Entries in art appreciation (2)


Children's House Montessori School of Reston: Offering a Unique Experience and an Authentic Montessori Education 

Each school in Northern Virginia offers something unique. When you are searching for a preschool for your child, it can be difficult to identify exactly what sets one school apart from another. So, we're going to make it easy and tell you what makes Children's House Montessori School (CHMS) of Reston so wonderful.

Our community is unique in it's own way - our families enjoy being involved in the school and it is not uncommon for families to form lifelong friendships during the time that their children are in our care. Our families return year after year, child after child - many have trusted us with 3 or more children, have been with us for 5-8 years or more. Our teachers are dedicated, educated, experienced with children, and all are Montessori trained. Our teachers make a difference in our community - in an area as transient as Northern Virginia, it's not common for all of the teachers to return to the same classroom year after year, but at CHMS they do. 

Our family community is strong because we have wonderful families of course, but we also believe in offering opportunities to spend time getting to know one another through events such as the Ice Cream Social and Parent Coffee at the beginning of each year, our fall and spring festivals, the eagerly awaited Parent Day, and the best of the best - our Annual Family Camping Trip - where memories are made that will stick with both the children and their parents for many years to come. It is truly a wonderful experience. 

In addition to our one of a kind community, we put a great deal of thought and effort into providing opportunities for children to explore and appreciate nature through the natural playscapes that we've added to our playground, creating several habitat gardens, a six week fall and spring gardening curriculum, and weekly educational hikes. If you are a lover of the outdoors, appreciate nature, and want your child to learn to love nature and value time spent outside, then you'll appreciate our unique focus on nature.

Our weekly "specials" go beyond traditional extras to offer educational enhancements to our curriculum. In addition to the previously mentioned educational hiking that we do each week as part of "specials," we also offer a spectacular Montessori music program, which Ms. Karen (assistant director) puts together for us each year. The children learn to read, play, and understand music. Classical music and classical musicians are integrated into our daily activites from preschool through kindergarten, and annually we have two music shows for the parents - one during the holiday program and one during the Kindergarten Art Show. Our third weekly "special" is Spanish. We bring in a fluent Spanish-speaking teacher to work with the children throughout the year to introduce them to a new language.

In addition to community, our focus on creating nature-based education, and weekly specials, we also integrate the Virtues Project into our daily interactions. Teaching virtues has made a significant positive impact on our environment. If you observe our classrooms and playground, one of the first things you'll notice is that the children take these virtues to heart and practice them in every interaction - they are cooperative, helpful, thoughtful, respectful, and kind to everyone around them and it shows by how peacefully they work and play together. The Virtues Project is a remarkable program that we are happy to offer.

The final unique program that we offer is one that starts as soon as the children enter the school and is integrated into the classroom throughout their three years with us - it is our focus on art appreciation. In the preschool and pre-k years, the children learn about artists, are introduced to famous works of art, and have ample opportunity to try a variety of art materials. But it is the kindergarten art appreciation classes and annual Kindergarten Art Show that provide the exceptional experience in art appreciation at CHMS. In kindergarten, the children receive art lessons, learn in depth information about 10 or so artists, and create their own replicas of famous art work. Our children leave CHMS with a thorough understanding and appreciation of art history, and we're told that many of them continue in their love of the arts long after they've moved on to elementary school.

We hope that you've clicked on the links throughout this blog post to learn more about what makes Children's House Montessori School of Reston so special. We welcome your questions via phone or email (703-481-6678 or Keturah@childrenshouse-montessori.com), and look forward to getting to know the new families who will join our CHMS community this year.



Our Montessori Kindergarten Art Appreciation Program

One of the highlights of the kindergarten year here at CHMS in Reston is studying some of the great artists of the world.  The children truly love learning about art history and artists throughout the year. We have a entire hallway dedicated to their masterpieces, take a field trip to the National Gallery of Art to see the paintings first hand, and every May we host a Kindergarten Art Show for parents to view their children's accomplishments. It's during the Art Show that parents realize just how much time and effort their children put into their art work...

Each week throughout the school year, the children learn about the history of art. We start with a book called "The First Drawing" by Mordicai Gerstein and then we take a make believe field trip to the Lascaux Caves in France (a sight famous for Paleolithic cave paintings). The caves were discovered in the 1940s by young boys who were out exploring the area when one of their dogs fell into a hidden underground cave.  Our kindergarteners are always surprised to learn that one of the greatest discoveries in art history was made by chidlren.

We set up a room across the hallway from the classroom with posters of Cave Art, turn off all the lights (it has no windows so it's really dark), and take the kids on an adventure to see what we can discover. We bring along a flash light and gather together in the center of the room to "ooh" and "aah" over the amazing images we are finding on the walls of the "cave" we have stumbled upon. It's always a fun day, and a wonderful, hands-on introduction to art history that the children remember and talk about all year.

Next we learn about Functional Art, which is anything that serves a purpose and has been decorated. We show examples of items that are plain and compare them to ones that have been decorated - a wooden bowl vs. a carved wooden bowl, a plain white porcelin vase vs. one that has been elaborately painted and decorated. We look around the school for all types of examples to use: flower pots, clocks, trays, anything we can find. We ask the children to think about things in their homes that might be considered Functional Art. They are interested to learn that a long, long time ago, people started creating tools and items to help them in their daily lives (bowls, baskets, clothing, etc) and at some point along the way, they decided that making those items beautiful was also important. Between the Cave Art and the Functional Art we establish that humans have been creating art for a very long time and in many different ways and now WE, the kindergarten class, are a part of that history as well.

We then begin our study of the lives and works of famous artists - some of whom are Johannes Vermeer (Golden Age), Claude Monet and Mary Cassatt (Impressionism), Vincent Van Gogh (Post-Impressionism), and Pablo Picasso (Cubism). We use a series of books called "Getting to Know the Worlds Greatest Artists" by Mike Venezia. Each book is about an individual artist, with details of their lives, pictures of his or her most famous works, and a few cartoons sprinkled throughout to add a little kid-humor. The children love these stories and learn so much about the artists in a fun way. We introduce artists that have an interesting story that might capture their interest like Rousseau, who never had a single art lesson and never traveled anywhere, yet painted incredibly imaginative jungle scenes, and Pippin, who was injured in World War I and had to use his left hand to support his right hand when he painted. These little details stick with the children and really leave an impression. Monet is a regular favorite and seeing "The Japanese Footbridge" during our field trip is always a highlight for the children. We also share with the children a portfolio of post cards of the artists' work to further tell the story of the artists.

We spend a month on each artist learning about their style of art and what makes them unique.  We usually have three or four art projects where we try our hand at the artist's unique style. Several of them are group projects, like the large "murals" of the Japanese Foot Bridge by Claude Monet and Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh. The rest are individual projects. We draw their attention to little things and think about how the artist was feeling or what they were thinking/doing when they decided to create their paintings. We use the "Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artist" series of books as well as books by Laurence Anholt to get to know who these artists where in an effort to better understand some of the choices they made about their art and what might have happened in their lives to motivate them artistically in some way. We also demonstrate specific techniques each artist used to create their works. The children can reproduce the works at the easel, just like they see the artists do at the National Gallery of Art during our field trip. 

During our field trip in the spring, the children recognize and know the stories about many of the pieces that they see.  The museum tour is led by a docent, and the children each receive their own sketch book to use as they learn more about these paintings during our time there. 

The children gain a true appreciation for art throughout their kindergarten year, and we have as much fun with the studies as they do.  It is such a joy watching them so engaged and learning to love the world of art.


You can read about our kindergarten program on this blog post or on our website. Please contact us to learn more!