A highlight of the 2013 International Montessori Congress in Portland, Oregon this week was a “Glass Classroom” installation in downtown Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square. Modeled on the Glass Classroom at the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exhibition in San Francisco, the Portland event featured toddler, children’s house, and elementary environments operating for three hours in the middle of the bustling public space known affectionately as “Portland’s Living Room.” Children climbed stairs, sliced bananas, walked on the line, rolled up rugs, counted golden beads, worked on grammar boxes, and even laid down for a nap, as curious adults passed by and stopped for a second look. These aren’t the greatest shots, but they give the flavor of the event.
The first Glass Classroom was itself a highlight of Montessori’s first visit to the United States. The American Montessori Society has a good account of the event here, and the photograph below shows (left to right) Mario Montessori, Helen Parkhurst, Maria Montessori, and Adelia Pyle looking on.
The 1915 Exhibition has inspired other models over the years. In 2011, Crossway Community Montessori Charter School in Maryland presented a demonstration children’s house, and the 2012 AMS Annual Conference in San Francisco featured an elementary classroom. Montessori in the Square, the 2013 Congress event, with classrooms at three levels, is the largest such exhibition to date.