THE MUSIC ENVIRONMENT FROM THE BEGINNING TO THE END

AMIJournalCreativity

It was an honor for me to be part of this publication on creativity. This article is shared with permission of AMI, The Association Montessori Internationale and NAMTA, The North American Montessori Teachers Organization.
It was published in  AMI Journal 2014-2015 Theme Issue: The Montessori Foundations for the Creative Personality.

This 237-page publication on creativity, imagination, self-expression, language, music, the Montessori creative view of childhood, art, and contemporary Montessori research and creativity,  can be ordered from NAMTA: AMI JOURNAL

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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.

3 us

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.

7 school sign and girl

“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.

8 omar and garden

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.

10 hot chocolate

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.

12 rembandt

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.

13 school art teapot

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.

15 at night

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/  

 

Turkish Sufi Performance, Fes (Fez), Morocco

Turkish Sufi Performance Oil Painting Finished!

While working as a Montessori consultant in Morocco in the spring of 2015, I was fortunate to be present at a Performance of Sufi dancers and singers from Turkey. I was captured by the intense expressions of the men, especially the singers. It was this experience that inspired this painting.

1 painting

Here is a photograph of the whole performance. You can see the singers from the painting in the lower right hand corner.

2 concert total

Below is an i-phone short video. As you watch the passion of the dancers and singers I think you will understand the inspiration for this painting. The painting has been sold as a result of this blog post. Since more than one person wanted it and there is of course only one original oil painting I am having giclees on canvas made. If you are interested in this let me know.


More of Morocco

Just in case this little “art” blog post has whetted your appetite to see more of this amazing trip, here are a few more photos. First of all, I spent several days consulting at a wonderful school in Morocco, Ecole Montessori Casablanca. Here is a link to their website and I highly recommend anyone to visit: http://www.montessoricasablanca.com/

4 susan and children

Above is a picture of me with the children of the owners of this school. Since I always want to learn everything I can about a country in order to be a good consultant I was invited to join the family for a week of school vacation exploring their culture throughout the country. Here we are sitting on the edge of a fountain in a “riad” (traditional house) in the “medina” (old city) of Fez.

6 teapots

We explored the medina for hours. Here is a little shop where I found a traditional tea-pot to bring home. The cook at the Montessori school taught me how to make proper Moroccan mint tea. I have found the correct mint at the farmer’s market here in California, and am practicing?

6a tea proper

What, practicing you say? Yes, it is not that simple. After boiling the tea, sugar, mint for the proper time, as it is poured into the glasses, the teapot is gradually raised to a height of up to 2 feet, aerating and flavoring the tea. In this picture tea is being poured for us at a school for poor mountain children as the family and I accompany the volunteer eye-doctors for their annual volunteer work, and tell them about Montessori.

8 pottery

The beautiful traditional arts of Morocco are being kept alive and passed on the next generation. Pottery, mosaics, metal work, carpets. Above is a workshop/school in Fez.


Montessori Research in Morocco

7 child's hands

As always, I am constantly exploring the way young children are treated, cared for, and educated – in homes, schools, in the market, on the street. This child is being carried on her mother’s back, but given something to explore with her hand when she tires of the amazing visual exploration of the market!

9 door

And as you can see, there is plenty to explore visually!

10 food eating on floor

The traditional way of sitting on the floor to eat, here and many places where I work, is very good for young children because they can join the adults at a very early age and it gives the child just what he wants, practice in using his hands to serve himself.

It is so nice to be in places where no one would dream of watching TV, texting, talking on a phone, or reading during a meal. Because of this a meal is truly a social event, relaxing, and comforting. It really seemed to me that when the conversation was about the food, every bite tasted better. It inspired a meal I later had with our grandchildren where we talked about how many people, how much work, went into the production and transportation of each item at the table. It was a true “mindfulness” practice, just like a Montessori study of the inter-relatedness of everything.

Also, just as in a Montessori class the food is placed in serving dishes – not on individual plates.  This way each person, even the youngest child, is free to take what, and how much, his body wants or needs. This is so much better than being given a plate full of food that someone else has prepared; someone else deciding what and how much a person should eat at any one meal. Who but each of us knows, with internal guidance, what and how much to eat.

