Angeline Stoll Lillard Series: Part 1: Movement and Basic Developmental Processes

This is the first of the series we plan to post on “The Science Behind the Genius”, the ground breaking book written by Angeline Stoll Lillard and published by Oxford University Press. (Let’s hope time permits me to do it!)
It is our quest as a school to get more parents out on October 14th to a special evening to hear Angeline speak about her research.

In her book she breaks down Montessori education into 8 principles. The first being “that movement and cognition are closely entwined, and movement can enhance thinking and learning”.


“Until now, almost all educators have thought of movement and the muscular system as aids to respiration, or to circulation, or as a means for building up physical strength. But in our new conception the view is taken that movement has great importance in mental development itself, provided that the action which occurs is connected with the mental activity going on…Watching a child makes it obvious that the development of his mind comes about through movements…Mind and movement are parts of the same entity. - Maria Montessori, as quoted in Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius by Angeline Stoll Lillard

Upon observing in a Montessori classroom it is quickly noted that movement is all around you. I will never forget my first year of teaching, and the discussion I had with a parent following an observation she had. Her daughter was in my class. She said “Jody, it was like I was sitting in a bee hive and the bees were buzzing all around me!” That is it! Parents often find it hard to know what to look at or look for when observing their child’s class but this parent had done it! She had hit the nail right on the head. She had sat in the classroom, as still as a statue and observed the entire class. She had not just watched her child. She had not tried to interact or engage the children. She let herself be immersed into the room and blend in and she had seen it! She had seen what we as trained educators, trained in observation, do each and every day. She had seen the movement, the purposeful movement.
Movement is at the core of Montessori education. She observed over and over again that children need to use their hands. For example, the Practical Life exercises in the classroom. These exercises were developed on the basis that children are motivated and capable of caring for their environment if they are given the means necessary to do so. Montessori also believed that young children are motivated by precision. They can see a sequence of steps and take pride in using that sequence. But there has to be a logical purpose to the action. “…the action that occurs must be connected with the mental activity going on. Only real goals truly engage the mind in the movement.” – Maria Montessori, as quoted in Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius by Angeline Stoll Lillard. “When one moves with a purpose, there is a sense in which one’s body is aligned with one’s thoughts.” Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius by Angeline Stoll Lillard
There it is. That movement. That purposeful movement. That concentration that comes with it. Then the cognition and the concrete embodiment of abstract concepts. That bee hive analogy!

To find out more about movement and basic developmental processes please join us on October 14th, where Angeline Lillard will talk about her research and her book. And, get the book! For information on the talk please contact the school office.

And the next time your child comes home telling you that they washed chairs, be happy they did, because they are happy!

Stay tuned for principle number two and three, “that learning and well-being are improved when people have a sense of control over their lives” and “that people learn better when they are interested in what they are learning”.

October 4, 2010. Parent Events. No Comments.