A ‘Peace’ curriculum and a multi-age environment

| September 9, 2019 | 0 Comments

BY MAT TYRRELL

Hout Bay Montessori was founded inApril 1984 by a group of dedicated parents who greatly admired the works of Maria Montessori.

We continue to run as an association of parents, with a reliable, passionate team of Montessorians running the school. As a parent-owned school, there is a natural sense of community among parents, teachers and the 100-strong student body. Sound academics and knowledge-building are critical qualities of a Montessori approach, as is the ability to think creatively and understand the needs of others. When these fundamental skills are fostered early in life, children gain the capability to problem-solve, persevere and interact well with others in any circumstance. We believe that the most important years of a child’s education are not high school and college, but the first six years of life. As a result, we regard infant and early childhood education as the very foundation of future school experiences.

The Peace curriculum

At our school, we believe that part of the key to our success is due to our ‘Peace’ curriculum. The core values of this curriculum are grace and courtesy, the practice of which empower children to be responsible, selfaware and independent. Activities structured around these values are about respecting children’s needs and considering the whole classroom community as a collective unit. Practising modelled behaviours at neutral moments allows children to discover much-needed tools, and they are grateful to know what to do and say in frustrating or challenging circumstances.

A multi-age environment

A hallmark of Montessori education is to follow the child in a multi-age classroom. At Hout Bay Montessori, our toddler classroom serves children aged 18 months to three years. At around three years old, as the child shows us that they are ready, they move into our preschool, which at Hout Bay Montessori is two classes of children aged three to six. Our primary school serves children aged six–12; we separate them into junior (six–nine) and senior (nine–12) phases to allow for learning at an individual pace. Children in multi-age classes tend to be more flexible when it comes to mastering skills within a specific time frame. In multi-age classrooms, children typically are able to work at their own pace without the added pressure of keeping up with the whole group, or even being held back by the entire group. We notice that our children in multi-age classes build stronger relationships. In multi-age classrooms, teachers have a more extended period of time to get to know a student and their family, and vice versa. Parents get to know the teacher’s style and expectations. The home-to-school connection becomes more seamless, and the biggest beneficiary is the child.

Organic growth

What’s next for Hout Bay Montessori? We forecast that we will need to provide a space for about 150 learners in the next three to four years. We want to continually adapt our curriculum to the modern world. We consider Hout Bay Montessori a diverse community, accommodating students from the poorest of the poor to the wealthy, and everything in-between. We acknowledge the privilege of providing an educational experience to the Hout Bay community, which is full of beautiful challenges. For instance, 16% of three- to six-year-olds speak English as a second language. We currently have eight different languages spoken by the families of the school. We embrace this phenomenon and see it as another opportunity to build connectedness and community within Hout Bay. In closing, I want to share a quote from the lady herself. ‘There is a great sense of community within the Montessori classroom, where children of differing ages work together in an atmosphere of cooperation rather than competitiveness. There is respect for the environment and for the individuals within it.’ – Maria Montessori

Mat Tyrrell is general manager at Hout Bay Montessori.

Reference:

  1. See: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/215439639_Historical_Overview_and_Classification_of_Traditional_and_Digital_Learning_Objects and https://www.academia.edu/16292793/Montessori_and_Itard

Category: Spring 2019

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