Aimee Kimbell, Principal of Riverside Nursery Schools, reflects on the advantages of the Montessori Method and its role in developing innovative, confident life-long learners

‘Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man’ is a famous quote attributed to Aristotle demonstrating how important early influences are in the human development. The Montessori Method is based on a child-centred approach encouraging pupils to follow their own initiatives leading to confident positive learners at the beginning of their educational journey. Maria Montessori believed early years pupils have ‘absorbent minds’ which have a sponge like capacity to absorb from the environment what is necessary to create an individual, before transitioning to a reasoning adult mind. 

Self-Motivation and independent learning are intrinsic to the Montessori method. From the earliest age, pupils are encouraged to find their own motivations for learning and growth through freedom in the ‘prepared environment’. The Montessori Method focuses on creating an enjoyable, ‘hands-on’ collaborative learning experience where pupils progress at their own speed. It teaches them to start with their own ideas, to build on them through problem solving and physical experimentation. If a child wants to spend three hours building a Roman Arch, figuring out a trinomial cube, or working out the geometry of a tower, that’s fine. Uninterrupted time problem-solving and self-teaching is vital to the method.  

Positive Social skills and emotional intelligence are other proven benefits of the Montessori method. Multi-age classrooms ensure pupils are part of a close caring community fostering a community based social intelligence by focusing on self-awareness, enabling pupils to understand moods and emotions. At the heart of our Grace and Courtesy curriculum is respect for self, others and the environment. Peace education is a part of Montessori’s vision and focuses on inner peace and conflict resolution. Montessori said that a child is ‘a hope and a promise for mankind’. She defined peace as a mindset of collaboration and respect for different cultures and religions coupled with a respect for the natural world.

The Montessori Method stresses the importance of nature because of its effects on the growth of the whole child. According to the philosophy, nature enriches the life of each child by supporting physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development. Maria Montessori wrote in her book The Absorbent Mind, ‘Only through freedom and environmental experience is it practically possible for human development to occur.’ This seems to chime with contemporary Britain as many people have re-connected with nature during recent lockdowns and many school age children follow Greta Thunberg.

The Montessori philosophy encourages a positive attitude to learning, collaboration and problem solving which can provide a set of skills relevant in the 21st century job market. In Maria Montessori’s words ‘the education of a small child does not aim in preparing him for school, but for life’. Skills for the 21st century job market are summarised as: collaboration and teamwork, creativity and imagination, critical thinking and problem solving, which all spring from the Montessori method. In the most popular TED talk of all time (Do Schools Kill Creativity?) Sir Ken Robinson argued that creativity is as important as literacy. He explains that to thrive in the post-industrial 21st-century economy, the most valuable skills are creativity, self-motivation, and social intelligence. The Montessori method nurtures all these qualities by providing the environment and stimulus to allow independent creativity to flourish. In the age of artificial intelligence, it could be argued that creativity should be more highly valued as technology can out-perform people in retaining, processing, and repeating rule-based information.

In the USA, where Montessori education is popular, observers have described the ‘Montessori Mafia’ dominating Silicone Valley. Many of the key innovators in our digital technological age are former Montessori pupils. Former Montessori student Bill Gates demonstrates typical Montessorian traits of independent creativity. Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, developed his drive and vison in the Montessori prepared environment. It is no coincidence that Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and Larry Page (Google) all attended Montessori schools. Although the Montessori method is 150 years old its ideas seem more relevant today than ever. Elon Musk is building his own Montessori school to serve his Space X employees demonstrating how the Californian tech world recognizes the benefits of the method. 

At our Riverside Nursery Montessori schools we welcome two year olds on their next steps of their educational journeys as absorbent-minded toddlers thirsty to learn, through our carefully prepared environments, into a world of exploration and discovery. By nurturing their unique characters and allowing them to flourish they become self-reliant, compassionate, knowledgeable global citizens with the desire for life-long learning. Our students are able to think critically, work collaboratively, and act boldly—skill sets for the 21st century. 

Click HERE to find out more about Riverside Nursery Schools.