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In schools at this time of year, children are often found doing things out of their typical routine – preparing for a show, baking or cooking, sewing, creating an art or craft project, wrapping gifts to be shared with others, or sending a note to a special friend, to name a few. They eagerly approach many of these tasks, enjoying the variety from typical school-day assignments and lessons.

As we continue to learn more about how we learn and how the brain engages when learning and performing novel tasks, we are reminded about how important it is to go beyond books, lectures and typical school assignments. As students prepare sets for the stage, learn how to run the lights, or cue the songs, they are learning so much about how to integrate technology to support the performers, how to juggle multiple responsibilities and how to work to support others. When baking, cooking and sewing, measurement and fractions reign supreme. You can’t do these things without math. The creativity involved in these tasks is crucial for the brain’s involvement in consolidating information learned in other domains.

Maria Montessori somehow knew, long before fMRI, through her education as a doctor and her observation of children, that children need to experience learning in many ways. Montessori classrooms are equipped with opportunities to go beyond what is contained in a typical school environment. From toddlers through high school, Montessori students are offered opportunities to go beyond the typical educational experience. Learning is an opportunity that exists in all forms and lasts a lifetime.