Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sand Box Redo

This post has been sitting in my drafts folder for months, but I still want input on how else we can improve the playground. Ideas?

The toddler playground at Dynamite is constantly a work in progress, and our last change was to remove the sandbox and replace it with a sand table. Since the sandbox was round, above ground, and too small for the children to sit in, they were stuck kneeling over the side on the gravel. Very uncomfortable - I know because I will get right down there with them and show how to make sandcastles, or rivers when the sand is really wet. Since it was a spur of the moment change, we didn't have a budget for the new equipment and made do with what we had - the basin of an old water table and some cinder blocks - the legs of our first shelves. We've moved on to lovely open wire shelving (no corners to fill up with dirt!), but the cinder blocks had been painted and were sitting on the side of the building for a future project.
We actually started out with a painted tire, and got it all the way filled up with sand so snakes and bugs couldn't hide inside of it (we are in the desert, after all). It took several trips of three-at-a-time toddlers, a wheelbarrow, and me, back and forth to the big sand area for the primary children. We filled up the wheelbarrow and took turns pushing it back and forth, then each time I lifted it and poured the sand into the tire. We also shoveled all the sand from the old sandbox into it. Then we put the basin on top and it didn't look right... plus it wasn't very stable. Ms. Mary Jane and I figured that with two-year-olds hanging over the edges, we would need something much stabler. So we took out those old cinder blocks and moved the tire out of the way. Then the sand, shovel-full by patient shovel-full, filled up the cinder blocks. It actually went pretty fast, because most of the class helped. This time when we put the basin on top it looked just right, and the children helped scoop the rest of the sand into the top part to play with.
Now the sand toys rest in a smaller basin under the sand table, making for a much cleaner look when the table isn't in use. It's easier to get the sand cleaned up from around the bottom edges, too. We can remove the plug and let it drain when rain fills it up with too much water, and it is a better shape and size for multiple children without taking up much more space. Best of all, the children can stand up to use it.
I love that we were able to put in at least twice as much sand as we used in the sandbox, because the basin is deeper. I think it makes for a better work area than before, when it was common to scrape the bottom because children kept carrying off cupfuls to work with at a table, and then spilling them on their way back and forth.
I'd love to hear some more ideas about how to improve our playground! The chain link, especially, seems very... industrial, to me, partially because the area is fairly small and the fence is so high compared to all the little toddler furniture. I'd like to make it more beautiful all the way around, and maximize the space - so everything that takes up space must have a purpose, just like the classroom.
Post ideas in the comments, please!

Welcome to Montessori Moments, a blog written for Dynamite Montessori School in Cave Creek, Arizona. If you'd like to check out our school, please visit Dynamite's website.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Dramatic Play: The Perfect Play or a Poor Substitute for Reality?

