here Montessori ) in London, England almost 50 years ago. I wanted to do this in a place where I can be 100% behind the efforts of the people who are bringing AMI Montessori to their country. Morocco is this place. A dream come true.

1 atlas trip

On the first day the students, the director of Training Lhamo Pemba, and I were hosted at the home of the parents of Aicha Sajid for a delicious traditional French-Moroccan breakfast and then we headed south for 4 days to experience some of this ancient civilization before we settled down to work. This trip was a generous gift of our hosts and none of us will forget it—the wild argon trees with goats climbing to reach the leaves, the walls of ancient cities, the art, the food, the beauty, and the music. It was a unique and valuable beginning of a course as we were able to spend precious time getting to know each other and hearing the variety of stories about what brought each of us together in this place and time, sharing the belief that it is through gentle support of the potential of the very youngest that there is a chance to reveal the very best in humans, for the sake of these individuals and with hope for the future of the world.

2 trip students

The students came from several countries, Australia, China, Mongolia, Congo, Martinique, Morocco, and the United States, all to receive this Montessori teacher training.

3 my room and garden

Because it is almost time for Ramadan, the 40-day fast that is one of the 5 pillars of Islam, my hosts parents invited me to stay in a room in their beautiful garden so I could join the family each night for Iftar or the breaking of the fast. Here is a picture of the garden and my room.

4 ramadan

During the entire month of Ramadan, Muslims fast every day from dawn to sunset. It is meant to be a time of spiritual discipline — of deep contemplation of one’s relationship with God. I joined in the fast; but for me not eating anything between sunrise and sunset was just a small reminder of how it must feel for so many people in the world today who actually experience hunger every day of their lives. And I was one of the fortunate, having a delicious meal to look forward to each day after sunset. The experience was confusing, thought-provoking, and valuable. I am still processing it.

For more about Ramadan click here: Ramadan

Each night some of the members of the extended family and I gathered at around 7:30 PM (the time changing a few minutes each night) to await the evening call to prayer heard from several directions of the city, only then beginning to eat.

The meal began the same every night. One soft-boiled egg sprinkled with salt and cumin, dates and nuts (both delicious in Morocco), and special honey and sesame seed sweets served only at this time of the year. A soup accompanied these, usually the traditional “Harira” made of lentils and chickpeas, spices, and vegetables and meat. The family very graciously always provided vegetarian versions of the soup and everything else just for me.

The second course is “salad” which is a broad term to cover a variety of delicious vegetable dishes, little meat or vegetable pastries, and sometimes fish.

The third course is the famous “tagine” which refers to both the mean/vegetable dish and the special pot it is slowly cooked in over hot coals. Click: Tagine

5 beautiful homes

Sometimes the meal was served in the home of a relative so because of Ramadan, and being invited to tea, I was able to see some of the most beautiful architecture I have ever seen in my life. Here you can see the mural on the wall of a woman who loves India, and the hand-painted ceiling of the grand dame of the family.

6 watercolor study

I was little worried about leaving my considerable work at home to be in Morocco for almost three months so I took along a very tiny watercolor set and two small watercolor blocks. Stealing moments from the 24/7 work on the course I finally was able to do a “study” of a piece of art a friend had shared with me that I had stored on my computer. She had photographed the original, a little known work created by the Japanese artist Tsuguhara Foujita, in Paris. It has been a long time since I worked in watercolor and ink and it was challenging and enjoyable.

Neyla is the daughter of my friend Aicha Sajid, who pulled all of this together, and I have gotten to know her and her brother Nacer very well since we traveled together on my first trip to Morocco. They and their friends often visited me after school to play music, read, sometimes work on math, or just talk about life. One day I asked Neyla to recite some of the prayers of the Koran she was learning. Here is a video of just a few of her words.

8 art neyla drawing

I think you can see why the experience inspired me to do a watercolor and ink drawing of her. I also painted one of her brother Nacer and gave them both to their grandparents as a thank you gift for hosting me. I think they are both on my facebook page “The Art of Susan Mayclin Stephenson”

9 physics

One of the subjects I lectured on during the course was physics. This has been a great love of mine, perhaps because of my physicist father who was interested in how everything works and, even many years ago, in non-coal based energy, including solar! I was thrilled to find that physics was part of the curriculum on my first Montessori training course in London in 1970. Because I loved this subject, so have all of my students over the years. And I hope also the students in the course in Morocco will learn to love it. It seems so in the picture above.

In this picture you see the first slide of a PowerPoint I prepared showing how the experience of physics begins early in life. The students in the picture come from a variety of backgrounds—a “Montessori Mama” separating sand and iron filings; Aicha (who studied computer science at Brown University the same years as our son Michael) and Leila, an artist, are completing the electric circuit; the student experimenting with a candle with limited air was a child advocate lawyer who realized that one must begin earlier in life to truly help children.
They all seem to be enjoying physics.

