“It is the spirit of the child that can determine the course of human progress and lead it perhaps even to a higher form of civilization.”
Dr Maria Montessori
Northside children are inspired to learn, to share, to create, to help, to try new things and to know more. In short, they are supported to be:
Children at Northside Montessori do not merely move from one year to another, passively receiving information like empty vessels waiting to be filled. Instead learning is active, personal, collaborative and exciting. Through the use of specially designed Montessori materials, with teachers who respect and understand each individual, and in classrooms that are rich in learning opportunities for self-discovery, our children go from ‘explorer to philosopher’.
Movement and cognition are closely linked with children interacting with the Montessori materials, and with each other, as they explore their world and create their understanding. As they experience the classroom and materials, they are building increasing levels of self-direction, knowledge and self-awareness. Our children know that learning is not limited to school hours and school terms, or just in their school classroom. Everywhere, there is an opportunity to grow and learn, and our children seek that out.
As they journey through their learning, ‘great lessons’ are introduced using stories and charts. These encourage the children to think ‘big thoughts’. Where did we all begin? How are all humans the same? How are we different? What role do I play in the classroom and ultimately in society?
Gratitude and respect are integral to this exploration and questioning. Through explicit teaching of grace and courtesy, peer teaching and mentoring, and through nurturing of a collaborative spirit in the classroom, students realise that they are linked to all around them. They are given opportunities to help others in the classroom and in the wider community. When they see a problem, Montessori children are empathetic and have the courage to try to solve that problem. As so many of our graduates have mentioned, many years after their time at Northside, a Montessori education is not merely about books and learning. ‘We learnt how to make friends and get along with different people of different ages.’ Another said, ‘We learnt how to learn. We learnt about ourselves – to be true to who we are.’
In Northside Montessori’s inclusive educational environment, students learn that each individual is valued, and deserves dignity. Our students share learning experiences which lead to tolerance and acceptance of each other, regardless of differences like gender, culture, race or ability. Our children look out for each other and embrace children of different backgrounds, intellects and abilities.
There are no ‘fences’ in our inclusive school; rather there is an open gate which welcomes and embraces diversity and difference.
Children are by nature intrinsically motivated and are driven by their desire to become independent and competent. This is at the core of the Montessori approach to learning.
Children like to make choices and explore concepts, largely on their own. In a Northside classroom, the sense of achievement and reward is in the attainment of knowledge and the mastery of skills. It is not reliant on teacher praise, merit-awards, grades or any other form of adult approval. External rewards that are used to create motivation, such as stickers and prizes do nothing to help make the child a confident and independent learner. We honour and support the intrinsic motivation of a child.
A key feature of Montessori education is the self-paced and individualised learning. Children at Northside Montessori are allowed to learn at their own pace, and in the way that best suits their learning styles. They select work that captures their interest and attention and the teacher introduces them to activities that will present new challenges and discoveries. This allows the child to learn without pressure and competition, and to develop a love of learning. They have the opportunity to learn deeply, to accelerate in key curriculum areas and also to slow down to consolidate knowledge and skills that pose greater challenges.
Of course, targets and benchmarks are set for the children, aligned to the Montessori pedagogy along with the traditional curriculum outcomes. Our teachers provide individual and small group learning opportunities, along with appropriate guidance and enticement in order to ensure the student covers all necessary skills and knowledge areas.
Northside promotes innovation and creativity in our students through our teaching methods. Each child’s strengths and interests are supported and they are provided the freedom to explore and take risks in their learning. Our approach is innovative, and supports ‘outside the box’ thinking, through mixed-age groupings that encourage collaboration and peer teaching. This is done by linking cognition, self-direction and movement and by presenting an integrated and expansive curriculum with specially designed Montessori materials.
Learning at our school is something to be enjoyed and shared – a springboard for more discoveries. Our children learn to understand their own learning. Our school is a place where mistakes, risk taking and experimentation are a noble and integral part of the learning process. Montessori alumni such as Sergey Brin and Larry Paige (founders of Google) credit these aspects of the Montessori approach with developing their innovative spirits.
No question is considered silly or pointless. By asking questions and taking risks, children are taking ownership for their learning. Learning becomes something that is active and personal – not simply something that is done to please a teacher. Our students are acknowledged for taking risks and being creative in their work. In Art for example, we don’t hold up an example for the children to copy. Instead we explain a technique and then allow the children to express that in a way that challenges them. The results are creative, brave and beautiful.
Children are encouraged to think creatively and to problem-solve together. We want them to develop an understanding and to make links with their learning and how this can be applied to the real world or new situations. Opportunities to do this happen every day in the classrooms. Through our creative arts programs like Music, Art, Dance and Drama, opportunities to apply out-of-the-box thinking is alive and well! We develop children who are independent thinkers – children who are not afraid to take risks with their ideas and talents.
Students are inspired to live both passionately and compassionately in a global community with a view of the world and all the possibilities within. Our children love coming to school every day. They are inspired to learn, to share, to create, to help, to try new things, to know more. The real test of an education is whether children can adapt to the next phase of their life and be happy in themselves and their abilities. This is our goal at Northside Montessori School. We want our students to ‘think bravely and deeply’. Our goal is for students to see the possibilities in front of them and to approach the future with excitement and optimism. Our graduates tell us of their ability to accept challenges, to take ownership of their learning, mix with diverse groups and to have a realistic knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses as they move into high school students and beyond. We want our students to have wings to fly – to find their passions in life and have the courage to pursue them. Our education allows that to happen.
Finding the wonders of the universe and seeing the interrelatedness of everything on earth are at the core of the internal development of the child. The scientist, the artist, the academic, the craftsman, the passionate discoverer and the explorer emerges from an understanding of how all things are connected and are interrelated. This is the true nature of learning.
The Montessori environment allows the child to explore areas that they may not be able to explore in other traditional school settings. They can choose to do extensive research on areas of interest, do highly complex mathematical problems or read a story for the very first time, after months of work. Whatever the case is, each child’s abilities are catered for and valued by everyone in the classroom environment and in the school at large. Their work is viewed by their peers and admired, whether it is the most brilliant piece of work in the world or the work that has required the most effort. Having a healthy self-esteem is important to a child’s future and this is fostered in a Montessori environment.
“It is true that we cannot make a genius. We can only give to each child the chance to fulfil his potential possibilities.” Dr Maria Montessori
An understanding of self emerges if the environment allows the child to be actively involved in his/her own development and learning. If a child is constantly told what to do, what to say, how to act, what to learn; then they are merely a puppet controlled by someone else, and they are unlikely to development an understanding of self or an understanding of their own learning style.
The Montessori child is encouraged to question and not be afraid. The child is encouraged to explore concepts and discuss issues with their peers and with their teacher. The materials have built-in controls of error so that the child can reflect on their work and find solutions as to why it was incorrect. They are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions. They learn how to work as a group and develop respect for people and their environment that they interact within. All of these factors contribute to an understanding of “self.”
“Making use of his own will in his contact with his environment, he (the child) develops his various facilities and thus becomes in a sense his own creator. We should regard this secret effort of the child as something sacred”. Dr Maria Montessori
“What is that?” and “Why?” It is such a pleasure to hear these questions that are a constant in a Montessori School. This is encouraged! Such questioning is characteristic of the young inquiring mind. It is indicative of a child who is seeking truth, information, and knowledge through questioning. Inquiry, at our school, is student-centred and directed, with the teacher supporting the thirst for knowledge and quest for understanding. The teacher is not the imparter of knowledge but rather the guide who encourages, entices and supports the child who is allowed to explore and select their topic of interest and learn about these freely, within a constructed environment with established parameters.