Creativity in the Montessori Environments

When we think of creativity, we consider both the process of ‘creating’ an original idea or thought and also about creative expression through the arts.  Our classroom environments are places where creative questions can be asked and explored.  Students are introduced to new ideas, facts, processes and tools in such a way as to invite the child to build connections and express their original ideas.  From day one, the children are the architects of their own work and begin creating the experience that will help them to synthesize and internalize the concept.  After every lesson, some variation of the gauntlet ‘Now how will you follow-up?’ is tossed.  The children may choose to create a report, a chart, a play, a game, a mobile, a painting, a page of equations, or any other number of ways to integrate and explore the new information in the lesson.

Artistic expression and technique is woven into the fabric of all the subject areas.  Students in Elementary and Middle School are given lessons on and exposure to a wide variety of media, forms, and art history.  A lesson on watercolor may later manifest in a report cover or a collage as well as an independent expression of art.  Textiles may be a part of a history lesson. Dramatic arts are woven into the writing and reciting poetry and other language lessons.  Music is explored through lessons and also through the joy of singing.

In addition to content, our environments have a structure that supports the creative process.  The gift of time cannot be overstated.  The children have time to work, to think, to trust that they have the space to become deeply interested.  When we engage in this way the knowledge or skill becomes an integrated part of our personality and is available to fuel the next connection. We endeavor to create a classroom climate that supports the freedom to explore and friendliness with error.  It is difficult to think creatively if one is always worried about judgment or ‘getting it right’. When the children trust the adults around and trust one another, there is a space of safety to trust themselves and share their original ideas which, in turn, is the bedrock of confidence.  

Just as math and language are essential tools for a student’s future adult life, the creative arts play a vital role in human development.  Laurie Ewert-Krocker, a Montessori adolescent guide, writes  “The avenues for personal expression are important not only for the shaping of the difficult interior personality, but also for the sharing of the complex interior self, which aids in human being’s understanding of each other.  In fact, sharing of the internal self is absolutely necessary for effective human collaboration and for effective social harmony, as is awareness of the beauty and value of the ‘other’.”  On a practical level, the ability to think creatively and generate new ideas is at the core of entrepreneurship and advancement in all professional fields.

The great news is that all children are creative.  They gift us with their fresh perspective, driving curiosity, boundless energy and enthusiasm and appetite for exploration.  Adora Svitak, a 12 year old writer, blogger and TED talk presenter champions the innate creativity of ‘childish’ thinking.

…who's to say that certain types of irrational thinking aren't exactly what the world needs? Maybe you've had grand plans before but stopped yourself, thinking, "That's impossible," or, "That costs too much," or, "That won't benefit me." For better or worse, we kids aren't hampered as much when it comes to thinking about reasons why not to do things.

If Adora is correct, then our role as parents and teachers is to support this creative mode of thinking  and focus on giving the 'how to' skills versus the 'why not'.  These big, beautiful ideas and artwork can inspire us all to reach outside our comfort zones toward new experience.

Dawn Cowan, Assistant Program Director
Childpeace Montessori School