At King’s Town School, we offer a Montessori preschool Casa program for children who are between the ages of two and a half to six years of age. This is a three-year program where children enter when they are two or three years of age and toilet trained. The students remain in the program for three years and depart when ready to enter grade one.
At KTS the Montessori preschool is the foundation of the school community and a community within itself. The three-year age range creates a mini-community where younger children watch and learn from older ones, and older children gain a sense of confidence and responsibility for their classroom and classmates.
A RESPECTFUL PLACE
The foundation in our Montessori classroom is respect; respect for the child, respect for the classroom and the things in it, and respect for the fellow classmate. The Directress in the classroom models respect and the children gain a sense of ownership of their classroom. They want to take care of it, they leave each activity ready for the next person and they are proud of the space that is their learning environment.
A PLACE FOR CHILDREN TO BE INDEPENDENT
All of the materials in the classroom are child-sized so that they are accessible to the children. The shelves are low, the artwork is placed on the wall at the eye level of the child and the tables and chairs are suitable for the age range of children present. There is only one of everything, so children can be shown how to do an activity by the Directress and then they can choose to repeat it when it is available to them. Having chosen what they want to do, children can engage in an activity for as long as they see fit, exploring the nuances of that work. The materials in the classroom are self-correcting so that a teacher does not need to be present in order for a child to be successful. Children will discover when they have made a mistake and then independently try to solve the problem on their own.
A PREPARED ENVIRONMENT
The Montessori classroom is like no other. The classroom is prepared so that it suits the specific needs of the developing child. The Montessori Directress introduces the children to activities as and when they are ready, by showing them what to do rather than telling them what to do. At this age, children learn more from what adults do rather than from what they say.
Materials are delicate and breakable. The classroom is filled with beauty for the child to behold. By handling these materials, children will learn how to carry glass jugs of water, manipulate sharp objects like scissors for cutting paper and small knives for cutting food, sweep dry and wet spills and care for their surroundings. They learn how to be independent and capable contributors because of the materials available to them.
A PLACE WHERE CHARACTER FORMS
When first entering the Casa classroom, children have the opportunity to watch presentations from the Directress that appeal to their need to gain control over their bodies. These activities are everyday life skills that enable a child to not only look after themselves, but also their direct environment. Children are shown how to do up buttons, tie bows, pour water, prepare food, fold clothes, wash tables, iron cloths and wash dishes. It is through doing this work that a child’s hands learn how to work productively and a child’s brain learns logical thought sequencing. The child then gains the ability to concentrate and persevere. The child becomes confident and responsible. In turn, the child gains an understanding that they can try anything they want to do – they can learn to do math, they can learn to read and write. A child who knows how to persevere and is in control of his/her body can try just about anything.
BEAUTY AND ORDER
The Montessori classroom is filled with beautiful materials that were initially designed by Maria Montessori. These materials are bright, colour-coded, mathematically graded, aesthetically pleasing and properly sized for a small child’s hands. Each area of the classroom (Practical Life, Sensorial, Math, Language and Culture) allows the child to explore the nuances and characteristics of the world at large. The child is able to compare, contrast, sort and discriminate between a variety of objects in the classroom. By sorting, organizing and classifying, the child is obtaining hands-on experiences with concrete materials. From here the child is able to extrapolate and access abstract ideas such as the decimal system and the phonetic code of language.
WHERE THE CHILD IS ACTIVE AND ENGAGED
The Montessori classroom is specifically designed for the needs of the child. The children are shown how to do an activity when by careful observation, the Directress sees fit. When a child chooses an activity to do that he/she has been initially shown by the Directress, the child is then given time to work with that material for as long as he/she chooses. The Montessori Directress and Assistants, then observe the child to see how often they choose the work, how they manage with it and when they may be ready to move on to the next step. The observations of the Montessori staff are used to decide what to offer the child next and how to help the child progress. When connecting the child to the Montessori materials, the Directress is lively, quiet and enticing, but once the child becomes engaged with the materials, then she is passive and observant.