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Montessori and STEM

Recently I was asked why we don’t have a STEM program here at Harbor Montessori. I was puzzled by the question; Montessori is known for a robust and enticing curriculum. We have a healthy and versatile science and math program that begins with our toddlers and carries on through the middle school. Though we limit the use of technology in the younger classrooms, our older children have access to computers, iPads, laptops and an array of interesting software programs. As far as engineering, we have many materials such as the Montessori Simple Machines, which provide a foundation for understanding how things work. Additionally our after school clubs, such as robotics, take these concepts and allow students to explore current technology in a child-friendly way. Most importantly the sky is the limit with research and creativity in our classrooms. Montessori students are independent, curious and innovative children who become successful adults able to work collaboratively in the modern workplace. Is it fair to say then, that we do incorporate STEM into our school?

First let us look at the definition of any STEM program:

“STEM Education is more than just presentation and dissemination of information and cultivation of techniques. It is a process for teaching and learning that offers students opportunities to make sense of the world and take charge of their learning, rather than learning isolated bits and pieces of content. In the STEM environment, there is less emphasis on activities that demonstrate science content and a greater focus on those activities that allow students to engage in real world problems and experiences through project-based, experiential learning activities that lead to higher level thinking.” October 23, 2013

I could easily replace STEM with Montessori in the above paragraph. All of the things mentioned-emphasis on real world problems and experiences, project based education, students taking charge of their learning-has been happening in Montessori schools all over the world for over one hundred years. By now you have probably heard the co-founders of Google and the creator of share the positive impact their Montessori education had on their goals and dreams. These innovators tell us that Montessori education allowed them to think outside the box, be creative, ask questions instead of memorize answers and feel confident in taking risks.

If you attended the presentation “Journey to Somewhere, Montessori in the 21st Century” given by Dr. Betsy Coe, here at Harbor Montessori in November, you will recall the research she shared with us about 21st century skills. Dr. Coe share commonalities in information gathered from several sources, including Time Magazine, US Department of Labor, and the books Global Achievement Gap and Curriculum 21. All of these sources share that the adults in the 21st century need to be:

  1. Creative

  2. Innovative

  3. Organized

  4. Collaborative

  5. Flexible

  6. Open to the ideas of others

  7. Able to think outside the box

  8. Able to ask questions and know where to find answers

  9. Able to manage themselves, while helping their peers

These are the qualities proponents of STEM curriculums are hoping to see carry over from childhood to adulthood. They are the qualities Montessori grads already possess.

If Montessori and STEM are so similar, you might wonder what Montessori has that STEM does not. The Montessori classroom is multi-aged, allowing students the opportunity to be an explorer, a mentee and a mentor. We know from current advances in neuroscience, that the brain evolves differently and better when you are able to teach back something that you have learned. Children who have the opportunity to mentor in their third year are not just growing their confidence; they’re also growing their brains. Montessori schools have a clear, thorough and time-tested curriculum. In general, you should be able to move your child from our Montessori school in Gig Harbor, to a Montessori school in New Zealand, without too much upset in her routine. While new STEM programs might be spending time testing what works and what doesn’t, Montessori schools are spending time engaging students in an environment that is well prepared for every child’s needs. Montessori schools continue to value literature, art, foreign language, music and physical fitness. We continue to promote grace, courtesy and conflict resolution. At Harbor Montessori these pieces interweave, connect and come together seamlessly. STEM is not done in a weekly lab, or squeezed in between other content areas. It is constantly happening. Montessori schools care for the whole child in a way that encourages curiosity and independence, while making sure the child is nurtured.

We want our children to be challenged, to enjoy learning and to have skills and talents that they can rely upon as adults. At HMS, we ensure students are getting a full-bodied and well-rounded education that includes plenty of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The experience our children have today will surely make a positive impact on their future.

-Aimee Allen M.Ed

Head of School

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