Adherents of the Montessori method claim that children naturally enjoy and choose the Montessori activities. In fact, Maria Montessori first picked which activities to keep in her classroom by observing what the children chose to spend their time with.
In my Sunday School class I have 1 and 1/4 hour teaching time. As it is a room shared with another class, any materials must be portable, brought in immediately before teaching, and taken down immediately after.
Will 4-and5-year-olds actually enjoy a sensorial activity? Can some semblance of the activity happen in my not-very-Montessori classroom? And will it be a worthwhile activity?
(worth·while adj. Sufficiently structured and engaging; distracts Boy #1 and Boy #2 from climbing to the top of the art easel and screaming madly)
Using materials from the dollar store, and some essential oils which I already owned, I created Smelling Jars. I dearly wished for some myrrh to use as a scent, but alas, I had none. I did use some juniper berry, as well as cedarwood and cinnamon — all materials mentioned in the Bible. A snippet of yarn was placed in each jar, so that each pair would require one blue jar and one orange jar.
The kids enjoyed it! They crowded around, unscrewing lids, smelling each smell, excitedly holding it up so I could also smell this new and interesting scent, and carefully repeating the scent names after me. As the new activity in the room, no one wanted to play with puzzles or blocks, only these. Which kinda backfired because…
Smelling Jars does not work as a group activity. At all. Way too chaotic. I even tried it the next Sunday to be sure. This activity really needs a “prepared environment” classroom, so that all the activities have the same level of newness.
I kinda had fun with it though. Now that the bottles are made, I may use them during a lesson on Solomon building the temple (cinnamon was used in incense, and cedarwood for the walls), or for the Christmas story.
But I’ll need to buy that myrrh first.