The Montessori Advantage, Part 4

Montessori Fosters Creativity

 A 2019 study showed that Montessori students consistently surpassed peers of a similar demographic but in conventional educational environments, in terms of creativity. Differences were even more marked between male students in Montessori versus conventional programs. The study cited some of the factors that support creativity in a Montessori environment, including: “independence and freedom offered to students, the structure of the Montessori classroom, the flexibility of time and space, and the emphasis on intrinsic motivation and collaboration.” (Fleming, Culclasure and Zhang)

Some of the world’s top entrepreneurs and artists have Montessori roots, and many attribute their success to that model of education.  Names such as Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google), Joshua Bell (Grammy Award winning violinist), Helen Hunt (Emmy Award winning actress), Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Nobel Prize winning author), and Will Wright (video-game designer, SimCity). Other entrepreneurs are advocating the Montessori model for its unique approach to education, including Elon Musk (Space X).

child painting at preschool

Montessori Fosters Resilience

Resilience, and a growth mindset, are essential to success.   As Heraclitus observed over two thousand years ago, “The only constant in life is change.” How do we prepare children for a lifelong journey through change?

Montessori educators and parents look at their children as capable of doing and thinking for themselves. Therefore, they give the child the opportunity to explore, learn, observe, evaluate, make decisions, make mistakes, work through conflict, and self-correct. Or, as Miss Frizzle says, “Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!”

puzzles at preschool

In the Montessori environment, there are a few key things that research has shown to support resilience.  One is acknowledgment over praise. Instead of evaluating and judging a student’s work, we acknowledge and validate their effort, making neutral observations such as, “You worked really hard on that.” “I noticed how patiently you worked with that.” We might ask questions, such as, “How do you feel about what you did?” or “How did you get that result?” When mistakes occur, we don’t swoop in to fix them or even correct them, again, making statements such as, “I see the water spilled on the floor,” and allowing the child to process the next steps.  We also give the child the freedom to learn to master a skill before advancing to the next skill; because learning is individualized, a child is not compelled to “keep up” with the rest of the class and can advance at his or her own pace.

Dr. Dweck of Stanford University says, “If parents [and educators] want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning.”

Montessori Fosters Social-Emotional Skills

SEL is a term that was developed by the Yale School of Medicine’s Child Study Center in the 1960’s and has gained traction in the last couple of decades. It stands for “social emotional learning”. Schools and classrooms are often a child’s first exposure to people of different backgrounds, beliefs, and capabilities. In these communal environments, children form their view of the world and how to have healthy relationships: they learn to communicate, manage emotions, resolve conflict, make peace. Not only do students who have social emotional skills feel better about themselves, it also positively impacts their academic performance, increasing it by as much as 11 percentile points. One study found that social emotional intelligence is just as important as cognitive learning in terms of predicting a child’s later success in college and their future career.

In the Montessori classroom, the “care of self”, “care of the environment” and “care of others” and “grace and courtesy” lessons involve five core social and emotional learning competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making. Peace education is woven throughout the Montessori learning environment.

preschooler hugging

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