General human growth and development milestones show that even students as young as three-year-old are primed for expanding their learning environment beyond their homes. They have reached what psychologists and educators refer to as the “critical periods.” Dr. Maria Montessori, the founder of Montessori education, concluded that children in this age group learn effortlessly because of the “sensitive periods” or windows of opportunity for learning about the world around them.
Furthermore, what the children absorb at this time through their senses lays a strong foundation for social and intellectual development and the development of the whole child. It is a child’s internal motivation to learn which we utilize to engage them in focused and concentrated classroom activities.
Montessori education uses beautifully made, hands-on materials that allow children to develop a concrete foundation of knowledge about the world around them. That foundation becomes a springboard for abstract thinking in the elementary school years.
What is a Montessori classroom?
Montessori students thrive in multi-age environments that function much like a family. There is one teacher, assisted by two paraprofessionals in each classroom. That means that in a mixed-age class of 30 students, the adults are responding to around ten children that have similar needs rather than 25 – 30, as is frequently the case in single-age classrooms.
As children interact socially, they experience what it means to be contributing members of a mini-society. Once the foundation for self-respect and self-esteem has begun to take form and children start to exhibit responsible behavior, they are given more freedom and the opportunity to mentor younger children and assume other leadership roles.
The Montessori environment provides great opportunities for students to:
• Take an active role in their own learning;
• Develop positive work habits;
• Gain respect for self and others; and
• Learn that freedom comes with responsibility.
Montessori educators believe allowing students to interact in positive ways within a social environment provides them with the foundation for positive cognitive, social, emotional and moral development.
• The emphasis for the three-year-olds is on the development of independence, leading to the development of a positive self image and the “’I can’ attitude”.
• The emphasis for four-year-olds is on using their independence to increase their explorations of language arts, mathematics and cultural subjects.
• The emphasis for kindergarteners is on becoming confident manipulators of their environment with concentrated efforts on writing, reading, mathematics operations and learning other subjects in an integrated way.
What does Lower Elementary Montessori offer?
• Multi-age groupings of grades 1– 3 with the same teacher
• Individualized/small group and hands-on learning which is developmentally aligned to progress from concrete to abstract
• Instructions and materials to develop the 6-9 year old child whose reasoning mind and imagination wants to “know everything about everything’.
Would you like more information?
Come take a tour! Gilpin conducts tours of its Montessori classrooms once or twice a month between October and April. Please call communications specialist Jessica Chapman at 720-424-7161 to sign up!
Parts of this article were adapted from “Importance of Montessori Education for Three year Old Children” by Elizabeth Hall, a retired Mitchell/Denison Montessori Coordinator