Wednesday, July 20, 2011

IB - Montessori part I - Questions

We know from experience and Montessori's work that the driving force in our classrooms are not the adults standing in front of them, but the questions that develop in the child's mind.  The role of the teacher in the Montessori classroom is that of a guide, and that of a storyteller.  Through the five great lessons and countless stories we set the stage for a universe of human reality and wonder for the child to begin exploring.  Their questions will ultimately create their understanding of those lessons and of our universe, as well as provide their focus going forward.

The Montessori classroom is able to create an environment that prolongs the interactions that infants and toddlers have naturally with their parents, friends and surroundings.  Interactions where the toddlers are innately curious and voracious in their exploration. 
  • What is this?
  • What does this do?
  • Why is this here?
  • Where does this come from?
  • Why are we going there?
The child's curiosity is insatiable.  Not only verbal, but also - as any parent will eagerly chime in - completely sensorial.  The child touches everything, tastes everything, listens to everything, smells everything and attempts to transform everything in this exploration.  By taking advantage of this instead of suppressing it, the Primary and Elementary Montessori curriculum is second to none. 

We chose to create an International Baccalaureate Middle School because the program is founded on asking powerful questions.  The difference in the two philosophies is that in the Montessori tradition our questions are not explicit or necessarily shared. Taking advantage of our MS students moving into a decidedly more social plane of development, we understand that discovery and exploration is not only private and self-driven but has also become a shared peer experience.  In our Middle School curriculum we share questions and ideas, we still let the child drive his learning by asking questions, but we now make their questions explicit and available to their classmates.  We tell stories and expand on the great lessons and use student curiosity to develop our curriculum.

We are driven by questions instead of content:

  • What is order? What is chaos? Instead of Ancient Greece.
  • What is a number? Instead of base ten number systems.
  • What is an ideal community? Instead of The Giver.
  • When is it good to be wrong? Instead of the Scientific Method.

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