“You see things, and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?’” -- George Bernard Shaw
Maria Montessori believed that the human spirit is driven by creativity, innovation and the power of imagination. But she also understood that a fertile imagination rests on a foundation of knowledge and information. To that end, she discouraged preschool children from indulging in excess fantasy which would inhibit their thinking–especially today, with the proliferation of television, video games and cartoons.
In a rich, experiential learning environment, the young child develops independence, focus, concentration and fine motor coordination. These skills lay the groundwork for the child to read and write – keys to knowledge and to further exploration of science, history, biology, astronomy, language, mathematics, culture and the arts, subjects which Dr. Montessori advocated introducing to 3-to-5 year-olds. Dr. Montessori recognized that early exposure to various disciplines broadens the child’s language and cognitive skills, thus facilitating the expansion of their thinking and communication skills.
For the preschool child, such a foundation is the springboard for a creative mind. When transitioning to Grade 1, the child who was a sensorial explorer, undergoes an extraordinary shift in attention. With an immense curiosity and newly-formed powers of reasoning and abstract thinking, the child enters an explosive period of learning and social growth, described by Dr. Montessori as the “Intellectual Period.”
To meet the specific needs and “psychological characteristics” of the 6-12 year-old child, Dr. Montessori created an educational environment that focused on the process of learning, rather than on a simple accumulation of facts. She felt strongly that students must be challenged to apply knowledge gained through critical thinking. She also introduced a new impetus for learning – that of sparking the elementary child’s intellect and imagination through the art of story telling.
Unifying the Montessori elementary curriculum are the Five Great Lessons, stories designed to captivate and lead the child to further investigation. The purpose of these lessons is such that the child is “struck by the wonder of creation, thrilled with new ideas, and awed by the inventiveness and innovation that is part of the human spirit.” The elementary student is first introduced to large concepts, and within this context, more specific ideas can be understood.
“The First Great Lesson,“The Coming of the Universe and the Earth,” paints a cosmic picture with lasting impressions, connecting to studies in physics, geology, chemistry, astronomy and geography. The Second Great Lesson, the Coming of Life, prepares the student for studies of habitats, biology, the animal kingdom and classification… The Third Great Lesson, The Coming of Human Beings, ties into history, culture, politics, economics, commerce, philosophy, religion, scientific invention…The Fourth Great Lesson is The Story of Writing, which is a platform for the study of all aspects of language. Finally, the Fifth Great Lesson, the Story of Numbers, embraces the history of mathematics and geometry and applications.
Bringing the imagination to the forefront, these illuminating stories make pivotal events and achievements of the past come alive, challenging and inspiring students to add to the significant advancements of knowledge – awakening them to future possibilities.
For Dr. Montessori, knowledge provides the catalyst for the imagination to soar. And she would be the first to agree with Dr. Albert Einstein’s assertion:“Imagination is more important than knowledge, for knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
©Glebe Montessori School