|Stepping Stones Montessori Nursery Ltd|
What is Montessori?
Maria Montessori, born in Italy in 1870, studied the educational problems of handicapped children. Under her tutelage such children achieved startling results and passed the Italian state examinations in reading and writing for normal children. She concluded that her methods might successfully be applied to all young children and she began to work with toddlers in private and public schools in Rome. At first she encountered opposition from supporters of orthodox methods of education, but won through with the help of enthusiastic reformers, and in 1922 she was appointed government inspector of schools in Italy. She wrote several books on the system of education which she developed, and spent her later years supervising training courses all over the world.
The Montessori School
What can parents expect to see and what can they expect to happen in a Montessori classroom? The first priority of the Montessori teacher is the natural development of the child in all aspects; physical, intellectual, emotional, and social. Through the different curriculum areas of the classroom, the child is encouraged and guided so that natural growth takes place and his/her unique personality emerges.
From the time the child is born, he or she has a desire to learn. However, each child develops at their own pace. To this end individual activities are presented and in this way the children do not feel that they are in competition with their peers. Within the Montessori environment children are given the freedom to choose and investigate, the teacher directing them towards areas of interest or the next stage of development.
The Prepared Environment
The first thing one notices about the Montessori environment is that everything is child sized: chairs, tables, shelves, etc. It is also clean and tidy, everything in its place. This gives the child a sense of order and security. The teacher pays close attention to the child's senses whilst preparing the environment as the child’s mind is strongly influenced by their surroundings.
Although Montessori materials are designed to encourage individual development, there are many activities which encourage group development and co-operation. In a typical Montessori classroom, children learn from each other, the young ones watching the older ones, or the older ones helping the younger. This type of setting encourages healthy social development and the teacher concentrates on creating a social environment which is democratic and supportive, and which encourages co-operation.
The Prepared Environment is divided into curriculum areas, each concentrating on a different aspect of the child’s development.
The practical life materials encourage the child in a direct way to develop practical skills, e.g. pouring, transferring, washing, polishing, dressing and undressing themselves, folding clothes, caring for themselves, their environment, and others. Indirectly, they encourage independence, self-confidence, concentration, hand/eye co-ordination, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, and self-discipline.
The sensorial materials isolate and develop each of the senses in turn; visual, tactile, auditory, verbal, baric, etc.
The language materials help to develop the child’s verbal skills. They broaden the vocabulary and introduce the child to both the Phonetic sounds of the alphabet and their written symbols. When the child is ready, reading and writing can be introduced slowly and by grades.
The maths materials introduce different maths concepts, moving from concrete to abstract understanding of mathematical operations such as weight, measurement, time, addition, subtraction, etc.
With both language and maths, concepts are introduced at an early age through other areas of the curriculum; music and songs, stories, drama, matching exercises, play, practical life, sensorial, etc.
Art and Craft
Through art and craft many of the other curriculum areas can be expanded and reinforced. Children are encouraged to use the art and craft materials independently and within groups supervised by the teacher.
The cultural materials cover a broad range of subjects: botany, zoology, geography, history, and science. Through these materials the child learns about the world he or she lives in, people, cultures, and animals of the world, and a respect for their environment. Green issues are also introduced to the child, showing them how to look after their immediate environment and their global environment.
The nature table is made up of contributions from the children: things which they have found within their own natural environment, whether in the park, at the beach, or in their own gardens. Children like to show their peers what they have found and to discuss what it is. It is also a good way to introduce the weather and the seasons.
The book corner has many uses. It is a quiet place for children to retire and read a book; it is also where the teacher tells stories, sings songs, plays games, etc. Many positive images can be portrayed within books, teaching children about cultures and family groupings different from their own.
The music area gives the child great confidence; it does not matter if they cannot sing because there are many other things which can be accomplished. It also opens opportunities to introduce different types of music and instruments from around the world. The nursery employs a dancing teacher at no additional cost.
Free play encourages the child to develop the imagination. It gives children a chance to act out scenarios and roles. It also gives them a rest from the academic side of the Montessori classroom, especially if they spend the whole day at the nursery.
The Role of the Teacher
The primary concern of the Montessori Directress is the child. To be able to carry out her duties to the child, she must first prepare herself both physically and mentally. She always shows respect for those she comes into contact with, especially the children so that they develop a feeling of self-worth and security.
· She maintains the prepared environment, making sure that the classroom is clean, everything is in the correct place, and all the equipment is complete.
· She aims for beauty and simplicity and does not over stimulate the child and crowd the walls.
· She ensures that there is great respect for all members of the community. Caring and kindness towards each other is of the greatest importance.
· She protects the child’s concentration and does not allow others to interrupt him/her.
· She shows the child how to use the environment, then allows them to discover for themselves.
· She is prepared at all times, to serve the child and meet all his or her needs.
· She observes the child carefully and brings in new activities to stimulate learning.
She does not allow violence in any form. She does not punish unacceptable behaviour, she offer prizes or rewards for good work. The child derives satisfaction from his or her own achievements.
Parents are encouraged to take an active role in their child’s education, such as spending some time in the classroom. Communication between home and school is important, and it is necessary to establish these links early as it has been shown that the more interest that is taken in the child’s progress the more likely the child is to achieve. To this end, parents are encouraged to discuss any concerns they may have with members of staff, preferably by appointment.
We hold parent-teacher sessions several times a year during which we discuss the children’s progress.
We encourage all prospective parents to visit the premises as this gives a more informed view of the school. Visits are by appointment only, and no child will be placed on our waiting list until the parent(s) have viewed the nursery.