Emphasis on facilitating the students to see the connections

Meet our lovely teachers at Otkrivatel Montessori School where we have Pre-school (2,5 – 6 years), Elementary (6 – 12 years) and Adolescents (12 – 18 years) classes. Here, students and teachers are partners in the process of self-construction and development.

Daniel Couceiro is a Learning Leader. He turns every new learning into an exciting and adventurous exploration in nature and culture.

– Briefly introduce yourself and tell us how your professional path led you to Otkrivatel?

– I am a Spaniard biologist specialized in biodiversity and conservation. Briefly after finishing my studies, I moved to Latin America, concretely to the rainforest of the Peruvian Amazon, where I developed conservation citizen science programs around endangered species such as the harpy eagle and the jaguar. After 4 years, I moved to Colombia where I created and implemented an environmental education program oriented towards wildlife conservation with the funding of National Geographic and other conservation institutions. During these experiences, I realized of how profoundly disconnected humans are from nature, and that this is the main reason behind the majority of the environmental and social problems that our society faces today. Because of this, I understood that if there is any possibility for a positive change in our society, is through education. This is why, when I moved to Bulgaria (for personal reasons) and I received the opportunity to work with an innovative school as Otkrivatel, I didn’t hesitate and jumped in. 

– What is your role in working with students, what do you focus on in communicating with them?

– So far, I am focused on developing and piloting interdisciplinary lessons that connect all the academic areas, so the learning process is connected with all the teachers and the different areas of knowledge. I try that these lessons are very connected to real-world learning, so part of these lessons imply learning outside of the school somehow. I also prepare seminars and small presentations where I introduce them different topics that relate to their lives outside of the school, as food and the human body, for example. I am putting emphasis on facilitating the students to see the connections that everything has with nature, so they understand the strong interdependence that every part of their lives has with the natural world. Also, I support them in their daily tasks, mandatory work and mentor them throughout their time in the school. 

– What is the most important thing about education in relation to the times we live in?

– Critical thinking. The modern world is changing extremely fast. We are bombarded with an insane amount of information and stimulus where it is very complicated to see the truths, the polarization, the agreements that society has made and that shape the way we live, thought and act. It is fundamental to make the students question everything, to see reality without all the structures and assumptions that most of the people do. From there, paths for action can be taken. 

– How does your experience meet and develop in a Montessori environment, which of the Montessori methods do you recognize as most distinctive?

– I have a lot to learn about the Montessori method and environment. It is a very nurturing space, and I am enjoying a lot to observe the students and learn from the way they behave throughout the day. This connects very well with my scientific background that relies mostly in observations in order to develop research or anything similar. The Montessori method is based on constant observation of the students and reflection upon them, and I feel I am soaking in this very quick. Also, the Montessori method insists a lot about repetition in order to master a skill, and I totally agree with this. Nobody is born a genius, you practice to become a genius. Lastly, I love the self-discipline and sense of responsibility that is nurtured in the students within the Montessori method. These two skills will make a difference in the lives of these kids.

– What is your approach to nurture curiosity in students and how in the world of digital communication can we hold and deepen their attention?

– Very complicated question. I don’t think I have a recipe for this. It is indeed very difficult to make students be focused on one task for more than 20 minutes. What I have been trying lately is to make all the learning relevant to the students lives. So I learn about their passions and hobbies, and this becomes an open door for their innate curiosity to be focused on whatever I want to share with them. The other is not to lecture them. My presentations or time with the students is always based on conversations, where I constantly prompt them with questions, and I ask them for their opinions. Lecturing someone is the best way to make them lose your attention!