Last night was Back-to-School Night in my four-year-old son’s Montessori classroom. The children had each made a list with their teachers of the activities that they wanted to share with their parents, and after a brief welcome from their teacher, they started buzzing around the room, gathering their favorite puzzles, paints, and other supplies.
The first item on my son’s long list was Burlap Bead Sewing. He brought a tray with small squares of burlap, a jar of beads, a needle stuck in a cork, a spool of embroidery floss, and a small pair of scissors. And he talked me through each step:
“First you measure the thread as long as the table top. Then you snip it with these scissors. Then you thread the needle, and tie the ends together. You might need to ask for help with the knot. (I helped with the knot.) Then you put the thread through the burlap. Thread a bead onto the needle, then make a stitch. Then, do it again.”
He worked, slowly and carefully, until there was a long line of beads stitched into the fabric. He asked for help tying the final knot, and then sat back, proud. “Isn’t it beautiful?” And it was. After appreciating it, I moved to help him clean up so that we could see the next activity on his list, but he stopped me.
“No, mama. When you’ve had a lesson, you have to do it right after. Or you won’t remember.”
And so I sat down in my son’s tiny seat. And I sewed a line of beads into his burlap square. Teal and orange: mine was an Inqune-themed embroidery project.
Four year olds are not so different from thirty-four year olds– but when teaching, we often treat them as though they were. Doing is a crucial part of learning. When we design trainings, it is crucial to keep in mind that “activities,” “games,” and “practice sessions” are not auxiliary elements that we throw in to “make it fun” or “keep everyone’s attention.” Using new knowledge as soon as we have been exposed to it builds crucial pathways in our brains.
And that’s what I learned at Back-to-School night. That, and a refresher on easel painting.