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Eden Prairie Montessori

TEACHING GRATITUDE

Article by David Scheller

Photography by Eden Prairie Montessori

It will be some time before your little one is ready to begin learning reading, writing and arithmetic. Fortunately, they will do just fine without the concept of six-times-seven for a little while longer.

No child, however, is so young that they cannot comprehend gratitude. This makes sense. Gratitude lies at the heart of every social interaction a person will ever share. The sooner they learn to appreciate those around them, the better they can excel throughout their lifetime.

Eden Prairie Montessori, a local child care center with two locations in the north and south sides of the city, takes a unique approach to early education. Their staff believe children are curious and naturally equipped to absorb whichever world is presented to them, and so they endeavor to create the most stimulating and compassionate environment they’re able. 

Gratitude is far from the only value which is fostered at Eden Prairie Montessori. But to Shonali Harrison, the school’s director, it is one of the most important.

“Gratitude is much more than being thankful for the things we have,” said Shonali. “It also means being thankful for each other. We help our children to know how rewarding it feels to value their relationships with their peers, their family, and all the other people who make their lives better.

“The way we share lunchtimes together is just one example of this. Before we eat, we all put our hands together. Not in prayer – we are a secular day care and welcome all faiths – but while our hands are joined, we wish everyone peace, love, happiness, and whatever they need to enjoy comfortable lives. 

“Once we begin eating, our teachers point out some of the nice things our kids’ parents packed them for lunch. ‘Ooh, don’t those berries look delicious? Oh my, don’t you just have the crunchiest carrots!’ The kids often begin complimenting their classmates’ lunches as well, and are eager to learn about all the farmers, truck drivers and grocery store clerks who all helped make their meals possible. They haven’t met these people, but being grateful to them makes lunch that much more rewarding.

“Gratitude continues in the classroom. We use wonderful materials for all of our learning activities, and mention how fortunate we all are to share them. Our children learn a lot from this one subtle lesson: that their own belongings back at home are all things to cherish, too, and their friends’ and parents’ property is no less important.

“All of our staff have fond memories of playing outside. Indeed, we are all grateful for any time we got to spend running around outdoors. That’s why we guide our students on nature walks whenever the weather is for it, so they too can feel what a joy it is to be alive, and to have the sun, the rain and the earth to thank for it.

“Our children love taking souvenirs during these little nature walks. Simple things – rocks, flowers, feathers, pine cones, twigs, and leaves they find on the ground. We like to use these for arts and crafts projects, during which they learn more about nature so they can better appreciate it. And I know their parents are always delighted to add another painted rock to their home’s decor!

“But before mom and dad can have that pretty rock, it might wind up as a centerpiece at the conversation table. That’s when two kids sit down to admire something they’ve made and talk about it together. ‘You found a very round rock. I like that you painted it green!’ they might say. Both become more grateful for one another’s efforts and company during this tête-à-tête among tots.

“We often see our children practicing gratitude without any prompting at all. One little girl has become a very good artist, and usually brings in a picture she drew at home to give to a classmate. ‘I drew this for you,’ she will say, while holding out her latest sketch. Simply adorable. Another always asks her mom to pack an extra if she’s getting something special in her lunch, like a chocolate pudding cup. She wants to give it to her friend!

“The grateful exchanges we see between our children every day are testaments to just how much they can do at an early age with only the barest guidance. They have been learning empathy, kindness and thoughtfulness from their parents their entire lives. One of our most important jobs is to keep building on that as we help children grow into good people.

“And I too am very grateful – not just for our children, who teach me something new and fill my heart with so much love every day, but also for their families. I am honored that they trust Eden Prairie Montessori to take care of their little ones during the all-important first years of their lives.”

Eden Prairie Montessori offers two convenient locations at 7455 Market Place Drive and 8098 Glen Lane. You may learn more about them at edenprairiemontessori.com.