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The Montessori School Scene

What is a Montessori School? Understand the options and get a list of local schools. Plus: Montessori trends 2015

Montessori Education Week is Feb. 22-28. Learn how to decode the differences among the area’s many schools affiliated with and influenced by the venerable method.

Montessori Trends 2015

Increased accountability: Because Montessori schools are non-graded environments, parents are informed of their children’s progress in ways other than traditional test scores and report cards. Instructional plans and teacher feedback demonstrate proficiency without straying from Montessori philosophy.

STEM programming: An expansion of hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) learning at area Montessori schools include programs like Lego League, where students program robotic Legos; Cubelets, in which they create their own robot; and Bricks4kidz, hour-long classes exploring architecture, engineering and technology with Lego bricks.

Technology expansion: “Because Montessori schools are a hands-on environment, the question is: At what appropriate age do we start teaching technology?” asks Janette Henry, head of school at Hockessin Montessori School in Wilmington, DE. To make tech adoption more interactive and less passive, schools like Hockessin are equipping classrooms with iPads and smart boards as well as adding computer programming to the curriculum.

More than a century old, the Montessori educational method appeals to parents looking for quality early education and a creative outlet for their young students. Montessori schools offer a hands-on approach to independent learning in mixed-age classrooms, allowing students to choose their activities from a prescribed range of options and discover concepts on their own, rather than through direct instruction.

The Delaware Valley is particularly rife with well-established Montessori schools. But as each one has its own designation and programming, it’s helpful for parents to understand how it fits within the wider Montessori universe.

Association Montessori Internationale (AMI): This international body oversees the Montessori ethos as well as teacher training around the world. AMI-accredited schools employ Montessori-accredited teachers in 100 percent of its classrooms.

American Montessori Society (AMS): This national nonprofit promotes Montessori education and teacher training throughout the United States, offering affiliated schools the following three levels of membership.

  • Level 1 — Full Membership: Lead teachers in all classrooms are accredited by one or more Montessori-affiliated education programs, including the International Montessori Council (IMC), Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education (MACTE) and the National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector (NCME). After one year of full membership, a school is eligible to seek accreditation.
  • Level 2 — Associate Membership: Lead teachers in some classrooms are accredited by one or more Montessori-affiliated education programs.
  • Level 3 — Initiate Membership: Forming schools or schools new to the AMS work toward a full or associate membership over a three-year period.

AMS member services director Carla Hofland points to participation at all three membership levels as proof that affiliated schools are constantly striving to improve their educational mission. While AMS designations telegraph a commitment to the Montessori method, she advises parents to “Visit the schools in your area to best get a sense of where your child belongs.” Click below to find a list of Montessori schools in Pennsylvania, South Jersey and Delaware by membership level, including student age ranges and specific Montessori-based or special programming offered.

Pennsylvania Montessori Schools

South Jersey Montessori Schools

Delaware Montessori Schools

Information compiled by MetroKids intern Allison Kenney.

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