High school and college graduations garner the most attention. At Montessori Tides School, however, we honor the end of the three-year cycles for Primary and Elementary students. The graduation ceremonies are ways to respectfully honor the children and their readiness to move to the next stage of learning.
This year, 10 children will graduate from Primary; 11 third-years will bridge into Upper Elementary; and two students will graduate from the school.
Recently, the third-year Primary students began making carp kites for their graduation ceremony. Carp kites are placed outside homes on Children’s Day, celebrated May 5 in Japan. The carp signifies courage and perseverance, since the carp must have both to swim upstream.
The carps are displayed at the graduation ceremony because the Primary children are like the carps. The carp’s need to swim upstream is part of the fish’s nature, just like it’s part of a child’s nature to gain self-mastery, Miss Kathy said.
At the end of the Primary three-year cycle, it “becomes natural for the children to persevere,” she said.
The candles the children carry during the ceremony also are significant and help to set the tone for the Primary graduation.
“Our graduation is more something you think and meditate on,” Miss Kathy said, adding that there are subtle messages in the ceremony.
The fire from the candle represents another one of those messages, she said. The Montessori classroom provides the spark, or interest, for the child’s engagement in the classroom, which then provides a light for the teacher to guide the child.
As Maria Montessori said, “Our care of the child should be governed, not by the desire to make him learn things, but by the endeavor always to keep burning within him that light which is called intelligence.”
In the Lower Elementary classroom, the third-year children walk across a bridge, borrowed from the Toddler playground, to symbolize their journey into Upper Elementary. The bridge is a symbol of the child’s movement to the next stage in a large plane of development that lasts from ages 6 to 12.
The Bridge Ceremony recognizes the children’s work in the Lower Elementary environment and their respect for Upper Elementary. As part of that, the third-years read speeches during the ceremony. In the speeches, the students reflect on what they enjoyed about their classroom; give advice to younger students; thank those who have helped them; and look ahead at their expectations for Upper Elementary.
After crossing the bridge, the students are welcomed by the Upper Elementary students.
The Upper Elementary graduates also prepare speeches for their ceremony and listen to the Dr. Seuss classic “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.”
The Elementary graduation ceremony also is an opportunity for the teachers to honor the students, too.
Miss Jess said the ceremony is a way to show “our reverence for the children and their futures.”
In addition to working on their speeches, the Elementary graduates are working on their legacy projects. Miss Nancy said the legacy projects allow for the students to give back to their classroom and school, and to leave something behind for remembrance.
For this year’s project, the third-year students have been busy painting clay pots to build birdbaths, and building and painting birdhouses for the school environment.
The sixth-year students are working with their parents to improve the water collection system for the rain barrel outside of their classroom. They also plan to paint the water barrel and include their handprints as a reminder of their time in the classroom and the relationships they have in their classroom and school.
“The relationships that develop over time,” Miss Nancy said, “I think they really shine at graduation.”