Montessori is a philosophy and methodology developed by Maria Montessori in Italy in the early 1900s. The constructivist or “discovery-based” philosophy hinges on children’s innate desire to learn. By placing young children in very specialized environments made up of Montessori based learning tools and giving them freedom to learn through the environment with guidance of specially trained Montessori teachers, the Montessori philosophy seeks to focus early childhood learning. The day is comprised of uninterrupted blocks of “work time” in which students choose to work in specific areas on specific tasks on their own. Teachers provide minimal guidance or interference but oversee the learning of each child.
Developed in a small town in Italy after World War II, this philosophy believes that children are endowed with “a hundred languages” which allow them to express themselves in many different ways and forms. Children are seen as “knowledge bearers” and are encouraged to share thoughts and ideas about everything in the day. The philosophy is based on principles of respect, responsibility and community through exploration and discovery. The approach focuses on a curriculum that is completely guided by the interests of children and their choice in a strong community based environment. The role of the teacher is that of a collaborator in learning. They facilitate learning by planning all activities and lessons around what children express as their interests in their learning. They also engage fully in the acts of learning, asking questions and focusing and refocusing activities in response to the children. The environment in considered the third teacher in this philosophy. Reggio Emilia classrooms typically consist of lots of natural sunlight, bring the outdoors in through use of plant life and classrooms typically open up into a central piazza to create a community. There is extensive use of mirrors and windows, photographs and students artwork. Many art studios will exist within classrooms to encourage creation.
Emergent curriculum is a way of planning curriculum that focuses on the student’s and teacher’s interests and passions. Instead of beginning the planning process with a pre-defined curriculum, this method begins by observation of students and their natural interests. A mindful teacher will observe, document and then use creative planning to formulate curriculum. The planned curriculum must also be flexible and adaptable to the students during implementation. The key to this curriculum is flexibility and creativity by the teacher. Webbing is a technique that may be used extensively in planning an emergent curriculum to give a teacher many different directions to take a topic of study to as children veer off in different directions.
Shifts the focus of learning from the teacher to the child. Children become masters of their own learning by exercising choice, freedom and creativity. Children will need to make their own choices and act as decision-makers when faced with challenges in the play environment. They also gain knowledge through their own path of ever increasing knowledge acquired through their play.
The teacher’s role may be limited to ensuring safety of children or may include facilitating play by providing specific environments and guidance.