Not only does a child feel good to have his choice of what and to much respected, but he learns, at an early age, how not to waste food.  All of us then can take just a small amount and when that is finished to take more if we are really hungry. This is just another Montessori home/school principle with historical/cultural roots.


Moroccan Food is world famous – Who knew?

10 food western

Of course the exception is eating in restaurants – and one can find the most delicious meals everywhere in this country. The first thing I did when returning home was to order a Moroccan cookbook with beautiful pictures. I had no idea that Moroccan cooking was so world-famous!

11 susan and camel

Guess who?


Ecole Montessori Casablanca

13 ecole montessori casablanca

Here is the school where I helped out. Children, from Montessori infant community through elementary (6-12) classes, learn in English, French, and Arabic. There are families from all over the world, all religions, all cultures, all welcome. The school is growing and becoming a model Montessori school for the country, indeed for this part of the world. While I was there we began a Montessori program for children from birth-3 in a local orphanage. I will post about this later.

In January, 2016 there will be an opening for an AMI Montessori teacher at the 3-6 level and maybe the 6-12 level. Here is the contact information. Please share this blog post with any AMI teacher you know who is ready for an amazing experience.


http://www.montessoricasablanca.com/#!contact/con8


In God’s Name – Hope through the Children

In this video clip that I took in the Fez medina you can hear one of the daily five “calls to prayer”. Sometimes it is hard to come home and hear all the “anti-other” religious views on the main-stream media. Every religion has its crazies (remember the Spanish Inquisition? the partition of India struggles? the church bombings in the USA?).

Every religion and philosophy also has its saints, and those of us who are just inspired to do better each day because of spiritual models. While in Morocco I was surrounded by people who respect all religions and focus on  being better people and helping the poor. People like this, for whom religion is their inspiration and hope, and their path to help society and the world, exist in all countries.

I am going to end this blog post with a song that brings tears to my eyes. Not because it is sung by Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills, and Nash – one of my favorite music groups. (if you cannot see it here, go to youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSKjOBvybxw )

I am sharing it because the song “In Your Name” expresses something I think about all the time. Something that gives meaning to the overriding principle of my life. That it is the idea that it is only through the education of the very young that we can help the world to become a better place.

The child is both a hope and a promise for mankind. —Maria Montessori, MD


If you would like to receive my blog posts in the future should must sign up at the bottom of this page. If you are on Facebook you can see many more pictures from this Montessori travel and work, and my art, at these Facebook pages:

Susan Mayclin Stephenson
The Art of Susan Mayclin Stephenson
The Michael Olaf Montessori Company
The Joyful Child Montessori Company
Montessori Assistants to Infancy


Eloise in Portland (a family Montessori language lesson)

0 eloise in paris

AN ELOISE PARTY

Ten years ago our granddaughter Zahra (daughter of Narda Sherman) was 4 years old. One weekend she stayed with Jim and me at a hotel in Portland where we were attending a Montessori conference. We had invited her because she loved the book “Eloise in Paris” about a little girl who lived in a hotel. We offered to recreate this story as closely as possible.

It was her choice whether or not to come with us; she was ready to risk it for only one night because Ursula, her aunt and full-time nanny, was with her. With our help Zahra kept a journal which was later published in a Montessori magazine.

I have heard from the Montessori teacher trainer and good friend, Joen Bettman, that she shares it during each 3-6 course she teaches. Just this week she sent it to me as I had lost it, and she explained how she has used it. I thought you might enjoy it.

Dear Susan,
The way that I have used this amazing Eloise story is to talk about prerequisites for writing and the value of spoken language.  This dictation shows how a family (your family) can show genuine interest in listening, engaging in dialogue, making connections, being in the moment, and following the child.  The grace and courtesy of playing a game and what one says to the winner/loser is also stellar.  The audience has appreciated again and again the capacity of the child, the feminism, the humor, the importance of experience….
So thank you many times over for sharing. 
Fondly,
Joen Bettman, AMI Montessori Teacher Trainer


 CLICK ON THE FOLLOWING “Eloise Party” LINK TO READ ZAHRA’S JOURNAL

0 Eloise party at the NAMTA Montessori conference

eloise in portland


Kazakhstani Feedback
from this “Eloise Story” blog post.

kazakhstanAbout the time Zahra was living her Eloise story in Portland, Oregon, a little boy was born in Kazakhstan. When he was 13 months old Dante was adopted and moved to the USA. One evening this week he told his mother that he would like to write down everything about his life thus far to be a kind of guidebook for children but he feels like (due to dyslexia) if he had to write it he could only get three words down and they would all be spelled wrong. And then the “Eloise Story” arrived. Inspired by it his mother offered to act as scribe. She says, “floodgates of joyful tears opened. We begin tomorrow…” And so they have begun. We look forward to someday reading the “Dante Story”!


