The University of St. Thomas


Massello-Chiacos, Donna

Massello-Chiacos, Donna

Integration of the Orff Schulwerk Process in a Montessori Environment: Parallels in Philosophy and Process
Donna Massello-Chiacos

I have been the music director of the Montessori Center School in Santa Barbara, California since 1988. My studies in Orff Schulwerk began about the same time. As I learned more about the Schulwerk, I noticed parallels with the Montessori philosophy and method, and vice versa. I then welcomed the opportunity to integrate both worlds into my music room, and in my being. This capstone paper is an exploration into the Montessori method and the Orff Schulwerk process of music education. Both approaches begin with respect for the child and the child’s world. They are multi-sensorial, whole-body, child-centered approaches. Chapter one presents brief histories and overviews of Maria Montessori, Carl Orff, and Gunild Keetman, who collaborated with Orff for over forty years.

After presenting parallels in their philosophies and processes, I discuss current research that supports the wisdom of Montessori and Orff. This included the research of Paul Maclean and his theory of the triune brain, and the work of Rennate Nummela Caine and Geoffrey Caine in brain-based learning (Caine & Caine, 1991). Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences is also discussed, along with his ideas for early childhood education (Gardner, 1983).

Carl Orff and Gunild Keetman believed in the unity of movement, music, and language. Therefore, music education is also movement education, and is interdependent with language. Montessori believed that all learning must have a sensorial basis, and that child development is dependent on movement.

A child’s learning unfolds within a triangular relationship between the teacher, the child, and the environment. Preparation of the teacher is of supreme importance, as it is the teacher who prepares the environment, presents the materials, and guides the children in their learning. This preparation includes preparing the person in addition to cultivating expertise in one’s area of specialization.

Throughout the writing of my capstone, I recorded teaching and learning episodes that reflect these parallels between Montessori and Orff-Keetman. The episodes reflect the unity of music, movement, and language, the preparation of the teacher, and the role of an Orff Schulwerk specialist in a Montessori environment. These teaching-learning episodes are woven throughout the paper.

The final chapter of the capstone contains reflections of my own preparation as an Orff Schulwerk specialist. From research and reflection, I have composed a set of basic guidelines for creating an Orff Schulwerk program in a Montessori environment. I have written this piece so that it will make sense to Montessorians and Orff Schulwerk specialists alike. It is my hope that it will benefit all teachers and students working together in a similar environment.