The Merced City School District is proud to offer the only public Montessori program in Merced County as a free educational option for our elementary students. Now we are expanding the program and reaching out to families who would like to learn more about it. That outreach includes an upcoming forum, which you can read more about at the bottom of this column.
First, I thought it might be helpful to share some information about what Montessori is and how it differs from a traditional classroom. I am not a Montessori expert myself, but I have had the opportunity to learn a lot about it from our teachers and administrators. The history dates back more than a century ago when Italian physician Dr. Maria Montessori opened an educational childcare center called “Casa dei Bambini” or “Children’s House” in an impoverished area of Rome. She observed and analyzed how the students naturally learned from the environment around them. She then used that information to develop new materials and strategies to help them thrive.
Since that time, the Montessori Method has had proven success among diverse groups of students around the world, including here in Merced. According to the American Montessori Society, “Components necessary for a program to be considered authentically Montessori include multi-age groupings that foster peer learning, uninterrupted blocks of work time, and guided choice of work activity.”
Our Montessori program is based at Ada Givens Elementary School, and it currently includes one class for kindergarten and first grade students and another for second, third, and fourth graders. The classrooms offer a variety of specially designed Montessori learning materials including timelines, puzzles, beads, and measuring kits. The children must complete certain “jobs” each week, but they have some flexibility when it comes to the order in which they tackle those assignments and the materials they use. While the instructional techniques vary from a traditional classroom, the standards and assessments are the same.
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Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Paula Heupel, says, “We know that not all children learn in the same way, which is why we offer a wide variety of resources to help our students succeed. The goal of the Merced City School District’s Montessori program is to provide our cutting edge curriculum in an environment that supports freedom within limits.”
Our Board of Education and Superintendent have supported the Montessori program for many years and are committed to its continued growth and success. We have also heard from parents who love the program and are very supportive of expanding it to additional grade levels. Through a collaborative effort, we are excited to now be planning ahead for a Montessori class that will include fifth and sixth graders starting in the fall. That will be one of the key topics at our upcoming Montessori information night. Current MCSD Montessori families and anyone else interested in learning more about the program are invited to attend the forum on Monday, Feb. 12 at 5:30 p.m. It will be held at our new S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) Center, which is located right next to Ada Givens Elementary at 2900 Green St.
We look forward to sharing the latest information about our program and gathering more input from interested families. If you would like to learn a little more about MCSD Montessori, you can also visit our website at: http://www.mcsd.k12.ca.us/District/Portal/montessori
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.