At this time of year, it is a pleasure to walk the halls of Twin Parks Montessori Schools. The classrooms emit a quiet hum of activity. Children are working on large projects like the Thousand Bead Chain, writing stories, building cities with blocks or inventing new ways to work with all of the sensorial materials at once. Toddlers are cooking, taking longer walks, completing work cycles and having conversations with one another. Our infants are no longer babies. They are walking, talking, engaging toddlers!
Our Montessori classroom communities are normalized – a Montessori term that does not refer to “typical” or “average”. Normalization in observed when children are allowed freedom in an environment suited to their needs allowing them to blossom. After a period of great concentration – engaged with materials matching their development – children are refreshed and content.
This is also the time when executive function skills are at their peak. Children are problem-solving with one another, negotiating, and voicing their opinions. They are experimenting, searching for solutions, planning, preparing and executing their plans. They are delaying gratification, taking turns and inviting others to join their work. They are using their memory for understanding. They are working as a community.
Author, artist and book designer, Deng Ming-Dao talked about community that matches Montessori classroom communities:
Everyone understands that burning wood produces fire. But when fire feeds on fire, that is a rare condition that yields the greatest illumination. Two flames come together and yield light more magnificent than either could have given forth alone. In the case of community activity, this means that when one cooperates with others, the accomplishments are greater than what the individuals can do on their own. Such a situation requires a harmony that will generate ideas, inspiration, as well as momentum for growth and action. If the combinations occur properly, the results will be like fire feeding upon fire and will illuminate the world.
– Ming-Dao, Deng. 365 Tao Daily Meditations. New York: Harper-Collins, 1992.