Montessori in the Digital Age

In the Montessori teaching community, the word ‘technology’ can incite some pretty spirited conversation. Opinions on the role of technology in a Montessori classroom vary drastically – some schools are embracing digital tools and incorporating them into their classrooms with an evolutionary attitude, while extremists feel that there is no place for technology in a traditional Montessori program. Each school decides their own unique approach to technology within their curriculum based on their philosophy.

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Elementary Students

As an innovator in her field, Maria Montessori was known for her scientific approach to education. Her materials were considered unconventional by many at the time, but she persisted in her research and science now vigorously supports her body of work. At Kendalwood, we feel that digital literacy should be approached with the same innovative mind set   which Dr. Montessori applied to her educational philosophy. We are living in the digital age and we cannot disregard the importance of e-literacy in our world.

Integrating technology into the classroom is a well thought-out process at Kendalwood and we will always consider authentic Montessori principles and practices when we employ digital teaching and learning.  At the Pre-Casa and Casa level we favour hands-on and personal interactions combined with authentic Montessori materials, opting to wait until the Elementary program to introduce any digital components into the curriculum. Once a foundation for learning is well established and students are ready, computers or other digital tools are presented to complement their studies.

“I see digital technology as a way of bringing the world closer for the digital native child analogous to the way books must have done for a child in the Middle Ages.”

Mark Powell, Elementary Teacher, American International Montessori School, Via Montessori Madmen Blog

At Kendalwood, we value the power of technology to transform learning experiences and create learning opportunities beyond our Whitby Montessori campus. Our students are provided with the best of both worlds – expanded classroom experiences, strong e-literacy and hands on computing skills combined with an authentic Montessori approach to learning and development of the whole child. We think Dr. Montessori would agree wholeheartedly!

Outdoor Education Provided by Kendalwood in Whitby ON

Nature and the outdoor environment are essential components of authentic Montessori education. In our work to develop the whole child, we teach students about the world around them and make important connections to help each child understand their place in that world. Children learn best about their world when they can go out and experience it firsthand. Relating what we are learning in the classroom to the people and the environment that make up the broader community provides important context to and adds meaning to our lessons. The outdoor environment is an extension of the Montessori classroom.

“When the child goes out, it is the world itself that offers itself to him. Let us take the child out to show him real things instead of making objects which represent ideas and closing them up in cupboards.”       – Dr. Maria Montessori

Kendalwood Montessori Extends the Classroom Outdoors

Outdoor Class

Outdoor Writing Class

Our campus reflects the value Montessori philosophy places on nature and outdoor education. With plenty of green space and our very own “Enchanted Forest”, students enjoy spending time in our outdoor classroom. Named the Enchanted Forest by our students, these mature trees offer an escape from the sun on hot days and a beautiful backdrop for outdoor lessons.

Kendalwood enjoys several gardens around the school which students take an active role in maintaining throughout the school year. They manage all the primary tasks including annual planting, weed pulling and raking leaves.  We also spend plenty of time playing outside! We have two large playground areas with age-appropriate structures for our toddlers and Pre-Casa students and another for older students.

Winter Carnaval

Winter Fun

Adjacent to the school we have access to an expansive soccer field which we use for track and field along with other activities for our Phys. Ed program – including soccer of course! In the winter we use the field for seasonal activities such snowshoeing and our Winter Carnival event.

Each year, our elementary students take part in an outdoor education trip to Camp Muskoka where they have an opportunity to be fully immersed in the outdoor experiential learning program. It is truly an unforgettable experience!

At Kendalwood, we are passionate about authentic Montessori education and we strive to provide a well-rounded and integrated program designed to prepare students for today’s complex and rapidly changing world. Our outdoor education program is part of the Kendalwood Difference.

toddler yard soccer field playground

 

Montessori Environment Enriches Learning and Development

If you have been following our blog, you have likely heard us mention the “prepared environment” in reference to our classrooms. This concept is central to authentic Montessori education, so we will explore it in more detail this week.

A Montessori classroom is designed with great care. At first glance, the classroom looks neat and tidy – almost sparse. Upon closer inspection, you will see the classroom is filled with a variety of carefully selected materials and activities. Everything has a purpose and a clearly defined home. In addition to being orderly, the space is designed to be visually appealing. Plants, natural light, and fine art are commonly found in a Montessori classroom.

