Fraser Woods Montessori School, conveniently located right here in Newtown on South Main Street, serves students from age 15 months through Grade 8. The staff at Fraser Woods are dedicated to cultivating compassion, confidence, and the joy of learning for all students. Their mission is to build a lifelong love of learning by stirring your child’s passion for asking questions. One of the pillars in creating lifelong learners is through the concept of peace in the classroom. Montessori education has frequently been referred to as a “peace education”. We spoke with Gina Tryforos, Interim Head of School, Michelle Lamb, Middle School Humanities teacher, and Primary (Preschool & Kindergarten) teachers Michelle Doyle and Amanda Lopes about how Fraser Woods Montessori integrates this concept into their classrooms.
I loved reading about the concept of the “Invisible Curriculum” and how Peace, Grace, & Courtesy all tie together. Can you describe the framework and share a few examples from your classrooms? How are the lessons adjusted by age?
Gina Tryforos shares what this looks like at Fraser Woods Montessori School:
“If we are to teach real peace in this world… we shall have to begin with the children.”
It is well known that Montessori education has been referred to as “peace education”. Even Gandhi praised Montessori’s approach to world peace.
How do we cultivate Peace in a Montessori classroom? If you visit a Montessori classroom in action, you will see children who are joyful, relaxed, engaged, and happy as they move freely about the room, choose an activity or lesson, and work on it for as long as they like. The teacher (often referred to as a directress/director or guide) is there to facilitate student engagement with the lessons and activities. This is what Montessorians call “purposeful work” (as opposed to “busy work”).
The process of engaging in “purposeful work” evokes a sense of calm in children. Grace and Courtesy presentations contribute to the harmony in the room. The Grace and Courtesy framework allows us to teach in a proactive, rather than reactive, way.
From an activity where the teacher models how to walk around someone’s work set up on the floor, to modeling how to ask for help from a teacher/friend, or how to agree to disagree, these teachable moments in grace and courtesy are presented sometimes with words and sometimes without words and give children tools to navigate their environment and social landscape.
Other lessons are more social and provide a classroom management technique that is child-driven instead of teacher-driven. The central theme in all of our lessons is to empower the children to be responsible, self-aware, and independent. These activities are about respecting children’s needs and considering the whole classroom community as a collective unit.
Grace and Courtesy lessons are our framework for modeling peace. In Montessori, we view the classroom as a microcosm of the larger world. Because these “rehearsed” social scenarios are a part of our everyday, we believe we are giving children some of the best tools for life.
Ginni Sackett (an AMI trainer, Montessori Institute Northwest) has said that Grace and Courtesy is part of Montessori’s “invisible curriculum.” Other “invisible” activities which can be considered part of this curriculum are spoken language, silence, and walking on the line. Children learn how/when to say “excuse me”, what to say if someone says “you’re not my friend”, how to tell someone you want to be alone, how to walk about the classroom with hardly making a sound.
This “invisible curriculum” and Grace and Courtesy presentations invite the children and teachers to work together to create a culture of responsibility, tolerance, and harmony– a strong foundation for Peace.
How is “Peace” is defined in your classroom and why it is a key component of a Montessori education?
Our Primary (Preschool and Kindergarten) teachers Michelle Doyle and Amanda Lopes, certified Montessori Primary teachers share what this looks like at Fraser Woods:
Establishing lasting peace is the work of education; all politics can do is keep us out of war.–Maria Montessori
Peace education is a major tenet of Montessori education. Now, more than ever, we are witnessing relationships fracturing because so many are unable to take part in positive conflict resolution. Teaching children this skill, while ensuring that all parties feel heard and validated, is a gift not only for the children but for society as a whole.
When conflict arises in the classroom, we bring the children to our peace table. This peace table is an integral part of the classroom and can be used for two children to resolve a conflict or for a child to simply go for some quiet, peaceful time. If two children are struggling to resolve a conflict, each child will take turns holding the peace rose and sharing their feelings. The peace rose is then passed to the other child so they in turn can share their feelings. The most important part of this experience is for the teacher to step aside. We are there to facilitate but not to determine the outcome because this is something both children need to truly take ownership of. Typically, a child will come to a teacher saying “he said or she did”. When that child is face to face with the other child and has to speak to them directly it almost always changes the nature of the conversation and outcome.
How Peace, Grace, & Courtesy all tie together. Can you describe the framework and share a few examples from your classrooms? How are the lessons adjusted by age?
Primary teachers Michelle Doyle and Amanda Lopes share what this looks like at Fraser Woods:
Grace and Courtesy are built into every part of the day in a Montessori environment and goes hand in hand with our peace education curriculum. Children are taught from the moment they enter the classroom about respecting others, their own self and the environment. We speak often about the importance of each member of our community and how we are responsible for our classroom environment being a peaceful place where children feel loved and safe. Only then are children available to learn.
I read Basic Human Rights are a huge driver in the Montessori commitment to “Peace” in education, as well as inclusion and diversity. Can you share a little bit about how you incorporate this into the classroom at Fraser Woods? What role do current events play into how this is discussed?
Our Middle School Humanities teacher, Michelle Lamb shares:
From a young age, Fraser Woods knows the importance of children having a profound understanding of each other and focusing on equity. This includes personal identifiers such as race, gender, religion, who you love, etc. In a Montessori classroom at Fraser Woods, students will celebrate each others’ lives and successes in these areas as well as their struggles. Open, frequent communication in safe spaces and shared, collective experiences are what make Montessori students advocates for peace and justice. Classes use the world events around them, in real-time, as educational opportunities to further the goal of producing inclusive and informed global citizens.
Hear what Fraser Woods Montessori students are saying “Peace” and “Love” mean to them by watching the video below!
Start the conversation today to see if Fraser Woods Montessori School is a fit for your child. Schedule a virtual conversation by contacting Alison Kistner at (203) 426-3390.
For additional reading on Peace and the Montessori education, please visit the following: