Life Onboard LAST UPDATE  May 30, 2009
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May 8, 2009 Peace Boat`s first onboard Montessori Program – promoting peace through education for children
Peace Boat Montessori Programme students and families enjoying dinner together.
For the first time in Peace Boat’s 26-year history, an early childhood education programme is taking place onboard the 66th Global Voyage. Program Coordinator for the Peace Boat Montessori Programme, Onodera Ai, believes that parents play a great role as peacebuilders due to the strong influence they have on the future peacebuilders of the world – their children. Ai believes that children are most affected by their life experiences during the first six years and that it is important for children to experience the world during these early years. These children can then go on with their lives aware that they are part of something much bigger and that they are living in coexistence with many other people on this planet.

Peace Boat wanted to initiate a high quality and stimulating educational programme to offer such opportunities to children whilst also educating parents about the world during their time onboard. After much research, the Montessori method was decided as the preferred teaching style for the children’s programme due to its ability to teach children how to learn independently and its general concurrence with Peace Boat’s philosophy of learning through direct experience. Ai believes that parents have a strong potential to be peacebuilders in the world and hopes to see more families participate on Peace Boat’s Global Voyages in the future.
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Learning in the Peace Boat’s dedicated children’s room. Programme Advisor Fukatsu Takako with Programme Coordinator Onodera Ai and her daughter, Momo, who also participates in the onboard Montessori programme.

The Montessori teaching method was developed by Italian educationalist Maria Montessori in the early 20th century. The nucleus of Montessori philosophy is to “create peaceful children in order to create a peaceful future”. Montessori teaching methods typically involve the use of all of the senses, which allows children to develop a greater association with concepts and grasp onto abstract ideals more easily. It is the children rather than the teacher who are at the centre of the class in Montessori schools, and the teaching is always based on the needs of the individual students. Classroom equipment and educational materials are adapted to suit the student so as not to inhibit their learning experience.

The Montessori method claims to imbue students with a love for learning and a greater spirit of independence that in turn leads to more self-confidence and realised potential. The concept of the Montessori method is based on the means and methods of how we as humans evolve within our environment over the centuries, designing and crafting tools to adapt to our surroundings. The Montessori method teaches that children should also learn in the same manner, through association and direct involvement.

As a Montessori expert, Fukatsu Takako has travelled extensively around the world sharing her knowledge and teaching skills. Here she is pictured with children from the Nata community in Mexico (photo courtesy of Fukatsu Takako).

Long-term Peace Boat supporter Fukatsu Takako is the advisor of Peace Boat’s Montessori programme, and is also a former board member of the International Montessori Association. Ms Fukatsu was a successful graphic designer based in New York in her early twenties, however, she tired of the industry when she realised she wasn’t creating a positive effect on society. She thus initiated a career change in order to realise an innate desire to help those in need.

After teaching in Japan for a period, Ms Fukatsu heard about refugees in Indochina that were studying Japanese in order to acquire a Japanese visa, leading her to volunteer as a Japanese teacher for Laotian refugees on the Thai-Lao border. After spending time in the region teaching Japanese to refugees, she decided that the people who truly needed help were the refugees living in the region. She eventually settled in a Cambodian refugee camp that was home to many children who were victims of landmines. It was here that she discovered the House of Hope, her first taste of a Montessori school. She enquired how she could help the refugees in a progressive, productive way. The reply was – ‘peace begins with children’, the mantra she still believes in today.

Fukatsu Takako has also been a popular Guest Educator onboard Peace Boat, giving lectures about the Montessori method and early childhood learning to interested participants.

Ms Fukatsu went on to live and work at this Montessori-run refugee school for three years, after which she went back to Japan and studied for her Montessori Education certificate. She then worked as a Montessori teacher in Japan for ten years, discovering the inner quality of natural peace that children possess and compounding her belief that peace begins with children, and that this peace needs to be nurtured from within. She plans to continue her peacebuilding mission by working with children and spreading her message that the most vital peacebuilding tools are children, because the world’s future begins with them.

Montessori teachers and schools across Japan donated the bulk of the resources and learning tools now on board for the Peace Boat Montessori Programme, in support of the concept of simultaneous education of parents and children. This is something that Programme Coordinator Onodera Ai is most excited to see over the voyage - children and parents sharing experiences and growing together. The inaugural Peace Boat Montessori programme has eight children enrolled over the course of the voyage as well as two volunteer teachers. Peace Boat plans for the programme to grow and eventually become a permanent instalment of future Global Voyages.