What is Montessori Education?
Montessori education is based upon the work of lifelong educator and physician, Dr. Maria Montessori. The Montessori Method of education is a child-centered educational approach based on scientific observations of children from birth to adulthood. Dr. Montessori's Method has been time tested, with over 100 years of success in diverse cultures throughout the world and is not entirely different from traditional-style education. The content is typically the same but, as outlined below, it is the teaching methods which make it different.
Montessori classrooms are grouped in three-year age spans, allowing individual students to observe a variety of learning styles, encourage responsibility in older classmates, and to foster self- confidence among all students.
Because classrooms are multi-age, they can support a broader spectrum of learning levels. Montessori lessons are presented and supported with classroom materials so that students can go beyond memorization and repetition to true understanding and application of knowledge, skills, and concepts. This allows the individual student to progress at his or her own rate.
Teachers as Guides
One of the core principles of Montessori education is to instill a love of learning in students. Maria Montessori believed that we all possess innate curiosity and a strong internal drive to learn. To nurture these self- motivational instincts in a student, Montessori teachers act as guides, carefully observing students, and skillfully presenting material to support key concepts.
In a Montessori program, subject matter is interrelated through over-arching cultural themes. Reading, writing, science, history and other subjects are tied together. Modern brain research affirms that connecting knowledge in this way is the most effective method for humans to learn and retain information. This integrated approach is one of the Montessori curriculum’s greatest strengths. Studies come alive through a host of hands-on projects and activities.
The Prepared Environment
Montessori classrooms are filled with extraordinarily well-organized materials. Classrooms are arranged in study centers, with clusters of student- sized tables and open areas for floor work. Each study center is surrounded by shelves of books and materials pertaining to the area such as language arts, mathematics, history, or geography. Students are free to move about the classroom and choose resources, working individually or in small groups.
Mastery of Core Skills: The Montessori Materials
Montessori materials are widely acclaimed and copied in many progressive educational settings worldwide as they teach multiple concepts simultaneously. The Montessori materials allow students to explore concepts in a way that embraces individual learning styles and allow children to visualize and internalize complex concepts in a simple and concrete way.
Applied Learning Experiences and Projects
Montessori learning extends beyond the classroom. The elementary and middle-school programs teach history through hands-on experiences and Montessori science often takes place outdoors. Classes grow flowers and vegetables and study the effect of various conditions on their growth. Students take part in planning and organizing field trips which extend and enrich the curriculum.
Emphasis on Intrinsic Motivation
Montessori helps children learn how to learn. We operate from the understanding that intelligence, creativity and imagination can be found in every child. The true challenge of education is to keep the spark of human intelligence and curiosity alive. Montessori teaches students to think, not simply to memorize, feedback, and forget. This emphasis on inspiration and intrinsic motivation instills much greater self-discipline and a love of learning.
Long Work Periods and Self-Directed Learning
Essential to inquiry-based learning is the Montessori principle of long uninterrupted blocks of time. The long work block approach to organizing the day enables students to explore a topic or material thoroughly until they achieve mastery. Whole-class instruction is minimal with lessons being given to individuals or in small groups.
Friendships, Life Skills and Community
The Montessori classroom is not only a community of close friends; it is a source of countless “life lessons” in social skills, everyday courtesy, and ethics. The classrooms are run almost entirely by the students. They keep the room in order and experience a multitude of practical life skills.
Supporting Source: The Montessori Way: An Education for Life, The Montessori Foundation