Our world is often a tumultuous and scary place. How can we help our children feel safe and cared for, while preparing them to lead the way as adults? How can we cultivate empathy, kindness, gratitude, and the sense of community that helps people work together?
Montessori education has been addressing these issues for over a hundred years. Sometimes the lessons are direct; at other times they are subtle. The mission is always clear: we want children to have a wide view of the world. We want them to appreciate the diversity of others. We want them to have the tools to navigate this world peacefully.
How do we approach this critical task?
Montessori schools teach peace both directly and indirectly. Sure, we talk about peace and its importance openly and frequently. We talk about what it means and what it looks like and what children can do to become peacekeepers. But, perhaps more importantly, we model. Through our words, the tone of our voices, and with our actions, we show children what it means to be peaceful. They watch our everyday actions and learn so much from them, so why not create constant learning opportunities?
Teaching a global perspective
Even from a very young age, Montessori children are taught geography through the lense of the whole world. They learn about the continents when they are as young as three years old. These studies often include learning about biomes, instead of an emphasis on political boundaries. Teaching about the world in this way gives children a sense of the natural world and people as a whole as primary to different countries.
Elementary aged Montessori children enjoy many lessons with timelines. They learn about the origins of humanity, and studying ancient cultures is fascinating for them.
Embracing a variety of cultures
One important series of lessons in the elementary years teaches the fundamental needs of humans. Children explore how groups of people around the world and across the ages meet and have met their needs. Physical needs, such as food, shelter, defence, and transportation are considered, as well as spiritual needs like art and religion.
Giving them tools
Montessori teachers are equipped to give children skills to resolve conflicts. We give children tools such as micro-mediation, and give them the words and actions to express their needs and feelings while listening to those of others. In Montessori classrooms, children often learn a variety of self-calming strategies. This might include mindfulness meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, or the use of small hand-held tools such as a finger labyrinth or polished stone.
Taking the time
In Montessori classrooms the day is not structured with rigid timed intervals. For example, there is no predetermined time for math, reading, etc. This flexible schedule lends itself to shifting courses and having discussions in the moment. For example, if a group of children are experiencing difficulty resolving a problem together, the teacher is able to stop and sit with them. Without feeling rushed, they can take the time to figure out what went wrong and how to make it right. Instead of an adult doling out consequences, we have the time to sit and work through conflict authentically.
Giving to the community
As Montessori children get older, they are encouraged to give back to their community. These acts of charity will often be inspired by the children’s ideas. Children may collect food and supplies for a local animal shelter, read stories and sing songs to residents of a nursing home, or make and sell baked goods to benefit a cause they believe in. By supporting children with logistics, we can encourage them to learn how to be active and supportive members of their communities at a young age. They learn the importance of volunteering and contribution to others. Giving back is just one way a child begins their active role as a peaceful member.
Our core values and goals
All of the above are reflected in the Core Values and Goals that inform all that we do at Forestville Montessori School. It is reflected in our day to day practices, to our decision making and long-term thinking at every level of our school.
- Respect: acknowledging, accepting and celebrating other’s differences
- Relationships: bonding with others, conducting ourselves with dignity and sincerity
- Integrity: knowing right from wrong, taking responsibility for our actions
- Scholarship: competent, confident and smart thinking that leads to empowered, capable doing
- Citizenship: seeking ways to contribute to society locally and globally
- Community: sharing a sense of belonging by connecting and collaborating.
Reaching out – the gift of service to the international community
During the recent autumn vacation Anthony Milano (Deputy Principal / Head of Montessori Teaching & Learning) and Denice Scala (CEO / Principal FMS) had the opportunity to visit Thailand to begin the establishment of an international outreach program for our students and staff.
Thailand AMI Montessori National Refresher
Anthony was invited by Kannekar Butt (President, Montessori Association of Thailand) to speak along with four other Sydney-based Montessori educators at the recent Montessori National Refresher at the AMI Montessori Training Centre of Thailand in Phon, Khonkaen. Over five days of lectures, discussions and break-out groups a wide variety of topics were discussed and included:
- An Introduction to Language: Listening, Speaking Writing and Reading in the Montessori Environment
- My Ever Changing Child: The Four Planes of Development
- A Walk Through A Day in the Montessori 6-9 & 9-12 Classrooms
- Transitions Across Montessori Environments: Birth to 12
- Key Learning Areas, Curriculum and Scope and Sequence
- Cosmic Education and Cosmic Storytelling in the 6-12 Classrooms
- Supporting Special Needs Children in Montessori Environments
- Montessori Quality Assurance
Over 150 participants from Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and Philippines were drawn to the refresher. Participants included:
- Montessori care givers and parents of children age Birth to 3
- Montessori trained teachers and assistants for children age 3-12 years
- School administrators, supervisors and educators, and government education officials. All on different levels of Montessori training, including those with no formal training but a deep interest in the methodology.
Opportunities for outreach and service in Chiang Mai, Thailand
With the following key goal in mind:
- Establishing and partnering with the Montessori community to offer international outreach experiences to students and staff.
Denice and Anthony, with the assistance of Kannekar Butt (President, Montessori Association of Thailand) and the local Thai Montessori teachers, visited a number of educational settings implementing the Montessori method of education. It is important to note that the Thai Government has given full support for Montessori education to be implemented in its public preschools.
Our view is that staff would assist with the implementation of Montessori programs and daily tasks. Our older students would be involved in assisting in the Birth to 3 programs, and involvement in cultural exchange activities such as cooking, arts & crafts, Thai dancing and drumming.
Viengping Children’s Home & Orphanage
- Montessori project implemented in 2013
- Staff trained in Birth to 6 programs
- 2 year olds: Child Development Room 30 – 35 children
- 2 – 3 year olds: 12 – 15 children
- 3 – 6 year olds: 25 – 35 children
Banrongkheelek School – Doi Saket
- Government School
- Kindergarten to Grade 9
- 94 students, 11 teachers
- 80% Burmese / 20% Thai children
- Supporting the people of ethnic hill tribes
- Montessori program for 4 to 5 year olds only
Changkeang School – 3 hours from Chiang Mai – Mountains area
- Government School
- Kindergarten to Grade 6
- 180 students
- 3 to 12 years of age
- Montessori program for 3 to 6 year olds only
- Birth to 3 program to start in 2020
Giving your child the wide view of the world
Experiences of relationships and participation in communities contribute to children’s belonging, being and becoming. From birth children experience living and learning with others in a range of communities. Through the primary and secondary years this is strengthened by children developing a positive sense of identity and experiencing respectful, responsive relationships. This strengthens children’s interest and skills in being and becoming active contributors to their world.
Over time the variety and complexity of ways in which children connect and participate with others increases. When we create environments in which children experience mutually enjoyable, caring and respectful relationships with people and the environment, children respond accordingly. Children’s connectedness and different ways of belonging with people, country and communities helps them to learn ways of being which reflect the values, traditions and practices of their families and communities. Over time this learning transforms the ways they interact with others.
We believe that through our school we can reach out to the local and international communities to bring to life our core goals of Respect, Relationships, Integrity, Scholarship, Citizenship, and Community.
“An education capable of saving humanity is no small undertaking; it involves the spiritual development of man, the enhancement of his value as an individual, and the preparation of young people to understand the times in which they live.”
Maria Montessori: Education and Peace Chap 3, p 30.