Our Kindergarten Program
At Battery Park Montessori, parents have the opportunity to keep their children with us for their kindergarten year. However, we do recognize the difficulty in making the decision of staying or attending kindergarten elsewhere. Although we recognize and support parents in whatever direction they do choose, we would like to share our thoughts on what makes kindergarten in a Montessori classroom so special:
Although each Montessori environment is special and unique, they do resemble one another with respect to how the environment is arranged. Every Montessori preschool classroom is divided into the five main Montessori subject areas: Practical Life, Sensorial Development, Language, Mathematics, and Culture & Sciences, and my classroom is no different. Additionally, there is usually an area set aside for artistic projects and outdoor area for play and further experiential learning.
The third year of the 3-6 year old Montessori cycle is often referred to as the culminating one: It is when our oldest children take everything they have learned in their toddler and preschool experiences and show mastery by teaching concepts and skills to their younger peers. These children become the “leaders” of the classroom and assume guiding roles, similar to that of a teacher. Through presentations and helping others, kindergarten students continue to build their independence and autonomy. They continue to develop such skills that may be missed in other educational settings and that will serve them well beyond our walls.
Yes, children who have gone through our programs will have an explosive cognitive burst in their kindergarten year. It is not uncommon to have children leave us as fluid readers or with a strong grasp of place value. However, children do not only walk away with strong academic skills, but also with foundational life skills that cannot be seen and that are the building blocks to any future learning AND interactions with others.
When you walk into a classroom with a third year student, you will see that child supporting the efforts of a younger one – that older child might be showing a younger friend where a work lives or how to clean up a spill. That older child now consciously or subconsciously knows that mistakes do happen and that he or she can rely on his or her own know-how and creativity to problem-solve. This child will present not only how to manipulate the materials and physically make sense of a situation, but also will demonstrate the calm and clarity required to overcome an obstacle. This practice of communication, ingenuity and resilience in front of younger peers becomes a part of the older child’s innermost fabric.
The results of keeping a child for the third year of what is intended to be a three-year cycle is of no surprise to us. Dr. Maria Montessori’s work and brain research since, have often grouped the development of children’s brains from three to six years old. In fact, Dr. Montessori referred to this as the second part of the first plane of development. Many schools with programs spanning from toddler through the upper grades will often fold the kindergarten students within the early childhood program. This is because children in the kindergarten year still need to concretely make sense of the world. These children developmentally teeter between the concrete and the abstract. If you push a child too quickly into abstract work, especially if the child is not ready, it may turn the child off to learning and may inadvertently stifle a child’s natural curiosity.
In the book entitled, The Hungry Mind: The Origins of Curiosity in Childhood, by Susan Engel, a senior lecturer in psychology at Williams College, the author notes that children who are habitually curious learn more. Like Dr. Maria Montessori, Engel finds that when a child is “momentarily curious, her learning is optimized at that time.” Engel notes, however, that curiosity is “squelched” because schools often treat it as a distraction from “real learning.”
In a well-referenced Harvard Business Review article, Professor Jeff Dyer of Brigham Young University and Hal Gregersen of INSEAD explain their study of leaders and how inquisitiveness was a common denominator among successful entrepreneurs. Gregerson makes it a point to share how important it is to let children follow their curiosity:
"If you look at 4-year-olds, they are constantly asking questions and wondering how things work. But by the time they are 6 ½ years old they stop asking questions because they quickly learn that teachers value the right answers more than provocative questions. High school students rarely show inquisitiveness. And by the time they're grown up and are in corporate settings, they have already had the curiosity drummed out of them. 80% of executives spend less than 20% of their time on discovering new ideas. Unless, of course, they work for a company like Apple or Google.” - HAL GREGERSEN, INSEAD
He later states how a number of the innovative leaders in their study attended Montessori schools. Curiosity, however, is not only important in the business worlds, but throughout every facet of life. Without it, a vaccine for polio would have never been developed and the moon would have still been an unchartered territory. Keeping your child in the third year certainly promotes and continues to foster the curiosity needed for our ever-changing world and for the unknown tasks or problems that lay ahead.
Dr. Maria Montessori created materials to meet the needs of all children in the environment. Concepts become increasingly complex and abstract as the child continues to grow cognitively, socially, emotionally and physically. The World Map exemplifies the increasing complexity of the materials: A three-year-old (first-year student) could use the map as a puzzle. At this time, the child may learn to associate the colors of the continents to the names. A second-year child may be able to trace and color the pieces to make a map of his or her own. A Kindergarten-age child, however, may learn the names of individual countries of the continents and is able to identify corresponding flags to those countries.
Another example is the pink tower, considered by many to be an iconic and distinguishing Montessori classroom material, which is made up of ten cubes of various sizes. At first, the child is introduced to the tower as a means to visually distinguish large from small and to support coordination and precision in stacking them. The child is indirectly preparing to understand the concept of base ten and cubed roots in math that second and especially third year students will be ready to do.