Igniting Creativity

Esteem for individuality, advancing independent learning, and cultivating the whole child are the hallmarks of an authentic Montessori education. In this responsive and inspiring student-centered learning environment each child’s inquisitiveness and creativity are nurtured and sustained.

Early childhood sets the foundation for developing a child’s creativity both artistically and cognitively. The confidence to think and act autonomously – along with the skills to do so successfully – help preschool children ages 2 ½ to six years old at Boulder Montessori School express themselves creatively in many areas. The respectful, interactive approach of expert teachers and the well-organized, supportive, and deliberately prepared learning environment at Boulder Montessori School help students feel comfortable in their surroundings and secure in pursuing their own ideas. Creativity flourishes when children are provided with the tools for expression and are allowed to explore and express themselves freely.

Sensorial Materials: Visual and Tactile Feedback for Child and Teacher

 The series of images above illustrates the process of repetition as children move toward mastery of materials from the “Sensorial” category of Montessori “work,” that is, activity that trains the senses. Preschool students are guided by lessons demonstrating the purpose of the Pink Tower and the Brown Stair: to arrange the pieces from largest (or thickest) to smallest (or thinnest). Once the children have become proficient at this “work” and can repeat it with less effort, they begin to explore new possibilities. At this stage, the students often work cooperatively as they formulate new combinations of materials. In multi-age groups, older students can be influential and they spark new ideas in the younger children. Students also re-create the tower or stair in their drawings or paper constructions, copied from the actual cubes or prisms.

Hands-on learning allowing for practice and mistakes proves to be the best teacher for children. At Boulder Montessori School students learn through experience and are granted the time necessary for repeated practice when attempting new skills or concepts. Teachers look for signs that a child is returning to an activity and learn from previous errors as she tries again and again for the result she wants; this tells them that she is working at her “learning edge,” in other words, she is ready to expand her understanding and knowledge.

Boulder Montessori School teachers, all of whom are certified by either the American Montessori Society (AMS) or Association Montessori Internationale (AMI), are highly experienced and trained to be keenly observant. They fundamentally value and recognize the child’s inner drive for self-creation and will not intervene to correct a child’s every mistake as he is learning. Instead, Montessori teachers also consider themselves to be learners, discerning a child’s learning style, what each child is capable of at any given time, and where he is cognitively through close observations. Rather than rushing a child to a fixed goal in a curriculum, teachers allow him to work in depth at activities that interest him and that he chooses by himself while watching for the child to show readiness for moving on to new “work.” When given the opportunity to work at their own pace, children often surprise us with the imagination, creativity, and discoveries revealed through their activities.

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The sensorial materials provide an important link between the child’s body and mind, stimulating and strengthening neural connections between different areas of the brain. They exemplify a child’s growing knowledge and the transition from merely repeating a lesson to understanding a concept well enough to expand on it creatively. For example in the photograph above, the red rods illustrate differences in length. The child shows progress from building simple to more complicated patterns, for instance, from a basic spiral to building a pyramid from long to short rods, adorned with cylinders that also are shrinking in dimension from bottom to top.

Creativity in Art and Language

Dr. Montessori provided ways for each child to express “the individuality of the child in his spontaneous manifestations.”1 She recognized artistic activities as one avenue for such expression arising naturally from within. By providing children with various tools for drawing, painting, and clay modeling, and lessons in how to use and care for these materials, Boulder Montessori School teachers support students in freely creating art work that brings together the “eye and hand” to  transform their internal imagination and spirit into external reality.

Teachers glimpse into children’s minds as they interpret their creative work. In this drawing of Boulder Montessori School’s playground below, drawn by one of its students, there is a surprising amount of detail illustrated from her memory.

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The school building in the background shows the exact number of doors that match the number of classrooms. The child highlights her knowledge of the natural world by drawing roots of flowers underground. She also depicts the climbing structure from a bird’s eye view. The rings, slide, “climbing wall,” and the curved ladder are accurately  represented around the central platforms.

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A final area of study in which children at Boulder Montessori School are encouraged in early self-expression and creative thought is in the area of language development. Dr. Montessori recognized children’s interest in letters and reading, observing children becoming ready for writing before reading and before their hands were able to manipulate pencils to form letters. She created large sandpaper letters for learning the sounds and shapes of letters that even three-year-olds enjoy. Once a student can hear individual sounds in a word (“huh-aah-t”), he can arrange cutout, moveable letters on a rug to compose the word (“hat”). Students are encouraged to think of words that they want to sound out and compose in this way. Long before they worry about correct spelling, learners happily create sentences and stories with words spelled correctly phonetically. Younger children, seeing older peers making stories this way can ask an adult to write down dictated stories for them. In this way, students realize that the written word represents their own thoughts and ideas, and they gain confidence in expressing themselves through the written word and spoken language.

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Montessori, M. 1978. The Montessori Method. New York: Shocken Bocks.

Future posts this month will discuss how Boulder Montessori School’s classrooms develop social connections with others.

-Written by Patty West; edited by Dana L.

-Photos by Boulder Montessori School teachers

To learn more about a Montessori parenting and education, you are invited to join us for a free event open to the public.

Parenting Your Independent Child

When: Thursday, January 29, 2015
7:00-8:00 pm

Where: Boulder Montessori School
3300 Redstone Rd.
Boulder, CO 80305

RSVP to Amy at (303) 494-5814 or email amy@bouldermontessori.org

Boulder Montessori School is a nonprofit, nondenominational independent school offering outstanding toddler, preschool, and summer programs serving children 18 months to six years old. One of the leading and longest serving preschools in Boulder, the 40-year-old school is nationally accredited by the American Montessori Society (AMS) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

Boulder Montessori School’s dedicated, highly qualified teachers are American Montessori Society (AMS) or Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) certified.

Applications are accepted year-round, a variety of scheduling options and lunch from the on-site kitchen are offered, and scholarships and full-day summer programs are available.

Address: 3300 Redstone Rd.
Boulder, CO 80305

Website: www.bouldermontessori.org

Phone: (303) 494-5814