One day in Rome, over a hundred years ago, Maria Montessori brought a sleeping four month old infant into a classroom. When all the children had gathered around her, Montessori pointed out the stillness of the child as it slept. After drawing the children’s attention to this stillness, she offered a challenge to the young students: could they make themselves as still as the baby? Indeed they could; the young students turned their attention toward creating their own remarkable stillness.
Next, Montessori wondered aloud if they could possibly make themselves still enough to hear the baby breathing. Then the stillness and silence among these young children became deep and truly peaceful. Inspired by this encounter, Montessori developed “The Silence Game” where children learned to listen for “the lightest sounds like that of a drop of water falling in the distance and the far-off chirp of a bird.”
This wonderful activity — one that is a favorite of the toddlers in Ms. Teresa’s class — provides children a chance to assert their will over their own movements, and to cultivate peacefulness in the process. As Montessori describes it:[I]t is as if we put on the ear a sort of “lens of silence” which makes it easy to discover things to which otherwise we might not pay any attention. Children are so sensitive to this that many times I have found children of two years trying to find more hidden noises by being more silent.
Mary-Anne Carter, an Australian educational researcher, has provided parents and teachers with a helpful description of the Silence Game. In it, she distills the overall experience for the children:
[T]his activity is designed to help children develop a higher level of self-discipline, along with a greater awareness of the beauty of silence and subtlety of sound.
Summer is not far away and there are many “styles of summer” for TMS families. For some this is a busy season. For others, it’s when things slow down a bit. Perhaps this is a time of family visits, travel, or camps. As an occasional counterpoint to summer plans, consider cultivating moments of summer stillness, too!
Wishing you all a summer filled with discovery and happiness!
Contributed by Shelby Driskill