Context: Space and Furniture
I like to stand when I am working on a difficult problem. When I read, I like to lie down. It's not to say that I can't read sitting down, but it's not the same as when I read lying down. Sitting doesn't feel natural to me, and because everything feels a little off, it's more difficult for me to concentrate. Luckily, as an adult, I have the freedom to define my optimal work environment.
That's one of the wonderful things about Montessori classrooms. There's freedom of movement and there is freedom for each child to choose his or her own best learning space. We love seeing children working at tables, on the floor, or leaning against a bean bag. Designing a space and furnishing it in a way that it is able to accommodate the different learning needs of children is part of our core philosophy.
The curriculum provides the projects and experiments that facilitate movement in the classroom. Movement in the curriculum occurs during class time, as well as outside of class, where movement can be fast. Our days have been designed with movement in mind. Starting with our morning nature walk, to daily recess, the morning and afternoon breaks, and physical education twice weekly, children should be able to get opportunities to move and to move at different speeds. To us, these times during the day are as important as the academics because they support the emotional and social needs of children.
Teachers are the most critical component of making movement work in a classroom. The teacher needs to be comfortable with movement and discourse in his or her own classroom, and whether the teacher is comfortable or not, depends on his or her teaching style. You can have a project-based curriculum and great furniture that both support movement, but without a teacher’s comfort with children walking and moving around, movement will not occur.
Movement is one of those teaching concepts that forms the foundation for effective learning and social and emotional growth. By encouraging movement, kids learn more easily. By encouraging movement, they can better tolerate frustration when challenged with a social situation or a difficult challenge in class. By encouraging movement, kids have an opportunity to engage in social interactions with their friends on different levels, from the playground, to working in the classroom.
Valerie Strauss said it best in her Washington Post blog: “In order for children to learn, they need to be able to pay attention. In order to pay attention, we need to let them move.”
Read more from Valerie Strauss: