In reading this article about education, I was reminded of the tension between providing a breadth of knowledge and a depth of knowledge in our schools. At first glance, I went to my default which is that children need to have the opportunity to delve deeply into an area of interest; they need time to explore all aspects of a subject of interest, not just an introduction to a topic. I then recalled conversations with colleagues whose stance is that we have an obligation to teach a wide range of knowledge so as to create a well-informed educated populace. As I pondered these two ideas I again recognized Maria Montessori’s brilliance.
During the elementary years, Dr. Montessori focused the curriculum on what she identified as the “cosmic education” of the child: “Let us give the children a vision of the universe. The universe is an imposing reality and the answer to all questions.” (To Educate the Human Potential, Maria Montessori)
The Montessori Method uses the story of the universe and the coming of life to earth to ignite a passion in children for their world, to encourage them to begin to think about who they are as individuals and as a part of the human race. She proposes giving them the breadth of the world and all it holds, from the study of plants, animals, physics, astronomy, chemistry, history, geography, etc. Through these studies children begin to notice not what separates us from the rest of the world, but what unites us. They become citizens of the world.
WMS classrooms offer the breadth of this vision of the universe and then allow children time in their three-hour work period to explore ideas in more depth. Those ideas can be inspired from the a lesson such as those offered in cosmic education or they can be exploration of areas of personal passion. A WMS education allows children to go deeply into the areas they would like to know more about; it allows for depth while offering a breadth of experiences. Our students are given the best of both worlds. They won’t explore every idea deeply, but they will gain the skills to do so for as they grow they will be introduced to concepts they want to know more about. They will have the skills to delve deeply into the subject and see its ties to the other ideas presented throughout their time here. Montessori education is the best offering of the breadth and depth of learning.