Sunday’s Key Note presentation by Jack Andraka was thoroughly engaging and inspiring. Jack Andraka is a teen inventor who developed a method for detecting pancreatic cancer in it’s earliest stages. This young man’s journey demonstrates a remarkably high degree of intrinsic motivation, creativity and tenacity. When asked to reflect on the experiences that impacted his determination and his clear love of science, he responded that the freedom to explore and make his own discoveries with hands-on materials really set the foundation for his love of learning.
Jack’s parents supplemented his public school education (which he referred to as “stifling”) with a prepared environment at home where he had both the freedom to pursue his interests and access to supportive learning materials. Sound familiar? Jack credits the Montessori-like educational opportunities provided by his parents for cultivating his approach to learning. Indeed, his personal story is full of aspects that mirror the key tenets of Montessori: the opportunity to pursue one’s own interests, access to supportive materials/equipment, opportunity to concentrate for uninterrupted periods of time on work that interested him, a strong sense of his own potential for meaningful contribution, regardless of his youth.
I felt fortunate to take my oldest two children, aged 9 and 7, to see Jack’s talk and meet him afterwards. They were excited, impressed, and inspired to meet Jack and hear his personal story. They were thrilled to buy a copy of his book “BreakThrough” and were able to get it signed! The book contains 10 STEM-related experiments that can be completed with minimal materials and are designed to inspire young scientists.