– Dr. Maria Montessori
Peace is a core component of the Montessori curriculum. Dr. Maria Montessori is considered to be the ‘founder of peace education’, in addition to her contributions to the early childhood education. She believed that children must be provided lessons on global citizenship, diversity, equality , unity etc.
After surviving two world wars and spending a lifetime observing the development of children, Montessori understood the link between education of our younger generation and world peace.
She held “Peace conferences” in many European countries from 1932-1939, which was later published as “Education and Peace” in English. Dr. Montessori was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1949, 1950 and 1951. She received a total of 6 nominations.
In Education for a New World (1947), Maria Montessori wrote:
“But humanity is not yet ready for the evolution that it desires so ardently, the construction of a peaceful and harmonious society that shall eliminate war. Men are not sufficiently educated to control events, so become their victims. Noble ideas, great sentiments have always found utterance, but wars have not ceased! If education were to continue along the lines of mere transmission of knowledge, the problem would be insoluble and there would be no hope for the world… we have before us in the child a psychic entity, a social group of immense size, a veritable world-power if rightly used. If salvation and help are to come, it is from the child, for the child is the constructor of man, and so of society. The child is endowed with an inner power which can guide us to a more luminous future. Education should no longer be mostly about the imparting of knowledge, but must take a new path, seeking the release of human potentialities.”
How does Montessori method of Education teach ‘Peace’?
- There is one of each material in the classroom- this helps children practice taking turns, patiently waiting or choosing to work with another material until that one becomes available, restoring them back to its original form to make it available for other children in the classroom. This helps teach patience, care of environment, social skills and respect for others.
- Grace & Courtesy: This is an integral part of Montessori curriculum. Guides model appropriate language, provide lessons on Grace & courtesy through the day, offer conflict resolution tips and guidance to help children navigate their social environment. Practicing kind words like Please and thank you, helping other children, preparing the classroom environment, restoring the environment for the next day are all simple ways that children contribute in maintaining peace.
- Care of Environment: This is a key component of “Practical life exercises”. Children take care of watering plants, sweeping and cleaning, leaf polishing, feeding classroom pets etc which helps them feel a sense of belonging to the community and helps maintain a ‘clean & calm’ environment that translates to peace amongst different components of the prepared environment.
- Guides: Dr. Montessori believed in the ‘spiritual preparation’ of the adult. As she stated in her book, ‘The Absorbent Mind’ , “The real preparation for education is a study of one’s self. The training of the teacher who is to help life is something far more than the learning of ideas. It includes the training of character, it is a preparation of the spirit.” She believed in having the guides connect with their hearts which helps nurture the children’s inner lives and create more peace in the environment.
- Cultural studies: Dr. Montessori emphasized the importance of the study of the world we live in. Children are given lessons on the continent map, flags of the world, people, food, landforms etc. Montessori classrooms also study and celebrate different holidays which instils tolerance and respect for other cultures.
By incorporating purposeful movement in the Montessori lessons, practical life activities to help children take care of themselves and others, including their environment, having activities like silence game/walking on the line, making a maze with the Sensorial material called Red rods and walking inside it to practice balance- children are provided a variety of options to practice inner peace. That’s why there is general sense of calm and quiet in the Montessori classroom, which inturn helps the children in the process of normalization & self-regulation.
Yoga, Peace corner, Reading center, Art center and music are other ways Montessori education helps children calm themselves and be peaceful with themselves and others in the environment.
Book Recommendations on the Topic of “Peace” for young children
The Peace book by Todd Parr
Have you filled a bucket today? By Carol McCloud
I am Peace: A book of mindfulness by Susan Verde
Our Peaceful classroom by Aline D. Wolf
Can you say Peace? by Karen Katz
“Light a candle for Peace’ for Shelley Murley is a lovely song to practice with children at school /home. The lyrics are easy for young children.
Ways to help children be peaceful
Verbalize and validate children’s feelings, provide them calming techniques like deep breathing, provide them vocabulary and tools to help navigate situations including taking turns, conflict resolution, big emotions and feelings etc.
For example, you could use props like flower, feather, bubble etc to practice deep breathing with children – this helps reduce heart rate and relieve muscle tension, making them more receptive to listen to others.
Verbalizing how they feel like “I understand you are upset that Joe took your toy” or “I see you are sad we need to leave now” gives them an impression that they were heard, their feelings were validated and then the calming process can begin.
Listening to soft music, practicing silence game, meditation, Reading books, defining the term “Peace”, learning about other cultures, being out in nature, gardening etc. are other ways to help children understand the concept and learn about being ‘Peaceful’.
International Day of Peace
It is a United Nations sanctioned holiday observed annually on September 21. It is dedicated to world peace with emphasis on absence of war and violence. This holiday was celebrated for the first time in 1981 and continues to garner more support and reach as the years go by.
To inaugurate the day, the United Nations Peace bell is rung at the UN headquarters in New York City. The phrase “Long live absolute world peace” is marked on the bell.
Each year there is a specific theme for the Peace day celebration. The theme for ‘2021’ is “Recovering better for an equitable and sustainable world”.
Most schools celebrate this day and use it as an opportunity to help guide young children learn the importance of “Peace”.