Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Montessori and Froebel compared...

In 1911 Ellen Yale Stevens, Principle of the Brooklyn Heights Seminary visited schools of Maria Montessori in Italy to see if what she had come up with was a fad, or whether it held merit when compared to Kindergarten. She fell in love with the method and wrote the article to acquaint American readers with what she hoped would become a new standard for American education.

It seems like whatever the greats come up with in Education, policy makers and politicians have ways of messing things up.

In my own comparison between Froebel and Montessori I would first note that there was a hundred year difference between the two, with Froebel being the predecessor in the work to promote early childhood education. By the time Montessori had begun her work in Italian schools, the Kindergarten method had been promoted around the world, distorted by zealots, and practiced by thousands of teachers unsuccessfully trained in the method with too many students in the classroom for the method to be successful.

In her comparison, Stevens wrote:
"The Kindergarten in Rome is without exception so far as I have observed, of the strict Frobelian type. The classes are large, sometimes as many as fifty children of five years of age under one teacher; the occupations entirely dictated and the games directed. Yet nowhere have I seen the kindergarten circle; instead the children sit in pairs on a bench in front of a long narrow, slanting desk. It is the banco as thus satirized so severely by Madame Montessori, who has introduced in it place, in the schools under her direction, low, broad, firm tables, where two or at most three children can sit comfortably in little, broad chairs."
So what she compared was in essence, not Montessori and Froebel, but the methods of a living educator and the distortions of the methods of the other having been put forth 50 years before. Froebel had no way of envisioning that they would take his simple gifts and use them ritualistically to impose tyranny in over crowded rooms full of 5 year olds.

Yesterday, at Clear Spring School my 6 year olds finished their wooden birds.

The photo at left is of the new woodshop and outdoor classroom at Covenant Christian School in St. Louis. The head of school had visited Clear Spring in 2010 and this new classroom is the result of his interest in building a woodworking program at his school.

Make, fix and create...

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