Tag Archives: peace education

The Gifts of a Montessori Education

By Alex Chiu

During this busy holiday season, many people find themselves frantically searching for ‘that perfect gift’. They are looking for the right size, color, and fit. Or they are trying to find something unique and one-of-a-kind. Some parents have their children write out wish lists of items they are hoping to receive, in order to be sure to select just the right thing. However, if we look beyond the clothes, toys, games, and gadgets, there are some incredible gifts that our children receive every day in the form of their Montessori education. Let’s unwrap some of the ‘gifts of Montessori’.

Montessori students are given:

A Beautifully Prepared Environment
From the moment children enter the classroom, they are welcomed into a carefully prepared environment that has been created especially for them. Child-sized furniture allows them to sit comfortably and with correct, safe posture. The beautiful Montessori materials, designed in specific inviting colors and crafted with care, are organized sequentially so that children may work with them and build on their growing skills from one material to the next. Items are placed where children can easily access them, and artwork is hung at the child’s eye level for their enjoyment and appreciation. Everything in the classroom has a purpose in further developing the child while at the same time welcoming them into a comfortable, aesthetically pleasing, home-like environment in which they can grow, learn, and thrive.

The Guidance of a Carefully Trained Teacher
Montessori teachers undergo many hours of training as they learn the purpose and practice of using the various Montessori materials in the areas of Language, Math, Sensorial, Practical Life, and Cultural Studies. In addition, they practice the art of observation, a key component of teaching in Montessori. Their keen observations of their students drive teachers to modify the environment make decisions about which lessons to present, and continuously work to maintain a productive, engaging, inspiring classroom environment for their students. Montessori teachers are passionate about their calling to be in the classroom.

A Global Perspective
Perhaps we could say that Montessori students are given the world. The Cultural Studies area introduces children to geography, cultures and traditions from around the world, and fundamental, basic human needs. Montessori students ‘travel’ the world as they learn about the continents, countries, states, and regions. They explore the unique differences between areas because of geographical features, as well as because of the people and animals that inhabit each place. They also come to learn what is fundamentally similar among all people, no matter where they come from or live. This global perspective allows students, even from the confines of their classrooms or communities, to move beyond what is familiar and to learn to respect, admire, and take interest in others.

Time to Develop Independence, Confidence, Responsibility, and Mastery
Within the Montessori work cycle, students have the opportunity to choose which types of work they would like to complete. They might spend a good part of their morning captivated by a Montessori Math material or engrossed in creating a map of Europe. Once an activity is completed, the child then moves on to his or her next choice, and is allowed time to work without interruption. Students learn to take ownership of their learning. They are responsible for using their time well. And by having time to engross themselves in their learning, they lead themselves to mastery in a variety of areas of learning. Having freedom to choose what work to do helps students develop independence, as do the self-correcting materials. As students work in the Language, Math, Cultural, Sensorial, or Practical Life area, they develop confidence in their abilities as they build on acquired skills with new knowledge. All of this naturally moves with them from their earliest Montessori classroom experiences on into adulthood where these skills will enable them to be productive, inquisitive, creative, and diligent workers in the world.

Opportunities to Contribute
In conjunction with Cultural Studies, students also engage in a Peace Curriculum, as Dr. Montessori strongly believed that “establishing lasting peace is the work of education”. Learning problem-solving strategies, becoming comfortable with silence, and developing strong communication skills all encompass this peaceful component of the school day. Students, through their cultural and peace studies, gain empathy and compassion. This is then translated into a variety of community outreach service projects. Montessori students understand that they are part of a greater whole, and that they have a responsibility for making positive contributions to their communities and the world at large. They learn that small actions can have big impacts, and they learn to facilitate ways for others to join in doing things for the greater good.

Sharing the Gifts of Montessori
For those of you who are current MCA parents, we believe that you will agree that the ‘gift of Montessori’ is one that will stay with your children long after they leave The Montessori Children’s Academy. And we hope you are considering extending the gift to your child(ren) for another year or beyond. As you know, MCA will soon hold its in-house registration for the 2018-2019 school year, which is then followed by open registration. Our program offerings include:

Montessori, My Child, and Me (for 18-30 months old with a parent or caregiver),
2 ½ – 3 ½ Year Old Program,
3 – 6 Year Old AM and PM Programs,
Full Day Kindergarten
Elementary for students in grades 1 through 8

We will be holding an MCA Kindergarten Open House at each of our three campuses during the month of December.

