As we move into an unpredictable future it is becoming more and more apparent that we need to foster creativity and innovation in children rather than expect them to conform to predetermined standards. Montessori education has been doing this for over a hundred years with great success.
This five-minute video gives a nice summary about the benefits of Montessori education:
There are many influential people and creative thinkers who credit an early Montessori education with contributing to their success. We would like to highlight some of these people as well as discuss what that looks like in our classrooms. Consider the following traits of a creative and innovative education: curiosity, imagination, internal motivation, leadership, and a lifelong love of learning.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate author of novels such as Love in the Time of Cholera and One Hundred Years of Solitude, was a Montessori child. He once said, “I do not believe there is a method better than Montessori for making children sensitive to the beauties of the world and awakening their curiosity regarding the secrets of life.”
Rather than feeding children information we deem important, we spark their curiosity with stories – real stories about the wonders of our world – and provide them with materials that lead to self-discovery. The Great Lessons at the elementary level are a perfect example. The first Great Lesson teaches children about the beginnings of our universe in a wholly captivating manner. The children look forward to receiving this lesson at the beginning of each year, yet their developmental readiness allows them to glean something different each time. The teacher, in turn, can choose to expand the learning in any number of directions (the solar system, states of matter, rocks and minerals, etc.).
One common myth is that Montessori discourages imagination. This is simply untrue. Dr. Maria Montessori observed that young children prefer reality over fantasy, but imagination is something altogether different. In her book, To Educate the Human Potential, she said:
“ Human consciousness comes into the world as a flaming ball of imagination. Everything invented by human beings, physical or mental, is the fruit of someone’s imagination. In the study of history and geography we are helpless without imagination, and when we propose to introduce the universe to the child, what but the imagination can be of use to us? I consider it a crime to present such subjects as may be noble and creative aids to the imagination faculty in such a manner as to deny its use, and on the other hand to require children to memorize that which they have not been able to visualize… The secret of good teaching is to regard the children’s intelligence as a fertile field in which seeds may be sown to grow under the heat of flaming imagination. Our aim therefore is not merely to make children understand, and still else to force them to memorize, but so to touch their imagination as to enthuse them to their inmost core. We do not want complacent pupils but eager ones; we seek to sow life in children rather than theories, to help them in their growth, mental and emotional, as well as physical, and for that we must offer grand and lofty ideas to the human mind, which we find ever ready to receive them, demanding more and more.”
In Montessori classrooms we do not give external rewards – intentionally. The same goes for traditional grades and assessment methods. We want children to tap into their own drives and desires. We teach them to explore their world and trust their path. As Montessori teachers, we don’t consider ourselves teachers in the traditional sense, but more as guides who support children as they find their own way. One example is the concept of freedom within limits. Children are able to choose their work, the order of their work, who they work with, and their own movement and seating within the classroom. This empowers them to make decisions, and the feeling is internalized for decisions about their own learning.
Larry Page, co-founder of Google, continues to speak highly of his own Montessori education. He said of his success, “I think it was part of that training of not following rules or orders, and being self-motivated, questioning what’s going on in the world and doing things a little bit differently.”
Montessori classrooms are multi-age classrooms, and multi-age classrooms lend themselves to the natural development of leadership skills. While younger students are provided with mentors, older children are able to help their younger classmates, give lessons, and serve as role models. Leadership need not be loud or forceful, and Montessori allows all children to experience this role.
Helen Keller became a shining beacon not just because of her success in the face of adversity, but also because of her dedication as an activist. Her teacher, Anne Sullivan, one wrote, “Dr. Montessori learned, as I learned, and as every teacher must learn, that only through freedom can individuals develop self-control, self-dependence, will power, and initiative. There is no education except self-education. There is no effective discipline except self-discipline. All that parents and teachers can do for the child is to surround him with right conditions. He will do the rest; and the things he will do for himself are the only things that really count in his education.”
Lifelong Love of Learning
One of our greatest hopes is that we cultivate a passion for learning in our students. To be true innovators, we must never lose our love of learning. Case in point: Joshua Bell’s famous experiment alongside a Washington Post journalist.
Four-year-old Bell was found by his parents creating a string instrument out of rubber bands and dresser drawers. He would slide the drawers in and out to change the pitch as he played songs on the bands. His parents quickly realized his creativity and enrolled him in a Montessori school.
As an adult, Bell has become one of the most celebrated violinists in history. He regularly sells out venues across the globe. Interview Magazine once said that he “does nothing less than tell human beings why they bother to live.”
One January day in 2007, Bell dressed in ordinary street clothes and set up in an enclosed space just outside a Washington, D.C. Metro station. For 45 minutes he played some of the most profound pieces of classical music known to humans while cameras recorded the behaviors of passerby. Shockingly, only one person recognized him, toward the end of his performances. She approached him and told him as much, tossing a $20 bill into his case. Over 1000 other people walked by and only seven stopped to listen to the music. Besides the $20, he made a whopping $32.17. His participation in this social experiment led to a fascinating article that won a Pulitzer and inspired a children’s book. Aside from the shock of how people in the subway station reacted, it’s inspiring to consider Bell’s motivation. What did he have to gain except to explore, test, and collect information on something interesting?
To see a clip of that day in D.C., watch the video below:
Want to see some of these ideals in action? Contact us today to observe in your child’s classroom or to schedule a tour to view our school!