“Free the child’s potential and you will transform him into the world.” ~Maria Montessori
The North Shore Montessori School Stepping Stones program offers a carefully planned classroom environment that enables young minds to take the first steps toward transitioning from home to school while developing “a joy of learning.” The Stepping Stones program provides the social and academic tools necessary for a child’s successful and positive transition to our Children’s House program.
A child’s second birthday marks a critical milestone in early childhood development: a time when toddlers start to crave independence and become increasingly curious and eager to learn about the world around them. The Stepping Stones program allows this natural curiosity to be explored in a safe and supportive environment which nurtures intellectual, social and emotional growth.
The first few days, children and parents are gently transitioned from the home environment to our school environment during our Phase In program. This important transition period, allows teachers and families to work collaboratively to ensure that each child’s first exposure to school is positive and joyful.
A CAREFULLY PLANNED ENVIRONMENT
The intentional design of our Montessori classrooms builds trust in the community, develops a sense of order and routine, allows for freedom of movement, encourages socialization and provides our youngest learners with a peaceful and safe learning environment.
Curriculum areas represented in this design include:
• Practical Life: This is the heart of the Stepping Stones program and allows toddlers to connect common household materials or “toys” to their classroom environment. These work materials include a kitchen, baby station, table setting area, scooping, pouring, and cleaning materials. It is here that our children gain control of their environment, build confidence and independence, develop a sense of grace and courtesy and begin to exercise their gross and fine motor skills.
• Reading Area: This area of the classroom offers children a quiet place to rest and enjoy a wonderful book whether by their teacher’s side, confidently on their own or even in the company of a friend. It is here that the spark which ignites reading is lit and fanned to encourage and motivate young readers.
• Art & Block Areas allow for creative expression by allowing toddlers the freedom to design and create without boundaries. The art area of the classroom allows for a full immersion sensory experience by offering children the opportunity to use materials such as paints, charcoal, clay, water color, tissue paper, and more to bring their imagination to life. While the block area utilizes high quality wood blocks to allow students the opportunity to apply principles such as cause and effect as well as build spatial awareness while working with three dimensional objects.
• Sensory/ Math Curriculum Areas allow our toddlers to begin to explore the concept of math through a sensory experience. This is accomplished with the use of sandpaper numbers, geometric solids, and red rods in order to allow the toddler to internalize what the concept of big/ small, 2 dimensional/ 3 dimensional, and gradation of numbers looks and feels like while identifying each digit ultimately leading to higher level mathematical functions.
• Science Area allows toddlers to interact with their environment in a very hands on approach by caring for the fish in their tank, planting and growing flowers, and taking nature walks, while exploring the world around them both indoors and outside. All the while, they are given the opportunity under the guidance of their teacher to make observations, foster predictions, and reflect on the results of their endeavors.
In the Montessori classroom, the materials children utilize in order to foster learning are called the child’s work. Value is given to the hard work, effort, and concentration needed for a young child to complete a task from start to finish whether it has one step or multiple steps. Materials are purposefully and beautifully placed on the shelves such that they are reachable to the students and can be observed from their height. Therefore, all the materials within the classroom environment are properly sized to align with that of a toddler. Thus fostering independence for the child.
There are a core group of Montessori work materials such as the Pink Tower or Brown Stairs that are always available to the children in the classroom. These materials support a child’s inherent need for order as well as his or her need to repeat an activity until mastery occurs. However, there are also materials which are exchanged out of the classroom environment for new or more challenging work in order to meet the needs of the class as a whole or that of specific children within the community of learners. An example, would be in the fall, practical life materials will focus on gross motor movement whereas not long after the New Year, these materials will focus on fine motor development.
Through individual, paired and group instruction, toddlers are encouraged to explore new horizons using their senses: touch, taste, sound, sight, smell and feel. At this early developmental stage, children have an intrinsic need to accomplish tasks for themselves. North Shore Montessori School supports this need by allowing children the gift of time to fully complete tasks at their own pace, thus encouraging greater self-confidence, as well as early mastery of language and social skills.
The Stepping Stones classroom allows our students the freedom to make choices within the structure of the classroom environment. This gives them the ability to discover and learn in their own time, at their own pace, under the guidance of a nurturing, caring, experienced and highly trained Montessori teacher. The intentional order and structure provided within the classroom along with this freedom to choose and explore at their own pace is a valuable tool for children in developing their own sense of time management, motivation for learning, learning style, and a sense of community within the classroom. During this process, teachers carefully observe the child’s social and academic growth in order to properly guide, monitor, and assess each student’s individual accomplishments and extend that learning further with each interaction.
