Dr. Montessori believed that "hands are the instruments of man's intelligence." In a Montessori environment, children learn experientially through all five senses and not just through listening, watching, or reading.
In keeping with Montessori's emphasis on the development of independence, once shown a lesson, children are free to choose their own "work" from any given area of the prepared environment. This allows children to follow their inner drive and meet their own intrinsic goals.
Children are treated with profound respect and are able to learn at their own pace and in their own unique ways. Lessons are given either one-on-one with a teacher or in small group sessions for cooperation and collaboration. Each child can learn and develop uniquely within a classroom that accommodates many levels of ability and complexity.
Montessori classes are comprised of three year age groupings (1-3, 3-6, 6-9, 9-12, and 12-15), forming communities in which older children spontaneously share their knowledge with younger children, and younger children observe and imitate older children as they work. The third year in the cycle is truly empowering to the children, both socially and academically.
The Montessori teacher is specially trained to observe each child and to design lessons based on that child’s natural curiosity and love of learning. The teacher is responsible for preparing the educational environment within each classroom and for presenting lessons in that environment. During the course of a day, the teacher will demonstrate a wide array of concrete sensorial materials and sequential activities through individual instruction. The child soon learns to associate abstract concepts with hands-on experience.
The most important discovery that Dr. Montessori has contributed to the field of child development and education is the fostering of the best in each child. She discovered that in a learning environment where children are allowed to choose their work and to concentrate for as long as needed on that task, they come out of this period of concentration (or meditation or contemplation) refreshed and full of goodwill toward others. The teacher must know how to offer work, to link the child to the learning environment (the real teacher), and to protect this process. We know this natural goodness and compassion are inborn in all of us. These traits do not need to be taught, but they do need to be protected.
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