The Montessori method of education, developed by Dr. Maria Montessori is a child centered educational approach with over 100 years of success in diverse cultures all over the world. It is a view of the child as one who is naturally eager for knowledge and capable of initiating learning in a supportive, thoughtfully prepared learning environment. This approach values each individual child physically, socially, emotionally and cognitively. The Montessori environment contains specially designed, manipulative materials that invite children to engage in learning activities of their own individual choice. Under the guidance of a trained teacher, children in a Montessori classroom learn by making discoveries with the materials, cultivating concentration, motivation, self-discipline, and a love of learning.
Today, Montessori schools are found worldwide, serving children from birth through adolescence. In the United States, there are more than 4,000 private Montessori schools and close to 200 public schools with Montessori programs.
Montessori Education Vs. Tradional Education
“The environment must be rich in motives which lend interest to activity and invite the child to conduct his own experiences.”
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 a preschooler to lay out strands of beads for counting, or an elementary student to ponder a 10-foot-long Timeline of Life. 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 colored images of cartoons and syndicated characters. Rather, you might see posters from a local museum, 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. Preschool rooms feature low sinks, chairs, and tables; a reading corner with a small couch (or comfy floor cushions); reachable shelves; and child-sized kitchen tools—elements that allow independence and help develop small motor skills. In upper-level classrooms you’re likely to see large tables for group work, computers, interactive whiteboards, and areas for science labs. Above all, each classroom is warm, well-organized, and inviting, with couches, rugs, and flowers to help children and youth feel calm and at home.
Maria Montessori recognized that when allowed freedom of choice within clear, firm and reasonable boundaries, children act in positive ways that further their development.
Freedom is frequently misunderstood, and many people take it to mean that children can do whatever they want. Montessori believed that freedom without boundaries was abandonment. In Montessori classrooms, expectations are clear, and children experience the natural and logical consequences of their choices.
This freedom within limits allows for the natural development of self-regulation within the society of the classroom, as well as mirroring behaviors expected by society in general.
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