Whenever I get the opportunity, such as through travel, I always try to observe in a Montessori School. This is especially important when you live in an area that is rural and away from large population centers. Montessori education in our area is growing ~ big shout out to the Montessori School of Pullman, Children’s House (Lewiston), White Pine (Moscow) and Blue Willow (Moscow). However, it is still a thrill to visit a city like Portland, with a Montessori training college, and over forty Montessori schools! I chose to observe in Childpeace Montessori School because I visited this school on a tour during the Montessori International Congress in 2013 and wanted to see more. I was impressed with how cozy and inviting the school was, while also maintaining its very urban, hip vibe. Situated under elevated portions of the freeway, on the edge of the Pearl district, the school is surrounded by the roar of traffic and warehouses. The school itself may be in a converted warehouse. Externally it has a very industrial look. Once inside, though, the use of lots of natural materials, masses of plants, both large and small, huge windows at child level, and cozy seating options, transform the space into one that is intimate and child friendly. I observed in two toddler environments, two of the classrooms for 3 – 6 year olds, and one of the lower elementary classrooms.
There was so much I loved about this school. The schedule impressed me. For example, the children’s house shortest option was for a child to attend from 8:30 – 1:00, with an extended day being offered until 3:00. The long morning (8:30 – 1:00) means that it is easy to fit in a long, uninterrupted work time, a communal lunch time and playtime outdoors, without feeling rushed. The 1:00 – 3:00 afternoon provides time for the all day children to have another long work period. These long work periods allow the children to really settle into their self-chosen activities. That’s the atmosphere I felt – relaxed, settled, peaceful, unrushed. The atmosphere matched the name of the school – childpeace! Our school (The Montessori School of Pullman) has made changes this year to increase uninterrupted work time for the children, and I wish we could do more. An 8:30 – 1:00 schedule would be fabulous, but I worry that this might make Montessori less affordable for some families. I would love input from families and other schools on how they manage this.
A single blogpost can never capture all you see in a long morning of observations, so I am choosing to focus on ‘peace’. The school signals its commitment to peace in its name. That’s the atmosphere I experienced. I noticed that in the children’s houses and the lower elementary classrooms, there were noise-blocking headphones available for children to use whenever needed, and indeed, I saw children using these in all of the classrooms. The sound level in all of the rooms was quiet, but for total concentration, the headphones offered a nice option, and helped individual children find peace. In the lower elementary classroom, I loved their peace journal. Children and teachers could write down what they did or saw others do that contributed to the peace of the classroom. This is such a simple, active and kid friendly way to celebrate peace and acknowledge the peacemakers. The classroom also included a simple to follow guide to making peace, with step by step instructions for resolving conflicts.
I am excited to share the peace journal and making peace instruction booklet with the elementary teachers in our school. Being able to peacefully resolve conflict and live peacefully are some of the highest skills we can give our children!
Many thanks to Childpeace Montessori School for a wonderful visit.