“Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.”
~ Dr. Maria Montessori
Developed by Dr. Maria Montessori in the early 1900s, Montessori education prepares children to take on the future with confidence and zeal, propelled by the gift of self-knowledge and a lifelong passion for learning. The first thing visitors to a Montessori classroom notice is the peacefulness of the environment and the students working in a variety of seating options using hands-on, beautifully designed materials. Several ages of children and at least two teachers are in the same “Learning Community”. The most current cognitive neuropsychology research supports Montessori methods - indeed many of the elements that Montessori teachers have been using for over 100 years are now identified as “state of the art” in conventional education.
In today’s educational terms, Montessori Education is:
- Brain-based education supported by current cognitive and educational neuropsychology research
- Multiple learning styles/multi-sensory,
- Project-based, experiential/hands-on, and interdisciplinary,
- Differentiated/individualized for each student. Students can work at their own pace with teacher guidance and direction, taking more time on some tasks and less on others as needed.
- Classrooms with flexible seating choices that allow movement, and have beautiful interior designs,
What a Montessori Class and School Look Like, and How They Work.
Montessori elementary and secondary classrooms are fundamentally different from conventional classrooms. In fact, they are so different that it can be hard to understand how they work, and why they are so great at helping children thrive. While it would be easy to write volumes about this topic, here are five key differences, and how they matter to your daughter’s success.
- Teachers are guides, not lecturers. They individualize instruction to keep each child optimally challenged.
- Children have choices, there’s no one-size-fits all curriculum pace. Students are encouraged to be curious; they are engaged and love learning. They are given choices about how they want to demonstrate their learning - presentation, project, essay, video, webpage, book chapter, art project.
- The classroom is full of materials instead of textbooks and worksheets. Children learn to solve problems, do their own research, and think, instead of repeat memorized jargon.
- The day has 2 – 3 hour work periods in elementary school, and a combination of 2-3 hour work periods and seminars in secondary school - instead of a schedule where activities are constantly changed, and students are at the mercy of the bell.
- Children learn with and from each other, in a mixed-age environment, with a team of teachers that they spend 3-4 years with. Instead of competing with each other, they grow into a community, and practice all-important social skills every day, and see two to five teachers model effective teamwork.
Successful Montessori Graduates
What is most striking is the wide range of fields that successful Montessori graduates are in, and how many of them directly credit their success and outlook on life to their time in a Montessori school - even if they only attended until age 6 or 9.
Montessori Classroom interior Design
The design and flow of the Montessori classroom create a learning environment that accommodates choice. There are spaces suited to group activity, and areas where a student can settle in alone. Parts of the room are open and spacious, allowing an elementary student to ponder a 10-foot-long Timeline of Life, or a secondary I or II student to create a mural illustrating their science research project.
You won’t find the customary rows of school desks; children work at tables or on the floor, rolling out mats on which to work and define their work space. Nor are you likely to find walls papered with brightly coloured images of cartoons and syndicated characters. Rather, you might see posters from a local museum, a mural of a forest or farm to bring nature into the room, or framed photographs or paintings created by the students themselves. There are well-defined spaces for each part of the curriculum, such as Language Arts, Math, and Culture. Each of these areas features shelves or display tables with a variety of inviting materials from which students can choose.
Many classrooms have an area devoted to peace and reflection: a quiet corner or table with well-chosen items—a vase of daisies; a goldfish bowl—to lead a child to meditative thought. And always there are places to curl up with books, where a student can read or be read to.
Each classroom is uniquely suited to the needs of its students. In elementary-level rooms you’re likely to see large tables for group work, a sofa and soft seating, computers (or 1:1 iPads like at Odyssey Heights), work rugs and floor cushions so students can work on the floor. In secondary school communities the design is typically like a combination of a great coffee shop and design studio, with a variety of seating - tall tables, regular tables, a desk or two with carrels for individual work, plus specialty areas for fitness, visual and performing arts, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
Above all, each classroom is warm, well-organized, and inviting, with couches, rugs, and plants and flowers to help children and teens feel calm and at home.
(Description from The American Montessori Society)