About Ruffing : Why Montessori : Faculty Reflections : Imagination

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By:  Susan Gray, Lower Elementary Directress

During my Elementary Training, I found the lecture on “imagination” compelling.  I was privileged to have Montessori theory lectures from an esteemed Montessorian, Margaret Stephenson, a delightful English woman who was trained by Maria Montessori herself. Miss Stephenson often told her students to remember to “sow the seeds” of knowledge, but cautioned us (the teachers or guides) to keep from pulling up the young plant (the child) by the roots just to see if something was indeed growing (constantly measuring the child’s growth). She would say, “Will it grow if you keep taking up its roots?”

In the elementary years, the child explores more by imagination and less with the senses as in the Children’s House. The elementary lessons, or presentations, change in the way they are given to the child – not as the very precise, almost silent presentations of the Children’s House. The elementary lessons are sometimes something solemn, sometimes something extraordinary, sometimes just a quick opening of a door. Lessons are frequently given to a small group of children, but at certain times given to the entire class.

After getting one of the elementary “great lessons,” the teacher allows the mind of the elementary child to catch on fire with unrest to explore beyond what was said or shown. It is this unrest that leads the child to work, to research. By giving just a glimpse, limiting what is said in the presentation, choosing words carefully, the teacher allows the child to imagine that there is something beyond. Once the child finds satisfaction, comes the rest, the peace – the real thinking time.

In lessons at the elementary level the answers often may not lie in one subject area, as the answer to history may lie in geography or biology work; or the answer to language may lie in geography and history. So a teacher may arouse the vision of the child in that whole, interrelated scheme that brought the universe into being and gave us a special place in it.

As we make use of the imagination, we are aware of the creative force of the intellect. This is the stage when the seeds can be sown because the child can use imagination and reason; we can give the child all of culture – the why, the reason for the fact. The creative power of the imagination is limited if we tie the child to the curriculum, if we constantly measure what the child has learned. We must set the imagination traveling through time and space so the intellect is free to explore the interests it will and go where it will. This is liberty in the prepared environment for the elementary child. Put the world into the classroom. If we put children in contact with the story of the universe, the child finds not only a way to gather knowledge, but also creates himself through the imagination.

So… we give the child not just the universe, but also society. With imagination the child can put himself in the place of those who were before him – in contact with the great works of nature, or of humans’ accomplishments in art, science, literature, music, culture, life, and all of its manifestations – this feeds or fuels the creative imagination. Isn’t this invention? If we help children to move their minds in time and space then the imagination is a telescope in time.

Ruffing Montessori School   |   3380 Fairmount Blvd Cleveland Heights, OH 44118   |   Phone: (216) 321-7571   |   Hours 8am-4pm M-F   |   After Hours Phone (216) 321-0913