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In Ghana, West Africa, there is a symbol used by the Akan tribe: Sankofa. It is depicted as a mythical bird whose feet are facing firming forward, while its head curves back to grab something it has forgotten. Sankofa signifies the idea that you must learn from the past in order to face the future. To me, this is a perfect metaphor for the relevance of time-honored Montessori schools.
Maria Montessori founded her legendary approach to education over a hundred years ago, and yet, it remains vital today. Articles abound to support the value of a Montessori approach even in our high-tech era: How Montessori Method Applies to Today’s Workplace; How Modern Neuroscience Supports Montessori Teaching; Dynamic Skill Theory in Montessori Classrooms; Montessori Method and Flow Theory. The research points to ways Montessori schools embody the best way for young brains (and older ones too!) to learn, adapt, live peacefully with others, and grow toward self-mastery in any domain.
Initially, I knew very little about Montessori education. Years ago, I was magnetically drawn to an oak lined campus not far from my house. Bluebonnet Montessori of Lakeway. A path led past a wooden gate, approaching two yurt-shaped classrooms. These were linked by a large hallway, with a turret on top. Around the back I could see a garden filled with laughing children. Multi-ethnic teachers greeted me with strong accents and kind eyes.
One thing led to another, and I soon found myself in the role of Art Teacher for Bluebonnet. Working with small groups, I have taught painting and drawing to preschoolers through third grade. My job is to teach kids to hold brushes, mix colors, tap into their imagination, and grow more perceptive and dexterous. Meanwhile I get glimpses of a Montessori school in action. And it’s simply spot on.
At Bluebonnet, kids carry themselves with a sense of purpose and order. There is respect for the individual, respect for the Teacher, and respect for the group. Additional emphasis is placed on respect for all living things: plants, animals, even delicate butterflies. For over a decade, Bluebonnet Montessori has been an official way station for Monarch Butterflies. Each year, the children get to observe caterpillars hatch from eggs laid on milkweed plants that are brought into an indoor canopy. We’ve watched the rapid and breathtaking process of chrysalis formation. And we’ve seen dozens of new butterflies emerge and eventually flutter off into the sky.
Sankofa: sometimes, we must look to the past to find our path forward. Montessori education does just that. There’s something so peaceful and grounding about this intuitive and scientific approach, which I find especially poignant in the unpredictable times we now experience. Learning through the senses; using hands-on materials to thoroughly grasp abstract symbol systems; building deep knowledge about the world through its continents, biomes, and the interconnectedness of life; sharing cross-cultural knowledge and empathy; learning to be still, calm and quiet enough to hear your own heartbeat. These and so many other lessons I have learned through Bluebonnet Montessori of Lakeway, where it seems like timeless and timely are deeply intertwined.
Bluebonnet Montessori of Lakeway is located in the greater Austin area. Visit Bluebonnet Montessori of Lakeway to learn more.
Author Rebecca Faubion is co-Founder of artfulkidsclub.com. Click to learn more about online art curriculum for schools.