Our Montessori Program
What is Montessori?
The Montessori Method of education is a time-tested, child-centered educational approach developed by Dr. Maria Montessori. It is based on scientific observations of children from birth to adulthood.
Through the guidance of a credentialed Montessori teacher and a classroom filled with self-correcting and sequenced didactic materials, children are encouraged to grow in their independence, curiosity, and problem solving. Montessori is one of the world's most successful early childhood models and supports every aspect of a child's development: physical, social, emotional, and cognitive.
Who was Dr. Maria Montessori?
Dr. Montessori was born in 1870 in Chiaravalle, Italy and became the first female physician in her country. Her clinical observations as both a medical doctor and scientific researcher led her to analyze how children learn and build meaning from what they find in their environment. Through her careful observations she noticed that children had an effortless ability to absorb knowledge from their surroundings, as well as a tireless interest in manipulating materials. Every piece of equipment and every exercise Dr. Maria Montessori went on to develop werebased on what she observed children do ‘naturally’ and without much assistance from teachers.
In 1907, Dr. Maria Montessori opened her first school, Casa dei Bambini, which offered the materials and method she designed. Those same self-correcting materials that she created and used back then – materials that encouraged the use of children’s five senses so that they could become observers of their own community and environment while developing their own capabilities and motivation – are still used today in schools world-wide. Her philosophy of child development and her rationale for guiding such growth have withstood the test of time and have been supported since by current brain and child development research.
What are some key components to Montessori?
- Students-centered: In a Montessori school the teacher is the “guide on the side.” The materials and flow of the classroom promote intrigue and curiosity, drawing children in and enticing them to learn more. Teachers observe children’s interests and use of the materials to then adapt the children’s learning experiences by finding ways to enhance their understanding of a specific concept or by introducing them to other materials in the classroom. Montessori schools believe that development varies in each individual, and therefore each child must be allowed to progress at his or her own pace. Individuality is both respected and nurtured.
- Classrooms are multi-age: Classrooms are intended to be like families where the younger children learn from the older children and the older children reinforce their own learning and skills by teaching concepts they have mastered to the younger children.
- Teachers are Montessori credentialed: The role of the Montessori teacher is to develop the potential in every child. Montessoriteachers are not only trained in how to prepare a classroom and present the materials, but also are trained in childhood development and how to “scientifically” observe a child. It is through these observations that teachers adapt the children’s learning experience so that they reach their full capabilities.
- Classrooms are called “Prepared” environments: The classrooms are prepared by the teachers in a way that promotes children’s independence and free movement within a structured environment. All furniture is age-appropriate and all materials are easily accessible to the children. The classroom is orderly, aesthetically pleasing, and lends itself to both independent and collaborative work.
- Use of Montessori materials: Montessori materials in the toddler and primary (preschool) classrooms are concrete materials that introduce simple concepts at first, but then grow in complexity towards abstraction. The meticulously placed and maintained materials are intended to spur interest and invite the children to explore. Materials are self-correcting as a way for children to recognize their own progress and support their own learning independent of the teacher.
- Work cycles are long, uninterrupted spurts of work activity: During work cycle children work individually or with others in small groups on activities initiated by the children.During this work cycle, teachers present lessons to and interact with children either individually or in small groups as well. These long spurts of steady work allow for children to have time to complete works at their own pace while building coordination and concentration.
What are the benefits of a Montessori education?
A number of studies have pointed to the benefits of a Montessori education – specifically how the use of concrete materials supports brain development and how the use of one’s senses to extract meaning promotes a deeper understanding of concepts. Much research points to how Montessori supports the development of executive functions skills such as order, concentration and coordination through the use of materials that allow for repetition and for working at one’s own pace.
Beyond inherently supporting strong cognitive skills, a Montessori education provides children with strong social and emotional support as well. Through the peace curriculum and the classrooms’ grace and courtesy protocols, children learn to resolve conflicts on their own and respect each person and the environment. Many students walk away with social and emotional skills, such as empathy and self-regulation that last a lifetime.
The power of the Montessori approach inspired our founder, Dr. Jennifer Jones, and founding Head of School, Eileen Baker, to incorporate Montessori methods and materials into the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program (or PYP) at Pine Street School. They brought two of the world’s most effective early education programs together in a unique and powerful combination that is transforming learning for children ages 2-4.
Pine Street School is proud to be the only school in New York City (and one of few in the world) to offer a Preschool that is PYP-based in which Montessori methods and materials are used. While we are not a pure Montessori school, we incorporate key elements of Montessori throughout our Early Childhood preschool program and the teachers are either Montessori certified or have been through extensive Montessori training (see more about our training approach below). Therefore, our Early Childhood teachers are trained in Montessori and the PYP.
Why Montessori for the future?
Montessori’s approach to education nurtures a child’s innate curiosity – the same curiosity needed to develop the ingenuity and critical thinking skills needed for our future. From the moment a child enters a Montessori classroom, she is invited to ask questions, pursue her interests and think outside the box by completing meaningful and challenging work – work that requires persistent problem solving. This form of self-direction teaches children to overcome challenges, implement creative solutions and think limitlessly. As the world becomes more entrepreneurial and moves towards unknown technological terrain, our children need those very skills to not only overcome obstacles with resilience and focus, but to be the fearless and revolutionary leaders and thinkers of tomorrow.
- Montessori Today by Paula Polk Lillard
- Montessori Learning in the 21st Centry by M. Shannon Helfrich
- Montessori From the Start by Paula Polk Lillard
- The Secret of Childhood by Maria Montessori
- Montessori: A Modern Approach by Paula Polk Lillard
- Discovery of the Child by Maria Montessori
- The Absorbent Mind by Maria Montessori
- Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius by Angeline Stoll Lillard
- Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work by E.M. Standing et al.
- The Future of Education Was Invented in 1906, by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, Forbes, Jan 22 2014
- Montessori Builds Innovators, by Andrew McAfee, Harvard Business Review, Jul 25 2011
- The Montessori Mafia, by Peter Sims, The Wall Street Journal, Apr 5 2011