“The environment is like a second curriculum in a way. It’s stimulating our senses, in some cases it’s bringing us more oxygen to the brain, which helps us think. In other cases it’s allowing more sunshine in – all those parts of the environment are key to helping us be innovative and creative.” ~ Fielding (Fielding Nair International, video transcript, 2009)
Space matters. Teachers at Kinglsey Montessori School think so. In the heart of Boston’s Back Bay, Kingsley has transformed its elementary classrooms in direct response to its vision: to empower every child as an individual learner within a developmentally attuned, integrated, Montessori-driven curriculum.
During the summer of 2015 walls came down and classrooms took on a crisp, new modern look, ready to house the wondrous materials for which Montessori schools are known. There is a certain serenity that one feels from the simplicity of these spaces, each one carefully designed with manipulatives evenly spaced and shelved at child height. Young children work in small areas flooded with light, often streaming in from oversized windows overlooking local architecture.
I imagined how children might feel, arriving on the first day of school, after the cacophony of summer sounds and experiences. How quickly they’d be inspired to settle in, zero in. I observed Kindergarteners in their new studio designing bubbles in 2-dimensions. Reflecting pinks and blues, some floated freely on the page. Others migrated to corners, each as light-infused as the real thing. Teachers, electrified in their new spaces, are provoking new ways of thinking. On my afternoon visit, upper elementary students were engaged in the 18-minute Marshmallow Challenge, inventing the tallest possible free-standing structure that would hold a sugary blob.
Organization is key to a Montessori classroom. Here each floor is color coded.
In the older grades classrooms are configured to project a collaborative spirit, a distinct change from more individualized expectations of young students. Project rooms offer teachers or small groups of children the chance to pool their ideas.
Although the school year has just begun, it’s no surprise that these spaces are getting minds going in new directions, all at once helping Kingsley folks focus firmly as their creative juices flow.
Thank you for the warm welcome and for a new vision of how space can promote good thinking.