Dr. Maria Montessori was an Italian scientist (1870-1952) whose name has now come to be inextricably linked to preschool education. Her experiments and observation of young children at the beginning of the twentieth century has radically changed the way we look at the child today.
We hardly write or receive letters any more. Life has moved on and we now have new and instant ways of communicating with one another. A little trip down memory lane takes us to a time when to hear from a loved one you waited for a postman who brought a letter with the familiar handwriting and a colourful postage stamp.
Observing a tiny seed sprouting and growing into a plant that provides food is an amazing experience at any age, more so in an urban setup where it doesn’t seem to be part of our daily living. Watching a cormorant drying its wings by the lake side, a squirrel running up and down the tree nibbling on a nut, the smell of the earth when fresh rain falls on dry land, the breathtaking formations of birds in flight
There were papers strewn all over the classroom for the last couple of days. I wondered why the children had not been filing their work papers. However, I made a deliberate effort to not address the problem, but waited for the children to bring it up themselves.
A famous philosopher of the 17th century, John Locke, stated that a new-born baby is like a tabula rasa or clean slate, which takes on the imprint of everything the environment provides it. It is therefore the responsibility of the society to ensure that a naïve child grows into an informed adult.
“Suppose you were an animal, what would you like to be?” she asked her friend. The reply came as quick as a flash without a moment’s thought, “O, I would like to be a blue whale, I will be a largest sea mammal”.
They were two children, an 8 year old and a 10 year old, conversing about the information gathered from their research and reading. They were totally lost in their ‘space’.
I was with a group of 6 to 9 year olds discussing fundamental needs of human beings. We had a variety of labels with different basic needs written on them - food, clothing, shelter, love, education, transportation, protection and so on.
It was a fine, sunny morning and a small group of 6 to 8 year olds and I were out looking at leaves. We had brought a few samples into the classroom that we examined and now we were observing and exploring the leaves of trees and plants outside.