HOW DO WE WORK THE EDUCATIONAL NEUROSCIENCE?
Montessori & Primary
HOW DO WE WORK THE
“The first task of education is to stimulate life – leaving it then free to develop, to unfold”, stated Maria Montessori over more than a century ago.
Today, the educational triangle on which her pedagogy is based and its fundamental principles are being proven by neuroscience.
Steve Hughes, pediatric neuropsychologist and former president of the American Academy of Pediatric Neuropsychology, has for years has studied the benefits that Montessori education has in neurological development. Steve is strongly convinced that the Montessori Method strengthens certain brain functions that help to expand cognitive development.
At Bond International School we have chosen some discoveries of neuroscience that support what Maria Montessori appreciated through her observation and work with children throughout her life.
HANDS ARE AN INSTRUMENT OF
One of Montessori’s most obvious benefits in relation to neural development lies in the use of our hands as an instrument for learning.
Thanks to neuroscience, we know that the amount of resources that the brain uses to process information received through our hands is proportionally greatly superior to the size of our hands in relation to the total size of our body, so our hands represent the main gateway of information to our brain, and therefore should play a crucial role in learning, as occurs in Montessori.
Additionally, there are studies that show the best results in practical learning by comparison with those of learning by observation.
NATURAL EXPERIMENTATION STRENGTHENS CHILDREN'S
CAPACITIES AND COMPETENCIES
Encouraging free, natural experimentation means encouraging children and infants to move and communicate with their environment.
The smaller children who learn through the Montessori pedagogy spend more time in motion than in traditional schools. That is, an active relationship is required from the environment, which brings about greater control than motor, sensory, emotional and cognitive abilities.
There exists an operational and organizational model of the brain showing that different cerebral areas do not work independently, but instead are connected to each other by neural networks.
These neural networks are developed by experience. We do not know yet exactly how the maturity process works, but we do know that there are certain things that encourage it, for example, repetition, something that is fostered in a Montessori environment, especially in the 3 to 6 year-old stage, when children have a natural tendency to repeat an activity so as to perfect a certain ability.
Another way to foster development of neural networks is by means of sensory activities, another key point of the Montessori method, especially between ages 3 to 6, where work with sensory materials has special importance.
Executive functions are mental capacities in charge of consciously, voluntarily and effectively solving most of the problems facing an individual.
A number of studies have shown that these abilities are essential for learning both cognitive and social skills.
Cognitive flexibility: This is the function that lets us adapt to changes in the environment or in priorities, which activates our creative thinking when we need to resolve a problem.
Inhibitive control: This comprises the capacity to focus our attention on a task despite distractions (concentration), in continuing with this task until its conclsion (discipline) and to resist impulses and respond instead in a considered way (self-control).
Working memory: This is the capacity to retain information in our mind in order to work with it. it allows a relationship of ideas and decision-making, considering the information we have.
Executive functions play an essential role in our lives and it is essential to foster their development, which takes place from childhood and continues perfecting itself up to adulthood.
In a Montessori environment, all of these abilities are addressed indirectly, both by the use of materials and by establishing certain rules and limits within which each child’s individual freedom may play out by choosing their work.
MIRROR NEURONS AS A BASIS
Maria Montessori defined the absorbent mind as a child’s capacity from 0 to 6 years old to absorb information from their environment through their senses, and decades later the discovery of mirror neurons corroborated what she had discovered by scientific observation.
Mirror neurons lie in the frontal lobe of human beings and other species, including primates and birds, and are activated when an animal or human being carries out an action or when that animal or human observes another animal of the same species carrying out the same action.
In a Montessori environment, presentations of materials and groups of different ages allow children to learn both through imitation and through their own actions.