Chatham Campus Kindergarten Open House:      Tuesday, December 5th,         3:15 – 4:15PM
Short Hills Campus Kindergarten Open House:    Wednesday, December 6th,   3:15 – 4:15PM
Morristown Campus Kindergarten Open House: Thursday, December 7th,       3:15 – 4:15PM

Our MCA Elementary Open House will be held on Thursday, December 7th from 7:00 – 8:00PM at our Short Hills campus. We hope you will join us to learn how you can continue to enrich your child’s educational experience by extending this beautiful ‘Montessori gift’ through the Elementary and Middle School years.

We invite you to attend our Open Houses to learn more about the benefits of our Kindergarten and Elementary Programs, and we hope you will bring your family and friends so that they, too, can learn about the many gifts a Montessori education has to offer!

 

Photo Credit: http://www.discovertheregion.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/blog-giving.jpg

Montessori Childrens Academy

Classrooms Filled With Character

While many parents today continue to put an emphasis on the academic rigor of their children’s education, more and more are asking how schools are addressing their child’s development of character. We hear buzz words like “grit”, “self-motivation”, and “emotional intelligence”, and begin to worry that our children are not adding these skill sets into their personal repertoire. Indeed, many schools are incorporating ‘character building’ into their curricula along with ‘anti-bullying’ and other similar social development and prevention programs. Adding these types of curricular areas is a beneficial component to a more holistic educational approach. Those who have been involved in Montessori education as former students, parents, or educators might find it interesting that current trends are just now catching up to something that Montessori education has been doing for more than 100 years.

Dr. Montessori believed in “educating the human potential”. The potential she referred to was not limited to academic potential, but rather reached beyond the limitless possibilities we all possess to learn and do meaningful things. Every aspect of Montessori education contributes to educating the whole child. Let us look at what it is about the Montessori approach that contributes to character building:

  1. The Environment: Children entering a Montessori classroom for the first time are introduced to the various works on the shelves by a teacher. The children learn how to handle the materials with care. After using a particular work, they know to return it to the shelf so that the work is ready for the next person. Children learn how to walk around the work rugs on the classroom floor. They receive lessons in making a ‘safe chair’. They learn to wait for a turn if something they want to do is being used by someone else. They learn to work cooperatively with their peers in a non-competitive environment. These seem like simple lessons, right? That is where Montessori is magical. These are so much more than simple lessons. At their core, these are lessons in safety, respect, and patience. To handle the materials with care keeps them in good condition for the benefit of everyone in the classroom. To move safely about the classroom demonstrates concern for others and their well-being. To learn to delay gratification and be patient is an enormous lesson in self-control. Respect, care, concern for others, and patience—character building in progress!
  2. The Work Cycle: Over the course of the school day, Montessori students are given an ‘uninterrupted’ period of time in which to choose and do their own work. They have the freedom to decide which activities from the shelves they would like to do, and so long as they are working purposefully, they may work with the materials for any length of time. This work cycle is another example of a multi-purpose lesson in Montessori education. By providing children with the opportunity to make choices, they learn decision-making skills, responsibility, and accountability for what they do. In addition, they build concentration and persistence by being permitted time to work on an activity without being rushed to complete it. This often results in children gaining mastery over skills and an understanding that ‘hard work pays off’. Again, we see character being developed through these opportunities as children gain skills in decision-making, persistence, concentration, and the rewards of self-motivation and diligence.
  3. Peace Education: We have already shared the importance of Peace Education in Montessori curriculum. It bears repeating, however, as this is another central and direct method of imparting values and building character in our students. Learning that there are peaceful methods for solving conflicts and providing children with tools for positive problem solving all contribute to well-rounded, healthy, communicative individuals, both inside and outside of the classroom.
  4. The Mixed-Age Classroom: Montessori classrooms consist of students across a 3-year age span. Much like in families, everyone in the classroom has his or her special role and important responsibilities. Older students act as mentors and role models in Montessori environments. Younger students learn from classmates as much as they do from a teacher. There are opportunities for collaboration and many discussions in which everyone participates. Working and learning together in a mixed-age setting promotes acceptance of differences, appreciation, and respect for individual skills and gifts, and an ability to work with a variety of people.
  5. The Teacher: Montessori teachers often are referred to as ‘guides’, which is a fitting term for their role in the classroom. They are the primary example-setting individuals in the classroom whom children are meant to model. Their words and actions deliver messages of how to speak kindly, respectfully, and clearly. And the teacher’s role in observing the needs of the children in the class is crucial, as it is the teacher who then presents lessons and creates an environment that meets the needs of the children who are served in the classroom.
  6. Stories as Teaching Tools: Many Montessori lessons revolve around The Great Stories. As children learn about time, history, math, and language, they learn these things in the context of stories that make sense as a whole and in a context children understand. In addition to these ‘teaching stories’, many circle time lessons in Montessori classrooms incorporate children’s literature rich with examples of virtuous characters. These stories are the springboard for classroom discussions, role-playing, and games to help students better understand how character makes a difference. Stories and fables about courageous mice, boys who cry wolf, hardworking pigs, and more, help children come to value these good qualities in the heroes of these important stories. Students are encouraged to share thoughts and ideas, and to apply the lessons in their everyday interactions.

