A Laboratory for Innovation, committed to exploring new ideas and the ongoing, scientific study and improvement of our practice
Wildflower schools are committed to providing authentic Montessori environments for our students and at the same time keeping Dr. Montessori’s commitment to scientific pedagogy alive. In our work to continuously improve, we try new things, rigorously evaluate our efforts, learn from colleagues within and outside of Wildflower, and make adjustments as necessary. Because scientific observation is the foundation of the Montessori method, we seek to use modern technologies to extend and expand our teachers’ capacity for observation and documentation – without changing the concrete, experiential nature of the prepared environment.
Our teacher-led, neighborhood-nested Montessori schools inform and guide our innovation. Our areas of work include building school administration tools and support; research and development on classroom learning; and broader, ongoing research to push our thinking.
School Administration Tools
Teacher leadership is a key component of Wildflower. To enable teachers time to focus on the classroom and execute our micro school model, teachers need centralized resources to support their administrative tasks. Our administrative platform aims to streamline school startup and administration by integrating best in class products for preschool student information systems, accounting, billing, construction management and interior design planning, equipment purchasing, admissions and more.
Below are some of the areas within which we are currently testing and researching approaches:
Observation. Student observation is a core Montessori practice and used by teachers as they guide each individual student on their learning journey. Our classroom observation support technology allows teachers to capture far more information than ever before on the choices and progress students are making – and with minimal testing. Developed through research at the MIT Media Lab, we seek to integrate modern technologies in observation and documentation without changing the nature of the Montessori classroom itself.
By using wearables and sensors in the Montessori materials children use as part of their daily classroom exploration, teachers can seamlessly see interactions between students, teachers, and materials without the use of screens – thereby allowing children to interact with materials in a multi-sensory, authentic Montessori setting.
Our focus areas include recording and visualizing timing, duration, and intensity of classroom interactions; integrating data with teacher record-keeping systems and parent information systems; and adding an artificial intelligence layer to recognize patterns, predict student progress, and recommend interventions.
Scope and sequence. In the modern world, as fluencies like computer science and design gain more importance than they did a century ago, we may imagine new materials that complement Montessori’s original materials in ways that are empirically supported as well as consistent and integrated with the broader Montessori scope and sequence.
We are exploring a range of strategies to address the needs of contemporary learning, including making connections to existing Montessori lessons and materials, using existing Montessori materials in new ways, and, when appropriate, exploring the development of new Montessori materials in areas such as computational thinking, probability and statistics, and estimation.
Maria Montessori designed a large number of educational materials which are central to the Montessori Method and remain relevant today. If and when we explore new materials, it is very important that they be fully aware of and integrated with the existing Montessori scope and sequence, and that they follow all of the principles associated with Montessori materials.
Montessori materials are intended to be:
- Beautiful: Attention to beauty is a hallmark of Montessori materials. They appeal to the child’s senses through the use of color, shape, and texture.
- Simple: A Montessori material teaches one concept at a time in its simplest form, therefore isolating the challenge.
- Self-Teaching: A built-in “control of error” frees the child from the external judgment of either praise or criticism.
- Allowing for Repetition: The materials allow children to complete a task once or many times depending on their level of interest and stamina.
- Sequential: The Montessori curriculum carefully orders and sequences materials. This allows children to scaffold new skills and concepts on previous experience and pre-existing knowledge.
Socioemotional learning. We seek to strengthen classroom practices that extend the core strengths of the Montessori method to explicitly support the development of critical socioemotional skills. Potential areas include emotional intelligence, executive function and more.
In pursuit of this work and more, we have active research partnerships with the MIT Media Lab and University of Virginia. Through these partnerships, we also will be exploring research that tests the efficacy of our model and Montessori education.