Materials in Montessori Education

The Keyword “Education” analyzes the instilling of morals, manners, and literacy on children throughout history and briefly touches on the idea of Montessori Education, which I will be discussing in relation to Bernstein’s article “Children’s Books, Dolls, and the Performance of Race; or, The Possibility of Children’s Literature” and Philip Nel’s “The Archive of Childhood, Part 2: The Golliwog”. In both Bernstein and Nel’s pieces, they describe (black) dolls made of rags or plastic that children were often found to abuse or avoid due to the ways in which play with objects of these materials is scripted (although in the one specific instance, violence towards the dolls was in response to consumption of violent content and racist culture/societal standards). A doll made of plastic can withstand whipping and throwing, whereas a porcelain doll would easily break during either of these activities and is therefore handled with more care. I found this incredibly interesting because recently, I had a conversation with a former Montessori teacher and principal who told me you will never find plastic in a Montessori classroom. She painted a picture of children drinking their milk from glasses and eating their lunch off ceramic plates, all handling these items with care and attention—to which parents are always shocked. Plastic is a material that is known to be capable of withstanding many forces, and because of this, there is this unspoken agreement that it can be handled carelessly. This educator, however, explained to me children are not inherently violent. They learn best from what they observe, and when you trust them and give them the means to treat something with a gentle nature, they will model the ­­behavior they are taught. This is a valuable lesson in both childhood education and play. ­­­

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