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For the first time in nearly fifty years, the United States is playing host to the International Montessori Congress; most recently held in France, Australia, and India. The Montessori Institute Northwest, of Portland, is facilitating the historical event under the auspices of the Association Montessori Internationale. It will be held at the Oregon Convention Center and attended by thousands. It will be a transformational event.

A dozen years ago, I boarded a plane in Boston, Massachusetts headed for Paris, France so as to attend the 24th International Montessori Congress. Prior to the Congress, I believed I was a committed Montessorian. That was most likely true. However, the Congress provided me the opportunity to truly understand that I was part of a global, educational movement that had begun, at that time, almost a century earlier.

At the 2001 Paris Congress, held at UNESCO’s headquarters, the Montessori Method was discussed by international scholars, as well as all of the attendees.While the words of those speakers still continue to resonate with me, so do all the other wondrous things I viewed and in which I participated.

Classical music was performed by highly recognized musicians and singers. Colors and patterns, vivid and diverse, flowed through hallways; Congress attendees dressed in garments that spoke of the countries they called home. Materials from Maria Montessori’s first classroom, housed in a beautifully crafted display, provided a lineage to the materials in contemporary classrooms. Conversing and sharing notes about the day’s events extended late into the night. Fanciful food, dancing, and after-parties brought the Congress to a formal close, while simultaneously celebrating all that had just begun: seeds of ideas, renewed and new friendships. The list is long.

This summer, the Montessori International Congress in Portland, Oregon will echo all that I experienced in Paris and so much more. The theme alone, “Montessori: Guided by Nature,” is provocative and vast. The ‘who’ that is guided by nature is open and is, therefore, inclusive of both the child and the adult. Add to this that, for the first time in the Congress’ history, the conference is open to all; educators, philosophers, social workers, researchers, artists, and parents will be in attendance. Therefore, the ‘who’ in regard to the theme, “Guided by Nature,” is the populace at large. A paradigm shift in global thinking regarding education and nature will gain momentum via the actions of attendees.

The keynote speakers, including Dr. Brian Swimme, Paul Hawkens, Dr. Vandana Shiva, and Judith Snow, are torch bearers in regard to the re-assessing and sustaining of dignity and respect in that complex relationship of human life and the universe at large. There are also eighty breakout speakers, whose subjects range from “Neuroscience Research and Montessori” to “Biomimicry: Learning from Nature’s Genius.” This is one of the most provocative elements of the Montessori community – it’s inclusiveness of diverse fields of study and the interweaving of those fields under its pedagogical umbrella.

In Portland, as I experienced at the 24th International Congress, there will also be music, historical materials for viewing and pondering, food for the plenty, conversation for two and twenty, and, yes, there will be dancing and celebrating. It will be amazing. Join me and so many others.

Montessori Leadership / 2013 / p 9