Community Reflections Part 2
In honor of Montessori Education Week, honoring the sense of community that was fostered in us as Montessori students is important.
Many people go about their lives looking inward, asking questions like ‘How can I help me?’ ‘Is this going to benefit me?’ ‘What can I get out of doing this?’ ‘How can that person help me get ahead?’ While Montessori promotes independence, decision making, and helping the child to think for themselves, there is also an external focus to the work done, the lessons taught, and community that is fostered. In many, if not all, of the lessons that we learned as students, there was a thread that runs through them which is the betterment of the world and mankind – sometimes through the connection with nature and other living things, sometimes through projects that help the community run smoothly, sometimes through knowledge about historical issues and issues facing society today, sometimes it’s through the Practical Life work. Almost every lesson we were taught had a connection to the greater world – what we learned was to either directly better the world and those around us, or to equip and inspire us to make the world around us better.
Dr. Montessori called children ‘a hope and a promise for mankind…’, said that “An education capable of saving humanity is no small undertaking; it involves the spiritual development of man, the enhancement of his value as an individual, and the preparation of young people to understand the times in which they live…” and that, “The child is capable of developing and giving us tangible proof of the possibility of a better humanity.”
Dr. Montessori said these things because she believed that her curriculum and the way that she designed an educational system are meant to educate children as a whole, not just academically. By educating the whole child and interweaving peace and community throughout the pedagogy, these statements she made are attainable because the alumni and former students will be living out the principals of peace and community knowingly and unknowingly.
Looking at the basic needs of an individual, the desire for community (and thus peace within that community) is one of the essentials. According to Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs,’ once the basics are met (food, clothing, shelter, safety), the next level of need is belonging, followed by esteem, self-actualization, and self-transcendence, which is helping others. Dr. Montessori designed a curriculum and a system that educates, develops, and encourages these innate needs which is a big reason why it works. She knew what mankind needed – belongingness, esteem, self-actualization, and self-transcendence – and developed an environment where those needs are met, fostered, cared for, and grown. The environment that Dr. Montessori envisioned was created by Hershey Montessori School 39 years ago with over 1,000 students having had the chance to experience it. In honor of Montessori Education Week, that is worth celebrating!
As students, we were taught that we have something to contribute, that we were capable of much, and that we could make a difference. We were recognized as unique individuals and given freedom within limits to foster our individuality within the greater community. Being encouraged in this way inspires us to better the world around us and to contribute.
Katie Vadakin, a Hershey Montessori School Alumni Ambassador who attended Hershey from 1998 to 2010 said, “…it has become extremely clear to me all that Montessori has provided me with. From people skills, to academics, to leadership abilities, Hershey has given me a perfect base for success.”
To sum it up, promoting community and peace alongside providing an education for the whole child results in students being prepared to make an impact.
Makella Webster, Hershey Montessori School Alumni Coordinator