At MCH, community begins in the classroom. Part of this stems from the Montessori teaching philosophy itself. By treating each child as a valuable member of the group, we promote respect among the students and between the students and the teachers. Children also develop an appreciation for their classroom and peers by participating in everyday Practical Life activities such as sweeping, cleaning tables, and helping to prepare snack.
Mixed-age classrooms also contribute to our school’s cooperative spirit. In our preschool rooms, children from three to five years old develop friendships based on mutual interests rather than just age. This traditional Montessori set-up gives older students an opportunity to gain leadership skills by aiding their younger peers. Furthermore, younger students benefit from the direct guidance of the elder students and can observe these students model kind, courteous behavior in a classroom setting.
Family is an integral part of the classroom community at MCH as well. In-class drop-offs and pick-ups give parents and guardians a chance to briefly check in with each child’s teacher on a daily basis. This face-to-face time builds strong parent-teacher relationships. It also reinforces the connection between the home environment and the school setting that is so vital to our school’s nurturing atmosphere.
At MCH, our central office and lobby space are fundamental to our school’s vitality. Here, students can greet administrators and classmates as they begin the school day. Parents can receive news, find information about the school and its teaching philosophies, and view student artwork. Monthly coffee hours in the lobby also provide an opportunity for parents and guardians to meet and get to know each other in a casual setting.
Another one of MCH’s most dynamic and community-building spaces is our outdoor environment. Fenced, carefully prepared areas in both the front and back of the school provide opportunities for students to meet, collaborate, and play. Not only does our back outdoor space contain a variety of different environments, but it also plays a crucial role in developing a school wide sense of community. This is because each day, weather permitting, students from all four of our classrooms can come together in this large and varied space.
In spring, children use this area to prepare garden beds, plant flowers and vegetables, and witness the changing season. In summer, our students continue to tend to their plants while also engaging in activities such as water pumping, tricycling, hula hooping, and sand box play. Fall brings the children the chance to observe the end of the growing season and rake leaves, and winter delivers snow shoveling and even some sledding on our gentle hill. No matter the season, our outdoor space provides a chance for our students to learn and practice respectful relationships with each other and their environment.
We here at MCH take pride in our Madison, Wisconsin, location. As a result, we strive to do more than just live in our local community; we strive to engage in it as well. Occasional field trips to local farms and our annual fall campout remind our students that their school exists as part of a greater social organization. Summer program activities such as visits to the local pool also engage our students beyond the walls of the classroom.
MCH’s commitment to our Madison community doesn’t end there. Both of our school’s directors, Jim and Laura, are proud to have completed the Servant Leadership Certificate program offered through the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This program helps to hone the essential traits of a Servant Leader, including empathy, stewardship, and commitment to the growth of people. These are also principles that our teachers and administrators practice each day, both in and out of the classroom.
MCH is also devoted to the betterment of our community through the education of a new generation of teachers. Both our lead teacher Caitlin and our co-lead teacher Elena have received assistance through the Amber and Neveah Weigel Continuing Education Fund in order to become credentialed Montessori educators. This fund, established in 2009, is largely supported through voluntary parent donations, and demonstrates how committed our school and our parents are to finding, training, and keeping talent from our local community.
The idea of a global community is also important at MCH. The first way we demonstrate our commitment to this concept is by working to support another Montessori school, 3 Mariposas Montessori (3MM), located in the Dominican Republic. 3MM’s bilingual program is offered in one of the most impoverished communities along the country’s north coast, and seventy percent of its students attend on full scholarship.
We at MCH also strive to develop our students’ understanding of a global community through our Around the World afternoon program. Developed by our Afternoon Program Director Havva, this program allows students to study and learn about other countries while also experiencing different aspects of these countries’ cultures. Parents are often involved in this program as well. For instance, they might volunteer to bring in traditional clothing from the family’s country of origin or work with the students to bake a traditional bread.
Because our afternoon classes usually study each region for a period of three to four weeks, our students are really able to delve deeply into different areas of the globe. We begin by finding each country on the map and then coloring its flag. Subsequent activities depend on the region, and often include examining books, listening to music, and completing art projects. Food is another big part of our Around the World program; students might grind spices for masala chai during a unit on India, or make fried mekitsi bread and homemade yogurt during a unit on Bulgaria. All in all, these activities help to foster the sense of global awareness and community that we at MCH work so hard to build in our classrooms.