Learning in collaboration: Students take control of their class work by conferencing with the teachers. This is when education is truly without fear.
Elementary Montessori education allows for a couple of key factors to come into play when we speak about the learning process.
A typical day at the Mutha School, Kidoz Montessori’s elementary environment in Bangalore, looks like this:
The children work on different subjects like Maths, Kannada, English, Chemistry or Botany. There are a few facilitators on hand to guide them if necessary but the children have discussed and planned their week’s work with the teacher well in advance.
A second-grader sits on her mat and practices multiplication and long division with her material. “I need more practice in this,” she says. Not because the teacher told her to but because she knows what she can do better. It is easy to see where her introspection and self-motivation comes from.
Fresh from the primary Montessori training, the child who enters the elementary environment is in for a wonderful journey. The Montessori teacher gives the child a set of tools to maintain the balance of the classroom. The child also has access to materials designed to facilitate the transition to abstraction. Along with intellectual rigor, experimentation and challenges, a deep ecology of cosmic education creates a social dynamic that supports the growth of community.
The Mutha School is one of the latest schools in Bangalore to have an elementary Montessori environment and will soon have upper elementary and higher learning environments.
Here is how it explores this amazing approach to the fullest.
The curriculum has no limitations
Savitha K. Premchandra, the Principal of the Mutha School, has more than 15 years of experience as a Montessori directress, trainer and special educator.
Says Savitha, “The implementation of cosmic education requires an adult who is willing to assist the children in their journey to construct themselves. We have the most fabulous job in the world: telling stories about the universe and everything contained within. We are charged with igniting the fire within the child to explore the universe which leads her to discover how everything is connected.”
The Elementary Montessori curriculum is very vast because there are no boundaries. The children learn about the world and how it is interconnected. Nothing is compartmentalized into subjects. The moon is discussed both in astronomy as well as geology. Children cross-refer and build their own knowledge bases.
Says Savitha, “We have been taught that the area of a triangle is half of base times height and this formula has been fed to us as children but what if a child can derive this on their own? The area material makes this possible. When children use the material, the excitement they feel is the same that one feels when one makes a remarkable discovery.”
The elementary curriculum follows the inquiry based approach of Montessori but is wider and more ambitious. Montessori said that the senses are the gateway to intelligence and to work on material to understand concepts like quadrilaterals or polygons gives the child a sense of discovery and joy.
The Mutha School’s elementary Montessori environment sees children explore English, Kannada, Hindi, Botany, Zoology, History, Physics, Chemistry and Geography, in an organic and integrated way. There is a science corner where children can perform their own experiments. The elementary curriculum is every bit as strong and advanced as it is in mainstream schools. Says Savitha, “A nine-year-old in our environment works on the inner structure of an atom or the study of a periodic table. Another child discovers which phylum an animal or a plant belongs to. One day, I brought a scorpion in a jar. We had a long discussion about it. How it stings, why it stings? The children were engrossed.”
The students mastermind their own education
The elementary Montessori is a planned curriculum. The children determine the pace and use their own time to connect and understand concepts. To do this, they have a lot of freedom. Any child can talk and more importantly, there is the freedom of movement and choice. Says Savitha, “A typical classroom sees the child move and speak but a child’s attention span is not more than 15 minutes. Also, not all the children have the same attention spans. The curriculum is also so vast that we need to keep track of progress. This is why we have a contract between the child and a teacher.”
How does this work?
Every fifteen days, the facilitator and a child have a conference time wherein they discuss what they will do for the next two weeks. Minimum learning levels are established during the conference time but the child can go a notch higher if interested. Children continue to work even if teachers are not present. It is a child-oriented curriculum and the teacher-student partnership is strong.
Says Savitha, “The freedom that a Montessori child receives must be balanced with responsibility. Freedom without responsibility leads to chaos and often to traditional manners of teaching.”
It is interesting to see how the teacher-student partnership works. In the Mutha School, teachers prepare lessons and presentations. Teachers also document and maintain journals and observations about the children’s progress. The elementary learning environment has students of all ages work side by side and witness one another’s work. The child’s work journals, the societal expectations and meetings with the children are three powerful tools that the Montessori teacher uses to assist children in the exploration of the universe.
They can guide each other, interact or recollect a material that they previously mastered. They can also work in teams. The ability to offer to teach a classmate or the freedom to ask for help and collaboration is the most liberating experience that a classroom can bring. This is when education is truly without fear.
Interested in exploring the elementary environment at the Mutha School?
Do sign up here to visit their Open Day on September 25, 2016.
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