Long ago, Dr. Montessori knew the importance of educating the ‘whole child’—from the academics to character development. She said, “The child is capable of developing and giving us tangible proof of the possibility of a better humanity. He has shown us the true process of construction of the human being. We have seen children totally change as they acquire a love for things and as their sense of order, discipline, and self-control develops within them…. The child is both a hope and a promise for mankind.” (Education and Peace). Indeed, these Montessori classrooms are filled with students of great character who are a beacon of hope for our future as they are learning the skills they will need to be productive, peaceful citizens of the world.

Girls on the Run NJ

Seasons of Gratitude and Giving

This time of year inspires many of us to reflect on all that we are grateful for and to look for opportunities to help others.  Indeed, Thanksgiving and the winter holidays invite us to treasure what we have and to share with those in need.  Statistically, food banks receive the majority of their donated supplies during this time of year, and according to the Digital Giving Index produced by Network for Good, over 30% of annual giving occurs in the month of December (charitynavigator.org).  People are very generous during this traditional ‘season of giving’, which makes a tremendous difference to those in need.

It is commendable that people, reminded of the needs of others during the months of November and December, take action and contribute to various charities.  However, students at The Montessori Children’s Academy (MCA) are learning that there is something to be thankful for every day of the year and that there are ways to help those in need during every season.  As part of the Montessori Peace Curriculum, the MCA community annually takes part in supporting a charitable organization.  This year, MCA students, teachers, staff, administration, and families are working together to support the Girls on the Run of New Jersey East (GOTR) organization through a variety of efforts throughout the school year from September through June.  The season of gratitude and giving at MCA extends through all four seasons as the children learn about and take part in a variety of activities to support the organization.  As MCA students learn about respect and kindness in their everyday interactions and lessons at school, they also learn about civic responsibility and discover how everyone can play an important role in making the world a better place.

Part of the Montessori Peace Curriculum involves teaching children how to express themselves appropriately.  At the beginning of every school year, Montessori teachers spend significant time engaging their students in “Grace and Courtesy” lessons so that children learn the polite way to greet teachers and friends, to ask for help, and to use the polite “please” and “thank you” responses that go such a long way when interacting with others.  They are taught to wait for their turn when someone else is speaking, to offer to hold the door for someone behind them in line, to return classroom materials to where they belong, and to treat everyone in the same way they would like to be treated.  They practice peaceful conflict resolution.  They learn responsibility for their belongings as well as for their words and actions.  While these things may seem small, they are significant in developing a peaceful and respectful community at school.  Learning to care for their classroom, for their classmates, and for themselves helps children gain appreciation for the people, places, and things in their lives.

Once the Grace and Courtesy lessons have become the norm in the classroom, the children are ready to discover how their actions and interactions outside of the classroom can make a positive impact.  Simple things like sharing a smile when walking down the street is one way to extend kindness to others in the simplest of ways.  Picking up a piece of trash on the playground helps protect our environment.  Setting out a bird feeder provides nourishment when it is hard for birds to find food on their own.  Little acts of kindness make a big impact. Through these actions, children become aware that there are many things that they can do to contribute to the world in a positive way.  The children then come to realize that there are many different types of needs among the people in and around their communities.  They learn about different organizations that work to help others, and the school’s annual charity event becomes incorporated into their classroom discussions and activities.

Montessori Elementary School NJ

To kick off this year’s initiative for Girls on the Run, MCA students participated in a mini fun-run at MCA’s Harvest Family Fun Picnic at Mayapple Hill in South Mountain Reservation.  In addition to taking part in other seasonal activities at the picnic, the children enjoyed donning capes and tutus and running through a small obstacle course to ‘get running for Girls on the Run’.  The school has set a goal to collect $5000 to sponsor 20 girls in the GOTR program in underserved areas.  The Montessori Children’s Academy Family of Schools and Services, MCA’s parent company, has pledged to match donated funds up to $2500, and rapidly, donations have already started coming in to support this great cause.  To view our progress, please visit our special Girls on the Run fundraising page.

Girls on the Run NJ

gotr-cta

To help the MCA students keep track of the donations, teachers designed a special bulletin board display at each campus.  Using the famous Montessori Pink Tower as a progress chart, each of the ten pink cubes represents $500 in donations.  The children will see that when the flag marker showing how much money has been raised reaches the smallest cube on the top of the tower, they have reached their ambitious goal!  In addition to accepting monetary donations for Girls on the Run, MCA is collecting new or gently used athletic wear to share with the girls in the program.  Items such as sneakers, sweatpants and sweatshirts, t-shirts, shorts, and headbands are just some of the items that are already filling the bins at each MCA campus.

Montessori preschool NJ

Students become involved in each year’s charitable cause through many avenues that reach beyond fundraising.  Students are educated about the organization in age-appropriate lessons and discussions, and a variety of activities help them gain insight and develop greater interest in each year’s chosen charity.  Just some of the upcoming projects related to this year’s Girls on the Run initiative include class presentations on health and fitness by our school nurse and local athletes, demonstrations of Girls on the Run activities by organization representatives, and creating a ‘paper sneaker marathon’ display throughout the MCA hallways.  The culminating event will take place at the Girls on the Run 5K in June where MCA students, parents, teachers, staff, and administrators will have the opportunity to volunteer in a variety of capacities to support the organization.  More information about each of these activities will be forthcoming throughout the year.

It is important to note that the students’ means of contributing to the community reaches beyond taking up collections from family and friends.  MCA students gain awareness about the needs of others in their communities through class discussions and then brainstorm ways that they can help in a hands-on, meaningful way.  Student-driven projects from past years have included hosting lemonade stands, holding bake sales, washing cars, and offering to do chores in exchange for a donation, to name a few.

Just last spring, MCA students set up an information table in front of a local food establishment and created posters explaining the work that was being done to help others by one of their chosen charities for that year.  As people passed by, the children engaged them in conversations about the charity and informed them about what they could do to help.  This type of outreach provides the students with the opportunity to share their knowledge, practice public speaking skills, and connect with the people of their community.

Montessori Childrens Academy Chatham NJ

The children learn that every effort to help others, big or small, is worthwhile.  They become educated about needs within their communities and then become empowered, seeing that children can, and do, make a positive difference in their communities and throughout the world.  Through these activities, our students come to realize that when people work together, the collective efforts make an impact that can positively affect people’s lives.  Working together to better the lives of others is at the center of Montessori’s vision of peace through education, and MCA strives to keep this spirit of gratitude and giving alive throughout every season of the year.

The Montessori Children's Academy

Sing for Peace!: International Day of Peace Celebration 2016

September 21st may not be a date you recognize, but around the world and in our Montessori community, we look forward to celebrating the International Day of Peace on this day.  Established by the United Nations in 1981, the International Day of Peace began as a way to promote a time for people worldwide to “honour a cessation of hostilities…and to otherwise commemorate the Day through education and public awareness on issues related to peace” ().

The Montessori Children's Academy

The UN’s theme for the International Day of Peace this year is “The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace”.  Youth from around the world have been invited to share via YouTube their video messages of peace with ideas related to this year’s theme.  Solutions related to ending poverty and helping the environment are evident in the concerns of today’s youth.  The videos can be viewed on the United Nations Peace Day 2016 YouTube Channel, and they include brief messages from young people representing many different nations.

