Ever experience something so transformative, you wished for others you love to have that same experience? Perhaps an incredible trip to a faraway place? Or a delicious meal at a fine restaurant?
For me, it is my many early morning runs around Lake Harriet in Minneapolis. In the spring, I might hear a loon on the lake, a rare sound in the city. One dark winter morning, an owl swooped so closely over my head that I felt the movement of air above. Sometimes I see a blue heron or an egret on the banks of the lake. I’ll never forget the eagle that flew down so quickly, plucking a fish out of the water.
On those mornings, I come in the back door and say to my family, “You won’t believe what I saw!” But most mornings, it is just this: first light, fresh air, beating heart. I wish those for my family, too. Unlike the rare eagle, these are easy to share. Plentiful. Available for all.
That is how I wish Montessori education to be. Abundant, like air.
But all too often, Montessori functions like a big piece of chocolate cake. Wonderfully good, but with only so many bites to go around.
I want the documentary film Jan Selby and I are producing and directing to bring the wonder of a Montessori experience closer to air. Building the Pink Tower aims to change the thinking and conversation about education and open up the possibility that it can be different. Montessori education has shown us that the love of learning thrives in beautiful environments with highly-trained teachers. Supportive, respectful communities teach children genuine empathy. Working alongside peers of different ages and abilities teaches collaboration. This is what education should be.
Why a documentary film? We believe a beautifully produced film can be the next best thing to stepping into a Montessori classroom. Through film, we can bring the voices of children, the interactions with peers and teachers, the well-designed environments, right to the viewer. And the viewer we want to draw in to this world is not already deeply engaged in Montessori education, but someone with little knowledge and even misconceptions about what Montessori means.
Our feature-length film will share multiple stories of how the Montessori approach has changed the lives of children and families in diverse settings. Stories of successful public and charter programs will demonstrate that Montessori can be made widely available in large systems and with limited resources. Jan and I know from our own experiences that we grew as parents through our children’s education, as we discovered how much they could learn and do. We will show how this happens in other families, too.
This is an important and urgent story. American education is struggling. We believe the Montessori approach holds some very real answers to the problems of achievement and opportunity gaps, standardization of learning, and unengaged students.
Jan and I need the help of others who share our desire to tell this story. Making a movie takes resources. We will be working with a top-notch team to make this film as magical as Montessori learning. Our current Indiegogo campaign is one big step toward making this film a reality. Please donate if you can. Think about how your community of teachers or parents or students can come together to support this film. Our Indiegogo campaign is a fun way to honor someone special, see your school or classroom in the film credits, or receive a special screening kit to share the film in your community. But hurry – the campaign ends on December 18!
Is Montessori education like cake or like air? We believe that like air, there should be plenty to go around. Do you? Then please join us.
Vina Kay is trained as a lawyer, and has worked in education and housing policy. She is Director of Research and Policy for the Organizing Apprenticeship Project, which works to advance racial justice in Minnesota. Working with a multiracial collaborative of community organizations across the state and the Minnesota Department of Education, she is helping to create a framework and strategy for building education equity in schools statewide. Her two sons have attended Lake Country School (Minneapolis, MN) and she has served on the boards of both Lake Country and Bright Water Schools (Minneapolis, MN). Vina lives with her family in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Vina can be reached at vina@buildingthepinktower.