There's been a lot of information going around lately about giving kids "dramatic play" opportunities. One article that has been circulating through my facebook feed tells about a correlation between the lack of dramatic play and the increase in preschool expulsions. While I can understand how they drew that conclusion, I think there are better ways to let children experience the same benefits.
Dramatic play is almost always a reenactment of something children have seen others do, so if we can give them real things instead of play things, that is better. Who needs to pretend when you can do it for real? Montessori discovered this through observation a hundred years ago - many of the same misconceptions were popular then as now, and she tried all of the common "wisdom" as well as her own ideas. She found that once children had reasonably developed abilities of concentration, they consistently chose real objects and real work over pretend objects and pretend work. Only after observing this repeatedly did she remove the toys from the environment.
One early childhood education website states, "Dramatic play permits children to fit the reality of the world into their own interests and knowledge." This supports the benefits of offering real materials as much as possible, as long as there is an appropriate use for them in the child's life. The same site also says, "Opportunities for dramatic play that are spontaneous, child-initiated, and open-ended are important for all young children." And again, this is something that real tools can provide just as readily.
Of course, sometimes they will have read a book, or seen a picture, or watched a television program including something that just isn't, realistically, a part of their life. This is where imagination can come in most effectively. If they want to pretend to be a prince or princess (for example) and they want a crown, we can let them explore different ways to make one. Then they are using their idea of what a crown is, and imagining how to create it with materials that are accessible. If we simply give them a crown, we deprive them of the opportunity to be creative , and we limit their imagination. Montessori did speak highly of imagination, but only as far as it can help someone achieve their goals. If it doesn't help achieve a goal - if it can't be used in the real world - then for all intents and purposes imagination is an escape from reality. I think we need to be careful about promoting that.
This also brings fantasy play into question. While fantasy is often included in dramatic play, it is only because adults have introduced children to it initially - a child who has never heard of unicorns won't use them in pretend play. Therefore, the element of fantasy used in pretend play are based on what adults think children are interested in, instead of what we observe that children are interested in... and children are interested in almost everything! We don't need to manufacture a false reality to hold their attention. In fact, it does them a disservice, because when children are young, they are still learning about reality. Introducing fantasy before they can comprehend the difference just makes sorting things out more difficult later.
When people speak about the importance of dramatic play, what they really mean is that children need outlets to help process what they have observed and experiment with it. They also mean that children need to be able to direct their own activity at least part of the time, which is really what allows them to process and experiment. These statements I agree with wholeheartedly - what I disagree with is the need for fantasy or for dramatic play objects.
The benefits are more apparent with real materials, which respond to their use in an accurate way. For example, a child using a plastic drill won't actually drill anything, and won't have any opportunities to learn about the function, proper use, or control of a drill. A child who is shown how to use a real drill and given freedom (with supervision) to drill into real wood gets a much richer experience without losing the benefits. Real activities that don't require such close supervision, such as vacuuming, are even better because the child doesn't need an adult to be available in order to do the activity.
Of course, we shouldn't discourage child-initiated dramatic play based on media, but we also shouldn't provide props that are designed to be used a specific way. Instead, we should encourage the child to come up with his own ways of making them out of what is available to him, and let him decide what props he needs to complete his play.
Unfortunately, there's one big problem with the idealistic concept I just presented: children see those kinds of toys at other people's houses, on television, in the stores, and so on. Almost every time he sees them they are portrayed as the most awesome, amazing toy that he has to have or miss out on everything worth living for. And, since I can't advocate for creating a family of shut-ins, I know you're going to encounter them. So what do you do? I guess you just have to use your best judgment on what to let in and what to keep out, based on your family's value system. If you have any ideas about how to do this, please share with other readers in the comment section!
Now, don't get me wrong - there are definitely worse things out there than fantasy and dramatic play. I do think, however, that it is important to let it be child initiated and child directed every time.

Welcome to Montessori Moments, a blog written for Dynamite Montessori School in Cave Creek, Arizona. If you'd like to check out our school, please visit Dynamite's website.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Guest Post: Just Because my Child Says "Female" Doesn't Mean That She is Smart

Today we are so lucky to have a guest post from my good friend Shawn McGormley. I have known Shawn for about six years, since we were roommates during our primary training. Shawn is AMI Montessori trained for both Primary and Elementary, and makes beautiful materials for both groups which she sells here.
This is her response to everyone who's ever called her daughter "smart" when they really mean that she is knowledgeable. Enjoy:

Lately Dakota has started using the terms male and female with her Schleich animals (which happen to be anatomically correct). Most of the time it is with the females. We have read books to her about baby animals where she sees the babies feed from the mother. The main book was a board book aimed at toddlers. When there is an obvious difference in an animal I might mention that it is a female or male. I have just given her this word instead of "girl cow" or "mommy cow." She knows that female means girl and sometimes mommy.

I don't believe that knowing this word (or other "advanced" words) means that she is smart. Young children are sponges. They want to know the names of things. If I only had a nickle for every time that Dakota has asked me "What's that?" in the last two months! She often asks about things that she already knows. I think that she is checking to see if there is a more specific name that she hasn't been taught yet. She knows it is a dog, but she doesn't know that it is a German shepherd.

Dakota may or may not be smart, but knowing what a female or a chimpanzee or a lemur is at 2 1/2 does not mean that she is smart.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Great Gardening

Most people agree that gardening is a great experience for children, and the organic garden at our school is one of the things that parents find attractive about our campus. But did you ever wonder what exactly they learn from gardening? Well, if you did, wonder no more. The following is a list of the ways gardening can be used as part of a Montessori curriculum, blending into all areas of the classroom... or any learning environment, really. It was originally written over a year ago, as part of a grant application. Although we weren't chosen to receive the grant, it was still useful to put all of the ideas together in one place, so we can try to be consistent about applying them :) Here they are! Orange text has been changed from the original or added.

