Montessori UA: Offering Harmonious Education for All Generations
Maria Montessori was a passionate advocate for peace and social justice. She hoped that the Montessori pedagogy would inspire children all around the world to embark on a quest for love, acceptance, and goodwill. As she stated in her book To Educate the Human Potential, “It is hoped that when this sentiment of love for all subjects can be aroused in children, people in general will become more human, and brutal wars will come to an end” (Montessori 1948, 26).
Sadly, Montessori’s vision has not yet become a reality. War continues to cause devastation and destruction around the globe. The Russo-Ukrainian War began in 2014 and still wages on more than eight years later. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, 1,069 preschools and more than 2400 educational facilities, including Montessori schools, have been damaged. Most of the Montessori schools in Ukraine are facing the possibility of closure due to the economic challenges created by the war.
At a time when it seemed like all hope was lost, a courageous, powerful team united together, working to spread the Montessori Method throughout Ukraine in an effort to build “a culture of conscious parenting, respect for oneself, for each other, and the world.” Montessori Ukraine (Montessori UA) developed in the spring of 2022 and became established as a non-profit organization (NGO) a few months later.
Inspired by the work of Maria Montessori, Anna Volokhova (Montessori UA founder) set out to fulfill the affirmation that “Averting war is the work of politicians; establishing peace is the work of education” (Montessori 1972, 24). She began by contacting the head of the educational program at the Ukrainian Montessori Center, Natalia Prybylska, discussing ways to provide support. They began gathering a group of specialists, professionals, and experts in various fields, developing the vision of providing harmonious education for all generations.
Montessori Ukraine’s overarching mission is to bring Montessori education to every family in Ukraine. In line with that mission, the organization has many goals they hope to achieve:
- Support for Internationally Displaced Children: The team is sending humanitarian aid and educational materials to displaced children. They have arranged a summer program of support for 22 shelters currently housing more than 5000 children. Montessori UA is also consulting with volunteers that work with children and are delivering a social-emotional learning program from a partner non-profit organization, Think Equal, to 50 kindergarten schools and shelters that work with internationally displaced persons (IDPs) of ages three to six.
- Support for Educators and Parents: Since July, the team has begun organizing events for parents and educators including workshops and meetings with international speakers such as Tammy Oesting, Barbara Isaac, Julia Volkman, Inga Sieminski, Paul Epstein, and Maria Roth. In October, they launched a free course translated to Ukrainian on Montessori theory from Maria Roth, a student of Mario Montessori, which was attended by nearly 400 educators from all corners of Ukraine. Participants attended class nearly every day for 6 weeks and received their certificates, despite power outages and missile attacks nearly every day. They also offered a Montessori-Orff Music workshop for 52 educators gifted and led by Inga Sieminski. Additionally, Montessori UA has initiated three separate projects providing online support to parents, teachers, and children. According to Anna, “these are free, safe online spaces, where they can share their thoughts and feelings and be supported by psychologists and Montessori specialists. For children, it’s an online storytime 3 times a week that provides a sense of routine and helps to ground them.” They are happy to share that in the short nine months of their existence, they have already offered 3 courses delivered to more than 700 students, providing an impact to more than 10,000 Ukrainians already. Their hope is to conduct additional educational programs for teachers and parents including support groups and training.
- Support for Schools: Montessori UA wants to support schools who remain open despite the challenges with staffing and economics. The schools aim to continue supporting families who have decided to stay and Montessori UA wants to assist them in their efforts. Currently, they support between two to four schools per month with the help from partners and donors. The organization has created a map on their website uniting all Montessori schools into one network. Montessori UA has also developed a school to school support program where an international school supports a school in Ukraine as a cultural partner.
