CMS' Nina Cragg, '13, on Montessori (and self-direction)

October 23, 2018

CMS' Nina Cragg, '13, on Montessori (and self-direction)

What year did you graduate from CMS?

I graduated in 2013.


What schools did you attend following CMS?

The Cambridge School of Weston, NuVu Studios, and Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth.

I currently go to the University of Southern California. I am in the Iovine and Young Academy, which is a degree in Arts, Technology, and the Business of Innovation. This program is essentially a merging of design, engineering and business, with the end goal focused on entrepreneurship. My anticipated graduation year is 2022.


What is your favorite CMS memory?

Some of my favorite CMS memories are from some of my fantastic teachers, I started to name some, but honestly, I have such warm memories from all of them. Just some quick examples, though are Mary, who I have great memories of making cakes that looked like cells with and doing my senior project on sustainable clothing. Holly (who taught me for 6 years!), Merrel (especially from the drama plays) and Cheryl (art classes) I loved the presentations we would do about different produce and countries. My sister Reid actually just did one that she recorded to send to me!

How has a Montessori education shaped you as a person?

Montessori education has shaped me in many ways. I have a strong belief that if there is anything I want to learn, I am totally capable of doing so. This mentality has stuck with me all through high school and college thus far. An example of this is when I left CSW to go to NuVu, I had to do classes online to graduate. I was committed to learning AP BC Calculus and Physics independently. I think the mentality I had that I could do it and that I found a way to enjoy it came from some of the skills I learned at CMS. During the process, I actually reflected a lot about Montessori education and the different tools they used for math and what that would look like for higher levels.


In what academic areas do you feel a Montessori education helped you to excel?

Creative problem-solving. I think being able to see the connections between the humanities and sciences is another component. When I think about Montessori, I don’t think about sitting in a class doing problems sets and rudimentary tests. I think about the different materials we used, the people I worked with, and the projects I did. I would say that my interest in both design and engineering come in part from being at a Montessori school for twelve years. The intersection of those two fields feels very natural to me because I am a really visual thinker, which I think also comes from Montessori education and the tools we used.


Where do you live now?

I’m currently living in Downtown, LA.

Did you enjoy your time at CMS?

Yes! I really loved CMS. I have such great memories when I think back. When I talk to other students about their middle school experience especially, people seem almost traumatized. But, I really enjoyed middle school. I think Montessori allows for learning that is self-directed and that is super empowering. I had fun learning and enjoyed going to school and I think feel super grateful for that.


Are you still friends with anybody you met at CMS?

Yes, some of my closest friends are from CMS. I think my relationships with people there was one of the most important experiences I had. The friendships I developed are ones where I feel like I can still reach out to them and it’s like no time has passed.


Describe CMS in 3 words.

Collaborative, creative, empowering.

Any lasting impressions of CMS?

My lasting impression of CMS is that it was really dynamic. I learned skills that are actually useful no matter where I go in the future. When I think about my peers who graduated from CMS, they are doing such awesome things and are so self-directed. Like, Leonardo was class president of CRLS and is class senator at BC too. Julz is doing crazy creative fashion work AND is also working at a super innovative trauma lab. Bennett is also doing a ton of interesting research. There are so many people who are doing cool stuff, they are just the first three people I thought of.

One other note, the program I am in is all about interdisciplinary project-based education and fostering creativity and entrepreneurship. There are 28 students in my cohort, and in one of our classes Montessori education came up and the teacher asked if any of us had been part of a Montessori school. To my surprise, it seemed like almost half the class raised their hands! To me, this is a little indicator of the effect Montessori has in terms of driving students to learn in a project-based self-directed environment.

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