Experiential learning, or learning by doing, is a fundamental component of the Montessori teaching method. In a traditional classroom, students assimilate facts from books and teachers’ lectures, memorize them, and are tested on them. Do the children truly understand what they have memorized, or are they just regurgitating facts that have no meaning to them? Think back to your childhood history and geography classes; is there anything that stands out? Do you remember the facts you were tested on?
Experiential Learning and Cultural Awareness Imagine, if rather than reading about the history and geography of Venezula, a parent who grew up there came into your classroom in a traditional Venezuelan dress and presented a lesson on her home country’s history and geography. That would be something to remember, and that is exactly how LMMA students learned about Latin culture last year, when the Latin parents at LMMA came together for the first annual Latin Culture Day. This cultural immersion was a wonderful complement to what the children were already learning in their classrooms with their teachers.
Latin Culture Day is one of many experiential learning opportunities students at LMMA experience on a regular basis. They learn about Chinese New Year by celebrating it in the classroom with their Chinese classmates. Indian parents come in to make Diwali lamps to celebrate the Hindu Festival of Diwali with the children. As a result of this ongoing cultural immersion, the children gain a broad global awareness. They will have the ability to understand, respect, and appreciate differences in the people they meet and work with, traits that will serve them well as they make their way through this world. Sheila Linville, Directress at LMMA, encourages parents to come in and share lessons about their culture, because she knows that when children experience something that is authentic, it is memorable!
Experiential Learning and Compassion Experiential learning is not limited to cultural awareness at LMMA: In a traditional school, students might learn to sew in Home Economics, but at LMMA, the students are doing so much more than learning how to operate a sewing machine. This semester, in the spirit of compassion and peace, the upper elementary students are making quilts for injured soldiers returning home from Iraq. According to the Brookings Iraq Index, over 31,000 American troops have been injured in Iraq between March, 3003, and January 2010. CNN has reported that on average, over 45 injured troops return to the US every day.
As the children observe how the sewing machine works, learn how to operate it, cut the fabric, and sew the quilt together, they will be mindful of the CNN news story they watched about injured troops returning from Iraq. Along with the quilts, the students will send letters of thanks for the soldiers’ service to their country.
Link to CNN news story on quilting project: http://edition.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/12/20/gif.soldiers.quilts/index.html?iref=allsearch
“I hear, I know. I see, I remember. I do, I understand” ~ Confucius