Montessori and Reggio Influenced Curriculums
Our school began in 1976 as a Montessori school. We immediately joined the American Montessori Society, bought materials that Dr. Montessori had designed with woodworkers at the turn of the last century, and designed a light, large, open space that would allow children to move around and feel that the school was their “home away from home”. These original materials, that we still use today, have built-in gradations of struggle to carefully increase their difficulty while enhancing the child’s engagement in the self-chosen task. This requires attention and concentration, which in turn aids the child’s self-confidence and self-regulation. They are proud of their accomplishments, their acquisition of skills and the reward of feeling good about their ability to figure things out on their own.
A quarter of a century later, we were introduced to the ideas of an educational system in the Italian area of Reggio Emilia and began to understand that the two were not only complementary but as with the idea of one and one being more than two, these different approaches enhance our whole program. In Reggio, the teachers encourage children to learn by using “provocations”, guiding them to ask questions in search of their own answers. The very importance of listening and then documenting the children’s ideas helps them to not only understand but to be able to share and reproduce their learning experiences. This practice originally comes from Montessori’s vision that each young child is a tireless explorer with “natural intelligence,” who creates worlds within the adult world. Both educational systems have early learners best experiencing the daily opportunities to grow, guided by talented teachers, so that the children may actively create meaning.
Loris Malaguzzi, the leader of the Reggio movement, added the verbal side to this exploration and called it the “hundred languages of children,” encouraging the potential of all children, within their investigations and questioning, to better understand their culture and surroundings. Our school is proud of the immense curiosity of our teachers and their stimulation of the curiosity within each child. Each day we are privileged to see breakthroughs into new understanding of concepts and knowledge, along with the smiles and joy that communicate the sweet significance of true learning. We at WMS believe that the patience and tone of the adults communicates our belief in the process of learning through trial and error; that mistakes are always interesting and pathways to further development. In the words of Dr. Maria Montessori in her book, The Absorbent Mind:
Many errors correct themselves as we go through life. The tiny child starts by toddling uncertainly on his feet, wobbles and falls, but ends by walking easily…
At WMS, we each strive to remain non-judgmental (much easier for educators than parents), and hope that our love of helping children to know themselves, delight in themselves, and truly feel solid enough within their respective identities that they can listen to others and learn who they themselves are.