For some people, Montessori education may be a bit of a mystery. There often is confusion about how it differs from the traditional classroom setting and what students do on a daily basis.
I recently had a chance to learn more about the Merced City School District’s Montessori program and wanted to share that information since we are currently accepting applications. We have one of the only public Montessori programs in the Central Valley, and it is offered as a free educational alternative to children who meet the appropriate age requirements for school entry.
The Montessori Method was developed in Italy by Dr. Maria Montessori more than a century ago and has had proven success among diverse groups of students both in Merced and around the world. According to the American Montessori Society, Montessori education is: “The view of the child as one who is naturally eager for knowledge and capable of initiating learning in a supportive, thoughtfully prepared learning environment. It is an approach that values the human spirit and the development of the whole child — physical, social, emotional, cognitive.”
One of our Montessori teachers, Lysa De Thomas adds, “The ultimate goal of Montessori education is to create concerned, active, and aware citizens of the world.”
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Montessori teachers use a prudently prepared environment to guide children in their studies of language, mathematics, world cultures, technology, art, music, and practical life. They also strive to foster characteristics such as self-confidence, self-discipline, and a sense of community as well as kindness, respect, grace, and courtesy. The classroom offers a variety of materials including timelines, puzzles, beads, and measuring kits to help students fully comprehend the lessons they are learning. The children must complete certain “jobs” each week, but they have some freedom when it comes to the order in which they tackle those assignments and the materials that they use. De Thomas says, “This choice is what helps empower them to take responsibility for their own education.” It is important to note though, while the instructional techniques vary from a traditional classroom, the standards and assessments are the same.
The MCSD Montessori program was located at John Muir Elementary for more than a decade, but due to space constraints it will be moving to Ada Givens Elementary starting in the fall of 2017. There is currently one class for kindergarten and first grade students and another for second and third graders. This allows the younger children to learn from their peers, while the older children strengthen their academic and social skills through teaching and mentoring. Montessori teachers also enjoy the opportunity to observe and guide their students for two consecutive years. De Thomas adds, “We use children’s individual strengths and interests to help them learn what they need to learn and to keep them at the cutting edge of their development.”
Those who are interested in applying for the Montessori program should have their children enrolled in their home school. If that is anywhere other than Ada Givens Elementary, they must complete a School of Choice application with a request for the Montessori program by May 8. School of Choice applications are available at the MCSD Pupil Services Department, located at 601 Mercy Avenue (corner of Mercy Ave. and Dominican Dr.).
In addition to the current offerings, our district is gathering information to determine the feasibility of adding a Montessori class for students in grades four through six. Anyone who is interested in this option for their child, or those who are interested in an inter-district transfer application, can contact Teri Verdin at 209-381- 2817 or at TVerdin@mcsd.k12.ca.us.
Sara Sandrik, an Emmy Award-winning former journalist, is the public information officer for the Merced City School District. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.