Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Curious Classroom: Allowing Children to Explore

Sometimes, curiosity has negative connotations. After all, we have the proverb that “curiosity killed the cat,” warning of the dangers of unnecessary investigation or experimentation. But in the classroom, curiosity is the necessary ingredient for meaningful and authentic learning. With a hearty sense of curiosity, a student can direct themselves to learn all kinds of things: the taxonomy of feliformia, the state of Schrodinger's cat, or which 16th century British play is thought to have first recorded this curious feline proverb. In the Montessori Method of education, curiosity is not just necessary - it is the driving aspect of each classroom, and the Montessori Method fosters the innate interests and motivations of children. Dr. Maria Montessori observed that this led to more successful outcomes in their education, which has been confirmed by recent research in the field. So what are the benefits of a curious classroom and what does it look like to let it guide the classroom as children explore?
Outcomes of curiosity
In a traditional classroom, each aspect of the lesson is planned and directed by the teacher in order to accomplish a list of preset learning objectives. This structure is not antithetical to curiosity, but it may not nurture its spark in every student each day. Alternatively, Montessori classrooms ask that teachers observe and guide a student’s intrinsic motivation, letting their curiosity lead them through the day and walking with them as they explore so the teacher can be sure that spark has plenty of fuel. This approach cultivates independent learning, confidence in abilities, and self-discipline. When a student is in charge of asking and answering their own questions within a prepared learning environment, the passivity of simply being taught is replaced with a room full of excited learners, interacting with each other and their teachers in dynamic ways. And the effect is felt beyond the classroom too, with the Montessori parents and families all benefitting from their child’s love of learning.
Curiosity in practice
Given all the benefits accrued by the whole classroom when curiosity is a defining characteristic, there are many schools that are seeking to put this style of teaching into practice. In the Atlantic article, Schools Are Missing What Matters About Learning, the author describes some aspects of a curious classroom, including activities “... that offer novelty, surprise, and complexity, allowing greater autonomy and student choice; they also encourage students to ask questions, question assumptions, and achieve mastery through revision rather than judgment-day-style testing.” For Montessori teachers, parents, and students, this may sound like a familiar approach, but now other types of schools are looking at the research and outcomes and trying to cultivate a similar practice of allowing children to explore and follow their curiosity for their classrooms.

Montessori teachers serve as classroom guides at Hill Point Montessori; they allow children to explore on their own, following their curiosity and inquisitiveness wherever it leads them.  Contact us today to schedule a tour and spend a day in one of our Montessori classrooms at our preparatory school in West Hills, California.