The Montessori method is founded on Maria Montessori’s educational philosophy. Her basic principle was to “follow the child”. A Montessori classroom is carefully prepared to allow the child to work independently and allow for the joy of self-discovery. Teachers introduce materials and children are free to choose them, again and again, working and discovering, and ultimately mastering ideas. Lessons are given, but the goal is for children to discover the answers by using the “auto-didactic”, or “self-correcting” materials that are found only in Montessori classrooms.
Children grow academically in the Montessori environment. They discover an ability to complete complex math problems, name the continents, identify geometric shapes, write beautifully, and talk about scientific concepts such as “metamorphosis”. Just as important in the classroom is the engagement of the child’s creative intelligence. Children are exposed to fine art, drama, music, history, and a second language. They might paint their own Impressionist “water lily” one day, participate in the challenges of Sports Day on another, prepare traditional food from another country, or put on a play based on an ancient folktale.
However, the most important aspect of our educational mission does not concern academics. Our primary goal is to foster and enhance each child’s natural sense of joy and wonder. We feel that children should delight in childhood, that the school day must include laughter and the buzz of creative silliness. We want students to love school and the process of learning. The idea that “education is not a chore, but a joyous exploration of life’s mysteries”, is the most important lesson that we hope to teach our students.
1：High Quality Education
More than Childcare…. Early Childhood Education At Its Finest
The primary goal of a Montessori program is to help each child reach its full potential in all areas of life. The method of Montessori is based on three key factors; the specialized training of the teacher, a specially prepared environment complete with Montessori apparatus, and a multi-age grouping of children. When these elements are in place, young children are able to discover their own talents, gain self-confidence, make friendships, experience the joys of learning, and grow in a holistic manner.
Montessori School of Shanghai provides highly trained, credentialed Montessori Teachers and exceptional classroom environments. Mixed-age groups are found in our Infant, Toddler, Early Childhood classes.
Creativity flourishes in an atmosphere of acceptance and trust. Our teachers establish such an atmosphere in their classrooms. Treating each child with love and respect enables the child to trust their teachers. This relationship is the foundation of the learning process. The three-year cycle enables the child, the family, and the teacher time to really know one another and work together. Strong bonds are made, and many relationships are long-lasting.
For any great accomplishment, the foundation has to be strong, solid, and long-lasting. That is the opportunity a Montessori education provides. Birth to age six is the most important time of education. It is here that the foundation is firmly established. We build good people!
The Montessori School of Shanghai has classrooms of multi-age children. They are “Multi-Age Learning Communities.” The Montessori practice has shown that children in multi-year age groupings progress academically while building important social, learning, and character skills.
The multi-age grouping accommodates the child’s individualized “biological clock”, rather than relying on age as the primary indicator for readiness with lessons. Peer cooperation and peer tutoring increase achievement and self-esteem in both the older and younger child.
The multi-age classroom is a groundbreaking concept for developing community and supporting students of varying levels of academic and social development. By creating a bond between parents, teachers, and children, Dr. Montessori sought to create a closely-knit community where individuals could learn to be empowered; where children could learn to become contributing, sharing members of their school-family; where students could learn to care for younger children, learn from older people, and trust one another; and where children could find ways to be acceptably assertive rather than being aggressive.
Montessori’s idea of the prepared environment was that everything the child came in contact with would facilitate and maximize independent learning and exploration. This calm, well-ordered environment has a lot of movement and activity. Children are free to choose and work on activities at their own pace. Here, they experience a combination of freedom and self-discipline, as guided by the environment and the teacher.
There are generally seven aspects, or principles, to the Prepared Environment: Freedom; Structure and Order; Beauty; Nature and Reality; Social Environment; Intellectual Environment; Montessori materials.
A child must be free to explore and follow his own natural impulses, thus developing his potential and increasing his knowledge of the world around him. Within the prepared environment, the child must experience the freedom of movement, freedom of exploration, freedom to interact socially, and freedom from interference from others. This freedom ultimately leads to greater freedom: freedom of choice.
STRUCTURE AND ORDER:
While Structure and Order seem counter-intuitive to the aforementioned freedom, nothing could be further from the truth. Structure and Order in the Montessori classroom accurately reflect the sense of structure and order in the universe. By using the Montessori classroom environment as a microcosm of the universe, the child begins to internalize the order surrounding him, thus making sense of the world in which he lives.
Montessori environments should be beautiful. The environment should suggest a simple harmony. Uncluttered and well maintained, the environment should reflect peace and tranquility. The environment should invite the learner to come in and work. This atmosphere is easily seen through the attitude of those working there, both child and adult.
Nature and Reality:
Montessori had a deep respect and reverence for nature. She believed that we should use nature to inspire children. She continually suggested that Montessori teachers take the children out into nature, rather than keeping them confined in the classroom. This is why natural materials are preferred in the prepared environment. Real wood, reeds, bamboo, metal, cotton, and glass are preferred to synthetics or plastics.
Where there is the freedom to interact, children learn to encourage and develop a sense of compassion and empathy for others. As children develop, they become more socially aware, preparing to work and play in groups. This social interaction is supported throughout the environment and is encouraged by the multi-age classroom settings.
If the above aspects are not recognized, the intellectual environment will not reach its purpose. The purpose of the Montessori environment is to develop the whole personality of the child, not merely his intellect. By guiding the child through the five areas of the Montessori curriculum (Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Mathematics, and Cultural subjects), the child has the structure, which is at the forefront of the creative work in a Montessori classroom.
Each classroom at the Montessori School of Shanghai is equipped with a full range of Montessori materials. These unique and specialized materials are often imported from Europe or the United States to ensure authenticity and quality. In addition, MSS classrooms are rich with colorful extensions and individualized teacher-made materials that complement and enhance the Montessori materials.
In Montessori education, we believe in the importance of three things, that all work together: the child, teacher, and materials, where each part is important. We believe that each child has many gifts and talents to be discovered, and not that a child is an empty container waiting to be filled up by the teacher. The teacher is an observer, follower, and guide bringing wisdom, thoughtfulness, and experience to the child’s academic, social, and intellectual exploration. The Montessori approach demands special professionals who are confident and skilled enough to allow children to be active participants in their learning. It also means that all school decisions are driven by what is best for the child. The authentic and beautiful Montessori materials provide activities that are cherished by the children and that help them learn with joy and understanding.
The teacher establishes guidelines for work and behavior, showing children how to be successful within the structure of the curriculum and the community. As a result, a pattern of good work habits and a sense of responsibility and cooperation are established in the classroom.
5：Sensitive Periods of Learning
Maria Montessori believed in children having “sensitive periods” for learning. From birth to 6, the child shows a strong interest in particular things he wants to master. This leads to the child doing a task repeatedly, with great interest, until the child has reached his goal of mastery.
The purpose of each sensitive period, which is actually an inner sensibility possessed by children, is to help them acquire a certain skill or characteristic necessary for their growth. As they acquire the skill or characteristic, their sensitivity for it decreases, and another sensitivity increases.
Dr. Montessori observed that the first six years of children’s lives are directed by their absorbent minds. She divided this six-year time span into two three-year periods. The first three years she calls “unconscious learning” and the second three years, “conscious learning”.
During the first three years of life, children absorb and take in all that is around them in their environment. They absorb impressions from the environment, “creating themselves”. Dr. Montessori said, “The child takes in his whole environment, not with his mind but with his life”. The task of adults around the child in this stage of development is not to intervene but to provide a safe, rich environment for the child.