“Curiosity killed the cat” is an old proverb that warns of the danger of inquisitiveness. Yet what creature in the universe is more inquisitive than a young child? Any parent who has lived through the “Why?” “Why?” “Why?” phase of development knows what it’s like to be peppered with questions until you find yourself trying to explain the nature of time or the presence of stars.
Curiosity is a driving passion for knowledge and understanding. Children are born with it. What if educators could harness this curiosity, direct it, and promote this instinctive passion for knowledge?
A Hundred Years Of Success
Dr. Maria Montessori was one of Italy’s first female physicians with a focus in psychiatry. In 1907, she opened a school in Rome and, through observation and experimentation, developed a teaching method and associated learning materials that focused on promoting children’s instinctive curiosity in order to encourage self-learning.
Today, the Montessori Method is a well-established teaching method in thousands of early education centers worldwide. In the classroom, the focus is on allowing the child the freedom to choose what he wants to learn, with the teacher as support and guide.
Self-Motivated And Self-Directed Learning
Knowing that all children learn in different ways, every child in a Montessori school is assessed and assigned individualized goals. The students are encouraged to proceed at their own pace with teachers that act not as lecturers but as guides. The classroom is full of specialized, well-crafted, educational toys that are built for self-assessment and self-correction. A button board intended to teach a child small motor skills will show immediately if there’s an error. A child eager to smooth out the wrinkles will take the initiative to correct it. Within days, that child will be buttoning his own clothes with pride.
Confidence, independence, and the urge to self-correct are skills that will last a lifetime.
Building Skills For The 21st Century
Montessori classrooms often have a mix of ages, encouraging children to see themselves as part of a bigger community. The younger children look up to the older classmates as role models, and the older classmates take pride in helping the younger children. In a swiftly changing technological world, being able to work successfully in multi-age groups is just one skill that the Montessori Method promotes. Others include independence of thought, creativity, and developing the confidence and motivation to try something new.
The founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, have attributed their success in part to Montessori nursery schools, which taught them about “being self-motivated and questioning what’s going on in the world, and doing things a little different.”
A frequent retort to “curiosity killed the cat” is “satisfaction brought it back.” Satisfaction in learning, no doubt, for the pleasure of learning is a gift in itself.