Since we adults who grew up in a classic school system haven’t been blessed with Montessori education, I greatly appreciated an interesting activity at the course “Orientation to Adolescent Studies”, where we, at least for a trial, experienced the whole childhood in a Montessori environment in the form of a “Silent Journey”. If you have a prepared environment in your Montessori school, I highly recommend that you prepare a similar experience for your teachers or your students’ parents – the one-hour walk through childhood is in many ways more rewarding than a lot of words and axioms.
We completed this exercise, together with other participants of the course, in the Montessori school Lara for Livet in Varberg, Sweden. We went through all the prepared environments in the school. It was necessary to respect only two conditions. First, we weren’t allowed to bring anything with us, and second, we weren’t allowed to talk. The purpose was to relive the emotional development of the child, to stay in the classrooms and the school’s surroundings as we liked, and engage in activities that attracted our attention – just as the children do here.
During the hour, I slowly go through the carefully prepared environments as they developmentally follow one another. After a while, the rule that prohibits talk provides me with a powerful experience. In the silence, all my other senses sharpen and the absence of a handbag or mobile phone gives me the peace of mind necessary to dive into the activities without disruption.
I walk through the gate to the 0-3 class, I change shoes on a tiny stool, which helps me realize how little the human who comes here is. I observe the ordered trays with activities of practical life, all those glass vases, metal funnels, painted jugs, brush and pan, all sized down to fit a small child’s hand. Toddlers must love it here! They don’t just have to “play the mummy” here, they become creators of their own being.
In the 3 – 6 environment I find well-known materials – touch boards, trinomic cube, pink tower … many years of practice at this wonderful school were able to pick up even the smallest details in the classroom layout.
I move to 6-9 classrooms, which contain the whole impressive Cosmic Education, and plenty of opportunities for research. I take no heed of time and start to skim-read a book on geology that lured me with its engaging materials. In the 9-12 classroom, where the environment moves towards greater students’ abstraction, I take a glance at the cozy classroom with an extensive library, then make myself comfortable for music education.
On my silent journey I regret that I can’t relive my school years here. I remember the hundreds of wasted hours that I spent in the classroom, looking out of the window, thinking of leisure time, or playing noughts and crosses under the bench.
If your school is also building a program for adolescents, this activity may help teachers realize just how strong the human personalities of their students really are. In silence, the teachers will go through the whole development of the child from toddler to schoolchild. At the end of this journey, they will be able to imagine the student who spent eleven long years of respect, understanding and independence-building at this school. The person who is ready to step into the “On the farm” program.
Renata Špalková, Táňa Kadlecová and Helena Matoušková from the Czech Republic took part at the AMI Orientation to Adolescent Studies (ages 12 – 18) in cooperation with NAMTA in July 2016 in Montessoriskolan Lära för livet, Rydet, Sätila, Sweden. The three ladies are all active in the growing Czech community of adolescent studies. In three places in the Czech Republic they build their Adolescent communities.