Montessori and STEM Education

NAMC Montessori education and STEM.

In education, STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. STEM is a fairly new idea in traditional education, but that isn’t the case for Montessori schools. Let’s look at what STEM subjects have in common:
• Critical Thinking
• Innovation
• Creativity
• Flexibility
• Problem solving
• Data analysis
• Collaborative learning
• Constructive learning

These concepts are the very backbone of the Montessori method. Like STEM, Montessori is more than just materials and presentations. It is a process and method of teaching and learning that gives students the tools with which to learn, while placing the responsibility and ownership of learning on the student.

STEM, like Montessori, is about doing. It’s about building and creating something that demonstrates the internalization of scientific thought and content. It’s about solving real-world problems in a project-based, experiential learning environment.

STEM learning begins in the Montessori Early Childhood program with the practical life activities. Working on these activities, children begin to see that work follows a sequence; it has a beginning, middle, and end. It is also intentional and directional; we move top to bottom and left to right. Practical life activities allow children to make judgments, such as knowing how much water to pour into a vessel before it overflows. They also encourage children to problem solve. If the water does spill, they know how to clean it up independently. In the practical life area, children learn a great deal about cause and effect.

In the sensorial area, young children use their senses to learn about and differentiate abstract mathematical and scientific principles. They learn about patterns, height, length, width, volume, weight, temperature, sound, tone, texture, smell, and taste. They also learn to classify, order, and name their discoveries.

In the math area, children begin laying the foundation for a strong understanding of patterns, sequence, numbers, numeration, and computation. They are able to perform all four operations using a variety of Montessori materials, including the Golden Bead Material and the Stamp Game. Children explore mathematics in small incremental steps, which leads them from concrete to abstract thought. Much of the preparation for advanced algebra begins in the Montessori 3-6 environment.

In the culture and science curriculum, students explore the world around them. They explore and understand the differences between land and water forms, both simple and complex. They learn the basic anatomy of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. They explore the parts of plants, stems, roots, flowers, seeds, and fruit, and they learn to appreciate the life cycle of all living things.

Really, when you stop and think about it, Montessori begins teaching STEM principles when children are just three years old! Each year and each level of Montessori adds new levels of complexity and thought, but the underlying ideas are the same. Children are constructing their own knowledge through hands-on, exploratory, real-life learning.

Michelle Irinyi — NAMC Tutor & Graduate


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