Why Evergreen for Elementary?
At Evergreen, the Elementary program is designed specifically for the developmental needs of children aged six to nine. Children in the Elementary program are the equivalent age of traditional first through third grade. Our Montessori elementary classroom, however, is very different—and has many important advantages—compared to traditional schooling.
One key difference at Evergreen is class size and student/teacher ratio. Children in the Elementary program at Evergreen benefit from a co-teacher model with two phenomenal teachers: Mrs. Hannon and Mrs. Hatziyannis. With our structure, children are exceptionally well known by their Evergreen teachers. In addition, the highly individualized Montessori approach ensures that children in Elementary are learning lessons perfectly matched to their level. Teachers individualize instruction to keep each child optimally challenged.
Academically, Elementary students are moving from the concrete world of their Primary years and developing the ability to think abstractly. They are able to ask deeper questions and seek connections. The elementary curriculum encourages and nurtures this natural curiosity through a sequence of foundational skills in language and math as well as basic core knowledge in the sciences and humanities. In addition, our elementary curriculum is global. World cultures and geography, art, history and more are woven throughout the fabric of the curriculum. In addition, students learn Spanish.
Teachers are guides, not lecturers. Children still benefit from active learning and hands-on experiences. In Elementary, our teachers lead simulations or virtual field trips in which students experience deeper learning through active participation. Children have choices and take ownership of their learning. There’s not a one-size-fits all curriculum that leaves some children bored and others frustrated. The classroom is full of materials instead of worksheets. Children solve problems and think, instead of memorize isolated facts with little context.
The mixed age classroom has academic and social benefits. First, children learn with and from each other. Older children model good work habits and produce exemplar work for the younger students to emulate. Second, instead of competing with each other, students grow into a community, and practice social skills every day. One reason why our Elementary classroom is so peaceful is because of the strong leadership of older children. They work with the teachers to set the tone in the class; they take responsibility to make sure everyone is treated with kindness. When conflict occurs, older children are well equipped to act as problem solvers and mediators—and teachers are nearby to guide or intervene as well. This kind of dynamic can’t happen in a single-graded class.
Finally, children benefit from a full outdoor recess every day. They have music, PE and art twice each week. Children who complete the three-year cycle in the Elementary class make easy transitions socially and academically to public and independent school fourth grade.
We are so thrilled to be written about in Debra Kahn’s Wells of Love the blog for Amman Imman! Read about our philanthropy Project and Amman Imman by clicking here:
Here is an except from the blog:
For young students, the heart of philanthropy opens when they discover a problem, gain understanding, and are given the tools at their level to take action that makes a difference. The Evergreen Montessori School’s global service program opens the door to philanthropy for their students.
We are so grateful to our outstanding Elementary class and their teachers for making the project happen. As Ms. Barden said, “When the students see a need, they feel an impulse to help. And when it comes to caring, they don’t stop themselves from responding to their impulse.”
Isn’t it great when parents share their passions and expertise with children?
Our elementary and academic afternoon students participated in a hoop-a-thon, jump rope-a-thon and more today. The event was planned by elementary students who chose to support Amman Imman for their work in the Azawak region of Niger and Mali. Learn more at: http://www.ammanimman.org
Can Montessori serve as a model for education reform in China? Earlier this week, Evergreen welcomed Steven Qian, a consultant from The Guidepost Educational Development Company in China. He is working with Beijing officials to open a premier learning center there. Mr. Qian seemed earnest in his desire to create a new model for education in China. He was open minded about Montessori ideas. Looking into Mr. Bingcang’s room, he was fascinated to see our students concentrating deeply, working independently and talking joyfully about their school day. And he was surprised to see the Elementary students sitting on the floor listening to Ms. Hatziyannis reading a C.S. Lewis novel aloud. He had a keen interest in the Montessori materials and learning where they can be purchased.
The longer he visited, the more I understood what a daunting task lays ahead for him: at its core, the purpose of education in China is fundamentally different than ours at Evergreen.
In each classroom, I proudly pointed out how independently our children were working. Mr. Qian saw Emily and Ruby moving around the classroom as the set up the Bank Game without Ms. Liotta’s interventions or corrections. He saw Krishna working on a painting and Alex with the Movable Alphabet. And he saw Tara mastering the Hundred Board as Abe watched.
“Are the students always working so hard?” he asked. I explained that our emphasis on internal motivation, not external teacher control keep students engaged longer. They know that they can switch gears or choose new work when they have exhausted their attention spans. This respect for the child is the foundation for how we organize the classroom and school day. We believe that children are naturally motivated learners who can make good decisions, without coercive discipline, about their class activities.
Mr. Qian explained that it may be nearly impossible in China to make teachers understand that they must first respect the child. He said that in the Chinese system, the primary goal is to teach children to respect authority. There, education is designed to teach compliance, not independence; obedience not entrepreneurship. Desks are bolted to the floor.
When I told him that the Montessori community brags that it produced some of the world’s greatest innovators, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Jeff Bezos and Sean Combs he responded, “Maybe one day China will too. We know it starts with education.”
I applaud Mr. Qian’s efforts. I offered to host his school’s principals and have them observe here. Will they be as open to reform as Mr. Qian? Let’s hope so.
It takes three Olympic-sized swimming pools to hold 7 billion M&Ms, according to the Washington Post (Kids’ Post 10/31/11). And now, according to the UN, there are 7 billion people living on earth. Each one of them is traveling along his or her own singular path through life. Each person’s genetics, personality, experience, aptitudes and passions are as unique as his or her journey through life. For as many people as there are alive today, no two are the same.
We can look at education the same way. If we are like M&Ms– each of us a different color, but tasting the same inside, then every child ought to have the exact same experience in school. Teaching would mean little more than following a recipe. Our school confectioners would test each batch of chocolate to be sure it tasted just like the last.
But if you believe that each child is a wonderful and unique individual, then education ought to be a personal, intimate and organic experience. There wouldn’t be a formula that our teacher-chefs follow: instead, there would be a smorgasbord of flavors, ideas, and activities every day in school.
In our time of global change, booming population and economic uncertainty, our children need problem solving skills and flexibility of thought. Creative approaches to scientific, sociological and ecological problems are essential. These can only be accomplished on a stomach full of nutrition ideas and a diet rich with inquiry-based learning. A Montessori approach to education, like at Evergreen School, fits perfectly with our need to respect the individuality of each child– especially in an era a population growth and change.
You can’t put together a jigsaw puzzle of the world with a piece missing. At Evergreen, there are many pieces to our global education puzzle. In addition to culture studies, map skills, flag projects and Spanish language instruction, the most important puzzle piece is the diversity of our multicultural family community.
It was such an honor to share in their traditions during our International Children’s Day Celebration on Friday. Without a doubt, our children are benefitting from the richness of their Evergreen experience.
Here, global education is about providing sufficient perspective on the world so students come to appreciate the complexity and interconnectedness of the world around us. That is why our students approach different cultural practices with curiosity, not judgment. And we fit together like small pieces in one giant, complete puzzle.