Monday, March 19, 2012

Pedagogy of Worthiness: Cultivating Curiosity & Hope in the Montessori Classroom

Brené Brown, PhD, was one of the keynote addressees at the 2012 American Montessori Society Conference. Montessori teachers are committed to helping ground children in a deep sense of purpose. This feeling of worthiness is an essential trait in our increasingly anxious world. Dr. Brown discussed strategies that teachers and administrators can utilize to help children cultivate a spirit of hope, gratitude, and curiosity. She shared the latest research on hope as a cognitive behavioral process, the relationship between joy and gratitude, and how children develop curiosity, creativity, and a tolerance for disappointment.* Below is her TED Talk.

 * Source: American Montessori Society: Dr. BrenĂ© Brown Biography from

Friday, March 16, 2012

An Example of Art in the Montessori Classroom.

 “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
~ Pablo Picasso

Children are naturally inclined to create art. They are drawn to the process and are curious to explore and work with different media.

Working with Third Box of Color Tablets
Art is integrated into the Montessori learning environment using various methods. Geometric and Metal Insets introduce children to shapes and invite them to create designs. Geography work, such as Puzzle Maps, and Biology work, like Botany Puzzles, are traced and colored. Children mix colors as part of their Practical Life work. Color theory and relationships are explored through the use of Color Boxes. These are but a few examples of the integration of fine art within the classroom. Children are exposed to the work of famous artists and their contributions through a number of means. Matching, categorizing, and identifying artwork is done using art cards. Artists are also introduced through individual and group projects, such as the example below of projects inspired by the German artist Gerhard Richter.

Richter was introduced to children through a brief life overview lesson and through examples of his work. The children discovered how Richter’s style has continued to change and evolve throughout his life. The children created two collaborative pieces inspired by his work.

Abstract Smear Painting
One of Richter’s abstract styles uses a process of smearing and manipulating paint to achieve or build flowing layers of color. The children created a piece inspired by this style of Richter’s work. Each child selected three colors and placed a glob of paint directly on the canvas. Using a plastic paint scraper, the children smeared the colors. This process was repeated until the children achieved the color combination they agreed appeared the best.

After viewing examples of Richter’s Colour Chart series, the children created a collage using paint swatches generously donated by Home Depot. The children decided it would be better to overlap the colors rather than arrange them in rows and columns when they discovered that each swatch was not cut exactly the same.
Gluing swatches

Color Swatch Collage

Monday, March 12, 2012

Developing Healthy Lifestyles

By: Mike Brown

CBS This Morning featured a segment, “Too fat to serve: Military wages war on obesity” last week. The statistics in the piece are staggering, “Among 17- to 24-year-olds, 27 percent are too overweight for military service. Over the past 50 years, the number of women considered ineligible due to weight has tripled, and the number of men has doubled.” This lead me to research similar statistics for children and I was hardly surprised to see the results mirrored those from the CBS segment. Today, nearly 1 in 3 American children are considered overweight or obese, triple the obesity rate of three decades ago. (

It doesn’t take a doctor, nutritionist, or celebrity chef to explain how our culture has reached this point. The lifestyle of today is vastly different than it was when we were children. It is easier and cheaper to head to the drive through for dinner than to prepare a home-cooked meal. It is commonplace for children to have several snacks each day, often consisting of processed foods high in fats and oils as well as sugar and sweeteners. Our high paced, technical lifestyles inhibit outside time and reduce our levels of physical activity.

Toddlers Preparing Snack to Share
Recently, I posted a link to an article promoting cooking with young children (Children cooking: How young can they be?). Cooking together provides family time. Time to enjoy each other, prepare healthy food and an opportunity to teach children practical, lifetime skills. These skills are integrated into the Montessori learning environment and help children grow in the motor skills, cognitive development, self-confidence, and independence. Practical life skills are certainly not limited to the kitchen. Any controlled movement helps children achieve independence and helps with concentration.

Learning Basic Balance Skills
It is important that physical activity be a regular part of family life. Studies by the American Academy of Pediatrics have shown that lifestyles learned as children are much more likely to stay with a person into adulthood. Simple childhood activities such as balancing, hopscotch, and tumbling provide a path for children to develop a love for a lifetime sport such as jogging, swimming, or even skiing. Recent publications in Australia concluded, “The value of physical activity for young children is beyond doubt, and lack of adequate physical activity is viewed as a major contributing factor to overweight and obesity, which can track into adulthood and pose many other cardiovascular and health risks.”

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Twelve Points of the Montessori Method

Taken from The Montessori Revolution in Education by E. M. Standing

1. It is based on years of patient observation of the child nature.

2. It has proved itself of universal application. Within a single generation it has been tried with complete success with children of almost every civilized nation. Race, color, climate, nationality, social rank, type of civilization – all these make no difference to its successful application.

3. It has revealed the small child as a lover of work, intellectual work, spontaneously chosen and carried out with profound joy.

4. It is based on the child’s imperious need to learn by doing. At each stage in the child’s mental growth, corresponding occupations are proved by means of which he develops his faculties.

5. While it offers the child a maximum of spontaneity, it never-the less enables him to reach the same, or even a higher, level of scholastic attainment as under the old systems.

6. Though it does away with the necessity of coercion by means of rewards and punishments, it achieves a higher discipline than formerly. It is an active discipline which originates within the child and it is not imposed from without.

7. It is based on a profound respect for the child’s personality and removes from him the preponderating influence of the adult, thus leaving him room to grow in biological independence. Hence the child is allowed a large measure of liberty (not license) which forms the basis of real discipline.

8. It enables the teacher to deal with each child individually in each subject, and thus guide him according to his individual requirements.

9. Each child works at his own pace. Hence the quick child is not held back by the slow, nor is the latter, in trying to keep up with the former, obliged to flounder along hopelessly out of his depth. Each stone in mental edifice is “well and truly laid” before the next is added.

10. It does away with the competitive spirit of its train of baneful results. More than this, at every turn it presents endless opportunities among the children for mutual help – which is joyfully given and gratefully received.

11. Since the child works from his own free choice, without competition and coercion, he is freed from danger of overstrain, feelings of inferiority, and other experiences which are apt to be the unconscious cause of profound mental disturbances in later life.

12. Finally, the Montessori Method develops the whole personality of the child, not merely his intellectual faculties but also his powers of deliberation, initiative and independent choice, with their emotional complements. By living as a free member of a real social community, the child is trained in those fundamental social qualities which form the basis of good citizenship.