Sunday, September 24, 2006

Fantasy and Imagination

This is from MOntessori Today and it seems to round out the quote from Natural Structure in my last post:

"One of the greatest new powers to appear in the second plane is the children's capacity for imagination. Because adults tend to confuse the young child's propensity to fantasize with the powers of imagination, it is important to clarify the differences. Montessori does not regard the credulity and fantasizing of children under six years old as evidence of their intellectual powers of imagination. Very young children readily believe that animals can speak in human voices or that inanimate objects can move and think, for example. When children reach the second plane they become keenly interested in whether these ideas of theirs are true or not. Earlier they could not distinguish whether what they were being told was so. Now they have their own reasoning powers. They ask themselves if what they believe is true and test their conclusion again discernible facts.

Montessori maintains that imagination is a development of higher consciousness and is dependent upon a prior ability to distinguish fact from fantasy. This capacity to discern reality first makes is possible to discover the interrelatedness of facts, thought, memories, wishes, and so forth. The formation of imagination is rooted in sensorial experiences. It is the ability to picture material objects or real experiences in their absence, to see in the mind what we no longer see, to hear what we no longer hear. We take these images and make new mental creations from them. However, in order to do this we need to have had previous experience of these images.

Newton saw the apple fall and Einstein the trains approach and then fade in the distance, and each through these experiences used his imagination to discover new aspects of the universe and its manipulation through technology. Montessori wrote, "Imagination does not become great until human beings, given the courage and strength, use it to create....obstacles abound in the world but human beings' mental lives (including their powers of reason and imagination) give them the strength to surmount them."

Becuase a rich sensorial experience is a necessary foundation of a fully developed imagination, Montessori believed that in general, a concentration on reality vs fantasy is more useful to the very young child. However, it is incorrect to assume that MOntessori saw no role for fantasy in the child's life. For older children she believed that fairy tales, myths, fables, and other uses of fantasy should play a key role in morel undersatnding and exploration of feelings and emotions. Her grandson relates that she told him such stories when he was younger than the age at which she suggested them for other children. It is probable that it was the adult's tendency to overemphasize fantasy in the young child's life that led Montessori to minimize it to such a degree in her lectures and writing.

Montessori spoke eloquently of the role of imagination in human in human history and proprosed that it be the major avenue for introducing the children at the second plane to their further education. In 1948, she said,

"Human consciousness comes into the world as a flaming ball of imagination. Everything invented by human beings, physical or mental, is the fruit of someone's imagination. In the study of history and geography we are helpless without imagination, and when we propose to introduce the universe to the child, what but the imagination can be of use to us? I consider it a crime to present such subjects as may be noble and creative aids to the imaginative faculty in such a manner as to deny its use, and on the other hand to require children to memorize that which they have not been able to visualize..... The secreat of good teaching is to regard the children's intelligence as a fertile field in which seeds may be sown, to grow under the heat of flaming imagination. Our aim therefore is not merely to make the children undersatnd, and still less to force them to memorize, but so to touch their imagination as to enthuse them to their inmost core. We do not want complacent pupils but eager ones; we seek to sow life in children rather than theories, to help them in their growth, mental and emotional as well as phphysical."

1 comment:

tricia said...

Thanks for this article-

Our kids attend a Montessori pre-school and we have incorporated a Montessori learning area in our very traditional play room. I do not put bounds on our children's play wherever it leads- It is very open-ended- which also means that they indulge in a considerable amount of fantasy play on their own. i find this differs very much from some of my more conservative and Montessori-approaching friends. We've taken parts of several approaches and I feel our kids are very happy and developing well- but there seems always to be a sort of struggle between reality and fantasy-based play/work in children when it comes to the Montessori-method...Thanks for your explanation of it-