However, the arrangement, planning and intent of a Montessori classroom goes so much deeper than the visual aesthetics. Dr. Montessori knew that the classroom environment could facilitate independent learning and discovery when the space was well planned and arranged to support children.  She used the term the Prepared Environment to explain her approach to the arrangement and set up of a classroom.

 “The first aim of the prepared environment is, as far as it is possible, to render the growing child independent of the adult.”

–       Maria Montessori. The Secret of Childhood, 1966

Everything in a Montessori classroom is intentionally placed to elicit a positive response and invoke learning in the child. Materials are accessible on open shelves, arranged on trays to easily transition to a work station. A large carpeted area and child sized furnishings provide ample space and options for students to work comfortably. The prepared environment provides a natural sense of order which permeates the classroom and students are afforded a high degree of independence as a result.  A calm yet industrious buzz of activity ensues.

 

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Casa Classroom

Guiding Principles of the Prepared Environment

1. Freedom
The classroom and all of its contents are available to the students throughout the day. The classroom materials are spread out through the classroom to allow children the opportunity to move freely through the classroom – children can work at a table, on the floor, standing, etc.

2. Structure and Order
Dr. Montessori stated that there is a sensitive period for order for children between the ages of 1-3. During these early years, the order of the classroom provides an introduction and a methodology for students to make sense of their world.

3. Beauty
The Montessori classroom should be beautiful, warm and inviting. A tranquil environment will encourage the child to be calm; the beautiful room will encourage a child to take care of it.

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Practical Life

4. Nature and Reality
The best way for children to learn about the world is to go out and experience it! In Montessori education, children are exposed to the Culture area of the classroom where they explore concepts and information about their environment and the greater world at an early age. This approach supports an appreciation and understanding of the environment, our community and the broader global community that makes up our home. A desire to care for the environment and each other is a natural extension.

5. Social Environment
The freedom and self-discipline within the classroom environment encourages children to interact with their peers. Classrooms consisting of students from a three-year age span enable younger students to rely on older peers for guidance and support. The elder students are then able to be role models and leaders for their younger classmates. This reciprocal dynamic benefits all ages in developing confidence, self-esteem, empathy and learning to work in groups.

6. Intellectual Environment
In addition to the five areas of the classroom (Practical Life, Sensorial, Math, Language and Culture) that stimulate the child’s intellect, overall growth and development culminates with the combination of all of the preceding components (1-5).

Our Prepared Environment at Kendalwood

The Kendalwood campus is a reflection of our commitment to the Montessori Method and the guiding principles of the prepared environment.  We offer warm and inviting classrooms with an abundance of natural light, gleaming hardwood floors, and personalized cubbies. The entire campus is exceptionally bright and airy, creating an idyllic Montessori learning environment. Spacious outdoor areas include a wide open soccer field and multiple play areas with safe and age appropriate equipment. This backdrop regularly extends our classrooms to the outdoors. Our campus also offers a large, flexible space for indoor athletics, group learning and school wide activities.

The Kendalwood environment allows our students to be the centre of their own learning, in a space made specifically for the students. Are you looking for a place for your child to be inspired?  Drop in to our next Open House or book a tour to see us in action! We are located in Whitby, Ontario in the heart of Durham Region.

Durham Region Summer Camp at Kendalwood Montessori

soccer fieldEach summer, Kendalwood offers an 8-week Summer Camp Program full of creative and engaging activities for children in Durham Region. The summer break offers an opportunity to combine the nurturing Montessori environment with an authentic summer day camp experience designed for children between 18 months and 12 years old.

Focusing on sports, arts & crafts, songs, nature and science, Kendalwood offers a program that is fun, educational and enriching. Camp follows our Montessori ideals through a well prepared environment, peer mentoring and mixed-age groups while exploring hands on learning with a nod to traditional summer camp programming.

Weekly themes add to the fun and take advantage of our wonderful outdoor environment at Kendalwood including playgrounds, adjacent soccer field and expansive paved lot now complete with a basketball net. We also venture into the community for exciting field trips to visit variety of Durham Region attractions and other select venues which support our learning themes.

playgroundCamp is led by our energetic and qualified Kendalwood staff including teachers, assistants and may also include appearances from former staff members who are always welcomed!  Occasionally we will host have University/College students currently enrolled in Teacher training, Early Childhood, and or Montessori teacher training. Your children will be sure to thrive over the course of a Kendalwood summer!

