Animal research over the past 60 years has conclusively shown that improved brain structure and functioning are associated with an enriched rearing environment. For lab rats, larger cages, greater numbers of cage-mates, expanded opportunities for movement, and the availability of objects to explore and manipulate produce increased brain volume and neuronal complexity, and lead to improved problem solving and wellbeing. Research addressing human development shows that many of the same principals of environmental enrichment apply for human children.

For over 100 years, Montessori educators, parents of Montessori children and Montessori children themselves have asserted that, “Montessori works!” However, why Montessori works and what it does (and whether it fully lives up to its billing) remain something of a mystery for those who have not been fully exposed to the Montessori method. For many, Montessori remains a “black box” which parents (and policy makers) are asked to accept holistically, and perhaps, as a matter of faith.

Yet, there need be no mystery: When viewed from the perspective of environmental enrichment, it is clear that Montessori education offers a profoundly enriched environment, one that may not be found in any other educational setting. This presentation will review research on the effects of enriched environments and show how Montessori’s method anticipated—by decades—all we know about optimal environments for the development of human children.

loyola.edu/schoolofeducation/lectures/10/spring_colloquium/speakers/0318_hughes/index.html

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