Children Are Independent and Creative at the Montessori School of Bay Ridge
Learning for the Joy of It
Three, four, and five year olds in Bay Ridge are learning to peel carrots and grade cubes according to size at the Bay Ridge Montessori School on 13th Ave. and 65th St. here.
They are also learning to read, add and subtract, keep their class environment neat, pour their own juice and zip their own zippers. And they seem to be loving it.
As one enters the large, bright classrooms the first is of quiet. The rooms are scaled to the child, with child size tables and chairs, low shelves, and pictures hung where the child can look without craning his neck. The children work at tables and on rugs on the floor. Some work alone, some in small groups. The many materials are arranged in exercises by the teachers and set out on trays so that the children can easily select and replace their work themselves.
As we look around the room we see a child carefully pouring colored water through a funnel, another cleaning the easel after hanging his vivid painting on the bulletin board to dry. Across the room two children crawl along the floor counting the beads on a long, brightly colored bead chain; in the cozy reading corner a child reads to a friend.
But where are the teachers? They are here, moving quietly through the classroom, offering […] they are needed. They respect the busy child's concentration on his work and do not interrupt, but are quick to offer guidance to a child who seems at loose ends or show a new piece of material to a child they feel is ready. These teachers do not dominate the classroom, but "fade into the background", allowing the children to feel that the school is their own special place.
Today we see head teacher Saralee Rubenstein pause to admire a block building before moving on to help another child match a box of small objects to their names. Across the room her assistant Cira Focarino is discussing pre historic animals with a small group as they match dinosaur models to their pictures in a book.
Respect for the child as an individual person is the keynote here. The teachers are sensitive to the child's growing sense of competency and self-esteem. They respect his speed and tempo of work and his own sense of his needs and readiness. By giving the child the right kind of work at the right level at the right time she enables him to go from step to step in the learning process in a successful, positive way.
The child who is carefully piling the cubes of the Pink Tower is developing his awareness of gradation, the qualities of larger and smaller, and the geometric properties of a cube. As he works the teacher will give him the vocabulary "smaller", "larger," and "cube." […] preparing food, washing tables, or learning to button on a buttoning frame are enlarging their confidence and ability to care for themselves and their environment, as well as gaining coordination skills. When one sees the pride with which they complete those tasks one realizes the joy that self-sufficiency can give young children.
In the area of reading the Montessori method emphasizes phonics, which enables the child to "decode" the sounds of a written word, rather than having to memorize each word separately. Many exercises and games in this classroom are aimed at giving practice in the basic sounds of the letters. For example, the child who is tracing the shape of a letter "b" while repeating its sound is not only beginning to learn to read, he is also taking the first steps toward writing.
The mathematics exercises, like the others, offer concrete experience with numbers before moving toward the abstract. The materials are easy to hold and manipulate, for Montessori felt that children learn with their hands as well as their minds, by doing rather than by being told the answers. The children we see carefully counting the 100 golden beads on a long chain are getting a very concrete experience of what the number 100 means, as well as practising their counting and developing a high degree of concentration and self motivation.
But now the children are putting their work away and joining their teachers in a large circle on the floor for "news time." Perhaps later they will sing a few songs or march together with the rhythm instruments before going downstairs to the play yard for […]
The Bay Ridge Montessori School has morning and afternoon sessions meeting five days a week during the school year. There are about twenty children in each class, working with the Montessori materials mentioned as well as blocks and a wood-working bench, a great variety of art work, puppet-making, apple-sauce making, plants and animals to care for, the list could go on and on. It all adds up to a happy, busy, enriching experience for the children who attend.
The staff of the Bay Ridge Montessori School say that they will make arrangements for student teachers from local colleges as well as observers from other schools and the general public to visit the school. For more information or an appointment, call 259-8701.Pamela Wardwell — Home Reporter and Sunset News