10 botany

Botany was another subjects of my lectures and the exploration of leaf shapes and attachments to a stem was rich indeed as I was able to deliver that lecture, followed by a long period of research by the students, in the lovely Sajid garden. The second picture here shows the excitement of two of the students when a few days later I discovered and took into class an example of “whorled” leaf attachment to the stem.

11 art day

Of course I was thrilled to be able to deliver the lecture on art, and to provide what was supposed to be a short art workshop but turned out to be a whole day. When lunch was announced none of the students even looked up from their work. And again at the end of the day no one was especially eager to stop creating and discovering. I had wanted them to see what it feels like to be deeply engrossed and concentrating on a project requiring the mind and the hands working together, moving in new ways with paper and scissors and glue and colored pencils and paint, combining them in an open-ended variety. The only requirement was that they use all of the materials (drawing, painting, print-making, cutting, gluing) and that they draw or paint at least one bird, and at least 5 flags.

This last requirement was to show the students that they can indeed draw and paint. Part of their “general knowledge” work back at home between the 2018 and 2019 blocks of the course will be filling in their knowledge gaps that we all have in preparation for working with children.

12 art framed for classroom

We all worked, under the direction of Lhamo, to create a beautiful primary class environment for the students to be able to carry out the many hours of practice on the materials in preparation for oral and written exams next year. An important part of a Montessori environment is art on the walls hung at the level of the child’s eyes. We had 10 frames and I was more than happy to fill some of them of images of my own art.

13 susan with desert

Twice we were treated by Aicha and her co-worked Leila Ouarrak Sfez, to a meal at an elegant French restaurant, “Le Relais de Paris”. When I ordered “profiteroles” the first time I was expecting one small one on a plate as the course of all meals are much smaller outside the USA. Imagine the shock when I was served a pile of profiteroles served with ice cream and chocolate sauce. I was not the only one. And, yes, we had the same desert the second time, but ordered less food for the meal to save room.

14 hanane and hamza

As I think back on this experience I realize how fortunate I have been to be able to work with Lhamo, and to get to know a very special group of talented, hardworking and passionate women who are taking the Montessori course, the two women who are translating the course into French and Chinese, and the teachers and staff at Ecole Montessori Casablanca who helped us so much.

But I also now have other very dear friends in this part of the world, all from the home where I lived for two months.

Every year during Ramadan the king of Morocco invites scholars of Islam from around the world to deliver inspiring lectures on Islam. My host, Mohamed Sajid, as minister of culture for Morocco, is invited to attend. At each of these ten lectures the guests are presented with a beautiful piece of Arabic script in gold lettering to memorialize each of the talks. Mohamed kindly presented me with several of these documents. An American-Moroccan scholar from the University of Chicago delivered the lecture commemorated here.

I often shared meals with Mohamed’s wife, my dear friend Hanane, a Medical doctor who works as a volunteer for whomever needs her, and her son the artist Hamza. They taught me much about their country and their lives. And I now know more about soccer and the World Cup than I ever though possible.

Never will I forget this family and all of the others who contributed to my wonderful stay in Casablanca, Omar, Latifa, and especially Medeni and Hakima who never gave up trying to teach me Arabic and Berber!

15 culture book cover art

When I realized that the work load for the course (as I was writing and delivering lectures along with all of the regular course assistant work) left me no time for my regular work as a Montessori consultant, writer, and a multitude of other tasks I work on when at home, so I was forced to finish my lectures in a little over two months and return to California.

But this experience convinced me of the value of the Montessori primary culture work that were the basis of my lectures—physics, botany, zoology, geography, history, music, and art. Over the last 50 years I have shared this information in many countries, speaking and writing. And often I have been asked to write a book on the subject. So now it is official.

Hopefully in the next year there will be a book with the picture above on the cover. This painting of my youngest grandchild examining a flower with a magnifying glass is not yet finished, but I think it captures the essence of the projected book. Stay tuned . . .

16 art page image

Finally some of my prints and paintings are now available to purchase via the Internet. I updated this page before leaving for Morocco but only recently posted it. You can see more at this link: Susan’s art

17 romanian jc translation small

Just as I was gathering photos (I wish I could have posted 100!) for this blog post, news arrived that the translation of The Joyful Child: Montessori, Global Wisdom for Birth to Three will soon be available in the Romanian language so I might be back in that hemisphere of the planet earth sooner than I thought for a book signing.

Take care,
Susan

Montessori Talks in Peru

MONTESSORI TALKS IN PERU, November 2016

peru august 2016

In the 1970’s I was a teacher at Colegio San Silvestre in Lima, Peru. In August, 2016 I was thrilled to be able to return. Finally I was able to visit Cusco, visit a beautiful Montessori school and talk to teachers there, visit Machu Picchu, and give a Montessori presentation to about 30 or 40 people in a lovely hotel in Lima.

