Art in a Montessori school classroom is used in a variety of different ways. At the most basic level, art will teach the child to use a pencil and draw lines. But many of the exercises placed on the practical life shelves are artistic in nature; which often include cutting, weaving, sewing, and stencils.
Art is one of the many ways children express themselves. Art is a way for children to communicate their feelings and emotions. In a Montessori environment, they provide open-ended art activities that help children explore and use their creativity.
Art, along with all areas of the classroom, gives children a solid foundation for future growth. Through art, they are exploring, creating, expressing, and developing self. Montessori style of learning provides a rich art area in the classroom, giving children a chance to choose their medium: paints, pastels, clay, pencils, and/or crayons.
When it comes to art, it is the process not the outcome that is important to the child. A child interacts with the world differently than adults, children work to develop self rather than develop a product of some sort of monetary gain. Their focus is to have fun and grow. Once a child creates something, they do not feel the need to keep the product. It is the process that gives them satisfaction and inner joy.
Many teachers receive artistic “gifts” from their students all the time. But for the students it’s more about moving on to the next art expression than creating something specific for a certain person. That’s why art from a child is always so unique and sometimes very strange.
Montessori training programs emphasize the process of creating art versus the product. This means that children should be encouraged to explore and experiment with a variety of art mediums without being made to feel that they should complete a specific project that looks a certain way.
One important difference in how the art shelf is presented in a Montessori classroom as opposed to a traditional preschool classroom is that all children have access to it at all times and they may freely choose which skills to practice at any given time. In a more traditional setting, art materials may be out only at certain times and/or their use may be more directed by the adults than by the children themselves.
Montessori used the term “cosmic education” to indicate both the universal scope of lessons to be presented, and the idea that education in the second plane should help the child realize the human role in the interdependent functioning of the universe. Classroom materials and lessons include work in the arts. Through Montessori a child is able to express themselves to the fullest.
“The human hand, so delicate and so complicated, not only allows the mind to reveal itself but it enables the whole being to enter into special relationships with its environment… man ‘takes possession of his environment with his hands.’ His hands, under the guidance of his intellect transform this environment and thus enable him to fulfill his mission in the world.” — Maria Montessori