To do our part to celebrate this special occasion, The Montessori Children’s Academy (MCA) plans to take part in a variety of activities leading up to September 21st.  Each class will choose its own special way to celebrate.  Some will be reading books about peace, making peacemaker necklaces, or learning how to say ‘peace’ in different languages, while others will recite peace poems or decorate symbols of peace.  Then, on the big day, we will all participate in a worldwide event called Sing Peace Around the World.  The goal of the project organizers is to have the song “Light a Candle for Peace” sung continuously over a 24 hour time period all around the globe.  The singing will begin in New Zealand and end in Hawaii 24 hours later.  Our designated time to sing “Light a Candle for Peace” in Chatham, Morristown, and Short Hills is 9:30AM.  Please consider joining the endeavor–wherever you are at that time, take out the lyrics and sing along!  To date, nearly 90,000 children from around the world are registered to participate in this event, including all of our MCA students.  We hope the sounds of children singing for peace will echo across every land on every continent, and that it will reach into the hearts of all people in every corner of the world.

Of course, peace education and awareness is not something MCA recognizes only for one day or by singing just one song.  It is an important component of the Montessori curriculum and an integral part of each and every day in all of our schools.  Everything you find in a Montessori classroom has an intentional meaning and an underlying lesson and goal.  For example, the manner in which Montessori classrooms are prepared aim to promote the development of self-discipline.  The Montessori materials are designed to provide students with challenges that spark their critical thinking.  There are countless opportunities in Montessori classrooms for creative problem solving.  Montessori students are exposed to Cultural Studies, where they learn about people, places, and traditions from around the world, gaining a global awareness and appreciation for similarities and differences among people in all nations.  The focus on ‘grace and courtesy’, as well as the modeling of respect by the adults in the classroom, helps children to, in turn, learn to exhibit grace, courtesy, and respect.  These are all intentional features which are carefully woven into the fabric of Montessori education.  Dr. Montessori developed her method of education to teach not only academic subjects, but also to instill important values in children.  Montessori education is intended to help students learn how to work cooperatively and in harmony, to discover how to solve problems peacefully, and to find ways to promote peace in their interactions with others throughout their lives.

As Dr. Montessori said, “The child is capable of developing and giving us tangible proof of the possibility of a better humanity.  He has shown us the true process of construction of the human being.  We have seen children totally change as they acquire a love for things and as their sense of order, discipline, and self-control develops within them…. The child is both a hope and a promise for mankind” (Education and Peace).  Maria Montessori knew the importance of education for the greater good of the world, and she insisted on providing children with many opportunities to learn and internalize their roles as peacemakers through educational experiences, which encompassed not only academics, but the development of responsibility and character as well.  As she is well known to have stated, “Establishing lasting peace is the work of education; all politics can do is keep us out of war.”  Dr. Montessori was nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize, and her advocacy for peace has made a lasting impression.  We are proud to uphold her legacy for spreading peace throughout the world.

Below are the lyrics to “Light a Candle for Peace”.

The Montessori Children's Academy

Please feel free to share the song with others, and help us to promote peace in our schools, our neighborhoods, our towns, our nation, and all around the world.  We wish everyone a meaningful International Day of Peace!

Light a Candle for Peace
by Shelley Murley

Light a candle for peace
Light a candle for love
Light a candle that shines all the way around the world
Light a candle for me
Light a candle for you
That our wish for world peace
Will one day come true!
(repeat)

Sing peace around the world
Sing peace around the world
Sing peace around the world
Sing peace around the world

Light a candle for peace
Light a candle for love
Light a candle that shines all the way around the world
Light a candle for me
Light a candle for you
That our wish for world peace
Will one day come true!

Sing peace around the world
Sing peace around the world
Sing peace around the world
Sing peace around the world

For more information about Montessori peace education and other peace initiatives, as well as to find children’s books about peace, check out the resources listed below, some of which were used as references in this article:

Duckworth, C. (2008). Maria Montessori’s contribution to peace education. In Encyclopedia of Peace Education. http://www.tc.edu/centers/epe/
Montessori, Maria. (1992; first published 1949). Education and Peace (The Clio Montessori Series). Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.
Wolf, Aline D. (1996). Nurturing the Spirit: In Non-Sectarian Classrooms. Santa Rosa: Parent Child Press, Inc.
www.childpeacebooks.org
www.singpeacearoundtheworld.com
www.un.org/en/events/peaceday