- Creation of the Ukrainian Montessori Library: The library will feature a collection of electronic and print versions of original texts from Maria Montessori translated into Ukrainian. Montessori UA has signed a contract with the Montessori-Pierson Publishing Company. Four of Dr. Montessori’s texts will be translated. Education and Peace is in the final stage of editing and will be published this Spring. The Absorbent Mind and The Secret of Childhood are in the process of translation and should be published this and next year, accordingly. The team is also planning to translate popular books about Montessori by other authors including Simone Davies, Dr. Angeline Stoll Lillard, and Paula Lillard Preschlack. Montessori UA is also in the process of translating related articles by international educators, psychologists, and neuroscientists and has compiled several pages on Ukrainian Wikipedia about Montessori and her method to spread knowledge and understanding.
- Emergence in the Public Sector: Montessori UA wants Montessori education to be made available for everyone, so one of their goals is to emerge in the public sector. They are learning a lot from Elizabeth Slade and Public Montessori in Action. They have already sent a primary program to the Ministry of Education and Science. The next step is a local approbation and the hope is to make the push to the national level during the next year. Currently, the national law in preschool education is in the process of change and the team is awaiting the final version of the law to continue the process. Additionally, Volokhova is coordinating the Early Childhood Care and Development working group for the humanitarian response of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) in Ukraine, an organization that helps to advocate for the essentialness of Early Childhood education. This allows the group to stay connected with the Ministry of Education and Science, UNICEF, and other partners and also makes Montessori more available and understandable to them as well. Montessori UA also has an Elementary program that they hope will become public in the next few years.
One of Montessori UA’s greatest accomplishments to date is the release of Peace for Ukraine, a movie created for International Peace Day that helped the organization to receive global recognition and provided motivation for the team to continue their passionate work of providing hope for Ukrainians. The movie shows how Ukrainian schools have changed in six short months. According to Anna, “The pictures in the movie are shocking—signs of bullets, broken windows and walls, and so many tears of the children, parents, and educators.” Perhaps most importantly, the movie showcases the united position of support from Montessorians globally. Educators from all over the world including Maria Montessori’s great-grandson, Alexander Henny, shared love and encouragement, sending a message to Ukrainian educators that they are seen, supported, and honored. Volokhova shares the magnitude of this project, stating, “We felt the unity of the whole world and it gave educators a lot of strength. We still receive messages of gratitude from Ukrainians for making this movie and for giving them hope.”
This desire to inspire hope is one that continues to motivate the passionate team of Montessori UA. They echo Maria Montessori’s (2012, 24) sentiments as she once stated, “In these times, more than ever before, our hope is that education will offer an aid to better the condition of the world.”
By spreading the Montessori Method throughout Ukraine, they hope to transform the lives of children, parents, and educators. As they state, “We believe that the world needs unity as never before to build up a strong, independent, and peaceful civilization. As Montessorians, our goal is to advocate for the educational model that will make it possible!”
If you want to learn more about Montessori UA and all of their amazing work, take a look at their website and Instagram account. For schools who wish to help support Montessori UA, information is provided on their website for organizing a circle about Ukraine, art and craft sessions, and leading fundraising campaigns. The organization also welcomes monetary donations as well as physical donations of books and materials. Montessori UA is happy to connect schools from all over the globe with schools in Ukraine to further their initiative of spreading Montessori education and facilitating meaningful cultural exchanges. Organizations and individuals hoping to offer support can contact Montessori UA to discuss potential collaborations and may also make monetary donations through their website.
Montessori, Maria. 2012. The 1946 London Lectures. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Montessori-Pierson.
Montessori, Maria. 1972. Education and Peace. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Montessori-Pierson.
Montessori, Maria. 1948. To Educate the Human Potential. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Montessori-Pierson.
About the Author
Heather White, EdS, is a Montessori coach and consultant, content creator, and educator for adult learners, as well as a moderator and manager for the Montessori at Home (0 – 3 years) Facebook group. Formerly, she was a Montessori teacher, in-home caregiver, Lower Elementary coordinator, and associate head of school. She also has experience as a school psychologist intern. She is AMS-credentialed (Early Childhood, Elementary I) and is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP). Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.