New to Montessori?

toddler yardThe summer season offers a wonderful opportunity to explore what Montessori education has to offer your child. Families from Ajax, Whitby and Oshawa are welcomed to join current students in our summer camp program for a taste of life at Kendalwood. Siblings, former students and new students often join us for the summer. If you would like to learn more about summer camp, please contact us. We would be happy to provide you and your child with a tour of the campus and answer your questions!

Montessori Mathematics

Montessori curriculum is supported through a series of concrete materials designed to help students conceptualize abstract ideas, particularly in math.  Dr. Montessori believed that “the hands are instruments of the brain” and by using our hands in the learning process, we are better able to internalize information. Further, using a kinesthetic process aids in overall engagement and concentration.

 

“He does it with his hands, by experience, first in play and then through work. The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence.”

–          Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind

 

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Tyler works independently with the Stamp Game

The Stamp Game is a Montessori material designed for learning and reinforcing knowledge of the four key math operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) and it is an integral part of the mathematics progression.

It is important to mention that math materials are progressive, and it can be difficult to speak of one Montessori material without referring to all those that have come before.  Each material prepares for the next and builds on the concepts that have been mastered.

The Stamp Game is first presented in Casa, after the child has learned place value (units, tens, hundreds, and thousands) with the Golden Beads.  Prerequisites to using the stamp game are understanding the concepts of large and small numbers, simple exchanges of 10 units equaling one 10, and the child must know how to count using concrete materials (not necessarily with number symbols).

The Stamp Game employs the hand and engages the mind to absorb concepts much more fully than working only with pencil, paper and worksheet, as is the norm.  The child can use this material to understand all operations, making it something they can return to again and again. It prepares the child for pencil and paper work in a more holistic manner.

The material consists of small wooden squares in common place value colours (green for units, blue for tens, red of hundreds and green for unit of thousands) that are used throughout the mathematics progression. The place value they represent, 1 (units), 10 (tens), 100 (hundreds) and 1000 (thousands) are written on them (1, 10, 100, 1000).

Using this distinctive material, the child begins moving in the direction of abstraction where they will be able to complete an equation without use of the manipulatives, although this remains a far way off.

Interested in learning more about our Mathematics program? Contact us!

 

Concerned About Class Size?  

Class size is an important topic in education, one which has significant impact on students. Parents often share concerns over class size with us, citing it as one of the key influencers on their decision to pursue a Montessori education for their child.

 When students have frequent and reliable access to their teacher for one-on-one interaction, engagement increases, individual needs are better met and outcomes are improved. It is this opportunity for individualized attention that makes class size is such a significant factor in student success. We know that the more students in a traditional classroom with a single teacher, the less likely those students are to receive individualized attention. Classroom management takes on a leading role, detracting from learning and reducing student engagement.

 Naturally, smaller class sizes afford more opportunities for one-on-one interaction between teachers and students which lead to higher quality learning. However, smaller class size alone does not guarantee quality education. Effective learning strategies and a stimulating school environment must work in tandem with class size in order for lower ratios to be helpful. If you are concerned about class size, the Montessori approach offers a robust solution.

 

The Montessori Advantage

Teacher time is a limited resource in a traditional classroom, as a great deal of time is spent instructing the class as a whole. In a Montessori classroom, teachers rarely address the entire class for a single lesson. Since Montessori classrooms include children of multiple ages at varying stages of development, teachers frequently work with small groups of students. This approach to teaching frees up teacher time and enables more intimate interactions throughout the classroom. Small groups or pairs receive lessons tailored to their degree of readiness. Students are also free to work independently, in pairs or small groups within the “prepared environment” where a wide variety of work is available to choose from and mentorship abounds.

Having two or more teachers within a Montessori classroom provides flexibility for students. Those requiring more time or assistance will receive it, while students who are ready to move forward in one area can do so without hindrance. Further, stability and consistency is assured within the classroom when students have the benefit of multiple teachers. The rhythm of the classroom is not disturbed if one teacher happens to be away, and the natural flow of activity carries on uninterrupted.

 

The Kendalwood Approach

We agree that class size matters and structure our classrooms in a manner which provides students with plenty of access to their teachers, along with the added benefit of inspired mentorship and peer to peer learning opportunities. Classrooms are always prepared to meet a sufficient range of personalities in order to develop healthy social skills, which is a key principle in Montessori philosophy.

Are you interested in seeing a Montessori classroom in action? We welcome parents from Whitby and the Greater Durham Region to visit our campus during the instructional day to learn what a Kendalwood Montessori education can do for your child. Please contact us to book a tour.

