• I have been taking part in an interesting discussion on Research Gate , on Montessori education. You can follow the full discussion from the link (you might have to register, I guess).

The point is ...

Thinking through Montessori education again, particularly after having used the theory of synaesthesia to try to get to grips with the way Montessori, implicitly, used cross-modality, I was struck by how much the Montessori 'curriculum' is an emergent curriculum - by definition. She insisted that "there is no such thing as the Montessori method, just follow the child". And that has implications, both for rigorous observation, and for continuous innovation in materials (or learning objects) which were the core of her approach, and are a very tough act to follow. In a sense she was 'only as good as her next innovative response to what she observed in the needs of the child'.

And that means a continually emergent and adaptive curriculum. In fact, its a radical openness to an iterative and cumulative set of affordances, based on a state of mindfulness and observation of the child. Its an engagement, not a 'curriculum' in the traditional sense at all!

Extract from Research Gate:

Deborah Young · Naropa University
Very rich comments. When I first learnt about Montessori over 36 years ago, I had the honor of taking the certification with Dr. Caspari, who was a student of Maria in India. She was with PMA at the time, not AMI or AMS. We not only learnt theory and how to use the materials, we were also asked to demonstrate our awareness of development, observation and the use of the natural world by providing the lessons using what was available, i.e. stones, plants, soil, rocks (the basic elements). In other words going far beyond materials that so many current teachers follow.

This training opened up an opportunity to recognize the importance of the basic elements of our planet in relationship to human development. The connection to nature, the observation of nature, which the developing child is part of and how this can lead to right knowing, right understanding and right human conduct with mindful and intentional skilled facilitation in the process of self discovery and learning for the young child. I truly believe this process can lead to a peaceful way of living. Teachers, directors of learning, facilitators of development, adults in the world can treat children differently with open heart, mind and mindfulness using many of Montessori's, as mentioned above, rigorous attention to observation and discernment, can change the world in one generation. There is hope! Thank you all.

Roy Williams · University of Portsmouth
Deborah, connection to nature, as you say, is a rigorous business. Mindfulness similarly can be seen as the foundation for intellectual thought - particularly if (in conventional scientific terms) it includes what is called 'full life-cycle' environmental analyses. And seeing your life-cycle clearly, against the life-cycle of other organisms and systems could put you on the way to mastering mindfulness in a Zen sense, no?

More prosaically, I have recently come to think of observation, mindfulness, discernment and description as key to science - natural and social. It starts with collection - of things, data, and impressions, goes on to classification and taxonomy, and then to systems thinking. But description is key.

I love the way you seem to link the engagement of the Montessori directress/teacher as mindful observation of the child, with the pupil's mindful engagement with nature (including their own 'nature'?). Its the same thing, and they can learn this mastery from each other, no?

Description (for me) - is the next step - articulating and sharing what you think you see, and comparing it with the descriptions of others. Its where the real work, and the interesting conversations begin.