Creativity... and Montessori
If you think back to yourself as a child, you may remember that feeling that you could do anything. You were an inventor, a painter, a gymnast, and so much more. The world was your oyster and you were unstoppable. When I ask my Lower Elementary students,”Who here is an artist?” they all raise their hands. If I were to ask adults that same question, how many in a room do you think would raise their hand high? Probably just the few who practice art regularly or for work. Where did the artist go in all of the others? Over time, their inner critic developed and they began judging themselves. This happened, not just with art, but in many other areas too.
Wouldn’t it be amazing to reconnect to that joy and confidence we felt as young children?
This past fall, I attended a conference on creativity called “The Gathering of the Creatives.” During this conference, I redefined and broadened my understanding of creativity. Julia Cameron, keynote speaker and author of The Artist’s Way, said, “your creativity is how you are living your life. Your life is your most creative act.” Creativity isn’t just about being skilled at drawing or drama, but it’s about living a life connected to your inner truth. Another speaker at the conference, Flora Bowley, wrote in her book Brave Intuitive Painting, “We are born with and continue to possess, deep wells of inner wisdom and creative impulses just waiting to be listened to and acted on.” After a weekend of learning from these gurus, I left with a deep desire to connect with that which already exists inside me, and live a more creative life.
In addition to helping us move towards personal happiness and fulfillment, creativity is increasingly important in the workforce. In fact, the World Economic Forum lists creativity as the third most important skill to succeed in today’s workforce. Maria Montessori knew the importance of creativity over one hundred years ago. Her philosophy fosters a deep sense of connectedness to oneself and the world. Through scientific observation and trial, she noticed that the elementary years are a time when children move towards more abstract thinking. They want to understand their place in the world, and even the universe. They ask big questions like “who am I?” and have a voracious desire to seek out answers. Montessori called this time “the Age of Imagination.” It is a time when children innately connect with who they are on a deep level. They are the epitome of creative!
At Wellan, we support our elementary children’s development by providing them with endless opportunities to express themselves, make choices, and discover and rediscover who they are and what they believe. To this end, we prepare an environment where they can explore, work hard, collaborate, accomplish their goals, and find peace. You may have heard of a “normalized classroom.” This is a classroom in which students learn to focus and concentrate for sustained periods of time, while deriving self-satisfaction from their work. I believe that a normalized classroom is a blissful state of shared creativity. Each child, through their work, feels connected to something deep inside. And the result is magic: students are engaged, focused, interactive, respectful, calm, and happy.
After an economic geography lesson exploring where we get our bread, third year LE1 students decided to bake bread together and then share it with the rest of the class.
I believe that with the foundation that our students are getting at Wellan, they have the great potential to keep their creativity alive as they move through middle school, high school, and into adulthood. There is nothing greater I hope for them!
In Lower Elementary, students leave lessons with all sorts of ways to practice and demonstrate their learning. These activity ideas are generated by the students themselves. The activity options are written in a follow up binder that students refer to when they are ready to follow up on a lesson.
I have been reading Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way and following her process for living more creatively. It is an introspective journey which includes daily journaling, “artist’s dates” or weekly artistic activities, and answering weekly introspective questions. It’s a fun and revealing process.
Here are some ways to support creativity at home:
Encourage daily journaling
Check out The Artist's Way for Parents: Raising Creative Children by Julia Cameron
Set up a space where you keep art materials and treat it like a personal makerspace where you put new materials regularly for your children to explore, build, and experiment
Foster a growth mindset in your home—view mistakes as part of learning and growing
Encourage your children to make choices to develop confidence in their decision making abilities and help them find their own self-expression
Provide free and unstructured time for your children to explore and think
Take time for your own creativity!