DANBURY, Conn. – When I was the age my middle child is now, I recall spending countless hours listening to teachers feverishly present the metric system. Predictions were stern: by the year 2000, the entire world would be converted to the metric system, uniformly and exclusively. Learn it now, or remain hopelessly out of the loop.
I can still recite by rote that the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in 1620, and Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492. I can also state with conviction that knowledge of these facts has not helped me navigate adult life one iota.
Today’s world of exponentially changing technology and innovative advancements lends a pivotal inquiry; how do we prepare our children for a future that cannot be predicted? What skills can we encourage children to develop which will most likely help them navigate our increasingly complex world?
Stamford University professor and intelligence researcher, Dr. Carol Dweck, presents the concept of a “Growth Mindset,” or in other words, learning how to learn, not what to learn. Intelligence is not a fixed entity, her studies reveal. It develops with experience and repetitive, purposeful practice. Brain plasticity shows that we absolutely have control over increasing our intelligence. Old dogs can learn new tricks!
Dr. Maria Montessori created the Montessori method of education 100 years ago with the same beliefs as Dr. Dweck. Montessori students work directly with educational materials in an inquisitive manner which encourages discovery and innovation. Children are inspired to ask questions, posit outcomes and think outside the box. They do not recite facts and concepts remotely. Montessori students enjoy long stretches of independent classroom work time to actively engage in challenging tasks that have meaning for them. As a result, they develop intrinsic motivation to explore, discover, and practice increasingly difficult concepts.
My children, who are students at Hudson Country Montessori School in Danbury, cannot automatically tell me what year Columbus sailed the ocean blue. But they know how to find out, and are inherently determined to do so once the question is presented.