Reading this blog entry reminded me of the wisdom of Maria Montessori. The entry posits four stages of curiosity: process, content, transfer and self. “This has changed me” is the defining sentence of this fourth stage, self. Dr. Montessori did not identify four stages of curiosity or refer to it as directly as may be found in today’s writings about learning and education. What she did was create an educational system that utilizes what she termed ‘three-period lessons.’ From the youngest children to the oldest, this is a defining principle of Montessori practice, one that can be found in authentic Montessori schools, such as WMS, throughout the world.
Three-period lessons consist of stages:
- “This is…” Information is presented, named and shown step by step. The teacher demonstrates the materials to show a child what is possible.
- “Show me…” The student is asked to show the teacher things, to recognize and associate an item. For example, if a lesson were done on triangles, a student would be asked to show the teacher the equilateral triangle. At this point a child is not asked to name the triangle, but to demonstrate her understanding of the concept by correctly identifying the triangle when asked.
- “What is this?” The student is asked to name an object or idea that has been presented in other lessons. As children learn to name items, they also begin to associate them with previously learned ideas and thus begin to creatively associate concepts and ideas.
What the aforementioned blog entry on the stages of curiosity and Montessori’s three-period lessons have in common is the understanding that children need someone nearby to help them negotiate the beginnings of their learning, no matter the topic. The first stages of learning require a patient and knowledgeable teacher to provide the information and help the student define his or her world. As the child gains more information, he associates it with previous knowledge and begins to wonder, to make sense of what he is learning. Finally, the child assimilates this learning into his world and extends his definition of the world and his part in it. The student begins to create, and to seek knowledge for knowledge’s sake. This is the pinnacle of learning, and it is guided by curiosity.
Once again, Montessori’s understanding of children and how they learn is brought to bear when considering the 21st-century skills touted in education today. Wilmington Montessori School, a school with strong and tested Montessori principles, leads the way in educating children for their future.