The classroom was deserted. It was a cold Saturday morning when a mother and son came to visit our school. Pandemic protocols dictated individual tours with families. So, instead of a school bustling with teachers and students, and visitors, I welcomed this family into a quiet room void of activity. The boy and his mother had never been in a Montessori environment but were instantly drawn into the warmth of the cozy room.
The pink tower, a trademark Montessori material, sat in the center of the room and quickly attracted our young guest. We sat down together and he proudly built a tower of stacking cubes. Satisfied with his work, he looked around. I invited him to a box of knobless cylinders. At a small table, he explored the wooden barrels and began building another tower in earnest. Within minutes his new work was complete and he eyed it carefully. Returning his gaze to the pink tower he made earlier, he pondered, “Which one is bigger?” Moving each cylinder carefully, he reconstructed his work on the floor rug next to his pink tower. He examined it again. He stood up and moved all around the rug, judging the height of his creations from every angle. Was there an angle that would hide most of the cylinder blocks? Would he still be able to see it behind the tower? Would that prove which was taller?
This all went on for half an hour while his mother and I stood to the side and observed his work. The child hadn’t had any instruction, any push to further explore these materials. He was simply led by his own curiosity and sense of order. He knew that there were other boxes of cylinder blocks. Before he left, he pulled every one of them off of the shelves and built more structures on the rug, comparing and evaluating as he went.
This is the beauty of a child’s experience in a Montessori classroom. This is why children can enter the room and not need the constant hand or directive of an adult. The room, the materials, the entire environment is curated for curiosity, exploration, and refinement. They call to the children. This guest was only in our environment for thirty minutes and he discovered numerous connections around him. He built self-confidence, practiced order, asked inquiring questions, and executed a higher order plan. This moment in time, this snapshot, clearly depicted the beauty of Montessori in the hands of a child.