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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Saving Suzy and the Lesson in Centrifugal Force

As cute as Suzy was as a five year old who had the height and chubby physique of a three year old, there was a titan within. And a comedienne. Our classroom's bathroom door was but a few feet from the hall door, an architectural snafu which made this (gratefully) unique performance possible, especially since we never saw it coming!
Not unusually that day there were two women visitors walking down the hall, peering curiously into the classrooms they passed. As usual the children seemed to pay no attention to them and continued with whatever they had been doing. Not Suzy. As soon as she saw them, she hurried to the bathroom, and unbeknown to us, removed all her clothes, then streaked out both the bathroom door and the class door, and down the hall after the women. Much too fast for us ignorant of her intentions to stop her. As I reached the doorway, the women were bringing her back.
“Oh, we found this little one down the hall,” they told me. “Looks like she needs some help.” Suzy was grinning ear to ear. But other than looking up as Suzy entered nude, the children went right on working. Even I was surprised at their complacent acceptance of her behavior. After all, it was outrageous and funny. No one laughed.

I think Suzy liked our table scrubbing exercise second only to painting at the easel. On this particular morning, she was working on a large blue landscape to which she had decided to carefully add some people. Painting the people was not going too well, and when one of them wound up with three legs, she decided to pack it in. She went to the sink for clean up water, but forgot first to dump the paint water. So now walking carefully, struggling a bit, she returned to the easel with a much heavier bucket. First she tried wiping down her easel with water from the bucket. Not having much luck with that, she cleaned the paintbrush by stirring it in the bucket. and became fascinated by the blue swirls the brush was making in the water. She decided to enhance the effect by adding the blue paint remaining in the paint jar. Now there was quite a contrast within the swirls. Suddenly she realized that some of the children were putting their work away. The end of the work period had arrived. Too much blue and no clean water. She picked up the bucket, frustrated, and did a quick turn. Too heavy! Whoops. Water spill. Blue paint! Don't look! Just keep whirling!
“Oh! No!” “Suzy! No!” “Stop!” the cries came from all over the classroom as blue splatters hit other children and whatever they were doing. When she stopped, there was very little left in her bucket and blue was everywhere. Nothing more was said. I came to help Suzy clean up her easel work. Quietly, all available children grabbed sponges, buckets and anything appropriate they could find to clean the blue paint from the classroom. Karin was wiping down the walls using a clean up bucket and a sponge. Tommy was washing the windows with the spray bottle and a rubber scraper. Tracy with the mop and mop bucket was working on the largest puddle nearest the easel. Nearby. on hands and knees Stacy was helping to sop up paint water using a large floor sponge and a bucket. Tommy was passing amongst those peeling wet work papers off their tables, carrying the wastebasket for paper work lost to centrifuged paint. Kit, Sol and Mel were scrubbing the bluest tables. And Mercedes in her wisdom was helping the youngest children, struck immobile by the enormity of the situation, with their coats.

Children in Montessori classrooms become the kind of people you would want nearby if there was a volcanic eruption or an earthquake. And more than a few understand centrifugal force.

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