Our world today is rife with political and social upheaval, and more than ever before, we are daily faced with the need to advocate for equality, justice and peace. From Montessori’s inception, peace education has been foundational to the method.
Dr. Maria Montessori was an advocate for peace, believing that education of children was the means to achieve peace. This topic was close to her heart, as her own country of Italy was heavily impacted by the World War, during which time she fled the country. She lived in India for seven years, starting Montessori schools for lower caste systems, and was a friend to Mahatma Gandhi, who spoke at the Montessori Training College in London in 1931. Gandhi and Montessori believed that children were key to future peace. Gandhi said, “If we are to reach real peace in this world…we shall have to begin with children.” Dr. Montessori said, “Peace is what every human being is craving for, and it can be brought about by humanity through the child.”
Dr. Montessori believed that each next generation of children brough renewed hope for a more peaceful world, and advocated for global citizenship, respct for diversity and personal responsibility. She stated that education was the best weapon for peace.
The Montessori Children’s House classroom is a community with opportunities for conflict resolution, growth and leadership, and while peace education does have purposeful presentation, it is primarily woven into the every-day life of the classroom.
The lead teacher, or “guide”, models peaceful and respectful behavior, and older children model the same to younger children.
In addition, teachers integrate grace and courtesy lessons into circle times, and as needed. If a conflict has occurred, the teacher will quietly observed to see if the chidlren are able to work it out on their own. Sometimes, she will step in to model or invite the children to role play conflict resolution. Her lessons demonstrate respect for others, themselves and the environment.
Quiet areas are integrated into the classroom so that children have the opportunity for alone time, where they can calm down.
There are soothing sensorial activities such as the sand garden tray that aid an upset or frustrated child.
Books and culture presentations and materials come from diverse approaches, valuing the contributions people around the world make to global citizenship.
There are also opportunities for nurturing care of the the classroom plants (polishing leaves and watering), care of animals (fish, turtles, etc), placing of bird feeders outside classroom windings and filling them as needed, and gardening during the summer months.
This care of the environment is very much a part of global citizenship and is a work which the child takes much pleasure and pride in performing.
Peace education is integrated into the Montessori classroom, and has been for more than 150 years. Providing children with this awareness at a young age is essential for a peaceful tomorrow.