WHAT IS MONTESSORI?
Maria Montessori (1870-1952) was the first female physician in Italy. Her clinical observations led her to analyse how tamariki learn and how they develop themselves from what they find in their immediate environment. In 1906 she founded her first school, Casa del Bambini, for sixty tamariki of working parents in Rome. Today there are thousands of Montessori schools throughout the world. Maria Montessori discovered that tamariki under six have extraordinary powers of mind, taking in their environment with what she termed ‘the absorbent mind’. Through her work she became convinced that all tamariki are born with an amazing human potential, which can develop only if adults provide them with the right stimulation during the first few years of life. Maria Montessori defined her goal as “the development of a complete human being, oriented to the environment and adapted to his or her time, place and culture.” Today we might define this goal as the preparation of tamariki to live successfully in their world, by which we mean the future, rather than to live primarily in ours, which is the present and the past.
The Prepared Environment
The interaction between the teachers, the children and the materials in an atmosphere of freedom and mutual respect and trust is the basis of the Montessori classroom. The classroom is made up of children of mixed age groups children, who learn to take responsibility for themselves and each other, to get along with children of different ages and abilities, to respect each other’s work and work space and to treat each other with courtesy. They also take an active role in maintaining their classroom by putting materials away in their proper place, ready for the next child to use. The classroom becomes a thriving community where children are treated with respect and dignity and want to treat others with the same respect and dignity. The materials and activities have a self-correction method which leads to a child challenging themselves, trying things out and developing a sense of perseverance leading to a satisfaction and enjoyment in self-directed learning. When a child first enters the Montessori classroom, practical life activities provide the link between home and school. Through the sensorial experiences of sight, touch, sound, smell and taste children learn to clarify, classify and comprehend their world. This leads on to the mathematical journey and the representation of language through sounds and writing. Art and music, science, geography and history are all important parts of the Montessori curriculum and all have a special place in the classroom.
Maria Montessori recognized that little children experience a sense of frustration in an adult-sized world, so she had miniature items prepared and introduced practical life activities. The practical life activities such as pouring, food preparation and cleaning are demonstrated and presented to the child. Through the repetition of these activities the children learn concentration, self-discipline and self-confidence, which form a foundation for the Montessori philosophy.
These materials are designed to stimulate each of the senses and to develop the ability to make fine discrimination. The child learns to recognize colour, size, shape, taste, smell, sound, sight, touch discrimination and classification. The materials develop basic understanding of mathematical concepts through exercises of comparing, grading and matching objects.
Mathematics is approached in a concrete hands-on manner. Children enjoy activities such as matching, grading and paring and use the geometric cabinet to describe shape, position and size. When the child is interested in numbers this is developed through the sandpaper numbers and understanding the concepts of 1 to 10. The child is then able to move into all areas of mathematics, moving on to learning about larger numbers, teens, addition and subtraction.
The world is introduced through geography, history and biology. The children are encouraged to take an active interest in the world around them at all times e.g. the changing of the seasons and community events. The children are encouraged to learn about other cultures to develop an understanding and respect for the different cultures of our world as well as respecting The Treaty of Waitangi and New Zealand’s bi cultural society. The amazing resources encourage children to study plants and animals that inhabit different countries of the world to foster a love and respect for growing and living things.
Outdoor & Physical Activities
We see outdoor experiences as an important part of the children’s physical, social and intellectual development. We have an area that is set up to give each child the opportunity to explore and experience caring and respect for the environment. It has been proven that increased physical development improves the message flow to the brain from all the senses, underlying the reasons why physical activities are encouraged. Coordination, body awareness, balance and the matching of motor sensory input, lateralization, speech maturity and perceptual motor development and planning are the result of development and refining body movement.
We encourage all of our children to talk about their experiences, listen to stories, read books and participate in rhymes and songs. The children are introduced to reading and writing phonetically through the use of hands on materials that focus on vocabulary development, the preparation of the hand for writing and the introduction of the sounds of the letters of the alphabet. The children progress to build 3 letter words and continue to increase and develop their reading skills.
Arts, Music & Drama
We encourage creativity through art, music and drama and aim to provide an environment where the incredible abilities that already exist in children are unleashed. Art from all over the world is appreciated and children develop an awareness of different artists and their styles. Children are introduced to various instruments and are encouraged to learn parts of the instruments as well as an appreciation for the music itself.
“Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.”
– Maria Montessori