Toddler (18 months to 3 years):
Practical Life: the garden provides practical life experiences such as food preparation, planting, and harvesting. The toddlers will be able to plant and harvest low-maintenance fruits and vegetables, leading to discussions about where food comes from and how it grows. They will have first-hand experience using the food grown in the garden for simple food preparation activities, such as cucumber cutting. Practical life activities such as gardening also help to promote independence, fine motor coordination, concentration, and respect for one's environment. In addition, the garden serves an an introduction to cultivated plants and the ways that people use them, giving a glimpse of cross-cultural values.
Language: using the garden, the toddlers will learn the names of fruits and vegetables, as well as the names of the parts of the plants (root, stem, leaf, branch, petal, stamen, pistil, etc). They will learn to classify plants as flowers, vegetables, or fruits. They will also learn the terminology associated with gardening activity, such as the names of the tools used, and words that are introduced as part of the science lessons.
Science: the garden provides opportunities to briefly introduce the children to the idea of chemistry. For example, they will learn that plant matter breaks into pieces and and becomes food for new plants. They will also learn that the plant needs certain things, such as sunlight and water, in order to stay alive. The garden will also provide entomology experiences, as well as the opportunity to observe insects in their natural habitat and discuss how they help or hinder plant growth.

Primary (3-6 years):
Practical Life: the primary children will continue to learn the lessons begun in the toddler class, with greater breadth and more independence. The food preparation activities will become more complicated.
Mathematics: food preparation begins to incorporate measurements and numbers. The children may count the number of fruits on a given plant or the number of plants in the garden.
Sensorial: The garden will be associated with lessons using the five senses. Children will smell the plants and classify the scents, taste the foods and label them as sweet, salty, sour, or bitter, and play games comparing size of plants or fruits. They will also be able to touch the plants and determine texture. They may play listening games in the garden, to see if the wildlife nearby makes a noise, or if the wind rustles the leaves, and compare the sound of plucking a ripe food as opposed to an unripe one.
Language: primary children will experience a greater breadth of terminology, particularly incorporating the language from the sensorial work, as well as writing experiences such as listing the plants in the garden. Children may be given opportunities to create their own recipes using the fruits and vegetables they have harvested. Children who are able to read will be offered the opportunity to read planting directions or recipes and lead the other children.
Science: The lessons started in the toddler class become more defined, and present a clear cycle. Children are able to do plant dissections and labeling.

Elementary (6-12 years):
Practical life: food preparation becomes even more complex, using many different types of food in one recipe. Foods may be cooked, dried, or ground for later use. Gardening can be done with very little intervention. Students may have experience canning foods when the garden produces too much for immediate consumption. Elementary students may also be given daily tasks to care for and maintain the garden, such as checking moisture levels in the soil or inspecting the fence to ensure that rabbits and birds are excluded.
Mathematics and Science: children can measure the area of each planting space, and determine how many plants will fit in the area. They can also take measurements on how long a plant takes to germinate or provide fruit, or measure the size of a single fruit and see how it changes from day to day or week to week. The children can discuss in detail the biology of plants, and the inter-relations between different plants, insects, and animals. They can also measure the acidity of the soil or the fruits and vegetables, using litmus paper made from cabbage leaves, which they can harvest from garden cabbages. The children can do experiments using the garden plants as controls, then isolating different variables on class plants to see what changes.
Language and Culture: the elementary children can do research to find out which plants grow well in our climate, what some common challenges are, and what the plants need in order to be healthy. They can write about their experiences or leave notes for future classmates, to share what they have learned. Elementary children may also write songs or dramatic pieces detailing the growth or life-cycle of the garden, to share with younger students. They will learn about where each type of plant comes from, and how different cultures traditionally use them. Recipes used (at any level) will be chosen from various cultural backgrounds.

Welcome to Montessori Moments, a blog written for Dynamite Montessori School in Cave Creek, Arizona. If you'd like to check out our school, please visit Dynamite's website.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Why are there no numbers?

