by Cecilia Fernandez, Primary Teacher
“If we are to teach real peace in this world… we shall have to begin with the children.”Mahatma Gandhi
Have you ever wondered why Montessori is sometimes referred to as “Education for Peace”? Surely it is not simply because we celebrate Peace Day! Gandhi often praised Dr. Montessori for her approach to world peace. That approach is what sets Montessori apart from other perspectives and it is what we do every day in our classrooms, not simply on one designated day.
Although our Primary curriculum teaches peace through lessons in geography, cultures around the world, and the traditions and rituals that bind us together, talking about peace is simply not enough at this stage of development.
As adults and guides in the children’s lives, we set the framework for peace in the way in which we interact with one another, in the respect we provide through every exchange with the children. The lessons on the interconnectedness of life that the children will receive at the Elementary level begin at this age, when we take the time to honor every living being. For instance, instead of killing insects, we carefully transfer the helpless creature outside by using an implement that allows for close observation and awe through a magnified view before letting the insect out.
The natural living plants and animals that depend on us for their care also support the spirit of peace in our environment. The children care for our plants and fish by watering and feeding them as necessary. They marvel in the outward expressions that they can perceive when care is needed. For example, “the fish was hungry! He is eating!” Or, “that plant looks droopy; I am going to water it.”
Some of the “invisible” lessons—that is, lessons that are not tangible but certainly palpable, such as those we call “Grace and Courtesy,” are vital to the classroom community. These lessons provide a peaceful approach to sharing our environment. How do you greet a visitor? How do you move a chair as to not interrupt other children? How do you excuse yourself when there is not enough room? How do we conserve the products that we use, taking only what is needed? Through role-playing skits, children learn what they will practice every day in their environment.
During our group gatherings, we discuss what certain songs that we sing mean, such as one of our classroom favorites, “In the Middle You Are a Lot like Me.” We also discuss what peace is, and it means different things to each of us. We talk about being grateful, and ways in which we can show it. We talk about peace sometimes not being quiet; one can be quiet and yet not peaceful. We practice peaceful conflict resolution by using “I” messages to express what we feel. Sometimes we practice saying kind things to one another, “I like the way your voice sounds when you say good morning.”
“We must gather together all the elements of the world and organize them into a science of peace.”Maria Montessori