Welcome to the lower elementary learning environments at Bluffview Montessori School! Go ahead, take a look around…on most days, you’ll find twenty four children (more or less), each peacefully involved in a variety of interesting tasks. Although the children move about the room and freely talk with one another, remarkably, they are all engaged in their own work; some seem completely absorbed, even without the direct oversight of an adult…..
Six-year-old Clara has found a spot at a table, where she is researching her report on the state of California. It’s one of the items on the weekly work plan she developed with her teacher. The work plan ensures that Clara covers all the curriculum requirements, while giving her the freedom to determine how to accomplish her goals. When she gets stuck looking up facts, she asks Thomas, an eight-year-old, for help. (He’s a pro—he did this work last year!)
Thomas helps Clara with her problem, then gets back to his own work: finding the least common denominator of 7 and 3, using a board with movable wooden pegs. Montessori materials bring abstract math concepts to life!
Out in the hall, Michael and Anthony are working together on the “Timeline of Life” project. They’ve laid out a really long roll of paper, and are busy labeling it with a timeline of the evolution of life on earth. Each era or epoch is labeled with its scientific name, and decorated with the boys’ drawings of the plants and animals that arose during that time period. The boys might spend an hour on this project today, a half hour tomorrow, and another hour the day after that, until it’s done. The Montessori philosophy of education allows kids to take the time they need to study a topic deeply, and to persist at a work until it is completed to their satisfaction.
Where are the teachers? The assistant teacher is working with Amy on her reading, and the lead teacher is introducing a new work (the “Stamp Game”) to a small group of four students. One-on-one and small group instruction are the “norm” for Montessori instruction.