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"Montessori Education Can Contribute to a Sustainable Future": A word with Wendy Compson

Wendy Compson, old british lady in her 80s, stands in front of lush greenery and a metal fence.

Wendy Compson is a qualified Montessori trainer, lecturer mentor and accreditor with over 40 years of experience in Montessori Education. She pioneered Montessori in the East of England, setting up Cherry Trees School, the first primary school that used the Montessori methodology for children up to the age of 11. Wendy was Head Teacher and owner for 30 years, during which time she sat on the St Nicholas board of trustees before deciding her time was better spent inspiring practitioners in schools. Wendy’s wealth of experience has taken her all over the UK and to Europe, Asia and Africa, where she has mentored new and established educational settings.

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

I founded Cherry Trees Montessori School in 1982 in my own home, with only 3 children, at a time when Montessori was emerging as a teaching method across the UK. Ten years later, and with 140 children enrolled, Cherry Trees was the largest Montessori school in Europe. As the school grew, I qualified first as a St Nicholas course tutor running the regional training centre from the school premises, then later as an accreditor of Montessori Schools across the UK and worldwide.

Having spent over 30 years in the EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage - UK State Curriculum) and primary classroom, I now divide my time between my roles as an educational consultant and Montessori ambassador as well as enjoying the privilege of inspiring children through workshops.

I hold a BSc Hons in Natural History, Ecology & Conservation and a Masters degree in Education. Just as importantly, I am a mother of 2 and grandmother of 4 so constantly on my toes!

Can you tell me a little more about your work with sustainability and how it goes hand in hand with the Montessori philosophy.

Maria Montessori's cosmic plan and the concept of sustainability can be closely aligned in several ways. Montessori education aims to develop a holistic understanding of the interconnectedness of all things in the universe. This is achieved by teaching children to appreciate and care for the natural world, and helping them understand their role in creating a better world. The emphasis placed on hands-on, experiential learning allows for children to integrate these lessons in a real way, rather than learning them as abstract concepts. Montessori education also focuses on the development of the whole child, considering their intellectual, social, emotional, and physical growth. This holistic perspective aligns with the sustainability principle of considering the long-term consequences of our actions on the planet and future generations.

While Maria Montessori's cosmic plan did not directly address the contemporary concept of sustainability, the core principles and values of Montessori education can be applied to foster a sustainable mindset and promote sustainable practices among children and adults. By nurturing a sense of interconnectedness, respect for the environment, and global citizenship, Montessori education can contribute to a more sustainable future.

What drew you to Montessori in the first place?

I have always been deeply intrigued by alternative forms of education. When the time came for me to search for nurseries for my own family, it became abundantly clear that the available options did not align with what I envisioned. In my quest for a more suitable approach, I came across Maria Montessori and her groundbreaking teachings, which sparked a strong desire within me to delve deeper and gain a comprehensive understanding. My intention was to equip myself with the knowledge necessary to guide and support my own children in the most effective way possible.

Every single Montessori setting is very different because of the country that it’s in and the people that make up its community. What is particular about our school to you? What has stood out as unique or something you haven’t see before?

Bloom holds a deeply cherished place in my heart, as I have witnessed its growth from a mere seed to a magnificent, fully blossomed tree over the course of the past 14 years. From the moment I first met Maëlys de Rudder, the Head and owner, a profound and enduring friendship sparked between us. We share a mutual admiration, stemming from our roles as owners and heads of our respective educational institutions. Throughout all these years, I have had the privilege of training over 200 Montessori practitioners at Bloom, and I continue to be astounded by their dedication, commitment, and conscientious approach to nurturing their students.

One aspect that continually strikes me is how each school around the world possesses its own unique essence, largely influenced by the surrounding environment. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, this distinction holds true, as the educational landscape is shaped by various state rules and regulations. However, due to the international nature of Montessori’s pedagogy, we have seamlessly integrated the state curriculum with the Montessori approach, encountering no obstacles in this harmonisation. I have been particularly impressed by the genuine care and compassion that Bosnian teachers demonstrate towards every child under their guidance. Their work ethic distinguishes them from many other countries and exemplifies their remarkable commitment to the well-being and development of their students.

When you are training teachers, what qualities are you looking to develop?

As Montessori eloquently expresses in her writings, a Montessori teacher embodies the virtues of humility, scientific observation, and saintly patience. These qualities are essential for creating an environment that fosters the holistic development of the child.

In my role as a trainer, I continuously seek students who possess an openness and eagerness to embrace new ideas and skills, as well as a genuine commitment to personal growth. It is through this willingness to learn and evolve that they can then truly embody the Montessori principle of "following the child."

By cultivating an atmosphere of respect, trust, and collaboration, I strive to empower each student to become an active participant in their own education. It is my firm belief that through their natural curiosity and intrinsic motivation, students can unlock their full potential and embark on a transformative journey of self-discovery.

In embracing Montessori's vision, I recognize the importance of providing a nurturing environment where students feel safe to explore, question, and make meaningful connections. By combining the wisdom of Montessori's teachings with contemporary educational practices, I aim to guide and inspire students to become compassionate, independent thinkers who are equipped to navigate the complexities of the world with confidence and empathy, and therefore act as inspirational role models for the children in their care.

How can nurseries and schools contribute to the ongoing debate on sustainability and the protection of the planet?

Nurseries and schools can play a crucial role in shaping the attitudes, knowledge, and behaviors of future generations. Here are some ways I believe nurseries schools can make a positive impact:

  1. Environmental Education: Nurseries and schools can integrate comprehensive environmental education into their curriculum. This includes teaching students about ecological systems, climate change, renewable energy, waste management, biodiversity, and sustainable practices.

  2. Promoting Sustainable Practices: Nurseries and schools can lead by example and implement sustainable practices within their facilities. This includes reducing energy and water consumption, implementing recycling and waste reduction programs, using eco-friendly materials, and promoting sustainable transportation options.

  3. Community Engagement: Nurseries and schools can actively engage with the local community to promote sustainability. Through community engagement, schools foster a sense of collective responsibility and encourage sustainable actions beyond the school premises.

  4. Curriculum Integration: Nurseries and schools can incorporate sustainability across various subjects and grade levels, going beyond environmental science.

By taking an active role in the ongoing debate on sustainability, Nurseries and schools have the power to shape environmentally conscious and responsible citizens.


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