Editorial by Danielle Forsyth
Montessori education is not a new concept, but I would argue this particular way of learning is more relevant than ever in our rapidly changing education and learning environments.
At Stella Niagara, its Montessori program is second-to-none, and I wanted to share my experiences to hopefully encourage parents to not only consider a Montessori program for your child, but also why Stella offers a unique learning experience in this specialized area.
Montessori History and Values
Developed by Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori in the early 20th century, Montessori - her educational approach - emphasized independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child's psychological, physical and social development.
The Association Montessori Internationale and the American Montessori Society cite the following items as essential to this educational approach:
- Mixed-aged classrooms
- Student choice of activity
- Uninterrupted blocks of work time
- A "discovery" model where students learn by doing
- Freedom of movement
- A trained Montessori teacher
My Montessori Experience
I began Montessori in 1992 when I was 2-1/2 years old. I started with the "half-day" program and then eventually worked my way up to the full day when I was ready. I have many fond memories of my years in Montessori; in fact, I stayed in the program for four years, which then took me straight into first grade at Stella. Here are some of the highlights that I remember from my experience.
My Favorite 'Work'
"Work" was the term used to identify the different activities/items neatly organized on rows of painted white shelves built to a child's height. You were expected to pick out different work throughout the day, make sure to keep busy, and also put the materials back neatly in their places when you were finished— a great deal of responsibility and independence for a young child.
I remember some of my favorite work was in the "water works" station. In order to be in this space, you donned an adorable red smock so you wouldn't get your clothes wet. At the station, there was a large container of water with various items to the side. You then had to guess if each item was going to sink or float — it was aptly named "sink or float." It was riveting for 3-year old me, and my parents would often get reports about how much I enjoyed my water works time.
Other work I remember was "count the beads," where beads were grouped in bunches of five, 10, 50 and 100 that you needed to add and subtract while using the beads to help visualize the concept.
In my later years, I distinctly remember the classroom getting three computers, so some of the work became digital, which was quite new for the early '90s.
The author and some of her classmates.
Miss Judy and that ONE TIME I Sat on Circle
Miss Judy was my Montessori teacher for all four years. She made sure you were busy with work and, if you weren't, she would find some for you. She was encouraging and supportive, but she did not put up with silliness. If you were goofing around, you heard your name called from across the room and you saw Miss Judy making a pointing-down motion with one index finger.
You knew you were sent to circle.
Circle was the class "time out" location. We had a rug in the middle of the room with little red tape lines that formed a circle that we used for reading, show-and-tell, etc. However, it was also used for time out, called simply "sitting on circle."
This one time in my four years, I was goofing off and playing hot hands with a girl with whom I would go through all additional eight years of Stella grade school. Miss Judy caught us red-handed and we sat a few minutes on circle left to deeply ponder our actions.
My hot-hands partner-in-crime is a doctor now, so we're both doing just fine.
There were many things that were uniquely Stella in its Montessori program. I distinctly remember being excited to meet our new "prayer partners" every year. Prayer partners were older children in the grade school who were tasked to be responsible for you when the school had a prayer service. They sat with us during service and made sure we behaved. We also did fun activities with them, like make crafts during the holiday season and special occasions.
We also took advantage of the beautiful outdoor environment that Stella offered. I remember going on expeditions to the nature preserve, exploring the different trees on the property, as well as plenty of free-time to play and explore.
Why Stella for Montessori?
So why should you choose Stella Montessori for your child? To put it simply, it is uniquely equipped to offer a superior early education experience so your child can learn and grow in a nurturing environment.
Here are more specifics below:
Your family has a choice of schedule to meet the developmental needs of each child:
- Five full-days, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- Three full-days, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday
- Five half-days 8:30-11:30 a.m.
•Montessori is taught by a team of four qualified, full-time faculty members with a 10:1 student-teacher ratio.
•Children participate in art, music and physical education, plus larger school activities and events.
•Montessori students add Spanish, library media center and technology lab to their curriculum.
•A large classroom provides adequate space for movement throughout the learning centers, plus space for napping and resting.
Danielle Forsyth graduated from Stella Niagara in 2003 and is a communications manager at CannonDesign. She is currently on the school's board of directors and a member of the development committee.