Maria Montessori A Study on Fantasy
Maria Montessori • Born in Anacona, Italy in 1870 • Graduated University of Rome in 1896 as Italy’s 1st female physician • Became professor of anthropology in 1904 • Started Casa dei Bambini in 1907 • Died in Holland in 1952
The Montessori Method Sensitive Periods Spontaneous Activity Role of the Teacher
What are... Creativity Fantasy ? Imagination
The Study • Montessori position on fantasy • Fantasy and Montessori classrooms today Question: In the movie Miracle on 34th Street, does the child’s education (environment), as constructed by the mother, reflect Montessori methods – especially as it relates to fantasy?
Hypothesis The mother in Miracle on 34th Street does not employ Montessori methods of education, because although she promotes a strong tie to reality, she does not allow her daughter to discover things for herself; rather, she imposes her own thoughts on her daughter.
Montessori on Fantasy • Child-initiated fantasy/pretend play • Adult-directed fantasy/pretend play • Fantasy/pretend play in the classroom
Montessori Today ? ?
Aggieland Country School 1500 Quail Run College Station, TX 77845
Kindergarten Class Instances of Fantasy • “The Little Red Hen” • Story • Reenactment
Pre-K Class Instances of Fantasy • “Story time” • Plastic Animals
Promise Tomorrow's 2817 Old Houston Road Huntsville, TX 77340
Tomorrow’s Promise Instances of Fantasy • Pink duck • Gum • Dinosaur/Lion • Baby food • Where is Thumbkin?
Reflecting Remarks How these instances of fantasy relate to Montessori... • Children’s inclinations toward fantasy confirmed • Teacher-directed fantasy play in opposition to Montessori’s teachings • No teacher intervention Why didn't the teachers intervene?
Teacher Intervention in Fantasy Play “Montessori was concerned with the child’s contact with reality. Her emphasis was on real activities, on learning the right way to use the Montessori materials, and not encouraging creative dramatic play until after the child is six. Montessori schools, however, report that fantasy play does occur, and most teachers do not intervene…” -John Chattin-McNichols
Miracle on 34th Street • For those unfamiliar with the movie, Miracle on 34th Street tells the story of a man who claims to be the real Santa Claus who becomes employed at Macy’s Department Store to play the in store Santa Claus. He makes it his mission, with the aid of lawyer Fred Gailey, to persuade Doris Walker, the unbelieving woman who hired him, and her daughter Susan, that he really is Santa Claus. Doris and Susan prove to be tough sells, but Kris Kringle is determined that if they can be persuaded, there is still hope for Christmas.
In Miracle on 34th Street… Like Montessori, Doris Walker (played by Maureen O’Hara) is very much against promoting fantasy and pretend play… How similar were Montessori's and Ms. Walker's positions on fantasy?
“Is this illusory imagination, based upon credulity, a thing we ought to ‘develop’ in children? We certainly have no wish to see it persist; in fact, where we are told that a child ‘no longer believes in fairy-tales’ we rejoice. We say then: ‘He is no longer a baby.’” -Maria Montessori, Spontaneous Activity in Education Susan: “Oh, one of those. I don’t know any fairytales.” Mr. Gailey: “Oh, your mother and father must have told you a fairytale.” Susan: “No, my mother thinks they’re silly.”
“In Anglo-Saxon countries…Christmas is an old man covered with snow who carries a huge basket containing toys for children, and who really enters their houses by night. But how can the imagination of children be developed by what is, on the contrary, the fruit of our imagination? It is we who imagine, not they; they believe, they do not imagine. Credulity is, indeed, a characteristic of immature minds which lack experience and knowledge of realities….” -Maria Montessori, Spontaneous Activity in Education Mr. Gailey: “No Santa Claus, no fairytales, no fantasies of any kind. Is that it?” Doris: “That’s right. I think we should be realistic and completely truthful with our children, and not have them growing up believing in a lot of legends and myths – like Santa Claus, for example.”