See Machu Picchu here here: MP

1-talk-with-seal

Three months later I was invited back to give presentations on AMI Montessori at three universities, with Susana Chavez, AMI teacher from Lima as my translator. On the first day we spoke at Universidad Femenina Sagrado Corazon for 250 people with a wonderful response. In the afternoon the talk was given at Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia. 80 invitations had been sent out and 1000+ people showed up! They stood in line around the block in the hot sun for 2 hours before the talk; we needed two additional rooms and video conferencing to accommodate the overflow; and since there was not room for the 150 people still waiting outside, I repeated the talk (how could I say “No”) and some of the attendees from the first talk who asked if they could repeat. I think Peru is ready for AMI Montessori! My last talk was given the next day at the esteemed Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, founded in 1551.

Click: SAN MARCOS


2-title-page-of-talk

The universities wanted to make these talks available in real time as video conferencing, but I am always afraid that I won’t be natural and relaxed, and I don’t want to discourage questions from the audience. So since I have been asked by many people to share the information from the presentations, here is a brief overview and that basis of the talk, which was presented in Portland, Oregon in 2013 was published and is available on Amazon or from Michael Olaf.

Click: THE UNIVERSAL CHILD


3-brain

I always love to talk about how neuroscientists are more and more able to explain scientifically the valuable elements of Montessori practice that we have observed over the years. One example is the need for repetition. We now understand what neurons are firing when a child is repeating a puzzle for example, and why this changes in the brain when the puzzle is “learned.” This reinforces the importance of allowing the child to repeat until he or she decided to stop.

Also we can now understand, as we learn about multiple intelligences and executive functions (see this explanation from Harvard University.

Click:  HARVARD

And how basing Montessori practice on natural human needs and tendencies, such as exploration, real work, communication, concentration, etc., is far more valuable in preparing for the years to come, than basing education on a static academic curriculum.


4-exloration

Exploration begins at birth and the Montessori 0-3, Assistants to Infancy program helps parents support this need in the home. In my work around the world I find that in some countries children, like the child in this picture in Bhutan, automatically explore and participate in the work of the family which has great benefits in may ways.


5-work-torres-and-japan

In places where this is not supported (giving children toys and other ways of being entertained instead of sharing the daily life and work) Montessori environments provide real work, called “practical life” in the Montessori environments, from very young ages and through high school. Here we see children preparing food and serving themselves in Montessori Infant Communities (age 1-2.5+) in the Torres Straits north of Australia, and in Japan.

Click: TORRES STRAIT


6-communication-all-ages

The need to study and support the development of communication is ongoing in Montessori environments at any age. Here we see a mother explaining everything she is doing as she dresses the infant, and the child’s face reflects the joy of this experience. In the second picture students in 6-12 environments in Hawaii are explaining, during parents’ night how mathematical cubing is learned first with hands-on materials and then in the abstract. It was fascinating to watch the communication between the students and the parents in these groups.


7-montessori-orphanage

The Value of Montessori outside of the Classroom

One of the points I always stress is that Montessori is not limited to a method of education in classrooms. It has proven valuable for over 100 years in many situations and for many kinds of adults and children

Two years ago, while consulting with a Montessori school in Morocco, North Africa, I was taken to visit an orphanage because no matter what country I visit I am always interested in the lives of children in the first years of life. The babies were kept for most of the day isolated in cribs because the ratio of babies to adults makes it difficult to o anything else.

The Montessori school to help this situation so I suggested setting up a Montessori First Year orphanage project because a lot of very important changes can be made at this age with very little training and materials. One year later I gave a talk at the orphanage and found people so excited about the potential of these children, their language, movement, and general excitement with life. Above you can see the “before” and “after” pictures of this project.


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In 2003 as I was preparing to leave for my second trip to learn about Montessori with Tibetan refugees, this time to travel to Tibet, my husband gave me a New York Times story about a blind school in Lhasa. When I visited I was pleased to see Montessori materials, such as the dressing frames, being used.

I did not go into detail about this during my talks in Lima, but I would like to share a bit more of the story. While studying Chinese and Asian civilizations in university in her home in Germany, Sabriye Tenberken, who lost her sight at age 12, was stunned to learn that in Tibet blind children were living in appalling conditions—shunned by society, abandoned, and left to their own devices. The decision was instant: she would go to Tibet to help these children. She single-handedly devised a Tibetan Braille alphabet and opened the first school for the blind in Tibet, with only a handful of students. From its modest beginnings, that school has grown into a full-fledged institution for visually impaired people of all ages and in other countries.

I met one young woman who had spent the first 18 years of her life doing nothing in her home until her grandmother brought her to this school. After three years, at the time of my visit, this girl could read and write in Chinese, Tibetan, and English; she had received training as a masseuse and was preparing to move into an apartment with a fellow student where they would live independently thanks to the Practical Life skills they had been taught.

As she was giving me a tour of the school I commented on the beautiful colors painted on the walls of the school garden. She remarked, “Yes it is amazing how many visitors are unaware of the fact that we can “see” colors through our fingers. This sent me back to what I had been learning earlier (in the book “Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain.

