A recent article from the New York Times concludes, “We are not thinking about the child as an entire person, how physical activity helps them cope with the stresses of school and actually benefits them in the classroom.”
The quote above is from Lindsay DiStefano in the article “Why Kids Shouldn’t Sit Still in Class.” The title caught my attention right away, because movement is something Montessori made integral to her classroom over 100 years ago.
The Montessori classroom is designed for movement. You’ll find gross motor movement in the form of sweeping floors or scrubbing tables, fine motor movement in the button or lacing frame, and of course the freedom to move from one activity to another without asking for adult permission.
That’s a lot of movement! From an outside perspective the classroom may seem chaotic, but Montessori writes, “…the task of the educator lies in seeing that the child does not confound good with immobility, and evil with activity, as often happens in old-time discipline…” The Montessori Method
Returning to the modern classroom, Brian Gatens, superintendent of schools in Emerson, N.J. writes “We need to recognize that children are movement-based. In schools, we sometimes are pushing against human nature in asking them to sit still and be quiet all the time.”
Perhaps, as adults, our first step in understanding how the child learns through movement is stepping back from our pre-conceived notions of what learning looks like.
For the youngest child, sweeping is helping them master balance and coordination, as well as focusing at the task at hand. For older children, perhaps actually building a Coliseum is more helpful than reading about it in a book while sitting quietly at a desk.
Read the article from the NYT along with this description of the architecture of the Montessori classroom and let us know what your experiences are with children and movement. Do children need to conform to the traditional desk system or is there another way to learn that allows for more movement?
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