Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Project-Based Learning

Montessori IS the original project-based learning. 

It's a bit bigger than that, but the idea is that the project-based learning people got the idea from Montessori, directly or indirectly, and repackaged it in a way more palatable to non-Montessori adults.

Google search for  "project based learning and Montessori" for more information :)

My personal opinion is that "project-based learning" is the non-Montessori phrase for a portion of "cosmic education". ;)

The concept of project-based learning applies most especially for elementary children. If the children in the environment are NOT creating projects, presentations, additional materials, doing more research, writing out questions and answering them, consider making some modifications to make your environment MORE Montessori. What is missing?

What tools do the children need to do their research and present their findings that are not yet present in your environment?

Do they have the art-related tools?

Do they have a few books and videos or similar to inspire their creativity, their imagination, their wonder - but not so many as to be exhaustive?

Are you able to get to the library on a routine basis?

Do you have opportunities and the structure for Goings Out? (in the homeschool, this is simply the time to get out and visit related places of interest).

Most importantly, how are the words and nuances the adult puts into place? If the adult is encouraging thoughtful insight, and providing the right balance of guidance and honesty (the adults do NOT have all the answers - and shouldn't), interest-exploration will happen.

ONE project sample: 
Project-Based Learning Elementary Montessori education
takes many children down the path of historical (and healthier!) food-making
such as yogurt and real sour-dough, among many others.
(inspiration: fundamental needs of man; 2 timelines of humans)
The above shown photo is from a collection of photos that took one Montessori child down a path of historical food exploration; what can still be made now, what has changed too much; what do we still do now that uses different tools or different methods... these are the over-arching questions posed in the beginning stages of what become a TWO-YEAR project. It included sour-dough (we can't make it the same way because our wheat has been changed! let alone HOW the wheat is harvested, etc. which leads into celiac disease and why so many people can't eat what for millennia was a STAPLE in the human diet.); yogurt; meat storage; fruits and vegetables distribution around the world, storage; genetic modifications; food colorings and other additives (such as the poisonous high fructose corn syrup); food varieties that can be grown in the living room through the winter; composting; gardening; herbs; spices....

The study had been rabbit trails; but each step of the way reached a logical conclusion, some of which were used for jumping points into new, related projects, that sometimes wound back around to previous ones that then needed some updating.


  1. I have been wanting to hear these words from a Montessori Teacher with experience for a long time!! This is how my children thrive so well in our homeschool Montessori inspired environment. You are so right on with how I think, and when I am thinking about it:) Thank you so much.

    1. Great minds think alike right ;)

      This topic has come up a lot in private e-mail (that is the fodder for most of my posts actually - people e-mail privately with specific to their children questions, not realizing 5 others are doing it too - and I'm providing similar answers to all - then I put it in a blog post ;) If it works!

  2. Couldn't agree more. It is easy to get caught up with just the presenting the materials and advancing in presentations. In a homeschool environment, just doing the great lessons alone and waiting for inspiration to strike might not work, at least did not for us! Intentional strewing of books, watching videos and of course related field trips seems to be the recipe for self initiated projects here. Like I mentioned in another comment in the Montessori Trails blog, the Magic School Bus kits are heaven sent! From whatever I've read on project based homeschooling, it seems to align with the exact style of working in Montessori. Provide inspiration, create an environment conductive to self initiated work, provide gentle guidance and suggestions and sit back! Exactly same as Montessori! In our environment, for me not to interfere with my children's work, I need to be involved in my own project during school time. Often times, this is an inspiration to project work too! Could the passion kids feel to a certain kind of work be because the parent seems to have the same passion too? I've often wondered about this. I often get books at my level on the same subject that my kid is interested in, because I am truly interested in knowing more on that. I sit and watch videos with them, often think aloud and raise questions that we then together look up. I have the same enthusiasm for experiments that she has! We often include my little one too in everything. I think adopting a Montessori life style rather than only during school time, showing curiosity and a love of true learning inspires our little ones to be the same way. So in short, project based homeschooling is Montessori based too!

    1. It sounds like you and I do the same thing - interacting in a Montessori way the encourages thinking and creativity even when it's not school time ;)

      Definitely having the adult join in at their own level, or in their own project, is a good motivation for the child to get his own work going.

      I even suggest making materials with the children right there, if there is something that needs to be made in an area that a child isn't particularly interested or needs review (but doesn't WANT review). It seems to pull the children in more to see the "process." :)