 

Developing Writing Skills – A Distinct Montessori Process

Sophia working with the Sandpaper Letters

Sophia working with the Sandpaper Letters

The Montessori child works through many stages in the pursuit of learning to write. Writing skills are separate and distinct from reading or language development in Montessori education. A specific set of materials are involved in learning to write, primarily Metal Insets, Sandpaper Letters, and the Storybook Alphabet.

A child will start to learn the sounds of the letters using Sandpaper Letters. This material is made up of sand glued to cardboard in the shape of the sounds of the alphabet. The material is both sensorial and tactile, encouraging the child to learn through touch. Sandpaper Letters are lightly traced with two fingers to promote muscle memory of the written letter for later movement of pencil on paper. Letter sounds are used instead of letter names to prepare for reading.

 

Tyler working with the Storybook Alphabet

Tyler working with the StoryBook Alphabet

Once a few sounds are taught, the Storybook Alphabet is presented. Sounds that the child has been working on are presented again in a sequence that makes sense – for instance “c – a – t”.  While learning which sounds work together, preparations are being made for grammar and vocabulary work. Though separation of consonant and vowel is made within the materials by colour, little attention is drawn to the differences at this stage. The preliminary work is being categorized by the child’s mind naturally.

You will have noticed that although the child has worked with two materials in the preparation for writing with the Sandpaper Letters and the Storybook Alphabet, he has not yet put pencil to paper to form these sounds.  This part of the process begins with Metal Insets; metallic geometric shapes that are traced in one colour, while curved lines of varying width are traced inside, in a second colour, from left to right. This material builds control, fine motor movements, and muscle memory learning to write from left to right.

 

Norah working with the Metal Inset

Norah working with the Metal Inset

It is only once all three of these different materials are working in tandem and the child is comfortable with several sounds, can control the pencil when completing a metal inset, and can build sounds into words, that the child is then given a pencil and paper to begin writing.  At this point, forming the letters on paper seems natural and practiced, even though it may be the very first time the child has ever written.

Developing writing skills is an intricate process for students and takes time. Montessori materials help children make the necessary connections and build the skills required to achieve proficiency with confidence at their own pace.

Kendalwood Montessori – A Caring Community

Kendalwood is much more than just a school; we strive to be a community that nurtures children and supports families. Our community approach helps students feel confident as they stretch themselves in new ways, knowing that their Kendalwood family is there to provide guidance as intellectual abilities and self-esteem are developed simultaneously.

Everyday Involvement

We have always fostered a transparent classroom environment and parents are welcomed to be a part of our everyday school activities or join in for events as they are able. Parent involvement extends the “village” which supports the development of students and provides an opportunity to develop a connected network amongst Kendalwood families.

Parent Connection

Kendalwood Parent Meet-Ups are offered regularly in an effort to provide parents with Montessori insights, parenting discussion, and other topics of interest. These evening are hosted by our Principal, Janis Koenders and Head of Elementary, Nicole Tal. Recent topics have included Technology in a Montessori environment, Anxiety & the Developing Child, and The Kendalwood Music and AIM French Program.

Community Happenings

Special family events are a wonderful way for the entire Kendalwood community to come together. Our Grandparent Tea, Holiday Social and Ice Skating Party are anticipated by families each year. Kendalwood Alumni families often join in!

Parents, friends and extended family members stop in to the Kendalwood Café for coffee and snacks hosted by Kendalwood Elementary students every few weeks. The Café has been a lovely addition to our calendar of events which we all look forward to – the camaraderie felt in the Café is unmistakable! It is also a great way for our older students to practice important life skills which they greatly enjoy. Their hard work will culminate In April as the funds raised support the Upper Elementary camping expedition to Camp Muskoka. We’ll have several parents joining us for the trip!

Being Part of a Community.

Our expectations of students are not only academic. The whole child approach to education requires focus on all developmental areas, including social and emotional. A Montessori environment is an ideal setting to foster the skills necessary to become an active community member. The Kendalwood community is abundant in mutual respect, shared curiosity and an affinity for mentorship amongst students and teachers. This sense of community remains with students as they grow and make their own way as young adults, creating a strong foundation for personal success.

 

How DNA Impacts Your Child’s Education

We are all familiar with the term DNA – it helps explain why your child has her father’s eyes or her grandmother’s aptitude for the piano. If you have young children, there is another lesser known definition for this familiar acronym.

