One of the virtues and powers of contemplative education as it is practiced at Alaya is the opportunity given to our teachers to use different methods and techniques based on their own merits–discerned from direct experience–rather than being limited to a particular ideology or plan. I am experiencing this firsthand with Montessori principles and techniques at Alaya as I help out in the Garuda classroom this year.
Having been a Montessori teacher for 26 years before joining Alaya, I am familiar with the promises and perils of the Montessori method. What I hadn’t experienced before is Montessori at Alaya, and thanks to the wonderful teacher Jesse Huang, who encouraged us to purchase a number of Montessori materials last year, we are now exploring this more fully.
I am discovering is that Montessori is a great companion to Alaya’s emphasis on open-ended play. Open-ended play is contextualized, where one scenario leads to the next and multiple props support a rich interchange of story, adventure, action, dialogue, and movement. Montessori, on the other hand emphasizes this one thing, whether it be the simple act of pouring sand, the taste of a strawberry, or a letter sound or number. Both a contextualized experience and the mind being placed on a single sight, sound, taste, touch, or smell are important ways to access the richness of life.
Ultimately it is all the magic of being present in this moment, with whatever we are with and whatever we are feeling.
About the Author
Steve is a Co-Director of Alaya Preschool, as well as one of our most experienced teachers. He has been an educator for almost 40 years, including 24 years at Montessori and more than 10 at Alaya. Steve is also the current co-director of Family Camp at the Shambhala Mountain Center, which focuses on the path of parenthood as a spiritual practice, and helping children “grow brave.” You can read more about Steve on our Team Page and read all his blog posts here.