Click: BRAIN

Here is the inspiring story of how Sabriye shone an unlikely light in a dark place. The book “My Path Leads to Tibet.”

Click: MY PATH


9-montessori-dementia-and-refugees

Montessori With Aging and Dementia and with Refugees

Montessori Ageing Support Services, a division of the Montessori Australia Foundation, is the national organization for supporting quality of life for older Australians through the Montessori approach. This work has spread to many countries as a result of being presented at the AMI, Annual General Meeting of the Association Montessori Internationale in Amsterdam a few years ago.

Click: MONTESSORI FOR AGING

Soon after Tibet was taken over by China in 1959, as hundreds of children began to arrive in Nepal and India, the Dalai Lama said that even though food and shelter were priorities, education must begin immediately, and the educational system chosen was Montessori because of Dr. Montessori’s years of work in India. Above is a class in Dharamsala I visited and consulted with the teachers in 2002.

Today there is work being done in the AMI Montessori movement to help refugees all over the world, including those leaving Syria.

Click: AMI


10-culture-respect

Respecting the Local Culture

Bringing Montessori to a new place, to a new country, is not an imposition of “Western” educational ideas, but a melding of what is important in the local culture. Research is done on the practical life of the culture, the language, and the arts. Above you can see pictures of the value placed on music in Tibet and Russia.

While visiting a Montessori school in Lima this month I was honored with a production given by the children. They study the history of their country through the costumes, music, dance, and stories of, in this case, the Inca civilization. In the video above you hear the wife of the Inca imploring people to follow his guidance.


12-montessori-bhutan-class

Montessori Bhutan class

Although the teacher of this class in Bhutan had earned an AMI diploma in Thailand, the observation and student teaching of the course had been waived because there were no AMI classes for this element of the training. As a result she did not what a real AMI 3-6 class looked like or how it functioned. My daughter Narda (also AMI 0-3, 3-6, and 6-12) and I took donations from schools in the USA and had furniture and materials made. Then I spent three days mentoring the teacher. The parents were so amazed that their children could actually choose materials, take them to a floor mat or table, work on them, put them back, and help each other, that they huddled around the classroom windows to watch.


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The Work of Nature

The Montessori way of meeting the needs of children is not a mental construct imposed on an empty slate. It is a discovery of what nature intended, of the potential of the child, the human, when the emphasis is on observation and discovery of this person, of creating an environment that supports life, and in learning (through good Montessori training) how to put the person in touch with the environment so he or she can make intelligent choices, concentrate, evolve. This is the true work of Nature.

As we allow children to experience nature and to learn to care for plants and animals, he experiences first hand the meeting of the same needs he has. Above you see a child who cannot yet walk alone exploring a field of flowers as he walks with what we call the GOOD walker so he can stop, sit down, pull up, move forward, and touch and smell as he desires.

Click: THE GOOD WALKER

The last two pictures are from a classroom in Moscow where children have brought the colored leaves to study, and then go on to explore leaves further through the Montessori “leaf cabinet”, and vocabulary, and art.

This has been a very brief sharing of my talks in Lima, but I hope it has been enough to give you a taste of the potential of Montessori in many ways to support the very best physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual growth and happiness of children and adults. It is my hope that with the best of this natural education we will someday have more adults who are less violent, greedy, and prejudiced, and who can strike a healthy balance in their own lives, and take pleasure in caring for others and the environment.

Blessings,
Susan

Click: SUSAN’S WEBSITE


14-uc-book-on-amazon

Although my presentations in Peru were modified depending on the audience, much of the talk was based on the one I gave in Portland, Oregon in 2013 and many of the pictures and the text for that version can be found in this book: The Universal Child, Guided by Nature: Adaptation of the 2013 International Congress Presentation

Click:  THE UNIVERSAL CHILD

Mexico City 2016 – Art, Food, Music, & Montessori

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 INSTITUTO INTERNACIONAL MONTESSORI

In August of this year it was my honor to be one of the two examiners at the AMI (Montessori Association Internationale) 0-3 course at “Instituto Internacional Montessori” in Mexico City. I have been to Mexico several times but I was never able to spend so much time in the capital. I was ready to explore the Montessori world, the art, and the food in one of the most beautiful and exciting cities in the world


ART

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Juan Manual Micher MD, “Juancho”, medical lecturer for the Montessori course (and old friend from our work in Denver) was kind enough to accompany me to the interesting parts of the city where he grew up, and his appreciation of both the traditional and the modern art and architecture was obvious. Above is just one of the many churches and the very large drawings for the murals of Diego Rivera in his final art studio.


2-food-street-and-grasshoppers

FOOD

Every where in the city there are the street food sellers of traditional Mexican foods and people line up for it at meal times. But even in the most elegant restaurants one can find the favorites, like this taco filled with roasted grasshoppers (chapulín), fresh cheese (queso fresco), guacamole, and mole, a sauce made with chocolate and many spices.