Toddler_Classroom_DSC1800The Day Nurseries Act (DNA) is the legislation that governs licensed child care in Ontario. This legislation puts standards in place to ensure quality in child care settings including private-home day cares and child care centres. The Day Nurseries Act addresses issues such as staff to student ratios, playground space, health and safety and much more. The Ministry of Education regularly conducts inspections of licensed child care centres and private-home day cares to ensure that licensing requirements are being met.

Is My Childcare Provider Licensed?
Childcare centers that were in operation prior to the Day Nurseries Act coming into effect are exempt from licensing requirements, as are centers that operate in a religious building, leaving many parents unsure of licensing status.

Recently, the Ontario government introduced a new bill addressing this gap. Bill 10 – The Child Care Modernization Act has removed previous exemptions and all childcare centers are required to meet licensing requirements. This means that many child care providers are now required to adjust their practices to meet a higher standard.

Kendalwood Montessori is licensed under the Day Nurseries Act for our Toddler and PreCasa programs. We have been fully licensed since moving to our current location in 2000.  In addition, Kendalwood is the only Montessori School in Durham Region that is both accredited by the Canadian Council of Montessori Administrators and licensed under the Day Nurseries Act, having achieved CCMA accreditation in 2011.

Licensing under the Day Nurseries Act is a signal of quality that parents and children deserve. Kendalwood has always been committed to providing the very best learning environment for our students and our well established Day Nurseries Act license is just one of the authentications parents can rely on when choosing Kendalwood.

We encourage all parents considering a child care provider to become familiar with the Day Nurseries Act and ensure the selection process includes licensing. As Bill 10 and The Child Care Modernization Act take full effect later this year, ensure you ask the right questions to gain insight into the provider’s history with licensing and commitment to upholding the required standards – quality in child care matters.

 Cover Photo Courtesy Rolands Lakis

What is Montessori?

One of the most powerful aspects of Montessori education is witnessing the power of a child’s natural inclination to learn and absorb their environment. When provided with a well thought-out environment, natural inquisitiveness and desire to learn motivates children to explore and soak up information. In this kind of prepared environment, students are enabled to work independently and at their own pace.

shane builds the pink towerOne of the tools Montessori children are given from a very early age is a method to create their own workspace within the classroom. Toddler, Pre-Casa and Casa students define their work area using a small mat, which is unrolled and placed carefully on the floor. Once the workstation is prepared, the child can select materials to work with, which are brought to the workstation. The classroom expectation is very clear that individual workstations are to be respected by others working in the room, which is treated quite earnestly. This is a wonderful example of the “freedom within limits” tenet practiced by authentic Montessori schools.

Education cannot be effective unless it helps a child to open up himself to life.

– Maria Montessori

The above example illustrates the importance of the prepared environment. In order to give students the freedom to make their own choices, they need to be provided with a precise selection of suitable materials in the classroom. When constructed properly, children are able to have more influence into their own activity cycles, starting and stopping or moving on to a new set of work according to their own appetite as they master each subject within the curriculum. Similarly, students also have the alternative of changing subject matter more quickly or moving through materials at a faster pace than another child who is more engrossed or simply taking their time to further explore a topic.

In a more traditional classroom setting, students are managed by a timetable to which they must strictly adhere, even when that means stopping just when enthusiasm for a topic may be reaching its peak, or moving on before students have grasped the subject matter.

The Beauty of Montessori

Freedom within limits” provides the flexibility for each child to have their unique needs met, while ensuring that the entire curriculum is well represented and accessed within an adequate timeline.  This is the beauty of Montessori.

Within the Montessori classroom, curriculum develops along with each child – ahead in one area, behind in another – we work with the child at their level in each area of the curriculum. For students requiring additional time or support in any given area, they have the opportunity to slow down and take the necessary steps to ensure understanding. This could mean slowing down a single lesson or a series of lessons over a period of days or even weeks.  In a traditional classroom, teachers are largely unable to accommodate students who need more time to reach understanding, or those who are quickly ready to move on.

casa_newSelf-regulation skills flourish as students have such a wide variety of opportunities to practice these skills within the structure of the classroom. Confidence builds as students take an active role in their own learning and teachers assume the role of careful observer reserving “Centre Stage” for students.

When learning is planned and implemented according to the time honoured and proven Montessori methodology, children are naturally incented to learn. Education is so much more that the transmission of knowledge and it is within the process of student discovery and action that true knowledge emerges. It is truly our privilege to witness the development of our students each day.