From the beginning, the educational philosophy at the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center has been centered around a hands-on, experiential, and authentic learning experience—and Montessori schools from across the nation are taking notice.
Just as in many Montessori programs, the educational offerings at Crow Canyon feature authentic hands-on activities for students. For instance, instead of simply being told in a classroom that ancient hunters used spears and atlatls to hunt, student participants at Crow Canyon are shown how to use an atlatl, or how to make soap from yucca root or create a fire from a bow drill.
This similar approach to education was not by accident–original Crow Canyon founders Ed and Jo Berger also had a hand in creating the Children’s Kiva Montessori School here in Cortez.
“When you look at the way our education programs are set up, there’s a lot of parallels and overlap with Montessori,” says Crow Canyon educator Cara McCain. “We have three hour blocks for our education program, which is generally how things are set up in a Montessori environment. We take a student-based approach with authentic learning activities, which is very much a component of Montessori learning.”
McCain says that nearly a third of the schools that currently participate in Crow Canyon’s education programs each year are Montessori schools.
A Crow Canyon educational program can do more than give Montessori students a hands-on opportunity to learn about the ancient past, though. In 2016, McCain undertook a research project to show how effective Crow Canyon’s education programs were in promoting cultural awareness among Montessori students. This includes recognizing connections and commonalities among people, understanding and appreciating cultures, developing compassion for others, and encouraging commitment and involvement when necessary. Specifically, the study asked four specific survey questions designed to measure student growth in the area of cultural awareness:
- Are students more likely to understand and respect other cultures?
- Are students more comfortable communicating and defining culture?
- Are students more willing to learn about other cultures?
- Are students more willing to make friends from other cultures and have compassion for people who are different from them?
The students participated in activities to increase their cultural awareness. Some of these activities included art projects to reflect on and express their own culture, analyzing artifacts and replicas from different Pueblo time periods, learning Pueblo stories and creating artwork to synthesize these stories, and trying out ancient technology techniques such as fire making and cordage making. Activities were varied and adapted to developmental age and time available to present the program. Different student groups did slightly different activities, but all students completed activities that were designed to increase cultural awareness of past and present Pueblo people.
The results were eye-opening. In the post-program survey, overall 74% of students felt they had improved when it came to learning about other cultures, and 87% of students felt they had improved when it came to making friends with people who are different.
“Montessori schools have told us that our program fits with what their kids need,” says McCain. “Kids respond positively to the activities designed around multiple senses and multiple intelligences in our programs.”
“Crow Canyon and Montessori mesh very well,” says McCain.
For more information on Crow Canyon’s school programs, click here or call 800-422-8975, ext. 455.