Maria Montessori, MD
The River Valley Charter School educational program is based on the Montessori philosophy and methodology. Dr. Maria Montessori, the first female physician in Italy, began working with children in the early part of the century. At the request of local councilmen, she opened a childcare facility in the tenements of Rome where children were not being supervised as a result of their parents need to work. She agreed to get involved with this venture as long as she could determine how best to work with the children. In 1906, Casa de Bambini (House of Children) was opened.
Dr. Montessori continued with her medical practice, but she observed daily at the childcare facility. Through her observations, she realized children learn on their own, and that adults need to provide the environment and materials to assist in the process. Dr. Montessori began to develop materials for the children to work with as she trained her staff as guides for the children. It was not long before very young children were reading, and many people around the world were taking note of this great accomplishment. Casa de Bambini observers would ask Dr. Montessori how she had taught these young children to read and she would say, "Do not look at me, look at the children," for it is in the children where all elements of intelligence lie in wait for the adult to allow the learning to occur.
Montessori in the United States
President Woodrow Wilson was one of many leaders who expressed interest in Montessori education. In fact, President Wilson sent a representative to Rome to observe and meet with Dr. Montessori, who was subsequently invited to the United States with the intent to bring Montessori education to public schools. Unfortunately, the war began and Montessori education was put on a back burner. It was not until 1960 that the first Montessori school, The Whitby School, opened in Greenwich, Connecticut. Since that time, Montessori schools have grown throughout the country, primarily in the private sector but increasingly as a public educational option.
Individualized Curriculum and Instruction
Classes and class work are structured so that teachers can deliver individual and small group instruction. This maximizes the curriculum options available to students, insures that they receive instruction appropriate to their abilities, and challenges them to reach higher.
Students learn in multi-age classrooms spanning from 2-3 years. Elementary 1 classrooms are home to first, second, and third grade students. Elementary 2 classrooms are home to fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students. The River Valley Charter middle school combines grade seven and eight. Students stay in the classroom, "looping" with the same teachers for multiple years. In addition to providing leadership opportunities, multi age classrooms allow teachers and students to engage in learning from the very first day of school as time isn't wasted identifying where children are academically.
Long Work Periods
Whole-class instruction is minimal, with lessons being given to individuals or in small groups. Students spend long blocks of time on work, thus enabling students to explore a topic or material thoroughly.
Montessori materials offer concrete representation of abstract concepts and help children develop multiples levels of understanding. Manipulatives are self-correcting, reinforce autonomy, inspire confidence and foster independence.
Students go beyond memorization and repetition to true understanding and application of knowledge, skills, and concepts. The individual student progresses at his or her own rate, either moving ahead without having to wait for the rest of the group, or taking the time he or she needs to internalize the material.
Classrooms are arranged in study centers, with clusters of student-sized tables and open areas for floor work. Each study center is surrounded by shelves of books and materials pertaining to a particular area such as language arts, mathematics, history, or geography. Students are allowed to move about the classroom and choose resources, working individually or in small groups.
Observers are welcome at River Valley Charter School. If you would like to observe in one of our classrooms, please call the school office at 978-465-0065.