The authentic Montessori education we offer at Highgate Montessori, which focuses on child-led learning based on the original approach devised by Maria Montessori, could offer some surprising solutions to the Early Years Social Distancing conundrum.
Below we outline five ways Montessori education at Highgate Montessori can support social distancing and maintain our children’s well-being.
1. A spacious and well-ordered environment
Highgate Montessori offers an uncluttered and enticing environment specifically designed for children at each stage of their development. We are lucky that our children enjoy our large space with fewer pupils per room, but the careful use of the space is also key. Our classrooms are meticulously cared for, which encourages the children to take care of them too. The children return learning materials to the shelf after they have used them, so it would only be a small step to encourage children to clean materials after use too.
2. Independent and confident children
A central part of our approach is the focus on child-led learning which nurtures children’s independence and confidence. Our children are given greater freedoms and responsibilities which encourages them to take responsibility for their actions and be considerate to others, making it easier for them to comply with social distancing measures and more emotionally prepared for change. The focus on independence of mind has also stood our pupils in good stead for the remote learning we have offered at this time of “lockdown”.
3. Hygiene and self-care
From an early age, children are encouraged to practice good hygiene and to care for their own person. They remove outdoor shoes and put on slippers on arrival and hang up their own coats and bags. Children take it in turns to set up lunch and snack tables and to clear up after mealtimes. They are responsible for washing their hands and faces as necessary after eating, going to the toilet or playing outside or with art materials. As the Covid-19 crisis unfolded this March we have increased our emphasis on good hygiene further with more frequent hand-washing and our children will be ready to continue these practices and adopt further measures as necessary.
4. Outdoor learning
One of the main pillars of the Montessori approach is a focus on integrating nature into children’s daily learning throughout the year. At Highgate Montessori children are free to work outside as much as possible. Our children do specifically outdoor activities such as gardening and sports but they are also encouraged to take their indoor learning outside – such as working with maths materials, reading, art or practising a play with other children. As the children already see our outside spaces as learning zones as well as places for play, an increased focus on outdoor learning will be relatively seamless.
5. Calm and considered behaviour
Many visitors to Highgate Montessori are surprised by the atmosphere of calm they find and our children’s ability to concentrate for long periods of time. This atmosphere is no happy accident but a carefully cultivated way of behaving and interacting with others. Our authentic approach to Montessori includes a focus on “Grace and Courtesy” – this is where we practice and model behaviour such as walking around the room, sharing materials or making an apology. This greater self-awareness and self-control will make social distancing more achievable even with the youngest children.
Whatever the future holds, our children’s happiness and safety will always be our first priority but we are reassured that their Montessori education will help them to cope in these extraordinary times.