3-soumaya

MORE ART

The Soumaya museum is one of the most amazing buildings I have ever seen and the life drawing class was using statues of Rodin as their models. Brilliant. I was able to study the brushwork of some of my favorite artists and discovered that Kahlil Gibran, the author of the famous “The Prophet” was also an artist and played the violin. Here is the website in English if you would like to know more about this museum.

http://www.soumaya.com.mx/index.php/eng/


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PUEBLA

Coral Ruiz, AMI 3-6 trainer returned to her home in Puebla the same week that I arrived in Mexico and she invited me to visit her. We had been in touch for a long time about Montessori in Latin American but had never met in person. She sent a car to bring me the 2-3 hours (depending on traffic in Mexico City) to the beautiful old city of Puebla and back to Mexico City, past an erupting volcano, Popocatépetl! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popocat%C3%A9petl

First we visited her training center, Instituto Paolini de Peubla, and then walked around the lovely old city. Then she surprised me with a special lunch dish that is only available in August and that originated in Puebla. It is now famous all over the country. This is the famous Chiles en nogada. The name comes from the Spanish word for the walnut tree, noga. It consists of poblano chilies – which are only large enough for this recipe during August – filled with picadillo, a mixture usually containing shredded meat, herbs, fruits, and spices. It is topped with a walnut cream sauce and pomegranate seeds, giving it the three colors of the Mexican flag: green chili, white nut sauce, and red seeds. It takes at least 24 hours to make this dish and so Coral ordered my special vegetarian version ahead of time. As you can see, each dish is lovingly made and comes with a certificate of authenticity. Mine was number #4929. The restaurant was full and on every plate was Chile en nogada!

For more information on the AMI 3-6 course in Puebla, Mexico, contact: informes@montessoripaolini.com


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THE EXAMS

One of the reasons that AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) teacher training courses continue to maintain a very high quality of training is that the examiners come from other training courses, and often from other countries. So it is not just the students, but also the entire course content, the environment, and the teacher trainers themselves who are being assessed. The written and oral exam questions come from the AMI headquarters in Amsterdam and everyone is working together to keep the international standards as high as possible.

Here is a picture of the first environment of the child, and my translator Maria. “Nido” is the Italian word for “nest” and it is the name of the environment for the child from birth until he or she is walking. The Montessori students learn how we can support the way an infant sleeps, eats, is dressed and bathed, and moves his body and hands, and how all of this care lays the groundwork for the way the child will feel about the world and himself. We support the physical, mental, psychological, and spiritual aspect of development through our actions and the by what we provide in the environment in the first year. After many years in the field, I believe that the Montessori training in caring during the first year of life is the most powerful way to help support balanced and happy human beings.

7-ic

The IC or Montessori Infant Community is the environment for the child who is walking until age 2.5 or 3. It contains lovingly made and beautiful materials that support and developmentally appropriate “work” (which means “important”) that includes movement of the whole body, development of the hand, language, cooking, cleaning, polishing, music, art, dance, how to care for the environment, oneself, and each other, and so on. In this picture you can see the environment set up for exams (table in the corner) and notice that one of my own art prints graces the wall next to the dressing table where a child learns to care for his or her hair.

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Although there are many beautiful gardens throughout the city, space is limited and so this school and training center have created a special stairway where there are appropriate risers and handrails for adults and children both to walk up and down to the roof top garden.

9-garden-and-hats

Here the children can climb and ride vehicles and they grow the vegetables that they prepare in the infant community and the flowers they use to make small flower arrangements to decorate the environment. They can climb and enjoy special meals. Also on the roof there is a place for the student who are taking the Montessori course to prepare and eat their meals out in the fresh air. One of the most valuable things about this training center is that there is a functioning Nido, and functioning Infant Community for children from the neighborhood in the same building, so the Montessori trainees can see how this “works” as they study.

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GRADUATION

The speeches by the student at the graduation were so moving that I was often brought to tears. The range of ages and professions was notable. For example there was one student who was just beginning her college career, and another who was an MD who is now teaching in an Infant Community during the week and practicing medicine on the weekends. They all told how the wisdom of this training had transformed them as human beings. I am so lucky to have ended up working in this field and it is a joy to see it spreading all over the world.


11-restaurant-guitars

CAFÉ DE TACUBA

One of the last evenings, Chacha (Maria Teresa Vidales, head of training), Juancho, their daughter Teanny, and the other examiner Virginia Buckley toured the historic center of Mexico City and had dinner at Café de Tacuba, where the beautiful architecture, the traditional paintings on the walls, and the strolling musicians made me stand still in awe as I entered the restaurant and then walked around in a daze, listening to the musicians serenade, forgetting where I was, just soaking up the Mexican celebration of culture. This would certainly be an amazing place to take 0-3 training.

