A parent recently brought to our attention an article in Slate magazine about preschools. The article (read here) explores the question of whether preschools really give children an advantage in life. In an interesting reference to Montessori, the author cites Angeline Lillard’s research, which finds that “classical” Montessori programs--those that follow the mixed-age groupings, do not perform testing, and mainly present concepts with hands-on Montessori materials--do provide an advantage, more so than “supplemented” Montessori programs, which can segregate by age and mix traditional Montessori materials with activities like pretend play and direct instruction. Children in the classical Montessori program “exhibited better working memory, planning, reading, and vocabulary skills, and they displayed a better understanding of fairness and willingness to share.”
Hearing about this article now seems appropriate, as we are continually assessing ourselves in an effort to remain as authentic to Montessori’s vision as possible. In 2012-2013 we have been excited about various projects and activities that promote this goal:
We sent four teachers--Lara Althouse and Evi Bybee from Early Childhood and Bonnie Bracken and Brandi Allen from Lower Elementary--to the new AMS (American Montessori Society) Montessori teaching credential program at Westminster, which began last summer. While they already had one Montessori certification, each teacher chose to pursue further education by working towards an AMS certification. They will be doing their practicum in their classrooms in 2013-2014. Kate Savage is currently finishing her two-year training with the Center for Guided Montessori Studies. She will be doing her onsite training in Louisiana in June and is sitting her final exams later this summer. This summer Lauren Bornschein is beginning the Master’s in Montessori Education at Westminster, and two of our Toddler teachers are beginning their Infant/Toddler training with the Institute of Guided Studies out of South Carolina. We are excited about these teachers’ training because having certified teachers is key to a “classical” Montessori program, as the teachers are the main observers and guides for the children’s progress.
In keeping with Maria Montessori’s emphasis on global education, and caring for the community beyond ourselves, we took Service Learning into the SLC community with Upper Elementary’s work with the Bicycle Collective and the Humane Society. Middle School students spent an entire immersion week on service projects of their choice, ranging from the Sarah Daft Home to Wasatch Community Garden and The Stable Place (for more on their immersion experience, click here. Lower Elementary students continued their service learning within the classroom and the school building, watering the school plants, cleaning their classroom and taking care of their classroom pets.
At the school wide level, we raised awareness about giving to others through the Fun Run. Sadly, one of our Adopt a Native Elder grandmothers, Grandmother Roseline, died this year and after a relationship of seventeen years we will miss her greatly. The children raised over $6500 for the Adopt a Native Elder and the Children of Ethiopia Education Fund (COEEF) organizations. We were so grateful for everyone’s efforts in supporting the seven young women who would not be able to attend school in Ethiopia without our assistance and in supporting our Navajo grandmothers, whom we have supported for seventeen years. Though the concept of raising money to give to others can be abstract, in order for the children to feel more of a connection, we made a real effort this year to educate the students about the people the money they raised would go to. Our contributions make such a profound difference in all of their lives.
As an extension beyond our conscious, pre-planned efforts to involve the community in service learning, the community, particularly those involved with Toddlers, came together to support Nico in many ways. Many people took it upon themselves to plan and carry out special events to raise funds to assist his family. Ms. Sophie, one of our Moons class teachers played a pivotal role in the fundraising efforts. This was the perfect example to our students as they observed a need and saw the community come together to fulfill the need. Another example of this was when one of our families had some crippling financial needs this year. Many families in our school supported their Facebook appeal.
We have appreciated everyone’s patience as we spent the year developing our new website, which we plan to launch for the 2013-2014 academic year. The new website will have an updated Parent’s Center that will combine parent education resources with classroom updates. We are also excited to be adding an alumni section, which will allow past graduates to touch base and to let us know how they are doing. We plan to gather more information in general from our alumni about how they fared in the transition from Montessori to a non-Montessori environment.
As a school we set the goal this year of improving our communications, among teachers and with parents. We streamlined our weekly email newsletter, and encouraged families to refer to that one centralized location for all classroom and school announcements. We added a second set of narrative evaluations at the Toddler and Early Childhood levels in order to increase feedback parents receive from teachers. We continued having two sets of parent/teacher conferences and teacher office hours, when parents can come in with their questions about their children in the classroom.
Aimee Brewer has surpassed all our expectations in her role as a stellar PSA President this year and we are infinitely grateful. Though she maintains an extremely busy work and family schedule she brought her innovative ideas to our annual school/family events. We wish her and her family the best in their move to the East coast this summer; we will miss them all dearly.
We are so fortunate and grateful that Ann Beverly is stepping forward to take over the role of PSA President next year. Ann was instrumental as the Chair in the Green Committee’s efforts this year, with extensive help from Jaymison Peterson. The Green Committee planned events such as the MCS Clothing Swap. They also initiated a school wide glass recycling collection on Wednesdays this year. We thank and appreciate them for their efforts in keeping our school “green.”
We also want to thank Stephanie Thatcher for her leadership with the LegoRobotics team this year. The Virtual Vikings took 8th out of 20th overall and earned an Honorable Mention from the judges at the Lego FIRST Regional Competition in January. We want to thank Stephanie for her time and dedication in continuing the program, and we look forward to the efforts of the Upper Elementary students next year.
We are so appreciative of all the parents who are generous with their time and energy. A variety of people coming together to serve one another in multiple ways as we seek to nurture the whole child is the true essence of community. Each of your individual efforts helps make our school unique. Many, many thanks for your continued contributions. We would not have such a warm, giving and caring community without you.We are delighted that most of you will be continuing this educational journey with us next year, and we look forward to an exciting and fulfilling year. For those who are leaving us at this time, we are thankful for having had the chance to walk the same path while you have been here and we wish you the best. Best wishes to all of you for a safe and happy summer, Robyn & Ramira Robyn Eriwata-Buchanan Head of School Ramira Alamilla Associate Head of School