Chiaravalle, Wednesday Sept. 2 - Book Presentation: The Montessori Alphabet. Words that can change the World
This book presentation is tonight's venue at the Teatro Valle. Unfortunately I will not be able to attend. Elena Balsamo will be presenting her newest book: the Montessori Alphabet, which has just come out and is written in Italian (Alfabeto Montessori. Le parole che possono cambiare il mondo, Leone Verde).
Elena Balsamo is a "holistic" pediatrician, specialist in the care of the person in the first months of life, expert in perinatal issues and three times a mother. Her life is dedicated to supporting the mother-child relationship, especially in the period of pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding, and to understanding the experiences of the newborn, which she seeks to interpret. For many years she has been working with intercultural mothering and Montessori pedagogy. On all these issues she carries out courses for parents and professionals in the health and educational fields (bio translated from the publisher's website).
"A two-part dialogue, in which the author's poetic style alternates and mixes with Montessori's more technical-pedagogical style. Reflections, practically "daily meditations", to understand the most important, innovative and lesser known aspects of Maria Montessori's thought and vision, aspires to establish, above all else, that spiritual contact with Montessori that Maria used to make with the child and with her audience." (from the program MM150 Maria Montessori, Ritorno a Casa).
Some of her other books (in Italian, I've translated the title here) are:
The Chiaravalle Cigarette Factory Lady Workers: could this be the origin of Montessori's feminism?
I had to see this cigarette factory with my own two eyes. As we know, we learn and absorb real impressions through doing, "Io imparo facendo". Watching a film, reading a book, listening to a lecture, these are all cognitive and virtual in that they enter our consciousness through the mind and not through the body. Montessori emphasized how the child learns through 'doing', but in reality it is the same for every person at every stage of life: we all learn best through 'doing'. Everything we learn through the cognitive channels, we are only taking it in through the mind, and it is at risk of being lost when the cognitive memories are compromised, during the last "developmental" stage of life, and the loss of declarative memory. This is for another blog... but this transgression is simply saying: I wanted to be there, go to the facotry, and take it in through my own senses, log an experience - after all of the talk about it.
The film we had seen the evening prior had shown the history of the factory and it's vital importance to the town since 1759 when it was opened. The director had found historical footage of the women working there and rolling the tobacco leaves. Each employee was gifted 25 packs of cigarettes each month as part of their payment.
The workers were all women, and so the town of Chiaravalle, where Maria absorbed reality and incarnated her culture and personality up through the age of 3, women had work as laborers, they were an economic force in town.
Every morning the town's women walked to work down the street built in 1870 to connect the town to the factory and it was named: "Boulevard of the Lady Cigarette Workers". The women of Chiaravalle were empowered by their economic independence. And Montessori's father, Alessandro, was the government employee who oversaw the factory's finances and state income from it. You can see in the photo below what his car would look like if he were working there today!
And below is a link in Italian to an archive
Watching the film was like sitting at the foot of a mountain watching an avalanche roll down the mountain's side. Montessori's life story is not simple and every aspect was looked at in diverse ways with historical film clips, interviews, observations in a variety of children's houses, and even modern scenes illustrating in contemporary times the various political, education and social issues that she devoted her life to. The trailer can be found at the link below.
Whiling away some time before the International premiere of the newest documentary on Montessori we explored the center of town. What did we find?
Montessori's Birthday Lunch
It wouldn't be a blog from Italy with out publishing a few photos of the food I'm eating : )
Paccheri con pesto di pistacchio con pecorino degli amanti con pacasassi del Conero
Pasta tubes with pistachio pesto with lover's pecorino with wild fennel greens from the Conero Natural Reserve
Tiramisu cream puffs and white chocolate mousse over fruit and olive oil crisp breads
My Birthday Present to Montessori
I had fun before coming to Chiaravalle making sets of cards with quotations to hand out with Montessori 150/31 Agosto 2020 printed on the other side - a little piece of memorabilia. My plan is to pass them out to those who I meet at the events and offer them a reading from the Absorbent Mind/La Mente Del Bambino of the paragraph where I cited the quote. This set of quotations is themed on the Newborn and his or her transition into life outside the womb.
"To be forced to adapt suddenly to an environment totally different from the one in which he has been living, to be obliged to assume on the spot functions never before exercised, and to do this in the unspeakably exhausted state in which he finds himself- this is the hardest and most dramatic test in the whole of a man's life." pg. 69 Theosophical Society 2002
A morning Cappuccino at the Bakery next to Teatro Valle to begin the celebrations. Like most all cafes in Italy it is a family affair and the elderly woman comes over to clear our table. I burst out "It's Maria Montessori's birthday today!" and she smiles and acknowledges this fact. She begins to talk about how her mother worked for 45 years at the Tobacco factory just outside of town and she went to the factory childcare center, which was a Montessori program.
Let's go back to 1870, when Maria Montessori was born. Her father had moved to Chiaravalle from Emilia, the region to the north, which today is part of Reggio Emilia. He was sent there by the Italian Ministry of Finance to oversee the finances of the state run manufacturing operations. Renilde was from the nearby town of Monte San Vito. They fell in love and married, and this Tobacco factory was the center of their life.