Here is more information on this special place to enjoy the art, music, food, and culture of Mexico. http://www.cafedetacuba.com.mx/en/

In June 2017, for the first time, there will be an international course give in English with Spanish translations. Students will come from all over the world.

For more information on the AMI 0-3 course in Mexico City contact: contacto@iimontessori.com.mx


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MEXICAN-INSPIRED ART AT HOME

The blue house of Frida Kahlo, known as “casa azul”, so inspired this lover of the color cobalt blue, then upon returning, knowing that it was time to repaint some of the doors of our home, guess what color we chose.


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TRAVEL INSPIRED PAINTINGS

I have not started a painting from Mexico yet, but here is one from Lima, Peru where I was working just before arriving in Mexico City on this trip. I never have time to paint when working abroad, but I often make notes and take photographs. Above is a photograph of the fishing boats on the harbor of Lima, Peru. I was struck by the calm water, the variety of colors of the boats, and the pelicans quietly waiting for the opportunity to grab a fish.

Why I paint

Recently I have realized that no matter what problems of life may crowd into my brain and bring grief and sadness, when I am in my studio painting I can ignore them; there I control my world; I can turn anything into calm beauty.

Often when traveling, I have an inexplicable feeling of joy or amazement that I want to remember, or I just see a combination of colors that I want to reproduce — and the subject of the future painting is second in importance. So back at home I imagined what it would look like as the sun rose over the city of the city of Lima which sits on the cliffs above the beach, as it lit up the water and the boats. Above you can see the transformation of what I saw to what I felt.

I return to more work in Peru this fall, so stand by for more learning and sharing. I do hope you enjoy it.

Blessings,

Susan Mayclin Stephenson
Trinidad, California

www.susanart.net

Colombia, Drugs, Zika, Montessori, & Art

COLOMBIA, DRUGS, ZIKA, MONTESSORI, & ART

1 comfort zone

When I sign on to follow a blog and the blogger posts too often I quickly stop following! So I am not posting often, but this means that sometimes these posts will be loooonnng. There were always be lots of pictures. When someone asks me what I am going to do on an upcoming trip I reply, “I won’t know till the trip is over.” because one never really knows what will be the most important part of a trip.

2 police

DRUGS IN COLOMBIA 

For example I never expected a trip to visit old friends to be a short course on Narcotráfico en Colombia or the illegal drug trade in Colombia. On the 3-4 hour drive from Cali to Popoyan we saw at lease 50 police, most flashing us a “thumbs up” signal to signify that there was no trouble with drug traffickers on that day. Later, when I was leaving for the airport in a taxi to come home at 2AM, we were stopped for a routine check for drugs because the road to the airport continues on to the coast where drugs make their way to the ships. Cocaine is produced at $1500/kilo in jungle labs and can be sold on the streets of America for as much as $50,000/kilo. The statue in this picture we bought on the road; these little art pieces are made for a fundraiser to provide money for families of police who were killed or disabled during drug wars. Of course my first thought when in a country that has suffered in this way for so long is, how can we help the children.

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FRIENDS THEN AND NOW 

Here are pictures of my dear friends Denise (from Brazil) and Adolfo (from Colombia). We met in 1960’s when I was an unofficial hostess at The Bechtel International Center at Stanford University because of a relative who was a professor there and we have stayed in touch and visited each other over the years, especially when Cali was a stopover on the way to Lima, Peru when I taught.

LATIN MUSIC 

When asked why our son Michael is so interested in Latin music, I for the first time realized that Cali, considered the heart of Salsa, might have had something to do with this. In Colombia in 1979, at a night club called Hunca Munca, I learned to dance the Salsa. And, because of my positive experiences in Colombia and Peru, visited Cuba in 1980 and fell in love with that music. So Michael can maybe credit his love of Salsa/Timba music to Denise and Adolfo! If you are on facebook you can see more of Michael’s band on the page “Timbata” and he is playing keyboard in this video clip.

0 Portuguese bk cover jul 2 2015.indd

MONTESSORI HELP FOR ZIKA BABIES 

During this trip, Denise educated me about the horrible situation of the Zika virus, causing babies to be born with unusually small heads if the mother was exposed during pregnancy. Knowing that Montessori has a lot to offer people (from birth to old age) with mental and physical problems I created the facebook page “Montessori Help for Zika Babies” with up-to-date news and infant development video clips for parents. Also the Portuguese translation of the Montessori 0-3 book, The Joyful Child: Montessori, Wisdom for Birth to Three, is being read free by parents in Brazil on Amazon’s “kindle unlimited” every day.

6 montessori lyda and me

MONTESSORI BILINGUE, CALI 

Monica Abadia, who was an infant when we were all together in California kindly helped arrange school visits and translated for me. I had been in touch with the owner of the Montessori school via facebook and it was so good to meet in person. This school, started over 25 years ago, was inspired and helped in the beginning by an old friend of mine. Ursula Thrush received her AMI diplomas in London and Bergamo, Italy, and was the first teacher of both of my daughters in San Francisco! She was the person who inspired me to go to London myself to get my first AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) teacher training. What a small world.

