I was lucky enough in the summer to travel to Portland, Oregon on the USA’s west coast for the 2013 International Montessori Congress. Portland is not a big city so you literally bumped into Montessori teachers, trainers and administrators everywhere as if we had began a little settlement.
Not so little in fact. There were 2,300 people there of all ages, and from many countries. If you like infographics like I do, here is an interesting representation of the people who attended. A wise bunch indeed.
Dr. Maria Montessori herself established the International Montessori Congress in 1929 to raise the awareness and understanding of Montessori education. Here we are in 2013, attending the 27th Congress, with the biggest Congress yet. It was an amazing opportunity. Super smart speakers doing inspiring work.
Some highlights for you:
1. The glass classroom – so special it gets its own post here
2. Visiting local Montessori schools in Portland – some photos here to inspire you
3. Dr Brian Swimme giving the opening keynote – his talk nearly blew my brain apart. He is an evolutionary cosmologist and explains the genesis of the 13.8 billion year old universe. He makes you realise that we are all in touch with the light from the beginning of time as we are made up of that very same carbon. Our children too. And he highlighted that, just as we have great reverence for the universe and galaxies beyond, we should also have reverence for the child and their infinite possibilities. I’ll have to watch his award winning documentary, Journey of the Universe for an even better understanding.
4. Judith Snow gave a wonderful presentation on “inclusion”. She is a world-renowned disability advocate and told many stories of how lives can be changed by acknowledging every person’s gift. One of my favourite stories was of Eddie who helped out delivering the internal mail in a hospital. Eddie wasn’t able to read so it sounds like an unlikely fit. He was so bad at delivering the post that the departments of the hospital had to call each other to rearrange to deliver the post to the right department. And in the process the interdepartmental communication improved so much, that Eddie had not only a satisfying job, but he was helping the whole hospital. A child or a person with a disability can teach everyone who accepts their gift to be a better person.
5. The Montessori Elevator Contest led by Trevor Eissler (some of you may have read his book Montessori Madness) was lots of fun. The challenge was to sum up what Montessori is in 60 seconds or less. Some great entries. You can see the winning entries here.
And did you ever see Trevor’s original version? So this is more than 60 seconds but fantastic.
6. And I’ve kept the best until last. I was so inspired by Rusty Keeler talking about designing natural playscapes. He looks at recreating play spaces – taking away traditional playground equipment to make space for amazing gardens with paths, bridges, natural hills incorporating a slide, stepping stones, water features, willow huts – I was writing like crazy with all the ideas he was throwing at us. You could get lost on his pinterest page for days and have a list of projects you want to make that will last a lifetime.
There were so many other great speakers and many that I didn’t get to see. So for anyone wanting to go further, look up these names too:
- Michael Gurian, “Nurturing the Nature of Boys and Girls”
- Sarah Werner Andrews, “The Development of Imagination and the Role of Pretend Play”
- Paul Hawken, environmentalist, entrepreneur and author of “Carbon: The Business of Life”
- Vandana Shiva, founder of Navdanya, to protect the diversity and integrity of seeds
- Dr Sharon Maxwell, about technology and our children’s development
And of course there were children with flags from all over the world. (Sorry, it’s not the best picture.)