Imagine, if you will, school as an inspiring place where children love to go. School as an extension of home, where everyone feels safe, respected, and honored for who they are. At an NLC-based school children learn, fueled by their own curiosity, not by the promise of a reward, and NLC teachers, called learning companions fully support each child as they discover their own path.
Children look forward to the day ahead in an NLC-based school. When they arrive at school, they aren’t pinned to a desk, passively listening to a teacher, waiting for the school day to end. Instead of quietly following directions, they are free to talk with peers, play, and start their own projects. In this learning environment, each child has the chance to explore and engage according to their own rhythm and interests.
As learning companions and mentors, NLC teachers share a great variety of practical and intellectual skills that relate to a child’s world. They don’t facilitate all of a child’s activities or set the pace of the day. Instead, they allow space for the learners to think for themselves and make their own decisions. Learning companions reassure children as they discover the world through play, because they understand that play is the most effortless and joyful way for them to learn. They nurture children’s imagination, because they know that imagination will serve them throughout their lives to face changes and challenges creatively. At NLC-based schools, adults trust children’s willingness to learn and their capacity for absorbing knowledge. Children acquire academic skills at their own pace, peacefully and free from pressure and judgment.
Learning takes place within carefully prepared rooms, as well as outdoors and in nature. In each of these environments, children walk about freely finding many engaging, fun activities that offer endless modes of creative expression. On a large table, children may tinker with all kinds of crafting materials, such as buttons, seashells, sewing supplies, paint, and clay. Art and writing materials inspire children to create their own books, letters, and diaries. The interest in reading comes from within, at a time appropriate for each child. Learners start writing when they feel a need to communicate with peers and adults, plan their projects, document their activities, and express themselves. Music, theatre, cooking, and gardening materials are accessible at all times. Children have time to play with peers, with blocks, dolls, and cars, and to process and integrate the discoveries they make in the adult world. Outdoors and in nature, children move their bodies, and soak up the fresh air and natural sunlight. Sand, leaves, flowers, soil, water, rocks, pebbles, and sticks invite them to play; shady trees offer cozy places to rest and read.
NLC learning companions show learners that math is essential in preparing for an empowered life, is fun and useful. Learners acquire skills such as counting, adding, subtracting, dividing, multiplying, measuring, and estimating are acquired while cooking, following a recipe, crafting a checker board, planning their budget, and pretending to own a market booth –or planning to participate at the farmer’s market in town. In addition, through creatively exploring Montessori materials, such as colored boards with beads, cubes, and mysterious wooden boxes, children learn about the world of numbers. In playing with these materials, children begin to understand with their whole body that geometry, algebra, and statistics are about their world, and math becomes a personal tool.
This learning environment is free from imposed competition. If children feel an urge to measure their skills with peers, they ask if someone would like to playfully compete with them. Instead of receiving grades from teachers, learners receive constructive feedback concerning their learning progress whenever they wish it.
Caring NLC learning companions model emotionally healthy and socially competent behaviors. Children learn to accept emotions as a natural part of life, to express them through words, and then to let them go. Instead of teaching how to avoid falls—physical or emotional—NLC learning companions model how to fall and get up again. This school helps children make friends, work in groups, resolve conflict, cope with rejection, develop self-discipline, say no in a friendly way, finding new strengths from inner resources. In short, children learn how to love and respect themselves and others.
At NLC-based schools, childhood becomes a wondrous adventure full of joyful, memorable moments. Throughout this adventure, learners rarely lose sight of who they really are. The gift of a child-centered, truly inspiring education allows them to further discover themselves, to dig deeper into the mystery of who they are, and to connect with their full beauty, talents, and gifts. Being intimate with their own talents, passions, and interests will help them as young adults as they will emerge from school with an understanding of how they might fit into the larger community and society. In addition, at NLC-based schools, learners will find all the help needed to prepare for college entry exams or other benchmarks they would like to reach when they first leave the school.
The NLC school model is designed to help prepare youngsters to find their place in the world and understand that true happiness comes from each present moment, fully lived. This education strengthens children’s spirits, nurturing and protecting their hopes for the future.
Schools like this are possible, and you can be part of creating a school like this in your community. The New Learning Culture courses, consulting, and books provide practical step-by-step guidance and resources on how to create or transform schools. Together we can re-invent education and create the schools children, teachers, and parents deserve.
[NLC book excerpt / copyright Carmen Gamper 2016]
[Photos courtesy of:
Aktive Montessorischule, Die Pfütze Meran, Italy
Montessorischule Stams, Austria
Lernwerkstatt Wasserschloss Pottenbrunn, David Meixner, Austria]