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Faster, higher, stronger...

Updated: Dec 28, 2018

December is usually a busy time in many schools : year end assessments, report cards, Christmas celebrations and not to forget, the dreaded ‘Annual Day’ or ‘Sports Day’ ! Why dreaded, do you ask? It’s because, in most cases, it’s an organizational nightmare.

Notes go back and forth between parents and teachers, children get to skip classes to rehearse, the whole school is a riot of paper and scraps : you get the picture. I surely love the idea of putting together a well thought-out production or a dance, but many a time, I just want to hide my head under the sand during these times.

However, my daughter’s school recently had their school sports day, which, quite frankly, surprised me. I mean that in a positive sense, of course. Hers is a school that follows the Montessori methodology and Maria Montessori felt that competition should evolve naturally among the children without adult interference. I felt that the activities organized for the day depicted exactly that.

To begin with, the evening had a theme : the role and life of a farmer. It seemed like a natural choice of theme, considering that the children had been learning about community helpers. I like it when events are linked to one another by theme. The little ones (between the ages of 3 and 6, not more) started off with a performance on “Old MacDonald”. All the children participated, as a whole group, bringing in a sense of community. Professional sports teams do pep talks before a game and I felt this activity helped the children do just that : to get ready to play!

The sports events that followed were all related to activities that a farmer might do, as he goes about his day. For example, tilling the soil was an event. The next one was carrying water. Another one showed the life cycle of a plant, from the sowing of the seed to the blossoming of the plant. It was all so beautifully structured.

The final event for the children was the harvesting. What a wonderful way to show the children all that a farmer does and to show them how much work goes into the making of our food! Farming and agriculture is a theme in many schools at the moment, but this was the first time I saw an event where the real work of a farmer was demonstrated, without mincing any words.

It was heartening to see the teacher refer to them as “future farmers”with pride. It was not just a buzz word used to impress the crowd, to be quickly forgotten seconds later. Indeed, our children should be future farmers, to ensure a healthier planet for all of us.

Wait a minute, I said this was a “sports”event, isn’t it? That was the highlight of the evening, in my opinion. All the games were not only games of competition but also of collaboration. Winning was possible only by working with the child next to you. It was a textbook example to show how competition and cooperation can co-exist. They were not playing to win a prize or a medal, but to help each other and finish the task on hand. They were being competitive without being dismissive of the other participants.

The best part of all this ? They had fun, lots of it! Maria Montessori would have been proud. To sum it up in the words of Michael Jordan,

“Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game.”

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