Down on the Farm

My first two months in Venão have served as a hands-on introduction to the Montessori teaching method (I’m working here). During my studies I learnt about the philosophy and the techniques, some of which may have been absorbed into my past teaching, but this is my first time at a purely Montessori school.

Montessori philosophy encourages following the child; allowing him/her to explore at his/her own pace. True learning only occurs when a child approaches a concept with curiosity and a desire to know more. That curiosity is something which arises naturally in children hundreds of times a day. Montessori is about tapping into and working with that curiosity as it arises, as well as providing structure and stimuli which encourage it.

One of the things I love about Montessori is that it isn’t results-focused. Having come from a more ‘traditional’ teaching background with exam results as a constant focus, it now seems incredible to me that children of any age are expected to comply with a set of pre-defined standards. In encouraging compliance with a set ‘norm’, creativity and diversity suffer. A system such as this succeeds only in perpetuating the inherently flawed nature of the society it is supposed to serve.

It is profoundly satisfying not only to experience the joy of teaching without the pressure of ‘results’ hanging over yours’ and your students’ heads, but also to meet teachers who are passionate about providing alternative forms of education. Not that it doesn’t have its challenges; it is easy to feel lost at first without such rigid structure, but this feeling fades a little with each meaningful interaction.

Our day trip to Manolo Caracol’s farm in Pedási had a bit of everything that helps make Montessori so special. This is Manolo:

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His organic farm provides all of the fresh produce for his restaurant in the city.

The children took a tour of the farm, learning about the crops, the seasons, and the effect of local sewage treatment problems on Pedási’s rivers and streams.

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They pulled up some sweet potatoes…some found it more difficult than others image

After our tour we were offered fresh sweet potato chips, melon and grape juice, all from the farm.image

Older children helped to look after younger ones

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And Manolo showed us how the chips were made

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Then we planted seeds; chillies, butter lettuce, coriander and more. Watching the children take great care in examining and placing the seeds was a real joy.

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Name plaques for our crops. In a few months we will be able to return and check on their progress.

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A wonderful day.

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