How effective is the Montessori method in developing children's creativity, both during early years education and
throughout primary school education? There are currently approximately 700 Montessori schools operating in the
United Kingdom, and this number is growing annually (Montessori St. Nicholas, 2010). The vast majority of these
schools cater for children between the ages of three and six. However, in more recent times, there has been a
gradual establishment of Montessori schools that provide primary school education for children older than six. There
are now about thirty such primary schools in the United Kingdom (Montessori St. Nicholas, 2010). Although this is still
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Montessori (1964) strongly believed that all young children were 'unique beings' and should, therefore, be
treated as individuals. Furthermore, she reasoned that young children, as well as having the benefit of self-directed
and child-centred learning, should also experience a 'hands-on' approach to education (Lillard, 1980), using learning
materials that stimulate all five of the human senses.
The interaction with, and the manipulation of, ostensible 'Montessori materials' is, arguably, one of the most renowned
aspects of the Montessori method. Broadly speaking, these materials are organised into five basic categories:
language, mathematics, sensorial, practical life and culture (Lopata et al, 2005). Pickering (1992) believes that these
materials 'help children to understand what they learn by associating an abstract concept with a concrete sensorial
experience'. Furthermore, Montessori materials are carefully designed to be both sensorially stimulating to young
children, and multifunctional to allow for a more open-ended, divergent approach to learning. Another important
theme common to all Montessori materials is that they are of gradually increasing difficulty and complexity (Oberle
and Vinson, 2004). It is vital that these learning materials meet these criteria, because, as Montessori (1964) stated:
'little ones…can work only on the materials we give them'. In other words, if the materials provided for the children are
uninteresting, irrelevant or unviable, then it can be argued that a child is unlikely to be able to fulfil their potential.
One final issue in relation to the background of the Montessori method regards the layout and features of the learning
area. It can be seen that it visibly reflects the child-centred nature of Montessori education. For example, desks and
chairs are not only child-sized, but also spread wide apart (Mooney, 2000) and arranged in 'rafts' (Oberle and Vinson,
2004) allowing children to move around the whole area freely whenever they so wish, and helping to prevent
crowding. Materials are kept in accessible places, such as appropriately low shelves (Lopata et al, 2005), so they can
easily be obtained and utilised by the children at any time. It is the presence of child-orientated considerations such
as these that create Montessori's (1964) ideal of the 'prepared environment'. Such environments 'allow [children] to
take responsibility for their own education, giving them the opportunity to become human beings able to function
independently and hence interdependently' (Montessori, 1964, cited in Lopata et al, 2005).
In summary, Montessori's approach to education advocated that children's innate desire to learn could be
successfully nurtured and accommodated, as long as they are provided with the right environment and the
appropriate materials (St. Nicholas Montessori, 2010).
Having briefly discussed the principal background information regarding the theory and practice of the...