As the toddler teacher at Dynamite, one of the questions I answer most often is, "do you teach counting and numbers? I don't see any materials for that..." The last part of the question shows that they already know what my answer will be, but are hoping I will reply, "well, actually, we DO teach..." But we don't.
So why don't we have math materials in our class?
There are a few reasons. The first reason is that children in the toddler community are still developing an understanding of how to control their bodies, concentrate for longer periods of time, and manage frustration. These skills may not be necessary to repeat a rote memorization of counting, but they are extremely crucial to using the math materials and doing work with any level of understanding. Even when counting one-to-one (where the child matches each number with an object while counting and does so correctly) the child must be able to  keep track of each object, remembering which he has already counted and which he hasn't. If the child isn't ready and able to do that, it seems silly to teach him to repeat something he can't use and that doesn't have any meaning to him.
The second reason is that the materials we use for math are initially quite large, and then quite small. Even if we had a child in our class who was able to manipulate them effective and understand their use, there would be many others who would not. The children in the toddler class have very little, if any, ability to wait for something they want. This ability is augmented by another person already having that something, and this is usually enough to stop a toddler from taking it. Math materials would necessarily only be used by the oldest and most advanced students, leaving them available for a longer portion of the day than materials that all the children can use. This gives children who are not ready more of an opportunity to misuse them and see them being misused. We don't want their absorbent minds picking up incorrect use of the materials over a long period of time.
Finally, the third and most important reason - there is a progression of materials in the primary class environment that lead to the math area, and toddlers haven't mastered them. They don't have the control of movement or the logical sequencing to even use them.
Children first learn to use the cylinder blocks, which have elements of the later materials but are more easily manipulable by small hands. Next, they work with the pink tower. The pink tower increases incrementally in all dimensions, making it easy to discern the difference in size. The child builds the tower from largest to smallest. Children working with this material are indirectly prepared for the idea of 10, and see how three dimensions changing in unison make a more of a hyperbola than a straight line. They develop their ability to visually discriminate dimension. After working with the pink tower for a while, they are introduced to the brown stair. It is slightly more challenging than the pink tower because it changes in only two dimensions. Instead of evaluating size, the children evaluate thickness. This helps them to discriminate in more detail, and see how the shape changes when only two dimensions vary. Following the brown stair, children work with the red rods. The red rods are slightly more challenging than the brown stair because (I'm betting you've already guessed this) only one dimension changes. Now the children are evaluating length. The first rod is one decimeter in length, the second is two decimeters in length, the third is three, and so on.
In the use of every one of these materials, children are using highly mathematical concepts and evaluative skills. What I have described is merely the first lesson with each material - the barest introduction. After they've practiced with that, they take the measure of difference between each piece, they build from a distance, and match the pieces to things in the environment that are the same size/thickness/length. But these are all indirect uses of mathematics. I'm guessing you're wondering where the direct use comes into play?
Well, after the red rods, there is a material called the number rods. The shortest rod is identical to the shortest red rod, but then they start to alternate colors on each rod while remaining otherwise the same. The second rod is red-blue. The third is red-blue-red, and so on. Each rod is the physical embodiment of a number, with the units differentiated but not separate. Thus the child understand the concept of seven as a discrete quantity, while still seeing and feeling through the use of the material that it is made up of individual units. It's the perfect introduction to what a number actually means.
Why would I skip over all that beautiful preparation, that leads so perfectly into the concept of quantity, just to be able to say they know their numbers at two? Besides, they wouldn't really know them, not in the same way that a child who has followed this progression will.
The rest of the math materials follow in the same kind of logical progression so that by the time a child works with a material, he is really ready to understand it. In depth. And this deep understanding helps him be ready to understand the next material in the same way. It seems contradictory, but by not rushing things, the child is able to actually move through the concepts faster. He doesn't have to struggle to understand each one; the lessons are just challenging enough to be intriguing, and not so challenging that the child finds the work frustrating. Everything in a Montessori environment is like that. We call it "isolation of difficulty". Genius, right?
So when someone asks me why we don't do number work in the toddler class, I know they think I should. But I'm glad we have this beautiful progression, because it shows a profound respect for the child's learning process. Knowing the Montessori way, I would never do anything else.

Welcome to Montessori Moments, a blog written for Dynamite Montessori School in Cave Creek, Arizona. If you'd like to check out our school, please visit Dynamite's website.

Monday, April 9, 2012

On So-Called Early Reading...

I just finished reading this article citing research opposed to early reading. Most of the following post I first wrote in the comments section of that article, but I felt that this topic was incredibly important for people to understand fully and wanted to share my thoughts here.  Let me start by saying that I fully agree there is a problem with the way most children learn to read and write. Several problems, in fact. But we'll stick with the problem posited in the original post - early reading (as taught by most educational institutions) doesn't add anything to a child's academic skills or knowledge down the road. In fact, children who attended "play based" preschools fared much better in several areas than those who attended preschools that focused on academic skills. The research is quite clear on that verdict, Jennifer wrote, and it's true - but I've never found any research that differentiated between children by the way they learned to read or their motivation for doing so. Since the vast majority of people are educated in traditional schools, whether public or private, I think it's logical to say that the research is lacking. I would even venture to say that the way most children are taught reduces their interest in doing what they are taught to do. This really isn't a new idea, in fact, Alfie Kohn wrote a whole book about it and Montessori touched on it in a few of hers over fifty years ago.

