One of the amazing things you witness when you walk into a Montessori classroom is the concentration, which rises from the curiosity within nearly every child. For Dr. Montessori, this is the gold standard of her method, the sine qua non upon which everything else revolves. And whether the child is two or twenty, curiosity remains the necessary propulsion to reach greater achievement at every age.
For example, here are some of Dr. Montessori's thoughts regarding lower elementary students: "No matter what we touch, an atom, or a cell, we cannot explain it without knowledge of the wide universe. What better answer can be given to those seekers of knowledge? It becomes doubtful whether even the universe will suffice. How did it come into being? How will it end? A greater curiosity arises, which can never be satiated; so it will last through a lifetime. The laws governing the universe can be made interesting and wonderful to the child, more interesting even than things in themselves, and he begins to ask: What am I? What is the task of man in this wonderful universe? Do we merely live here for ourselves, or is there something more for us to do? Why do we struggle and fight? What is good and evil? Where will it all end?" (To Educate the Human Potential, p. 6)
Recently, a study examined highly motivated, curious individuals. The results delighted the researchers, as reported in The Atlantic. "Students with gifted curiosity outperformed their peers on a wide range of educational outcomes, including math and reading, SAT scores, and college attainment. According to ratings from teachers, the motivationally gifted students worked harder and learned more."
How do we cultivate that curiosity in children? The Atlantic continues, "Stimulating classroom activities are those that offer novelty, surprise, and complexity, allowing greater autonomy and student choice; they also encourage students to ask questions, question assumptions, and achieve mastery through revision rather than judgment-day-style testing." This is the essence of Montessori education. It is also one of the main differences between Montessori education and traditional didactic teaching. But keep in mind, the aforementioned activities can also be incorporated into the home and after school.
Bottom line? Motivation, inspiration and curiosity can all be cultivated, and lifelong learning can be the capstone of every child's education.