Philosophy and Pedagogy
Maria Montessori built the foundation for her teaching principles on the belief that by allowing children to develop to their fullest potential, their contributions to society would lead to a peaceful world. Her philosophy of showing respect to children by preparing environments of materials, experiences, and attitudes suited to the characteristics of each stage of development is the foundation of Montessori training and practice today.
Eagle Peak Montessori School follows the Montessori pedagogy, one that gives children the freedom to explore and develop to their fullest potential while working with didactic materials, in groups and independently, within a prepared environment. The aim of the materials in a Montessori classroom is to move the child from a concrete understanding of concepts to abstraction. The expectation of respect—for self, others and the environment—guides the Montessori Method. Every room in our school is prepared to meet the developmental needs of the age group served within the environment.
Classroom design facilitates independent learning and exploration. The environment strikes the imagination, leads one to abstraction, and provides a system of information storage and retrieval. The idea is that the total environmental design conveys the essential principles of all disciplines through sequenced order and aesthetic appeal.
Montessori classrooms tend to fascinate both children and their parents. Typically, they are bright, warm, and inviting; filled with plants, animals, art, music, and books. There are curriculum centers filled with intriguing learning materials, such as fascinating mathematical models, maps, botany charts, classified nomenclature booklets, and collections of natural specimens.
Technology elements are integrated into classroom through developmentally appropriate interactions. Students are not taught concepts through technology but utilize computers, tablets and other devices for follow-up work and tech basics. Internet resources supplement research collected first hand from resources found in the community.
Students are typically found scattered around the classroom, working alone or with one or two others. They tend to become so involved in their work that visitors are immediately struck by the peaceful atmosphere. Students of different ages often work together on projects. Teachers can be seen working with an individual or small group to facilitate the learning process, stimulate interest or provide guidance for further research.
Through the freedom he is given in a Montessori environment, the child has a unique opportunity to reflect upon his own actions, to determine their consequences both for himself and for others, to test himself against the limits of reality, to learn what gives him a sense of fulfillment and what leaves him feeling empty and dissatisfied, and to discover both his strengths and challenges. The opportunity to develop self-knowledge is one of the most important results of freedom in a Montessori classroom.
Students use hands-on “experiential” learning and concrete manipulatives whenever possible as opposed to the more traditional model of lecture and rote drill exercises. Repetition is encouraged by having a variety of materials with which to practice the same concept. It is this repetition which leads to mastery of the concept.
Students learn by trial and error and by discovery. They learn how to ask the right questions, spontaneously engage in their own research, analyze what they have found and draw their own conclusions. Students are encouraged not to be afraid to take risks and to learn constructively from their mistakes.
The curriculum consists of interactive manipulative materials and teacher made materials for the core curriculum. Each activity or exercise is structured to provide purpose, procedure, closure, and opportunity for success. Again, the goal of using didactic materials to introduce and practice concepts is to move the children from a concrete level of understanding to the deeper, abstract application.
Individual interests are pursued via research including experimentation and investigation using various resources such as: computers, the Internet, audio-visual materials, libraries, museums, interviews, as well as written and telephone communication.
For education to touch a child’s heart and mind she must be learning because she is curious and interested. We want learning to become its own reward with each success fueling the desire to discover even more. For this to happen the curriculum must be individualized according to the following principles:
Individual learning styles, timetables, and capacities are respected. It is the child who must develop herself; the adult acts as a resource and a catalyst for development.
The learner will be responsible for mastering basic skills and basic core knowledge. The student will follow a written study plan for the week, which is arrived at jointly by the teacher and the student.
The student will be supported in planning an individual schedule for completing work.
Materials and activities are designed to support different learning styles and multiple intelligences identified as linguistic, mathematical, spatial, musical, kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal.
Montessori education places children in three-year age groupings. Generally, children ages 6-9 and 9-12 are grouped into lower and upper elementary classes respectively. The adolescent program continues with students aged 12-14, due to the high school system, we are unable to have the third year of this cycle. These groupings offer many advantages for learning, including the following:
• Children can progress through the curriculum at their own pace.
• The environment is highly enriched since the curriculum has to cover the entire span of interests up through the oldest and most accelerated students in the class. Remedial materials are also inherent in the structure of the program.
• Younger children are constantly stimulated by the interesting work of the older students.
Peer instruction opportunities as older students serve as tutors and role models, providing leadership experiences. They benefit from helping the younger students, reinforcing their own knowledge by teaching others. They learn to empathize with the needs of children who are younger than themselves.
• Teachers typically work with children for 3 years and get to know them extremely well.
The class retains a high degree of continuity since 2/3 of the class returns each year. This makes it easier to orient new children and individualize the curriculum.
Montessori teachers think of themselves as “enlightened generalists,” trained in the details of the curriculum. Montessori teachers have four principal obligations:
…to awaken the child’s spirit and imagination;
…to encourage the child’s normal desire for independence and high sense of self-esteem;
…to help the child develop the kindness, courtesy, and self-discipline that allows him to become a full member of society, and;
…to help the child learn how to observe, question, and explore ideas independently.
Dr. Montessori observed that children learn most effectively through direct experience and the process of investigation and discovery. Thus, the basis of the Montessori Method of instruction is a combination of the prepared environment with specially selected materials, and a teaching style that emphasizes observation and guidance rather than direct teaching and providing answers.
The teacher rarely presents a lesson to more than a handful of children at one time, and these lessons are limited to brief, efficient presentations. The goal is to give the children just enough to capture their attention and spark their interest, intriguing them enough that they will come back on their own to work with the materials.