At last month’s National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) meeting in Baltimore, MD, noted education thought-leader Sir Ken Robinson spoke on the future of education. He pointed out that Maria Montessori developed her methodology (over 100 years ago) in response to the failure of the industrial model of education she observed around her. Sir Robinson declared that the future of education is in highly differentiated and individualized education, like Montessori, which leverages the unique potential of each student and connects deep academics with a strong experiential component.
Sir Robinson’s comments at NAIS reinforces what Montessorians around the world have known, and the results of which they see every day in their classrooms and with their graduates: strong academics coupled with real world experiences, in which students experience how concepts become the actions that drive the real world, result in passionate and thoughtful individuals who think out-of-the-box to create solutions for the world’s challenges. Research reinforces that students retain less in the conventional didactic model of education. The double helix of experiential education linked with deep grounding in academics results in students who link learning to action and innovation that is a hallmark of Montessori education.
At Montessori School of Evergreen we implement this double helix of academics and experiential education at all levels, and it is riveting to see how student’s abilities evolve to understand concepts and analyze their world. Our Lower Elementary classes (grades 1-3) will participate in field studies at such places as the Butterfly Pavilion, Fiske Planetarium, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, which give students the opportunity to operationalize their academics.
When Devon Warn’s Lower Elementary students went to the Butterfly Pavilion they observed all the different stages of butterfly development, and they began to understand more deeply the lifecycle they had already studied. Upon their return to school they decide to hatch butterflies in the classroom and as their butterflies developed and grew they could compare their butterflies to the ones they had observed in the Butterfly Pavilion. Devon reflected “the children are deeply invested in making personal connections to the greater world. Watching the life cycle of a butterfly in the classroom, seeing the diversity of the butterflies in the Pavilion and learning about the important role butterflies play in pollination, all allowed the children to understand that they can play a role in this bigger picture of their environment.”
Teacher Michelle Rogers especially appreciates the field studies her class does at the Fiske Planetarium and at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). “When we went to the planetarium we were deep in our studies of the universe, and our students were learning about the organization of the stars. At the planetarium they learned about how different cultures created stories of the constellations to remember them for navigation.” Michelle continued “these field studies help our classroom work with the materials come to life. In addition to the planetarium the students went to the observatory and learned about telescopes: they learned how they work, the various types, the history and development, and then they got to use the large telescope. All of this made the academic content they had covered come to life!”
When Michelle took her class to NCAR she was able to connect the student’s current learning of planet earth. They focused on elements of weather and states of matter. “What was amazing was how their study of earth, elements, and weather were directly tied to interactive exhibits of weather, and the connection to their lives. The students were able to observe a cloud generator, saw clouds rising, and they even learned how to weigh clouds!” Michelle continued, “In one exhibit the students were able to create lightening, and see how electricity traveled through students! The students peppered the guide with questions on how NCAR gathers data, and what was inspirational for the students was seeing the scientists walking by them and realizing that anyone can be a scientist. The students got a much deeper understanding of the academic content they had just covered. Driving home children looked at the clouds outside the cars and began to analyze what the weight of the clouds might be. It took their learning to a whole different level!”
In addition, groups of Lower Elementary students visit the Gathering Place (a drop-in center for homeless women and children) every month to serve them lunch. This service project is also an opportunity to understand aspects of their social science curriculum and connects how fundamental needs of humans (such as shelter, food, and access to education) can alter the course of a person’s life.
This double helix of academics and experience develop problem-solving and decision-making skills, and leads to a deeper understanding of a subject that is not available to them through classroom study alone. It also reinforces critical-thinking and creativity in other subjects. Finally this model contributes to a love of learning that is a hallmark of Montessori graduates. We see this love of learning stay with students through their high school and college careers, as well as into their professional lives.
The adage “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand” distills the Montessori Method. Comprehensive, in-depth academics connected to well-structured experiential education create an advantage that lasts a lifetime.
To learn more about Montessori School of Evergreen, and the advantage that lasts a lifetime, call Christiane at 303-674-0093.