Every time I find myself winding down the two-lane road between Brasstown and my childhood home, I am always taken back in time. As I travel along with the creek hugging the side of the road to my right, I start to reminisce on my early childhood and by the time I round the corner and see the Old Brick Ogden Building, many of my earliest memories come flooding back.
As I slow my car down, I can see us as tiny children running in the (sometimes knee high) grass behind the swing sets positioned to left of the building and making flower crowns out of the dandelions during our outside play time. I can hear the pounding of our little feet and singsong voices echo through the auditorium, as we run thorough the old pew like bench seats until our parents and grandparents pick us up after school. I can remember the feeling of standing on the rug next to my friends with sun streaming through the old windows as we recite the pledge of allegiance.
But most of all, I remember always being inspired to learn and explore. When my mom and dad dropped me off at the Learning Center, it was exciting! What would we learn today? And how would we learn it? Would today be the day that we make the most magical craft out of noodles and everyday items? Would today be the day that I learned what sound went with what letter? Maybe today would be the day that we went exploring outside by the creek! I am sure that we sat at desks during our time there, but all of my memories include some sort of active learning with my friends and always having our hands in something! Textures, colors, and shapes surrounded us and encouraged us to explore all possibilities inside and outside of our classrooms.
While most of my memories involve the more creative elements of what took place during my time there, my mother often talks about how quickly I picked up reading and writing. After school one day, while my parents were looking at the newspaper, I sounded out “I-N-G-L-E-S” from the top of an advertisement until I could clearly say Ingles. Soon after that, as soon as I would come home, I would grab my brother's Archie Comic books and spend hours trying to figure out what was happening with Archie and the gang, sounding out each letter one at a time to create a word and then a sentence. No doubt an exciting challenge that I had learned from the Montessori method of teaching us to read!
After seeing such a positive effect on my sister and myself, our family continued to incorporate Montessori style learning even after we graduated from the Ogden School and moved on to the more traditional style learning institutions in our area. One year for Christmas instead of the toy sewing machine that I wished for, I was given a real sewing machine that would allow me to play but with real materials that had a tangible outcome. I spent hours honing my craft to make pillows and pajamas for my friends. To me it was just play fun but it was teaching me critical thinking skills and encouraged heavy concentration to create something real.
Fast forward to today and I contribute a lot of my creativity and ability to see things in a different view to my early days spent with Ms. Karen and the other children at the Ogden School. In my adult life, you could even say that I have created a business out of many of the fundamentals that were instilled in me during my short time in a Montessori learning environment.
At my DIY studio, Bells Box Collective in Charlotte, North Carolina, adults and children alike are encouraged to learn something that is exciting and interesting to them with a hands-on approach while being surrounded by their peers! Whether it be adults learning how to make a hand-crafted candle, creating a beautiful floral centerpiece, crafting art pieces with clay with their girlfriends for a night out or children learning how to create slime or bath bombs at our crafty kid events. Everything that we do in my sweet and pink studio is brought about by the desire to be inspired, learn, and create.
And every time I teach a flower crown class, I am reminded of that curious little blonde girl standing outside the Ogden School, wrapping together yellow and white weeds into head pieces for her friends. And it reminds me how grateful I am to have had the opportunity to be involved in a school that not only fostered but facilitated and encouraged that creativity that is so much a part of my soul!💕
Cory's story is full of vivid memories of her very early childhood and what she describes is what educators strive for every day. She felt safe. She felt comfortable in her environment. She felt excited about learning. She felt confident enough in her abilities to share her knowledge with her peers. Karen Brinke, teacher