Friday, November 3, 2000
Concord Montessori preschool in Carlisle . . .
Concord Montessori, a preschool for children ages two to five, opened at St. Irene Church on East Street last month. The school had been located for the last five years at Concord-Carlisle High School.
Director Robin Jean said she and the six part-time teachers in Carlisle love the new location in the lower level of the church on East Street. "It's bright and open," said Jean, "Everyone at the church has been welcoming and very helpful." The school has a one-year lease and plans to stay at St. Irene as long as they are able, she said. The preschool added a fenced-in outdoor play area on the hill beside the church for recess time. Teacher Donna Siedlar said "The facility is beautiful, we couldn't ask for anything nicer. We're grateful to be here."
Finding Space a Challenge
The high school notified Montessori that it needed the space in its former industrial arts area to accommodate rising student enrollments at CCHS. Jean said Concord Montessori wanted to stay in Concord, but space was an issue and the school was unable to relocate to any other building in the town. The school has been housed in various public buildings in Concord since it was started in 1975. Concord Montessori also runs another preschool program at the Ripley School building in Concord.
Because St. Irene uses the space for Sunday school on the weekend, the Montessori school in Carlisle puts away its class materials in closets at the end of the week. The space became available when the Carlisle Extended Day program, which previously occupied the space at St. Irene Church, moved to its permanent location across the street at the former home of Carlisle pediatrician Dr. Ron Schneebaum.
Program Filled Up Quickly
The school filled all its classes within one week of finding the new location at St. Irene. Jean said the program was filled entirely "by word of mouth" among parents without any advertising, with the majority of children from Carlisle and Concord.
The program runs from 9 to 12 each day with two year-olds attending either two or three mornings, and three, four, and five year-olds attending in the same class, five mornings a week. There are two optional extended days until 2:00 p.m. for four year-olds and two extended days for kindergartners. Students who are eligible for kindergarten sometimes stay for their kindergarten year at the Montessori school, a program accredited by the state.
Jean explained some of the features of a Montessori school include classes with mixed age groups so that younger and older children can learn from each other, and an emphasis on helping kids become independent. Children are taught how to use buttons and zippers on their clothing and are also taught how to pour their water and help prepare their own snacks. Teachers are observers, Jean said, encouraging children to explore things independently.
The teaching methods were started by Maria Montessori, an Italian doctor and educator who believed that children under five had absorbent minds. Montessori, who created schools in Europe and the United States in the first half of the 1900s, felt that the richer the environment, the more children absorbed, a concept well ahead of its time. She also was the pioneer of learning materials versus play materials for children.
The school has various Montessori materials from Europe and encourages children to work on these independently. These are presented at "circle time" and children can choose various pieces to explore, with many of the materials designed to be self-correcting. Ten cylinder-shaped locks, for example, must be arranged from shortest to tallest to fit together correctly. Other examples include pieces that teach children how to grade colors from light to dark, or to categorize sound by shaking objects from the softest to the loudest sounds.
A child can observe, work alone or work with another child. Children use the different materials at their own rate and are encouraged to make choices, according to Jean. When choosing a preschool, Jean has learned, "What's important is that parents like the philosophy of a school. Children can adapt to many different approaches."
Colette Cooke of Carlisle, who has a son attending kindergarten at Montessori, said the program for five-year-olds teaches phonics and beginning reading skills. Cooke said the school also instills self-esteem by letting young children make choices. She said teachers greet each child when they come to school by shaking their hand and also teach respect for other children.
Interest has been strong in Carlisle so Concord Montessori is currently taking names of families interested in fall 2001 enrollment. Parents will be able to observe classes starting in January. Contact Donna Siedlar at the school at 371-3015, for more information.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito