Maria Montessori said:
“Children reveal themselves only when they are given the freedom of expression, not when [they are] restricted to some educational scheme or pure external discipline.”
This vision of a childhood dimension is the basis of a teaching methodology created by the famous educationalist, which, at the center of her mission, places the right of children to release their energy and develop their full potential.
The school according the Montessori method
A major role in this educational approach, which is acknowledged and appreciated all over the world, is played by the child’s environment. It is not only intended as a space in which a child can feel embraced, but also as an educational organization. In a Montessori classroom, lessons are no longer seen as a transmission of knowledge from teacher to student. They are a choice for children to choose which activities to perform; at their own pace and with modality and autonomy. According to Montessori, there are many activities to choose from: from those mimicking the home environment (e.g. household and personal care actions) to those involving the use of language, math, art, and music.
The real revolution of the Montessori educational method is seen in the activities that focus on developing the senses of a child, particularly between the ages of 3 and 6. Montessori spoke about the importance of this age range and said, “it is as though life began again, for then the life of consciousness begins fully and clearly”. It is as if children want to “conquer the environment and gather resources for their own development.”
Activities are no longer focused solely on seeing and hearing: they extend to all ranges of their perception. With Montessori resources, children not only learn how to recognize shapes and colors, but also sounds, smells, and tastes. They become the protagonists of a complete, immersive experience: an experience that explores the surrounding world.
Therefore, based on the Montessori teaching methodology, children must have multisensory knowledge of the world. There is a major focus on the sense of touch, since they will need to conquer the environment with their hands. Through touch, they can define shapes and sizes and discover qualities and differences between various materials. The experience of touch helps them reinforce their already acquired knowledge, while initiating character and personality definition at the same time.
Concentration and autonomy
Keywords for the Montessori educational method are concentration and autonomy: concentration is essential for proper cognitive development and, according to Montessori, it’s best applied when children work with their own hands.
Autonomy essentially breaks the traditional teaching methods. The job of an adult, both as a teacher or as a parent, is to offer more alternatives to help children discover their own thoughts, while leaving them the freedom to choose. Even when the child chooses options that result in failure, the adult patiently respects the child’s limits. In this context, failure is not to be considered as something shameful, but as an opportunity for a child to enjoy alternative solutions independently.
Therefore, Montessori promoted the creation of a school intended as a place for creating and growing in freedom. An open and sensory-stimuli-rich environment, in which children can lead, open, and enhance their own minds independently and through unique experiences.
The Montessori method today
Although this teaching methodology was envisioned more than 100 years ago, it manages to stay relevant and in contact with the technological reality of today. There are an increasing number of digitalized Montessori resources that allow a child to connect with these didactic tools.
The Montessori teaching method, now immersed in our technological era, manages to be true to itself by educating children of all ages through the use of play.
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