Thursday, August 16, 2012

Innovation on Display

As parents and educators, we are presented with the task of preparing our children for the future. A future that has become increasingly harder to comprehend, let alone predict. The world is changing at a pace far quicker than at any point in history. It often is said that this generation of children will be working in fields that don't even currently exist. So, how can we possibly prepare our children to succeed and thrive in a future that is beyond our understanding?

Montessori materials on exhibit at MoMA.
Photograph from Museum of Modern Art
Preparing young children for the future and truly embracing their development is a relatively recent concept. A current exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York entitled,Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900-2000’ showcases and examines this concept. The image of the child transformed during the 20th century from that of a small adult who should be put to work as soon as possible to that of a entirely different creature filled with potential. However, as Ken Johnson wrote in his review of the exhibit for the New York Times, the fundamental question became “What do children need to flourish and become proper members of society?” Johnson further writes that the exhibit examines, “How much freedom to allow and how much control to impose are questions not only about children but also about people everywhere in a time of declining traditional values and expanding possibilities for new ways of being and doing.”

The exhibit at MoMA features Montessori materials described as follows; “From systematic analysis, [Montessori] devised an activity-based teaching method that used material objects to stimulate their senses, and she believed that children should be allowed to explore these materials at their own pace.” Her method of observing and supporting the natural development of children helps them develop creativity, problem-solving, and time-management skills. 

Julia Child's kitchen at the Nat'l Museum of American History
Photograph from Smithsonian Institute
The skills developed and nurtured in a Montessori environment help children to “think outside of the box” and to innovate. Montessori schools across the world herald the technology industry as a prime example of the pioneering skills cultivated by this learning method with former students such as; the founders of Google - Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founder of - Jeff Bezos, and founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales. But the pioneering spirit can be traced back before these modern creative geniuses. August 15 marked what would have been the 100th birthday of Julia Child. Child credited her love of working with her hands to her own Montessori learning experience. She encouraged people to try new things, to experiment, to discover, and yes, even to fail. If you spend any time observing in a Montessori environment, you will see each one of these. As part of the National Museum of American History’s celebration of Julia Child’s 100th birthday, her kitchen will be on display through September 3.

Learn how to cook– try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all, have a good time.”
~ Julia Child