“Montessori was against teacher-directed representative fantasy play in the Froebelian tradition. She also thought that play with unrealistic toys would lead to problems, such as an inability to distinguish fantasy from reality.” -John Chattin-McNichols, The Montessori Controversy Doris: “But I think there is harm. I tell her Santa Claus is a myth and you bring her down here and she sees hundreds of gullible children, meets a very convincing old man with real whiskers. This sets up a very harmful mental conflict within her. What is she going to think? Who is she going to believe? And by filling them full of fairytales, they grow up considering life a fantasy, instead of a reality.
“Another characteristic quality of the lesson in the ‘Children’s Houses’ is its simplicity. It must be stripped of all that is not absolute truth…the teacher must not lose herself in vain words…that is, the carefully chosen words must be the most simple it is possible to find, and must refer to the truth.” -Maria Montessori, The Montessori Method Doris: “Please don’t feel that you have to keep pretending for Susan’s benefit. She’s a very intelligent child and always wants to know the absolute truth.”
Said of children pretending something (i.e. a walking stick) is something else (i.e. a horse): “But this is not a proof of imagination, it is a proof of an unsatisfied desire; it is not an activity bound up with gifts of nature; it is a manifestation of conscious, sensitive poverty.” -Maria Montessori, Spontaneous Activity in Education Kris: “No, to me the imagination is a place all by itself, a separate country. Now you’ve heard of the French nation, the British nation – well, this is the Imagine Nation. It’s a wonderful place. How would you like to be able to make snowballs in the summertime? Hey? Or drive a great big old bus right down Fifth Avenue? How would you like to have a ship all to yourself that makes daily trips to China? And Australia? How would you like to be at the Statue of Liberty in the morning, and in the afternoon fly South with a flock of geese?
Summary of Similarities • Against fairy-tales • Belief that promotion of fantasy will lead to problems distinguishing reality in life • Emphasis on teaching children the absolute truth
But are they enough? What about the differences? Primary to a Montessori education is the idea of CHILDREN AS THEIR OWN EDUCATORS
Conclusion Although it’s true that neither Montessori nor the mother in Miracle on 34th Street encouraged fantasy play in early childhood, at least by today’s interpretation, this objection to fantasy does not seem to be a core requirement of a Montessori education. Therefore, because the daughter’s environment does not resemble that of a Montessori education with regard to other, more important elements, it can be concluded that the mother does not use Montessori methods of education.
Evaluation of the Study • Limited in observation • Mobility • Time • Did not have opportunity to interview teachers
Works directly and indirectly impacting the research for this presentation include: • “About Maria Montessori.” American Montessori Society. 26 March 2005 <http://www.amshq.org/montessori.htm>. • Chattin-McNichols, John. The Montessori Controversy. Albany: Delmar Publishers Inc, 1998. • Crain, William. Theories of Development: Concepts and Applications. 5th ed. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education, Inc, 2005. 65-86. • Elkins. “Re: The role of imaginative play in the Montessori classroom.” Online posting. 12 Nov. 2000. AMS Online Bulletin Board. 26 March 2005 <http://www.amshq.org/ubb/html/Forum1/HTML/000004.html>. • Epstein, Paul, and Tim Seldin. “Brief Answers to Questions Parents Often Ask.” The Montessori Foundation 2005.26 March 2005 <http://www.montessori.org>. • “Maria Montessori.” Association Montessori Internationale 1999. 26 March 2005 <http://www.montessori-ami.org/4people/4bmaria.htm>. • Miracle on 34th Street. Dir. George Seaton. Twentieth Century Fox, 1947. • Montessori, Maria. “On Discipline-Reflections and Advice.” The Call of Education 1.3 and 1.4 (1924). 20 March 2005http://www.montessori-ami.org/1welcome/1earticles/article01.htm • Montessori, Maria. “Some Words of Advice to the Teachers.” The Call of Education 11.4 (1925). 21 March 2005http://www.montessori-ami.org/4people/4bmariala1925.htm • Montessori, Maria. The Advanced Montessori Method: Spontaneous Activity in Education. Vol. 1. Trans. Florence Simmonds. 1917. Cambridge: Robert Bentley, Inc., 1965. • Montessori, Maria. The Advanced Montessori Method: The Montessori Elementary Material. Vol. 2. Trans. Arthur Livingston. 1917. Cambridge: Robert Bentley, Inc., 1964. • Montessori, Maria. The Montessori Method. New York: Schocken Books Inc., 1964.