Students learning at Mountain Shadows Montessori School

The Montessori method seeks to develop natural interests and activities with an emphasis on hands-on learning and developing real-world skills. . (Photo courtesy: Mountain Shadows Montessori School).

A Montessori education is not about worksheets, chalkboards and sitting at uncomfortable desks for hours. The Montessori method seeks to develop natural interests and activities with an emphasis on hands-on learning and developing real-world skills.

Let’s check in with Harry Donahue, Head of School at Mountain Shadows Montessori School in Boulder, to properly understand the origins of Montessori and why it’s such a benefit to the kids in that learning environment.

What exactly is the Montessori method?
Harry Donahue: Montessori is a different approach to learning. Montessori children learn at their own individual pace and according to their own interests in activities. Children use their hands and senses to learn, not just listening, watching, or reading. Children are engaged in individual and/or group activities of their own choice throughout the day. Learning is exploring, and a process of discovery, leading to concentration, motivation, self-discipline, and the development of a love of learning. The Montessori classroom is made up of children within a three-year age span. This allows the class to be a real community with different aged children working together, peer teaching happening, spontaneous children helping each other, and the older children sharing their knowledge with younger children.

Where does this educational model come from?
HD: Montessori education was founded by Dr. Maria Montessori in 1907. She was the first woman doctor in Italy. This approach to education is based on Dr. Montessori’s scientific observation of the child’s learning process and observing the child’s developmental needs. Montessori works well with most children. However, it will work best when families and teachers work together, allowing the child to be independent and responsible. This allows the child to reach their full potential. There are many things that can be done at home with the child that will align with what their child is doing at school.

Is Montessori more popular than ever?
HD: There has been a surge in Montessori demands. This is because The Montessori classrooms meet each child where they are developmentally and academically. The child then progresses at their own pace, meeting their individual needs. The children are able to work in small groups. This allows them to work cooperatively, share ideas, compromise, think outside the box and build teamwork skills.

How do kids at Mountain Shadows respond to this method?
HD: The children have a desire to learn and natural curiosity throughout the day. They are free to work with activities that interest them. The children also are responsible to do follow-up work on lessons that they have received. The children are proud of their work and are excited to share with others.

By Darren Thornberry for Raised in the Rockies