The problem actually isn’t “early” reading, it’s the way traditional schools teach reading. When Maria Montessori developed the first Montessori schools, all she had available for the children was a set of sandpaper letters, believing that to go any farther was inappropriate for the children with whom she worked. They were ages 3-6. The children worked with the sandpaper letters and then, when they were drawing with chalk, started to write the letters they knew without any prompting from an adult. Then one child (around age 4) started to write words and prompted an “explosion into writing” for other children. Soon most of the class was writing on everything they could get their hands on – Montessori even wrote about children writing on the crusts of their bread! And then, about six months later, the second magic moment happened. One of the children realized that he (or she) could read the words he (or she) had written. This became an “explosion into reading” similar to the previous explosion into writing. All of it happened (in many different environments, with many different classes, over many years) without reading or writing being taught at all. All the teachers did was introduce a knowledge of phonetics and show the correct way to form the letters (which allowed the child to form a proper muscle memory of the letter shapes). They only did this with children who were interested in having those lessons. Most, if not all, of the parents were illiterate and couldn't teach either reading or writing. The children had these epiphanies because of their own interest in writing and reading!

Today we have materials that help a child progress farther into reading and writing, because Montessori discovered through these explosions that these activities are age appropriate for primary children. The philosophy remains the same, though, since everything Montessori advocated was based on observation of the child.

So yes, I agree that adults shouldn’t push reading on children, but not because it’s not age-appropriate. We shouldn’t push ANY kind of learning (with the exception of those few things needed for safety’s sake) for the simple reason that we only truly learn when we are intrinsically motivated. If we let them follow their inner teacher and simply connect them with safe opportunities to discover things, they will move farther along the educational path than any traditionally educated child will. There will be no divide between work and play because their work is joyful and pleasurable to them when they are allowed to follow their instincts. "Work" only becomes a dirty word when the task doesn't meet the worker's needs, but rather the needs or wants of an external source.

Of course I'm not suggesting anyone should let children run wild. Children need boundaries for physical and emotional safety, and their freedom cannot be broader than what their emotional and intellectual maturity allows then to manage effectively. But too often people assume that children need adults to fill the imaginary blank slate in their brains, and nothing could be further from the truth.

Welcome to Montessori Moments, a blog written for Dynamite Montessori School in Cave Creek, Arizona. If you'd like to check out our school, please visit Dynamite's website.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Pattern 3 Part Cards

I've created a new set of pattern three part cards to share with you all, using (with permission) patterns found here. Thanks, Sawdust and Embryos!
To make these cards, first print two copies at 4 sheets per page. The original images were quite small because they were part of a collage, so you definitely don't want to print them full size! Six per page would probably work, but the cutting instructions below won't be accurate. I wouldn't go smaller than that, just for ease of handling.
Next, cut the page in half both ways - you should end up with four pages (from each sheet) that are 4.25 x 5.5. Trim the tops off so that the top margin is .5 in. Do this for all the pages of both sets.
Now put aside one copy of each card - these are the control cards. On the other set, cut between the pattern and the label, making sure to cut in the same spot on each card so they stack nicely. They can be finished at this point, but for best wear, laminate using at least 3 mil plastic sheets.

Welcome to Montessori Moments, a blog written for Dynamite Montessori School in Cave Creek, Arizona. If you'd like to check out our school, please visit Dynamite's website.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Classroom as a Game?