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“Every unnecessary help is an obstacle for the child’s development” —Maria Montessori, MD

MONTESSORI FOR EVERY CHILD

Montessori Bilingue has received awards as a model for the country because at least 10% of the students have disabilities and they thrive in this Montessori environment.

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MONTESSORI PEACE PRAYER 

Omar, the 12-year-old son of the school owners, Lyda and her husband, started a school garden project and now the students grow a lot of their own food. When we met, Omar (an Arabic name as the family originally came from Morocco) told me it was his dream that every family on the planet could have a garden and grow food. He said this through a translator, but then recited a well-known Montessori prayer for peace in English.

I offer you peace
I offer you love
I offer you friendship
I feel your pain
I see your beauty
I hear your cry
My wisdom flows from my spirit within
I salute that spirit in you
Let us work together for peace. amen

As he finished tears glistened in my eyes. There are many schools around the world isolated and in need of contact with other Montessorians. Since returning I have put Lyda in touch with some via facebook and already an AMI Montessori teacher trainer in Mexico has offered to give an introductory “assistants” course in Cali hopefully sometime in 2016. And when Lydia requested an audio file from me to share with the teachers I was able to send this link about the Montessori Model United Nations and a little video of the keynote I gave there in 2013. If feels like being back in Cali with the teachers:

http://michaelolaf.net/MMUN2013.html

9 up the mountain

INTO THE FOOTHILLS OF THE ANDES 

One of my favorite memories of my first trip to Cali years ago was leaving the hot and humid valley below to drive up into the foothills of the Andes where the fog rolled in just like our home in Northern California. So one day we went. Looking back we could see the city laid out below us as the air became cooler and cooler.

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CHOCOLATE CON QUESO  

We ordered large cups of steaming hot chocolate accompanied by plates of fresh goat cheese for dipping and softening in the hot liquid, something we would never do down in the hot Cauca Valley. We had seen many of the goats on the road up the mountain and little stands selling goat cheese.

HOT SAXOPHONE! 

As we ate we listened to a really good saxophone player who soloed with recorded music. No matter what era or type of music came on the CD player he could immediately play along beautifully. Above is a little iPhone video clip to capture a bit of this magical moment.

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REMBRANDT 

Back down in the valley Adolfo took me to something I didn’t expect and was thrilled to see: an exhibit of 68 etchings of Rembrandt. Three rooms, all packed, with small magnifying glasses provided to guests so we could examine closely the great works, which was really helpful as some of the etchings were only 2-4 inches wide. It is amazing to think of these creations being shared across the world 400 years later.

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SPEAKING OF ART – COLEGIO BOLIVAR 

Colegio Bolivar is the school for children from age 6 through high school where Monica’s daughter (Adolfo and Denise’s granddaughter) goes and it was a pleasure to see this beautiful place. We visited the “nido” which at this school means 2-4 year-olds, and the primary classes, which are very much influenced by the Reggio Emilia program from Italy that incorporates a lot of art with every subject. In this picture there are two art projects, one from a primary class, and the other, a fountain made out of “trash” cup and saucer, from the atelier which is an amazing art studio used by all ages. They insist upon using the word trash, rather than recycled materials, because these things have been thrown out, or “trashed” then found and creatively used by the students.

14 art drums and outside

The picture on the left is one of several sculptures by young children exemplifying what they want to be when they grow up. This student wants to be a drummer and had made this drum set, about 12 inches in height from trash. The picture to the right shows the outside area of one of the classes. At the primary level classrooms have only three walls andare open to the outside year round.

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CALI AT NIGHT 

There is so much beauty in this country. I have not even touched on the magnificent  churches and cathedrals, the mountains, the sugar cane fields and orchids, the central plazas in all of the small towns, the amazing nightlife full of clowns and dancing and music.

The first Friday night as I had not yet located my earplugs I was able to document in person the fact that salsa music is played at least until 4 in the morning. The same thing on Saturday night. On Sunday things became quiet a couple of hours earlier. But I couldn’t complain because the noise was music! So that means music and dancing on 3 or the 7 nights of every week.

TROPICAL FRUIT

In the evenings, as people gathered at St. Anthony Square (as in the pictures above) to watch the full moon rise, people were selling the luscious tropical fruit of the area. I always look forward to the fresh, seasonal, fruit and there is always something in season. Here is a link to a list of fruits, some of which you will recognize from stores in your own country, and some you still have to look forward to.

http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/09/tropical-fruit-in-south-america-guide-colombia-slideshow.html#show-110386 

If you have access to FaceBook there are more pictures from this trip here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153894148937813.1073741877.707497812&type=1&l=a19c291db8

I hope you enjoyed the small part of this amazing trip. If you would like to receive blog posts in the future please sign up with your email address near the bottom of this page. Look for a small colored rectangle or circle (depending on your computer) with the word “follow” or a “+” in it and follow directions.  You will then be sent an email to confirm the fact that you wish to follow this blog.