The factory's history goes back to 1759, it was founded by the Benedictine Monks in an old mill as an economic activity for the monestary. In 1870 Italy was unified into a single state and the new government nationalized it and sent Alessandro Montessori there to oversee the finances. This factory was the heart of Chiaravalle, where many of the town's ladies worked and in 1870, the same year Maria was born, a boulevard was constructed from the center of town to the factory which was called "Viale delle Sigaraie" Boulevard of the Cigarettes, and in the morning and the evening the town folk went to work and came home.
Silvana was dressed in pink, and as we talked I thought about the pink tower. She was happily reminiscing about her mother and the 45 years of work she put in in this factory, and how her aunt worked there too and she had gone to America to teach those in the American tobacco industry. She nodded yes when I asked if she remembered her experiences in the Montessori Asilo (childcare center) and she said, "I was there for all those years, while my mother worked there and I was too small to go to school." As we said good-bye and tried to pay for our breakfast she refused our money, "I'm treating today, see you tomorrow" she said.
Arrived in Chiaravalle 8/30/2020
Destination via Montessori (via means street) on the navigator, these were the instructions given by our AirBnB host. We find parking and walk a block to our apartment which, I'm happy to report, is directly across the street from the Teatro Valle, where all of the events are being held. The Casa Natale (the house where Maria Montessori was born) is just a few minutes walk down the street and in the heat of the Italian night we stop for a gelato on the way to pay our respects. Our host tells us that the town is projecting a slide show on the front facade of the Town Library, and the five photos they have chosen are from when she visited her home town of Chiaravalle the very last visit to Italy in 1951. Her house is behind bars due to the 2020 epidemic, because the work came to a halt and was not able to make up for the lost time. The grand opening for the new museum was supposed to be tomorrow. Somehow it feels like a metaphor. Maria Montessori, the person, is being celebrated in Italy but they haven't applied her vision to their schools. Italy has a culture that is comfortable with a vertical rather than horizontal power structure.
All of the official events happening in Chiaravalle, Montessori's home town, will take place in the historic theatre in the center of town: Teatro Valle. Each booth will host people from the same family and seating will be distanced in the heart of the theatre.
The schedule of events are as follows:
Sunday August 30th at 9:00 p.m. there will be a Concert with music by Hildegard von Bingen, Monteverdi, Händel, Vaccaj, Mozart, Rossini, Bellini, Verdi, Saint-Saëns, and Bizet. From the brochure - Maria Montessori loved music, which she defined as a "necessary companion", and as a "true benefactor of humanity". A pioneer of musical education, she advised that children were offered the opportunity to listen to the music of the "greatest artists and greatest performers" from a very early age, because it was capable of arousing "superior feelings" in them. Montessori appreciated most of all melody and singing; for this reason, on the eve of her 150th birthday, the Domus Musica Association has decided to pay homage to her with an opera. The pieces that have been chosen will trace the entire history of vocal repertoire, from Gregorian chant (indicated by Maria as the children's favorite) to the Italian bel canto of the nineteenth century, with arias and duets by some of the most significant composers of melodrama.
Monday August 31 at 5:30 p.m. there is a book presentation of a new Graphic Novel, Maria Montessori Il Metodo Improprio. Maria Montessori, the Inexact Method. I'm not exactly sure of the translation of 'Improprio' as the choices were: improper, inappropriate, irregular, improvised, erroneous, wrong, inaccurate, imprecise, and inexact. I just took a leap of faith on inexact. Perhaps the various meanings are a play on words and there is a double, or triple or even quadruple entendre... I guess we'll find out soon!
When Maria Montessori published The Method of Scientific Pedagogy in 1909, she was already known in Italy for being one of the first women to graduate in medicine and for her feminist struggles. The book, as it describes children's education, does not talk about stimulating them, rather to pay attention to the interests and motivation of the learners. The enthusiasm with which it was received led Maria Montessori to share her pedagogical views around the world and what followed was the birth of her schools that would prepare a new generation of teachers. Written by the same authors of the graphic novels dedicated to Mario Lodi and Danilo Dolci, this is a comic biographical sketch that covers the fundamental stages in the development of Montessori's educational practices.
Publishers Becco Giallo 2020
Monday August 31 (and Wednesday September 2 and Friday the 3rd) at 9:00 p.m. is the international premier of the new biographical documentary film At the first night's showing there will be a special guest: Carolina Montessori via a video call as well as introductions to the film by the director Emanuela Audisio and the director of Sky Arte Roberto Pisoni. 75 minutes. The documentary W Maria Montessori intends to highlight not only the extraordinary past of a woman capable of freeing herself from conformism - in 1896 she will be the third Italian woman to graduate in medicine, with a specialization in neuropsychiatry - but the modernity of her system for learning that spread across the entire world and saw the development of new schools in her name. ... she knew how to say no to fascism, fight for women's emancipation and universal suffrage, vindicate the autonomy of consciousness as opposed to totalitarianism, and modeled throughout her life the importance of curiosity and travel in bringing together Western and Eastern thought.
Written by Emanuela Audisio
Director Emanuela Audisio and Malina De Carlo
Produced by 3D Productions and Sky Arte in collaboration with Fondazione Chiaravalle Montessori e Istituto Luce Cinecittà, with contributions from the city of Chiaravalle