One lesson in the Primary classroom that deserves some attention is polishing. Jessie Braud, Directress of the P2 classroom at Villa di Maria, invites us into her classroom to observe a child engaging in the activity (and using some serious concentration). In Jessie’s words:
Polishing is one of the best activities there is for a young child! There is nothing quite like taking some tarnished silver or brass and working hard to make it shiny once again. The polishing work in the Children’s House allows the child an endless cycle of activity; the object can be polished again and again and again… even more than once in the same sitting! There are some favorite classroom objects that may find themselves being polished daily (like our little silver hippopotamus, for instance!).
This particular child really struggled with squeezing enough polish into the bowl, but she tried and tried and tried until she succeeded.
Another reason polishing is so wonderful is because, like many Practical Life lessons, it allows for the child to develop her logical sequencing. Every time the child polishes, the sequence of the activity is reinforced (first you lay out the materials, then you open the bottle, then you put just a little polish in the bowl, and so on). Polishing also allows the child an incredibly conspicuous result of their labors. The tarnish on the cotton ball and polishing cloths are a good indicator of their work, as is the shininess of the polished object.
All of this unlimited work allows the child to continue lengthening and strengthening her concentration as well, which is another key component of a Practical Life activity. It also gives the child opportunities to tend and care for her environment. While the youngest children are unconsciously caring for their environment (because at their age, they are just polishing to polish), an older child is definitely polishing to make his environment more beautiful and pleasant for his peers and himself.
Thank you, Jessie, for taking the time to explain the wonderful activity of polishing!