Beauty in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Bangkok

SAN FRANCISCO

turner front of museum

No matter where I am headed for Montessori work, I take advantage of the opportunity to experience beauty. It sustains me. One of the greatest English painters of the 19th Century Joseph MW Turner is an inspiration for my painting and one of my oldest friends (fellow Montessori mother and teacher) and I viewed this exhibit of his work at the DeYoung in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.

 

 

fog and animal 1

Just as in life, where we can only focus completely and well on only one thing at a time, the rest fading temporarily into the background, Turner’s paintings give us artists models. A welcome relief for our eyes and spirits. http://deyoung.famsf.org/

 


 

turner children

 

It was lovely to see a docent teaching children about Turner. I eavesdropped his interesting talk several times.

 

 

 

 


 

 

turner susan's commission parliament

In order to improve painting abilities in all ways I often do studies of great works of art, visiting them in a museum to see them first hand whenever possible, and then working from pictures.

Here is an example of a commissioned study I did of his “Burning of the Houses of parliament” for a family who owned the original, donated it to a museum in Cleveland, and wanted a memory. I worked with the museum to get the colors right, as there is always a lot of variety in reproductions.

Sometimes we think that a more “abstract” painting will be easier than a more life-like work, but it is just the opposite. This is the most difficult study I have ever undertaken.


BERKELEY

chez menu

Then on to lunch at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Alice Waters took the AMI Montessori teacher-training course the same place I did. https://www.mariamontessori.org/ And then moved out into the world combining education of children, protecting the environment, cooking, and beauty.

Here are Alice’s words:

I was 22 years old when I first trained to be a Montessori teacher, and Maria Montessori’s philosophy has remained vital to me all my life: Children learn best through experience. The senses are the pathways to our minds—and when a child’s senses are activated, knowledge floods in.

I had this interactive pedagogy in my heart when I started the Edible Schoolyard program, which creates organic gardens and kitchen-classrooms in urban public schools. When students come into the garden-classroom for their math class, they are measuring the vegetable beds—they are doing math by osmosis, effortlessly absorbing their lessons. This is the beauty of a sensory education—which is, at its core, a Montessori education: the way all the doors into your mind are thrown wide open at once.

chz susan with french posterFrom every direction as we sat at lunch I could see her sense of beauty and attention to detail, from the furniture, and art on the walls, and the food.

Here is the link to her foundation to the Edible Schoolyard, a n nationally recognized for its efforts to integrate gardening, cooking, and sharing school lunch into the core academic curriculum: http://www.chezpanissefoundation.org/

 

 

 


BANGKOK

Now I am in Bangkok, on the way to the 4th ESF (Educateurs san Frontieres) Assembly, which was begun to Renilde Montessori, the granddaughter or Dr. Maria Montessori, in 1999. You can read about the first three assemblies, and this one, which will be held for 2 weeks in Thailand, here: http://amiesf.org/

old thailand

Back to the subject of beauty. I was in Thailand for the first time in in 1964. The tallest buildings in Bangkok at that time were the temples and other Buddhist structures. Upon returning in 2002 on my way to the Tibetan Children’s’ Village in India, I was shocked and saddened by the modernization of the city. One looked down on these beautiful temples from a freeway over the city! But because we cannot stop progress (but we can help direct if in positive ways, especially through our children) I am learning to see beauty in the new world.

airportLate last night, after 20 hours of flying, counting stopover for 2 hours in Tokyo, I took this picture as I left the Suvarnabhami airport in Bangkok to take the shuttle to the hotel. I was exhausted and my mind was screaming “ugliness,” but my eyes are learning to focus on color and shape and light, and I found beauty for a moment even this modern structure. Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder.

 

 

 


I have lived in both San Francisco and Berkeley, and have spent months helping with Montessori teacher training in Thailand—these are three beautiful place on our earth and I hope you have enjoyed the pictures.

Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting. —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Look for another post from Thailand when there is time!