Tag Archives: news

More From the Montessori Leaders Collaborative

A few days ago I wrote about the Montessori Leaders Collaborative and the big projects that are emerging from their work.  Two more pieces that deserve mention:

Jennifer Davidson, Executive Director of Montessori Northwest, the Portland, Oregon training center which sponsored the 2013 International Montessori Congress, announced the Teacher Formation Working Group.  “Teacher Formation” rather than training is by design, to acknowledge the reality that the developmental work of becoming a Montessori teacher extends well beyond the training course.  The project will be a census of U. S. teacher preparation and professional development programs similar to the schools census.  This long-term survey will build a database of teacher training programs based on data already collected by MACTE, and will consider quality principles such as evidence of candidate learning, faculty learning and inquiry, and program capacity.  The Group has an immediate goal of connecting state teaching credentials to teacher training programs.

Also announced at the MLC breakout and recently launched online is the Montessor Charter Management Association (MCMA), a cooperative venture of NAMTA and NCMPS.  From the website:

MCMO is a network of charter public Montessori schools across the United States. We provide wide-ranging support including school management, coaching of school leaders, professional development, staff recruitment, fundraising, marketing, and more.

The Montessori movement is on the move!  Watch this space for more to come.


Andrew McAfee Tells it Like it Is

Andrew McAffee, principal research scientist at the Center for Digital Business at MIT Sloan, author of Enterprise 2.0 and (with Erik Brynjolfsson) of Race Against The Machine, widely read blogger, and public intellectual in the business and IT world, wrote about Montessori in 2011, in the Harvard Business Review: Montessori Builds Innovators.

Here, in a video interview with his co-author Byrnjolfsson and NYT’s Thomas Friedman, he gives another shout-out. (I can’t post a clip, but the Montessori bit starts at 28:38.) Friedman is asking him what, given the economic disruption created by the digital revolution, we as a nation should be talking about “in terms of education, jobs, and the future.”  McAfee:

I was a Montessori kid for the first years of my schooling (applause!), and I’m so thankful because that is an educational system that teaches you that the world is a really interesting place, and  your job is to go explore and understand it and maybe change it somewhere down the road. Thank heaven for that.

My school only went up to 3rd grade, and after that I went into the public school system for the 4th grade and I felt like I had been sent to the gulag. I’m like, “You want me to sit there in this grid of desks all day, and then a succession of things are going to be either inflicted on me, or instructed  —this doesn’t make any sense.”

Eric and I were at TED  earlier this year and the TED prize was given to Sugata Mitra, the educational researcher for India, who he says that system was designed to turn out clerks for the British empire, and we don’t need that anymore. We need to teach people that the world is a really interesting place.

Sounds like he got it about right.  Friedman, McAfee, Brynjolfsson, TED, Mitra (who I posted about here and here), MIT Sloan—this is the conversation we want to be in.

Montessori Mention at Psychology Today

ImageA throwaway Montessori mention today: Montessori Had it Right: We Learn by Doing, by Dr. Sian Beilock, a professor at the University of Chicago, in Pscyhology Today.  (She has a new book out: Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To.)

The article describes new research that shows that, in fact, writing development precedes and improves reading development in the brain.   Toddlers who practiced letter shapes had better letter recognition than those who practiced naming words, and brain imaging showed faster development of the fusiform gyrus, which is involved in letter recognition.

Who knew? Beilock casually mentions Montessori in the headline, but it’s not just “learning by doing.” As many Montessorians know, writing comes before reading in the Children’s House classroom because that’s what Dr. Montessori observed working with children.  Nice to see the brain research catching up.

Interestingly, Beilock and Montessori turned up together in a 2008 piece on Boston.com, Don’t Just Stand There, Think, talking about “embodied cognition.”  This is the idea that “we think not just with our brains, but with our bodies.”  At the time, this was a “young field” in the world of psychology, although:

Some educators see in it a new paradigm for teaching children, one that privileges movement and simulation over reading, writing, and reciting.


The article cites a study by Beilock, and at the end he brings in who else but Dr. Angeline Lillard!

While embodied cognition remains a young field, some specialists believe that it suggests a rethinking of how we approach education.

Angeline Lillard, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia, says that one possibility is to take another look at the educational approach that Italian educator Maria Montessori laid out nearly 100 years ago, theories that for decades were ignored by mainstream educators.

A key to the Montessori method is the idea that children learn best in a dynamic environment full of motion and the manipulation of physical objects. In Montessori schools, children learn the alphabet by tracing sandpaper letters, they learn math using blocks and cubes, they learn grammar by acting out sentences read to them.

