This post is part of a series on 21st-century skills and how Wilmington Montessori School students are prepared in these areas, starting from an early age. View the introductory post.
Critical thinking, problem solving, reasoning, analysis, interpretation, synthesizing information
The skills of critical thinking, problem solving, reasoning and synthesizing information are crucial when considering a 21st-century education. Interestingly, Dr. Maria Montessori considered these skills to be an integral part of every child’s education in the last century and they persist today. “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed” is one of Maria Montessori’s most often quoted phrases. Students at WMS practice these skills from the youngest age to the oldest. They have ample opportunity to try, learn and try again. They are setting the foundation for future learning and entering the workforce as they become adults.
As you observe students at WMS, you will notice them hard at work learning to do things by themselves. Adults are always nearby observing, asking questions and noting the child’s ability to persist in the face of difficulty before reaching the point of frustration. They begin this work as toddlers, with the focus shifting from themselves and their classrooms to the world beyond the walls of WMS by the time they reach the 9-12 program.
One example of this is the sixth-grade students’ participation in the Global Citizenship Action Project (GCAP) sponsored by the American Montessori Society’s Peace Committee. Through GCAP our students learn more about the world, its problems and how to be a part of the solution. They learn how people working within several non-governmental organizations came to their work by carefully considering the problem, solutions that had been tried, and adjusting their solutions to incorporate these previous experiences. They come back to WMS excited and interested in making a meaningful contribution to this work. In the past several years they have worked to support non-governmental organizations’ work such as Save the Rain, Vision For and From Children, the Tap Project, 350.org and more. Each of these organizations works to support people throughout our world in various ways. Our students have the unique opportunity to learn about not only these organizations, but many others as a result of their work with GCAP. It broadens their understanding of the world while also letting them learn how others have worked to analyze and work toward solutions of the world’s problems while also letting them know they can make a difference.
At WMS children are encouraged to think, to wonder and to synthesize what they know to be true along with what they consider to be possible. They are given the opportunities to do what they know how to do, seek assistance and gain the skills needed to go beyond those tasks. WMS students are encouraged and supported as they consider a problem, whether it’s where material belongs on a shelf, how to add a column of numbers or how to provide water to the world’s people. Critical thinking and problem solving are 21st-century skills in many other schools; they have been skills taught to our students from the 20th-century through today and into the future.