- A prepared, orderly environment in which students have freedom to work on their own or in small groups.
- Self-correcting, sequenced learning materials which help the child develop a strong foundation in reading and mathematics skills.
- Development of self-discipline and independence built around respect for each other and the school environment.
- Parent sessions on the Montessori philosophy and methods, with a strong emphasis on how parents can support the program.
- Belief that learning is a life-long process. The importance of developing a love of learning is central to the Montessori Method of Education.
The Montessori method is based on the research of Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori (1870-1952), who developed the educational philosophy after scientifically observing children in learning environments. Dr. Montessori found that children have the effortless ability to absorb knowledge from their surroundings and develop confidence by teaching themselves. She developed educational plans based on the natural behavior of a child, untouched by adult commands, classroom competition or regimented schedules. Dr. Montessori’s philosophy remains the foundation of an astounding educational practice today.
A Montessori education is developed to foster lifelong learners and self-sufficient problem solvers. Classrooms exhibit distinctive characteristics, including multi-graded students and flexible schedules that allow students blocks of uninterrupted time to pursue their own educational interests. Learning takes place through the senses, as students manipulate materials to enhance concentration and coordination while interacting with peers. Teachers balance freedom and structure, guiding students along in self-discovery and helping them create their own individual learning plan.
Classroom materials and activities are carefully designed to develop physical, intellectual, creative and social independence. A Montessori teacher considers each student as a whole, recognizing that a student’s physical, mental, emotional and social well-being is intricately involved in the learning process. Classroom atmospheres encourage respect for the self and others, social support, cooperative learning and peer-to-peer teaching.
Montessori teachers place great focus on developing a partnership with families. The family plays an important role in student growth and development, and Montessori teachers and staff aim for students to consider self-discovery as an interactive activity that continues within the home alongside family members. A Montessori education encourages families to help young learners realize their own unique talents and interests while developing a healthy curiosity about the world.
Primary (Children’s House) (K3, K4, K5)
Within our Children’s House, 3- to 6-year-old children use manipulative materials to train their hands and minds. Certified Montessori teachers provide individual lessons, which enable each child to advance at his or her own pace. Lessons and activities are grouped into five general categories, including practical life, sensorial, language, cultural subjects (history and geography) and mathematics. The lessons foster independence, confidence, self-esteem and self-control, laying out a foundation for academic success.
Children in lower elementary classes continue their work with educational materials as they develop skills for abstract academic work. These learners demonstrate reading across the curriculum, realizing that literacy is a vital element of every subject. Students exhibit an understanding of math concepts, use scientific reasoning and begin to understand their role in society. To help communicate the importance of cross-curricular literacy, the Montessori staff teaches children to communicate knowledge in all subject areas through constructed written responses.
During these years, written and oral communication skills are strengthened; specifically, vocabulary development and usage, correct capitalization and effective punctuation. In the area of mathematics, children develop problem-solving strategies, grasp the value of decimals and fractions, interpret data through graphing, learn algebraic relationships and begin to understand estimation, statistics and probability concepts. Science lessons focus on developing an appreciation of nature, understanding the life cycles of living things and discussing technology’s impact on the world. Students study different cultural traditions as well as states and regions as they advance their social studies skills.
Upper Elementary (Grades 4-6)
Students in the upper elementary grades demonstrate higher level thinking and develop their interpersonal communication skills, which are addressed in the human growth and development and general Montessori curricula. By including upper elementary children in community service projects, they gain a greater understanding of their place in the Milwaukee community.
During these years, students establish stronger language arts and reading skills by focusing on vocabulary development, reading for meaning and effective sentence and paragraph structure. Mathematics activities include interpreting graphs and charts, applying skills to word problems and continuing discussions regarding in-depth algebraic relationships. Students further their scientific knowledge by learning scientific terms, constructing sketches and models, interpreting scientific observations and investigating a variety of topics through hands-on experiments. As part of the social studies curriculum, learners discuss the foundation of the U.S. government and examine major events in our nation’s history.
Maryland Avenue Montessori’s adolescent curriculum promotes the acquisition of intellectual, practical and leadership skills. Challenging academics, enhanced by service projects, travel and physical activity, ensure that students are well prepared for the social and intellectual demands of high school and beyond. In this plane of development, students become “humanistic explorers,” interested in the quality of society for themselves and other people. At this level, young people develop a respect for and commitment to a code of civility.
During their adolescent years, students read with fluency, accuracy and expression while connecting literary themes to personal experiences. They also evaluate materials from different sources for accuracy and value. Language arts lessons equip students with the ability to judge effective writing and presenting create multimedia research projects and exhibit strong writing skills. As they approach graduation, adolescents explore all strands of mathematics while justifying their strategies and using appropriate mathematical terms as they prepare for higher level mathematics in high school. Science instruction focuses on important scientific events throughout history. In order to fully grasp new concepts, students are encouraged to pose questions and predict results. The U.S. government is discussed in greater detail as students continue to examine our nation’s history during social studies lessons. Students are introduced to a market economy and discuss various social issues. In addition, they compare the modern world to ancient and medieval civilizations.
Children want to learn, and are drawn to learn different things at different stages of development. The young child from birth through age six wants to learn the facts: the names and functions of objects and how to do tasks. The child from six to twelve wants to know about relationships. A child needs help in making sense out of all the aspects of the world.
Providing that help is the basis of the Montessori method of education. Maria Montessori, an Italian Physician, was frustrated by the rigid way schools educated children in the early 1900s. She observed that before age six, children have an “absorbent mind” that gives them the ability to take in and remember details of their environment, from daily routines, to the names of objects, to what people like and dislike. Children from six to twelve have a “reasoning mind” and seek to learn about cause and effect as well as how people relate to each other. Children need to organize and classify this information. Dr. Montessori believed adults could best help children do this by creating a “prepared environment” that offers both structure and freedom. The structure comes from the order of the classroom and knowing how and why to use different materials. The freedom comes from the children’s ability to choose their own tasks, work at their own pace, and move ahead as the desire to know something more and something different becomes important.
Montessori classrooms for children ages 3-6, 6-9, 9-12, and 12-14 are self-contained and multi-age leveled. Children usually stay with the same teacher for three years. The older children in each level help the younger ones while reinforcing their own learning and developing leadership skills.
The 3-6 classes have an extended morning session for K-3 and K-4 students lasting for three and a half hours each morning. The K-5 students stay all day.
Elementary classrooms extend beyond the immediate room. The school library is an important resource where students do independent research. Older children and adolescents leave the building frequently with adult supervision, to extend their research by consulting with sources in the community.
How does it work at MPS?
The Milwaukee Public School system has seven public Montessori Schools: Maryland Avenue Montessori School (K3-8), Craig Montessori (K3-8), Fernwood Montessori (K3-8), Bay View Montessori (upper and lower), Lloyd Barbee Montessori (K3-6), Riley Dual Language Montessori (K3- slow growing) and MacDowell Montessori (K3-12). This is one of the largest groups of public Montessori schools in the United States. A longitudinal study was recently completed which found that Montessori education has a positive long-term impact on students’ grade point averages, and Montessori students are successful as they enter traditional schools (Association Montessori International-USA).
Montessori children are unusually adaptable, having learned to work independently and in groups. They have been trusted to make decisions about their education, and become very self-reliant and able to manage their time well. The Montessori child develops good communication skills and problem-solving ability because s/he has been encouraged to exchange ideas freely with others. The self-confidence gained from a Montessori education is truly priceless.