Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Discovering the Neurological Soundness of Montessori

The staff of  Community Montessori attended the Cincinnati Montessori Society's yearly conference a couple weekends ago.  It's always such a wonderful day full of meeting up with old friends, listening to wonderful, knowledgeable speakers and Montessorians and an opportunity to shop the vendors that offer such beautiful materials and supportive work for the classroom.

This year the keynote speaker was Dr. Dee Joy Coulter.  Dr. Coulter is a Neuroscience educator.  She applies brain research to educational issues.  She presented such a strong argument, along with research, for Montessori schools/classrooms.  I sat truly wondering why Montessori is not at the forefront of the education discussion.  What we're learning about the brain is providing incredible insight as to how children learn and what environments best suit their needs developmentally, cognitively, and otherwise.  To ignore this stunning research is letting our children down.   Not only is this brain research and it's implications being ignore, in many schools around the world, things are being done the polar opposite to what children need.

Dr. Coulter walked through many stages of brain development and what is happening at various stages.  Her notes can be found here  www.cincinnatimontessorisociety.org   I won't go into all of those details, but I want to share some of what I took away.

Children need to experience learning rhythms, meaning they need to be given the freedom to choose, pace themselves and repeat activities many times to internalize information as well as build their focus, attention span, coordination and order.  Children need to be experiencing a beginning, middle and end to their activities.  For example, deciding to choose leaf polishing, taking the work off the shelf, taking the work to a table, putting on the leaf polishing necklace, getting the cotton ball wet, walking to plant and carefully polishing/cleaning the leaf, putting the dirty cotton ball in the garbage, returning to the work at the table, putting the necklace back on the tray, pushing in the chair and returning the work to the shelf.  In this work, there is a clear beginning, middle and end which brings about a feeling of accomplishment, an inner satisfaction and self confidence. 

Children need to learn how to calm themselves.  This may be things like taking a walk, reading a book, sitting outside, doing yoga, listening to music etc.  The ability to be calm and create calm is an important life skill.  Children are able to find peace and calm in the Montessori classroom-the rhythms and order of the classroom can help children develop the ability to be calm.  Montessori classrooms invite children to slow down, breathe and take time.  It's a natural part of the culture of the classroom.  Being respectful and calm in the workspace respects the work being done-it's not ok to disrupt one another when they are working-work is honored and the child working is respected and protected. 

In order to provide this space for children, teachers have to develop skills as well. Teachers ability to calm and bring peace is an important aspect.  Teachers can not be chaotic, loud, or disrespectful. Teachers need to call on children's higher nature.  Maria Montessori said, 'Look to the Child Who Has Not Yet Arrived'.....

I encourage you to read more about brain development and Montessori-it will no doubt impact you.