It’s fair to say that the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the world. As a collective, we have had to continuously adapt to the ‘new norms’. As the world continuously pivoted, we as early education providers were mindful that we needed to create a safe and secure space for our children. Children are very sensitive of their environments and pick up on anxieties and tension. At Aurora, we use a variety of theories and pedagogical approaches to ensure that our children are supported. For instance, looking at the changes and concerns that the pandemic created in a childcare context through the lens of Maria Montessori enabled us to better support our children.
A Learning Philosophy That Is Relevant in All The Times
Maria Montessori changed the way the world perceived children and emphasized that adults need to mindfully consider children’s environments. Even in the present scenario, her philosophy of “placing children in an environment where activities are designed to support their natural development has the power to educate themselves” holds true.
She believed that children are intuitively curious and learn when given the freedom to explore an ordered and supportive environment. She also observed that young children are fascinated with external reality, which brings us to the topic of the current pandemic situation. According to her “Reality is itself magical and mystical for them and the external reality imposes the discipline and limits on the intellect that are necessary for healthy development”.
As the pandemic evolved, we at Aurora early childhood learning center thoughtfully considered how to talk to children about the situation while ensuring that they continue to feel protected. We encouraged families to educate their children in a mindful way by explaining to them why changes are occurring to their routine, what physical distancing means and why staying away from large crowds is essential. We have been sending out regular emails with pertinent information to help parents ease out the anxiety children may be facing.
Our continuous goal was to educate children without causing anxiety and ensure that children are aware of the reality and what they need to do to stay safe and healthy.
Montessori learning emphasizes the need to give children the freedom to explore and learn in a way that interests them. The Montessori method follows the idea that children’s learning should not be directed by routines or set in stone.
The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted routines and the daily lives of our families and our staff. However, as Aurora follows the Montessori methodology, this had less of an impact. We were able to focus our attention on continuing to build supportive environments that allowed children to learn as they directed their own play. Our focus on the Montessori approach also allowed us to support families to build learning environments and experiences in their own homes.
Montessori explained that children learn best when surrounded by natural equipment and when interacting with nature. The approach should exceed traditional early education and care, where learning is reinforced externally by repetition. At Aurora Early Education Center, we have a large play area where children can freely play around on their own, with each other or connect with nature by observing different plants, patterns of leaves, colours of flowers and develop their sense of understanding towards nature and fellow children. Through the pandemic, we continued our indoor and outdoor programs, as a part of our recognition of the idea that children benefit from outdoor play.
The Montessori approach also highlights the value of multi-age spaces. As children of diverse age groups interact with each other, the older ones develop empathy towards younger ones and help them receive more mature emotional support and role modelling. Through the pandemic, at our child care center, we increased our emphasis on multi-age and family grouping, as we found that it gave both younger and older children a deeper sense of security and connection.
Learning Must Go On
Children are resilient by nature and they will learn and grow by observing. All they need is to be supported emotionally, provided a conducive environment and involved in activities (keeping norms in mind) that bring them joy and paves the path for learning, as it is something that shouldn’t cease despite any adversities.
The Montessori learning methodology allowed us to quickly adapt to the changing situation and we were able to continue to provide our children with holistic learning at every moment of the day in a caring, safe and friendly environment.