“Curiosity is an empty space,
a question to be answered.
When children have had this curiosity filled,
they can be truly creative.”
At the beginning of the school year I asked Ms. Sarah if I might be able to contribute to the blog. I joked that it would give me a chance to continue using my degree (Professional Writing), and she related that her annual project, the CharMont yearbook was her way of doing the same, having been, at one point, pursuing a career in publishing before discovering Montessori.
It was that conversation that got me thinking about Montessori and it’s mysterious ability to draw in the design-minded, problem-solvers and otherwise creative people. I soon realized that many other staff shared these interests and that a number of Charlotte Montessori parents have careers in design-related and other fields requiring creativity.
Now, I want to clarify. I don’t mean to single out fashion designers or artists alone in this creative category. I am also thinking of those that find themselves to be passionate about creating, problem-solving, rearranging, revamping and making our world more beautiful. The University of Chicago, Illinois School of Design describes design as a pursuit of “progress” through “the conceptualization and creation of new things: ideas, interactions, information, objects, typefaces, books, posters, products, places, signs, systems, services, furniture, websites, and more.” (UIC) You might have a career as an engineer, writer, architect, web-designer, interior decorator, app-developer (etc.) or just find yourself driven by an appreciation for planning, aesthetics and creativity in your every day life. Whatever the case, if you identify with these interests, it may be no coincidence that you found your way to the Montessori community.
I’ve come to believe that Montessori attracts creatives, designers and problem solvers (both teachers and parents) because it is the marriage of a carefully designed environment and an opportunity for the child to claim their role as designers of their own learning.
Though we all believe in and celebrate Montessori for different reasons, the intentional arrangement of the Montessori classroom plays an especially important role in communicating to the parent, guide, administrator and enthusiast that the child is entering an environment based wholly on their needs and interests. The arrangement of each Montessori classroom is based upon a specific set of goals. When properly prepared they are “beautiful, inviting, and thoughtfully arranged” (AMS) As creative thinkers, problem solvers and designers ourselves we strive to create with purpose and we want the same thoughtfulness put into the space we expect our next generation to learn. Almost without need for explanation, the minimalist design of the classroom reassures us that the space has been arranged with care. The shelves and works are designed to appeal to natural human instinct so they too require little explanation and appeal to other typical design principles such as clarity and usability as well. As explained by the National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector, “learning never takes place in a vacuum. Optimal education requires optimal surroundings, and for more than a century Montessori environments have set the standard for school design that supports deep learning, peaceful and purposeful social development, and vibrant communities of practice. Grounded in core principles of order, respect, and freedom within limits, Montessori environments are intentionally designed to foster concentration, collaboration and community” (NCMPS).
If one of your first impressions of Montessori was courtesy of a graduate, you might have also been encouraged by the tendency for Montessori kids to become brilliant, outside-the-box thinking adults. Many of the world’s most successful designers and creative thinkers attended Montessori schools in their youth. Some of my favorite examples are the two founders of Google, Jeff Bezoz (founder of Amazon), Yo Yo Ma, Julia Child…and of course, Beyonce. Interestingly, the design of the Montessori classroom appears to make an impression not only on the student’s ability to develop and learn in an educational sense but also on the student’s longterm ability to conquer creative projects of their own. According to the American Montessori Society, the Montessori classroom features “natural lighting, soft colors, and uncluttered spaces” that “set the stage for activity that is focused and calm. Learning materials are displayed on accessible shelves, fostering independence as students go about their work. Everything is where it is supposed to be, conveying a sense of harmony and order that both comforts and inspires”(AMS). It is no surprise then that Montessori students often emerge as confident, independent and creative workers.
When Maria Montessori describes the child’s process of development, the guide is virtually absent and the environment itself is the material from which the child will build his knowledge and understanding, “the child, making use of all that he finds around him, shapes himself for the future”(MM) In essence, in the Montessori world, the child is the designer and the classroom is his toolbox.
Perhaps what makes the Montessori community so special is the thread of creativity and care for the child that connects parent to child, child to guide and guide to parent. In any case, I am grateful for the magic that exists within our own community here at Charlotte Montessori School. The environment we share is one that inspires me each day and I hope you feel the same. Whatever your craft or passion, I am truly grateful that you are with us.