By nature, toddlers are self-centered and require guidance and support when moving from individual play or work experiences to paired or group experiences. Toddlers will typically parallel play next to or near each other, but typically have little collaborative play experiences until an adult models the language and behavior needed for a successful interactions multiple times. North Shore Montessori School fosters these early social development experiences by observing for natural opportunities of social interaction within the classroom environment that allow the teacher to model for children how to listen to others when they are speaking and truly hear their words, to follow directions, to wait their turn, and to increase attention span in a collaborative, community-oriented environment. Typical group activities that promote this transition from parallel to partner play or work include:
• Creative Movement (Gym)
• Circle Time
• Story Time
• Snack time
Grace and courtesy is demonstrated through the teaching of “empathetic” behavior, as young children need to learn how their actions may affect others within their group. Roll playing and imaginary scenes are often used to demonstrate how one person’s actions can impact the feelings and emotions of others. This early educational experience plants the seeds for the development of teamwork and leadership skills while promoting courtesy, kindness, and respect within the school community.
North Shore Montessori School is committed to nurturing, guiding and motivating our students to be confident, independent thinkers by providing our students and families with carefully planned learning environments, authentic Montessori teaching materials, and the community activities both inside and outside the classroom that when combined provide our children with incredible life skills. Life skills that allow our children to solve problems, think outside the box, ask why, give back to the community and most importantly ignite a flame for learning that will not be extinguished.
The North Shore Montessori Children’s House offers hands-on learning experiences that promote early academic success for our 3 to 6 year old students by stimulating a child’s cognitive, social, and emotional development as well as their love of learning. The Children’s House expands the foundation of Stepping Stones program by bringing our students together in a mixed age environment which provides greater opportunities for students to teach themselves, learn from one another, and assume roles as collaborators and mentors -- helping to create leaders of tomorrow. With small staff to student ratios as determined by NYS regulations, specialized attention can be given to each pupil, enabling our attentive and highly-skilled teachers to accelerate learning, leadership, and social development.
The Children’s House program provides North Shore Montessori students with the opportunity to work and play within a learning environment that follows the needs and interests of the children. The child’s natural curiosity and hunger to learn allows the teacher to develop the academic and social curriculum based on what motivates the class as well as what motivates the individual child within the community of learners. As the students gain momentum and motivation in their learning process, they are challenged to extend their newly acquired knowledge and skills to a higher level.
Our academic program includes the major curriculum areas of Language Arts, Math, Science, and Geography while enriching our students with non-traditional curriculum such as Sensorial, Practical Life, and Grace and Courtesy. It is our belief at North Shore Montessori School that while important, academics is just one piece of the development of a successful student. Therefore, our students also receive a rich education in Physical Education, Music and Art while in this program. During the first two years of Children's House, the educational materials focus on developing order, coordination, concentration to detail, and independent work habits. These first two years, are the foundation that provides the fundamental building blocks for the accelerated learning that occurs during the full-day Kindergarten.
Once a child enters a Children’s House, they remain in that classroom for three years. This allows the child to develop a true sense of belonging within the classroom environment, enables strong friendships to be built and ultimately permits continuity in educational advancement by maintaining a consistent teaching presence for all three years. This unique opportunity allows children to develop a relationship with their teacher which in turn allows the teacher to continue the learning process from one year to the next by scaffolding the curriculum to meet the child’s needs year after year. There is no time wasted on getting to know a new teacher or building community or assessment of a child’s individual strengths and weaknesses. The second year a child enters the program, the teacher picks up with the child exactly where they left off in the previous year. This multi-year progression also provides an extended time frame for students to master core academic skills, and allows older students to consolidate their knowledge and then use these skills to teach and mentor their younger classmates.
A peer-based teaching approach naturally occurs due to the mixed age groups of the Montessori program. This approach enables every child who attends the Children’s House to experience the social and academic environment from multiple perspectives such that a sibling in a family would: first as the youngest child in the classroom being mentored by older students and finally as the older child in the classroom acting as a mentor for the younger children. This progression allows students to see where the curriculum is going through the modeling of peers while allowing them the opportunity to master the skills they worked so hard to develop over the three years. Experiencing this academic process from differing viewpoints also enables students to learn how to work together and how to accept each person as a unique individual with differing strengths and potentials thus creating a sense of family.
EDUCATION THAT “FOLLOWS THE CHILD”
A North Shore Montessori School education “follows the child” in a carefully prepared environment designed to engage, encourage and motivate the child to ask “why?” This hunger and drive to seek knowledge allows the teacher to enhance the curriculum to meet both the learning communities’ interests as a whole as well as the interests of the individual students within that community.