As it turns out, Lillard cites Beilock in the American Journal of Play article I featured on this site last week, and they’re all over together in psychological bibliographies.

So this is what it looks like to be in the conversation.  More and more brain-based stuff for us to point to.

Hat tip: Montessori Madman Daniel Petter-Lippstein.

Slate Magazine Calls Out Grades, Cites Montessori

An article today from Slate.com: The Case Against Grades, by Michael Thomsen, spells out everything that’s wrong with   the 116-year old A-B-C-D-F system, in no uncertain terms.  I’ll quote liberally from the article because it’s so good, but please, click though and read the whole thing.  A sampling:

It’s becoming increasingly clear that the rigid and judgmental foundation of modern education is the origin point for many of our worst qualities, making it harder for many to learn…

With data:

I was all set to comment about Montessori, as the largest (by far) organized pedagogy which explicitly rejects grades, when I got to this in the meat of the article:

The most famous example are Montessori schools, noted for their lack of grades, multiage classes, and extended periods where students can chose their own projects from a selected range of materials. The schools have educated many of today’s wealthiest entrepreneurs, including Google’s Larry Page and Sergei Brin, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Wikipedia creator Jimmy Wales, business management legend Peter Drucker, and video game icon Will Wright.

It goes on, citing Angeline Lillard’s widely cited 2006 article Evaluating Montessori Education:

A 2006 comparison in Milwaukee found that Montessori students performed better than grade-based students at reading and math; they also “wrote more creative essays with more complex sentence structures, selected more positive responses to social dilemmas, and reported feeling more of a sense of community at their school.”

But isn’t Montessori just for those who can afford it?  Thomsen is way ahead of you:

Some contend that Montessori schools attract more affluent and successful parents, who give their children an inherent advantage, but the Milwaukee study was built around a random lottery for Montessori enrollment. All the children in the study came from families with similar economic backgrounds, with average incomes ranging between $20,000 and $50,000.

He goes on to describe Summerhill and free schools modeled after it, and I think that’s just fine.  That’s the company we want to be mentioned among.  Go ahead with the full free school philosophy if you’re ready to go that far.  If you’re looking for something equally progressive, a touch more accessible, and quite possibly in your neighborhood or coming soon, check out a Montessori school.

100 years of Montessori in Pasadena

From my Montessori Google news feed (which I wrote about here), an article from the Pasadena Star-News about the 100th birthday of the Aria Montessori School, founded in 1913, visited by Maria Montessori in 1915, and alma mater to prominent Montessori graduate Julia Child.

This has got to be the oldest continuously operating Montessori school in the country, although (per the article) neither AMI nor AMS could confirm the claim.  The school website does not mention an affiliation with any Montessori organization, and doesn’t say much about the background of the administration or teachers.

Still, a pretty remarkable milestone.

Montessori Model United Nations



You’ve probably heard of the Model United Nations.  But if you’re like me, you’re probably a little hazy on the details.  Here’s a quick explainer, and a look at how Montessori fits into the picture.

The Model United Nations, it turns out, isn’t just one thing.  In fact, it’s a generic term for a wide range of activities taken on by a wide range of organizations.  Per WIkipedia

Model United Nations (also Model UN or MUN) is an academic simulation of the United Nations that aims to educate participants about current events, topics in international relations, diplomacy and the United Nations agenda.

The programs began in the 1920s as simulations of the League of Nations, transforming into MUNs in the 1950s. Originally college level activities, they have expanded to include elementary through post-doctoral participants, involving more than 90,000 students. Schools, colleges, and universities organize their own MUN clubs or classes, which can choose to participate one of more than 70 MUN Conferences in the U.S. and around the world.  Conferences typically feature research, debates, public speaking, analysis, and much more.  Many conferences give awards as part of the event.

The Montessori Model United Nations is different.  Founded in 2006 by Oak Farm Montessori School Head Judith Cunningham and the UN Ambassador from Dominican Republic Francis Lorenzo, MMUN is one of a very few MUN Conferences open to elementary and middle school students. In contrast to most other Conferences, MMUN focuses on peace, cooperation, and compromise, rather than competition, and does not give awards.

MMUN has held 6 conferences in New York and has expanded to a Midwest Regional conference and a conference in Geneva, Switzerland.  This year’s participants included Oak Farm Montessori from Avilla, Indiana, Santa Barbara Montessori School from California, and Treasure Village Montessori, a charter school from the Florida Keys.  Several schools made their local news:

Treasure Village students prep for mock U.N

Santa Barbara Montessori Students Return to United Nations in NYC