Magazine article Montessori Life

Creativity and Montessori Education

Magazine article Montessori Life

Creativity and Montessori Education

Article excerpt

Last summer, as a representative of the American Montessori Society, I attended a Montessori conference in Beijing and had the privilege of visiting several Montessori schools. It was fascinating to see students involved in the same math, Practical Life, and sensorial lessons as American Montessori school students. Also fascinating was seeing language and culture activities that are unique to Chinese culture and art, such as intricate sewing that included the zodiac symbols and corresponding constellations. But perhaps most fascinating of all was witnessing the proliferation of Montessori schools the country has experienced in recent years.

Montessori schools are rapidly opening in China, in part to help promote creativity in education. Dr. Yong Zhao, a forerunner in global education from the University of Oregon, and a keynote speaker at the AMS 2011 Annual Conference, said that there are many things "right" with American education and that China and other "Asian nations are actually reforming their systems to be more like their American counterparts" (speech, March 25, 2011). And in his book, Catching Up or Leading the Way, Zhao states: "No other country comes close to the U.S. when it comes to exports of intellectual property/knowledge (patents, royalties, copyrights, license fees). Diversity of talents, creativity, entrepreneurship, and passion are what allow nations to thrive" (Zhao, 2009).

Divergent thinking skills are considered to be at the heart of creativity; creative thinkers use both divergent and convergent thinking. And the Montessori method encourages divergent thinking. Sir Ken Robinson, also an AMS 2011 keynoter, talks about the decline of divergent thinking in schools where students are taught to know one correct answer.

Divergent thinking isn't a synonym, but is an essential capacity for creativity. It's the ability to see lots of possible answers to a question, lots of possible ways to interpret a question, to think laterally, to think not just in linear or convergent ways, to see multiple answers, not one. (Robinson, 2009, retrieved November 21, 2011)

Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has similar thoughts on creativity.

It is easier to enhance creativity by changing conditions in the environment than by trying to make people think more creatively. . . . A creative accomplishment is almost never the result of sudden insight, a light bulb flashing on in the dark, but comes after years of hard work. (Csikszentmihalyi, p. 1)

We know that many of the jobs that our students will engage in as adults have not yet been invented. As educators we must allow for and support creativity as we prepare our classroom environments.

If we examine the lives of some well-known creative individuals, perhaps we can better understand how their learning environments influenced them. Referring to the founders of Google, Marissa Mayer (Google' s first female engineer and current VP of Location and Local Services) commented:

You can't understand Google unless you know that both Larry [Page] and Sergey [Brin] were Montessori kids. To do something that makes sense, not because some authority figure told you. In a Montessori school you go paint because you have something to express or you just want to do it that afternoon, not because the teacher said so. This is baked into how Larry and Sergey approach problems. …

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