Take care,
Susan

15 camel
Susan Mayclin Stephenson
Trinidad, California
http://susanart.net/  

 

Post-Earthquake Help for Montessori Children in Nepal

A Forgotten People

Because I did some Montessori work in Nepal a few years ago I have had many requests from Montessorians around the world on how their school children can help, especially fellow Montessori children, with the earthquake situation. Even though it is no longer on the news much, the need for help will go on for years. I have heard from several schools outside of Nepal who have sponsored fundraisers and sent money to help SMD. This is a video slide show that explains who are the children attending SMD (Shree Mangal Dvip) school in Kathmandu where I spent some time. It was created before the earthquake as you will see:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdWzuhEUy9w


MONTESSORI COMES TO SMD

Learning to manage a Montessori dressing frame

The bi-nomial cube

Here are two of the Montessori children at the school. Several years ago (after my visit) a Montessori school administrator in Vancouver and her husband donated scholarships for two Nepali Women to train as Montessori teachers at the AMI training center, The Navadisha Montessori Foundation, in Chennai, India. Their school in Vancouver then donated materials.

5 Ani Thinley Chokyi

Ani (“nun”) Thinley Chokyi, who earned her diploma in Chennai, has just left the school to help her parents whose home was destroyed by the earthquake. But she has done a lot to spread the Montessori wisdom throughout the school. From the school, “She enriched our Junior Section with her knowledge and her expertise. Our Nursery Class teacher, Sonam Dolma and our LKG teacher Bimala learned a lot from Ani TC and use it in their classrooms.”And with our help the Montessori work will continue.


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THANK YOU LETTER AND UPDATE

Thank you! Letter to Montessori Schools (PDF)


MY 2006  VISIT

8 washing

This may look like primitive conditions to many of us: very crowded bedrooms and one shower (and clothes-washing) room shared by 300 students—which means one shower a week. But compared to their village life SMD daily life and the opportunity to attend school are luxurious.

When I visited the school I spent a week living and eating with the children, discussing Montessori with the heads of the school, attending classes, visiting the medical unit and interviewing newly-arrived refugees at the Tibetan Reception Center with two of the older students, and going through the “Child of the World” 3-12 Michael Olaf catalogue teaching text (now incorporated into the book: Child of the World: Montessori, Global Wisdom for Age 3-12+) with the director, pulling together information that could benefit the school. At the end of the week (It was on my birthday, October 29th. I remember because as a surprise they sang to me!) I gave a presentation to the teachers on Montessori ideas to improve the daily life and education of the children. It inspired a desire for more information on Montessori.

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Susan’s guitar lesson to students

10 tungna

And they try to teach me to play the tungna!

No matter where in the world I work, it is as interesting to learn, as it is to teach. There is always wisdom and traditional practices of value. It is not helpful to go into a country with a “colonial” attitude that we are a superior culture (or even a superior “Montessori” educational system). I have learned that humility is the most important trait for anyone sharing Montessori with others. In these two pictures I am giving guitar lessons to high school students and a young monk, and they are teaching me to play the Nepalese lute, the “Tungna.” When the boys saw my respect for and interest in their music, they were far more interested in learning about mine.


MORE INFORMATION AND A LINK TO “HOW TO HELP”

A link to more pictures from my 2006 visit: http://www.michaelolaf.net/nepal.html

A link to the general school information: http://beta.himalayanchildren.org/

FACEBOOK To keep up with the children and the school on FB go to: “Education for Himalayan Kids – Shree Mangal Dvip Boarding School SMD”

A link to post-earthquake information. Look for the HOW TO HELP link to find the best way to send money from your country: http://himalayanchildren.org/les/index.html

More on the Sikkim conference, with the Dalai Lama and Montessori teachers

2010 “Montessori contributes to conference on “Science, Spirituality, and Education” with the Dalai Lama in Sikkim, Northern India

See the whole page here: http://susanart.net/sikkim2010.html

sikkim montessori

Although Montessori education is well-known for the academic success it is in truth a method of studying human development in all of its facets and supporting the growth of children toward the fullest potential in all ways. Above is the Montessori contingent present at this meeting with the Dalai Lama in December of 2010.

Along with progress in many areas such as medicine and the material standard of living, Western culture has brought difficulties to the Himalayan region: materialism, TV violence, daily stress, discord, drugs, teenage problems, etc., The government of Sikkim brought together a stellar group of scientists, medical doctors, philosophers, thinkers, and educators in hopes of solving these problems through the education of children. During several days of talks and meetings, including talks by Lynne Lawrence and Jean Miller, and because of many Montessori conversations among the participants, a day was added just for the educators to meet, all present interested in implementing Montessori education to alleviate these problems. More information here: http://susanart.net/sikkim2010.html