At a parent education evening this week, we talked about ‘Following the Child’.
'Following the child' in Montessori terms means following the needs of the child and then to prepare the environment to meet those needs. Exploration and learning is supported by the ability to make certain choices about the direction of that learning. Our classroom environment provides the children with ample opportunity to follow their inquisitions and to have some control over their learning.
An example would be project work where small groups of children have been organising a 'going out' to find answers to unanswered questions on a range of subject matter. This removes constraints from their learning opportunities and engages them in the world, beyond the school walls.
The is demonstrated by the two seven year old boys who have been studying trains. They had many unanswered questions such as How are trains built?, Is it possible to have trains that run on solar power? Are there plans for environmentally friendly trains in Australia?
So, the children are empowered to capitalise on their passion,and to take ownership of pursuing their curiosity. The boys contacted an engineer at Sydney's light rail project for the CBD-Randwick-Kingsford. What a success - they had a personal tour and came back bursting with the knowledge they gained from the experience.
In other current examples, two ten year olds are organising their visit to a dentist to investigate further their study of sugar. Others are studying working dogs conducted an interview with a constable at the police dogs headquarters.
Liberating learning and capitalising on the passion of children is what we believe is excellence in education and what children need most in the 21st Century.