This flexible teaching style empowers students to become creative thinkers who are free to think independently, take intelligent risks, and freely exchange differing points of view. At North Shore Montessori School, we illicit responses instead of giving answers, as children who are guided toward understanding and problem-solving without being given the answers become better prepared to think "out-of -the-box." It is the intent of the teacher to bring children to the brink of their next learning explosion while protecting them from experiencing frustration.
While students are given choices and flexibility in their learning, these choices are provided in a very intentional and structured way. At North Shore Montessori, we offer students choice within structure. Most typically is demonstrated by presenting a student with two acceptable choices and allowing the child to choose the option that best meets their wants or needs. This provides the child with a sense of control over their learning environment, avoids frustration and provides opportunities for acceptable boundaries to be set.
A RESPECTFUL COMMUNITY A Montessori education supports cooperation, teamwork, and the development of stronger friendships among peers. Grace and courtesy are key components to the philosophy, as students are encouraged to be thoughtful and engage with others in a respectful and compassionate manner. Children who remain at North Shore Montessori through Kindergarten get the full benefit of this experience, as the true measure of successful learning is the ability to teach a learned skill to another: offering a true mentoring experience that reinforces compassion, collaboration, and mastery of the material.
Children learn through their senses, they “learn by doing,” by exploring, through trial and error, by making mistakes and by problem-solving. This dynamic learning process is supported by high quality, self-correcting, hands-on materials that are specifically designed to promote a student’s independence, self-confidence, and depth of knowledge through tactile/ sensory experiences.
Children are encouraged to learn through the learning style that best fits their developmental needs while gaining exposure to other styles in the same environment-- whether that be visual, auditory, or kinesthetic. Most students use a combination of the three learning styles, however, early on there is typically a clear preference for one. Knowing and understanding these learning styles is important for students of any age. With the support and assistance of their teacher, these learning styles are explored in the sensorial curriculum so that the student is able to practice and understand how utilizing other learning styles can support and advance his or her learning.
PRACTICAL LIFE The Practical Life area contains attractively displayed objects that are often familiar to the child. These objects are inspired by the tasks of daily living such as eating, dressing and cleaning thus teaching the child care of self and the environment. It is the foundation for all the other areas of the curriculum. This area includes indirect lessons in the organization of one’s work space, proceeding in a task from left to right (directionality of reading), and the cycle of work needed for self-direction (selection of work, completion of task, and return to readiness for the next person). Practical life activities typically include mixing, pouring, scooping, cutting, buttoning, and other related experiences. Grace and courtesy toward others is integrated into the Practical life curriculum, as teachers spend time throughout the year focusing on social graces such as washing hands before eating, sneezing into your elbow, as well as various stages of conflict resolution. The essential goal of this area of the curriculum is to allow students the opportunity to develop coordination, order, concentration, work habits, self-control, a sense of community, responsibility and greater independence.
SENSORIAL MATERIALS Maria Montessori believed that the senses were the doorways to the mind. She believed that the senses were the starting point for all intellectual growth. Sensorial materials teach students about defining qualities, and discrimination of size and dimensions, colors, textures, odors, tastes, pitches, geometric forms and much more. Children learn how to distinguish differences and use quantitative terms, for example: large/small, rough/smooth. This area of the curriculum lays the foundation for mathematical thinking by allowing the mind to judge, compare, classify and draw conclusions. Sensorial materials allow the mind to develop a true understanding of abstraction.
MATH Montessori math materials provide concrete, hands-on exploration of number concepts, numerals, quantities, counting, and introduction to the decimal system, mathematical operations, fractions, clocks and measurement. The goal of the mathematics curriculum is to lay the concrete foundation in order to foster understanding of mathematical concepts in order to allow for abstract thinking in the future. This is accomplished by utilizing materials that allow these concepts to be broken down into individual steps thus allowing for a deeper understanding of content and application.
LANGUAGE ARTS Pre- and early reading and writing skills are supported through a variety of materials such as sand paper letters, shapes for tracing, matching activities associated with letter sounds, letter blending, and sequencing. Children are read to in large and small groups, as well as individually. As children progress, they develop the ability to retell stories, understand plot, elaborate ideas, generate stories and rhymes, and make comparisons.
SCIENCE Science helps to build and foster a natural curiosity within the child. Science allows children the opportunity to hypothesize and make predictions. In the Children’s House, our students explore the science curriculum by learning about the life cycle through plants and animals, drifting off into space with the solar system and gaining a basic understanding for the human body. Nature is brought inside via incubators and plant life while allowing for many opportunities for outdoor discovery as well.
GEOGRAPHY The geography curriculum is divided into physical and cultural geography. In physical geography, the year begins with the study of land, air, and water, then progresses to continent identification. Children discover and explore the physical world before being introduced to the cultural world through the study of countries, which are explored from the perspective of a tourist who would be examining clothing, traditions, music, and other unique cultural phenomenon.