In this wonderful Ted Talk, Sir Ken Robinson rates ‘curiosity’ as “the engine of achievement”. He shares that teaching is about learning and that if there is no learning going on, there is no education going on. Sadly, he finds that we have lost the culture of curiosity in our schools and, instead, have a culture of compliance, where teachers follow routine algorithms, rather than exciting the power of curiosity.
So to what extend do we foster curiosity in our Montessori environments?
In her article ‘Maria Montessori and the Postmodern World‘, Marlene Barron invites us to consider using more open-ended materials alongside fiction in our environments, to encourage exploration and the opportunity to explore multiple perspectives of reality such as they exist in the postmodern world. And she asks us to consider whether prohibiting students from exploring the Montessori materials in the classroom, requiring instead that the material is presented by the Montessori guide first, allows them to develop the problem-solving skills they will need in the 21st Century. Research by Laura Schulz at MIT supports this: teaching children might bring them to the answer more quickly but prevents them from discovering new information.
Montessori believed in the child’s natural capacity to learn and urged us to ‘follow the child’ and not interfere. In Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents she says:
…children live in a world of their own interests, and the work they do there must be respected, for although many activities of children may seem pointless to grown-ups, nature is using them for her own ends. She is building mind and character as well as bone and muscle. The greatest help you can give your children is the freedom to go about their own work in their own way, for in this matter your child knows better than you” (Montessori, 2017: 48)
In this article by Pete Moorhouse, curiosity is described as lying “at the heart of children’s learning – it is the spirit of enquiry.” So how can we make sure we keep it alive?
Montessori, M. 2007, Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents, Kindle Edition