I just read an article about a sixth grade teacher who turned his class into a role playing game (RPG). If you've never played them, the main idea is that you play as a character, often non-human, and that character "levels up" by gaining experience points (XP). Experience points are typically earned by fighting enemies or completing quests. As your character levels up, it becomes stronger, is able to reach new areas of the game which were not previously accessible, or earns other rewards such as better armor or stronger weapons. In the classroom, XP is earned by completing extra homework, participating in class, etc. The children compete against each other in boy vs girl teams, and the rewards are extra recess and a pizza party at the end of the year.
On the surface it seems like a great idea. Most of the negative responses were to the teacher's boy-girl division in team-making, but in the same comment people posted that the idea itself was fantastic. One comment even suggested that it should become a part of the curriculum in all public schools. And why not? It gets kids interested in learning, right? Well... maybe. If you're starting with children who have already lost their intrinsic motivation, then yes. Give them extrinsic motivation to learn the skills they need to be successful.
On the other hand, why should they ever lose their desire to learn? Or their desire to practice new skills just because it feels good to master something you've never been able to do before? If the extrinsic motivation is removed, say by graduating from the class, what happens then? Usually when a motivating factor is removed, the desired behavior stops. It's logical - if you only do something to get a reward, and you stop getting the reward, you'll stop doing it. Research shows, in fact, that children who are given a reward for doing something they enjoy are less likely to choose that activity in the future. Read more about that study here.
Montessori wrote about a teacher who had purchased medals for the "smartest" children, and when the idea was introduced one of the "smarter" boys cried out, "but not for the boys! Not for the boys!" He didn't want his lovely work to be sullied by a reward.
I guess my problem with the game idea has nothing to do with the idea itself. I personally really like the RPGs I play occasionally on my classic Nintendo or Sega Genesis. It's more to do with the fact that it shouldn't be necessary.
This, in my opinion, is why Montessori education is so wonderful. Our model is based on the child's desire to learn and constantly improve himself. We don't use rewards because the work itself is rewarding. It is interesting, meaningful work, and the children want to do it without any external motivation. Beautiful, isn't it?

Welcome to Montessori Moments, a blog written for Dynamite Montessori School in Cave Creek, Arizona. If you'd like to check out our school, please visit Dynamite's website.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

How to Make A Square-Based Pyramid Box

This is a great box for storing homemade materials or just for practice in opening and closing an unusual kind of box. Elementary children can make them as gift boxes or just experiment with different base sizes. I believe this qualifies as kirigami, because it is both paper folding and paper cutting (whereas origami is only paper folding, no cutting). I will try to upload a nice picture soon :)

(follow the directions or just use the template here.)

The Box:
  1. Using a piece of square paper, fold it in half twice to make four squares.
  2. Make a square the size you want your base to be out of a separate piece of paper. The smaller the base, the pointier the pyramid will be; a larger base will create a more squat pyramid. This will make the template for both the base and the square that holds the pyramid together.
  3. Place the small square in the center so that the corners of the small square point at the sides of the larger square. If folded into 4 triangles it will line up with the folds on the larger sheet, and be perfectly centered. Centering is very important.
  4. Trace around the small square. This will be the base of your box. This area should be reinforced before decorating the box if not using a thick material.
  5. Using a straight edge, draw a line from a corner of the small box to the corner of the larger square. Repeat with all cornersthis should result in a long isosceles triangle coming out of each side of the small square.
If using paper or cardstock as your box:
  1. Trace a line parallel to the long sides of each triangle and only a short distance away. This section will be folded in to keep the edges crisp, so in a small box this will be only a few centimeters thick. At the corners of the small square, along the fold, draw a small line out that bisects the thin section.
  2. Cut away the excess paper (the obtuse-angled isosceles triangles along the sides of the large square), and then cut along the small line that bisects the thin section as well. Fold all the other lines.
  3. Trace the small square template again. Glue this piece onto the bottom of the pyramid (inside or outside according to your preference) to reinforce the bottom.
  4. Punch out the circles with a hole punch.
If making the box out of a thick material such as wood, cardboard or plastic:
  1. trace the paper onto the thick material leaving off the thin, folding piece. Cut out the triangles separately from the square and attach with flexible tape before covering with fabric or decorative paper.
  2. Drill a 1/4 inch hole through each circle.
The Closing Square:
  1. Trace the small square from the base of the box. This becomes the outside of the closing square.
  2. Determine how far down from the tip of the box you want the closing square to fall. Measure the width of the triangle at that height.
  3. In the center of thelargesquare, draw a small square with sides the same length as the width of the triangle.
  4. Cut out the small square from the center of the closing square.
  5. If using paper or cardstock, fold in the corners so they meet the inner corners. Fold the sides so they meet the inner sides. Tape or glue the sides in place if desired. If using a thick material, leave the closing square as is, or trim it to the desired size.
The Stick:
  1. Cut a 1/4 inch dowel (or tight roll paper roll) slightly longer than the side of the closing square.
  2. Attach a ribbon or other decoration to the stick if desired.

    I am posting this without having tested the template that I posted (I made one by hand but haven't yet printed the computer one), so if you have any trouble please comment and I will fix any errors or talk you through it more thoroughly. Enjoy!