“We especially need imagination in science. It’s not all mathematics, nor all logic, but it is somewhat beauty and poetry.” -Maria Montessori
There are so many myths and misinterpretations about Montessori education. I spend a lot of my time trying to debunk the mystery and misconceptions that surrounds this strong, child-centered, developmentally appropriate form of education. Even after so many years of a successful methodology, Montessori is often misunderstood. One of the top myths that I am encountered with is that we don’t allow children to be creative or use their imagination.
On the contrary, children in the Montessori classroom tap into their imaginations and their ability to think out of the box all the time. We don’t rely on television, on premade cut-outs from the local chain store, on worksheets, on a dress-up area or on coloring worksheets in our classrooms. We have a beautiful environment laid out for children that includes, among many things, an array of art materials. Instead of teachers putting up examples and asking children to make their work all look identical; teachers put out materials in neat and inviting trays and allow students to go from there.
When I walk through an early childhood classroom at our school I will see a variety of creative activities taking place. I will see children painting, children making collages, children cutting and children using colored pencils or crayons. I will see children matching similar sounds with the bells or the sound cylinders. I would likely see children grading colors by shade with the color tablets, too. I will also see several other activities that may not be art, but are certainly allowing children to use their creative thinking skills. The fact that Montessori materials are self-correcting doesn’t hamper their creativity, on the contrary, it allows them to make and embrace mistakes without adult intervention. The children I see at school are so confident and so comfortable with their teachers, classmates and environment that they are always willing to make suggestions, attempt new things and follow their interests without worrying about doing it wrong, or worrying about embarrassing themselves. I see this continue through the elementary and middle school classrooms at my school. I hear “What if we try…” so much more often than “What if I’m wrong?”
Creativity is something that comes in many forms. Many of us think of being creative as being able to make magnificent pictures with a paint brush or to put beautiful words together in a song or poem. However, creativity entails thinking about and trying things in many different ways. It’s about taking risks and knowing that you are safe to do so. Humans are naturally curious beings with the innate desire to try new things or to try old things in a new way. When we give children the permission to explore their interests and come up with their own questions, we allow their creativity to blossom and their brains to grow. I think it is safe to say that creativity forms the foundation of education. And it is safe to say the Montessori embraces the creative process in each child.