Tag Archives: Montessori

Alpha Montessori Update

IMG_2112

It was a total delight to visit Alpha Montessori this past April. The first class of nine students just graduated in an emotional and inspiring ceremony. (See photos below or watch the ceremony here.) Many of these children started in the very early days of the school when Alpha Montessori was not much more than a concept, a vision of what education could bring. Yet all have now been accepted into English medium upper schools, a fantastic accomplishment. They are stunning examples of how confident, competent, self-directed, and articulate Montessori children can become, regardless of background. The students presented individually chosen and researched capstone projects. Some of the ones I saw included a model of the eye, a demonstration of how electrical currents run a lightbulb, countries of the United Nations, different types of levers, and the ecology of rain harvesting. What a thrill to have been able to work with these students for even a short period of time.

photo 3

The rooftop garden, launched in late 2013 with help from AWA’s ‘Glimpses of Asia’ donation, is now in full bloom. The space is now lush and inviting and working with the plants provides a magnificent hands-on activity for the children, something especially welcome in this packed corner of urban Delhi.

photo 1

A computer lab with six well-functioning laptops is up and running and all the elementary children are learning a range of computer skills. Ms. Vel Hulton, a dedicated and skilled volunteer from Seattle, has been coming twice a year for a month to guide the children. She has been instrumental in teaching them keyboard skills, word processing, and the foundations of drawing and other programs.

IMG_2117

Slowly the rest of the building is taking shape as well, with an art room well under way. The next challenge will be to continue the educational progress without the ‘founding’ children. In Montessori schools especially, those first groups of students are often unusually dedicated and play an instrumental role with the younger children, so there are big shoes to fill when they move on.

I look forward to seeing some new students – but with the same familiar teachers – this fall.

The 2015 Graduates

Alpha Montessori

Alpha Montessori

Alpha Montessori Hi Res (36)As a committed Montessorian, I was curious about what Montessori schools were in New Delhi.   The first ones I visited were very disappointing. The Montessori name has been an advertising slogan for many years, often disguising schools with little to no Montessori practices or philosophies at work, and that is what I found here.

Alpha Montessori Hi Res (9)So I was delighted  when I found Rajesh Batra, school director, and he led me to Alpha.

“The Alpha Montessori School, located in Mandawali, an impoverished community in East Delhi, India, was founded to provide high quality education to low-income children and provide them the skills to move beyond the rigid limitations of social class. Without such an education, these children would be condemned to living and working in the same low wage, back-breaking jobs of their parents.”

Alpha Montessori Lo-res (38)Alpha currently has two primary classes and two elementary classes.  All the children exhibit a sense of self that is remarkable.  The older children speak English with a fluency that is rare for children from marginalized, non-English speaking communities.  Moreover, they are absorbing a sense of self-worth and an ability to be confident drivers of their own futures.

The teachers, especially Mrs. Anita Chandel and Mrs. Mohan, exemplify authentic Montessori practices and the results are a marvel.  It is their tireless work, day in and day out, that has created something radically different for the children they serve.

AM Roof Garden Opening Cem Lo-Res (295)I work with the students two days a week.  I coordinated an AWA fundraiser in 2013, a Photo Exhibit, and Silent Auction, with all proceeds dedicated to Alpha Montessori.  With those funds, they were able to renovate the roof to create a garden.

AM Roof Garden Opening Cem Lo-Res (537)Learn more about the Rooftop Garden taking shape here.

Alpha Montessori Hi Res (19)Alpha Montessori Hi Res (18)

Learn more about Alpha Montessori here.

Alpha Montessori Hi Res (15)

 

Banish the Colourful Classroom?

Thank you Jan Hoffman and Carnegie Mellon University.  Well, thank you and shame on you at the same time.  In the New York Times yesterday, Jan Hoffman wrote on a Carnegie Mellon study looking at effects on children’s learning and concentration of the heavily adorned classroom walls that are the staple of traditional elementary schools throughout the USA.

Not surprising to any Montessorian, the study found that children performed better in rooms with relatively unadorned walls.  They noted that the proliferation of posters and borders and commercial materials, presumably designed to be cheery and inspirational, actually may be a distraction, making it harder for young children to listen to a story or absorb presentations. Many teachers in traditional school systems feel indirect or even direct pressure to ‘decorate’ their classrooms to fit a bright image corresponding to adult fantasies of early childhood.

Traditional kindergarten classroom

Traditional kindergarten classroom

Forgive me for wanting to say “of course.”  Authentic Montessori and Waldorf classrooms have always eschewed commercially created ‘teaching aids’ cluttering up the walls.  They opt for natural materials and serene, aesthetically pleasing spaces.  With any luck, perhaps some traditional schools will adopt this methodology.

Dr Patricia Tarr has researched and written on this topic (Consider the Walls), urging teachers to be more judicious about wall decorations.  She recommends reducing commercially prepared materials and featuring children’s own works. Dr Tarr’s work suggests teachers think more critically about the cultural and commercial messages sent by the proliferation of apples and little red school houses and cartoon style yellow school busses.

And the ‘shame on you’ part? While I love studies endorsing the the simple, uncluttered classroom, I shudder to acknowledge that the motivation is undoubtedly to produce better test scores and more driven, fact-focussed learning in five year-olds.  No mention of that in the article.  Or that kindergarteners would do well with lots of time in a natural setting, preferably outdoors.

Consider:

Traditional kindergarten classroom

Traditional kindergarten classroom

Montessori classroom

Montessori classroom

Oak Haven Montessori School, Dardenne Prairie,  Missouri

Oak Haven Montessori School, Dardenne Prairie, Missouri

 

Montessori classroom

Montessori classroom