By Carrie Washburn-Murray || Photography by JOM III Gallery, LLC JUN 2015
St. Andrews Montessori School is located on a north Macon campus, surrounded by nature The school was started in 1986 as a ministry of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church. The school is owned by the church and was the very first Montessori school established in Macon, Georgia. St. Andrews began as a preschool with nine students and has grown to include a toddler class of children ranging from eighteen months to three years of age, two primary classrooms serving students ages three to five, and one lower elementary classroom for children ages six to nine in grades first through third. The school uses a wonderfully unique approach to teaching that parents value.
At St. Andrews, the Toddler Program is the first step in a lifelong love of learning. At this age, children are naturally curious and eager to learn. The highly experienced and trained faculty and staff are ready to guide children on a journey of discovery using specially designed learning materials in a comfortable, home-like, safe, and beautiful environment. Classroom activities foster coordination, control of movement, concentration, and independence.
Toddlers are naturally drawn to the activities of everyday life. At this age, they will happily do these classroom activities while refining their coordination skills and experiencing success. As a result, they become more independent in their ability and desire to care for themselves and their environment.
Toddlers independently set the table for snack, mix muffin batter, wash dishes, wipe up their spills, and sponge off tables. Furniture in the toddler classroom is specifically designed for promoting a child’s “I can do it” attitude. Children choose fine motor activities, acquire toileting independence, paint, and enjoy music together. Language development is also a high priority in the toddler class. It is during the toddler years when children speak their first words, phrases, and sentences. The teacher purposefully supports learning new vocabulary and correct pronunciation by singing, asking questions, reading, conversing, and using sign language.
Grace and courtesy are modeled by the teacher and assistants. “Please”, “Thank you”, and “No, thank you” are practiced often in teachable moments, encouraging respectful interactions between children of similar ages and abilities that is fundamental to their futures in a larger world. Maximum class size is eighteen children with one teacher and two assistants.
St. Andrews Primary Classrooms serve children ages three to six in an environment carefully designed for children to learn by doing, which is necessary for success in their future. Classes are large enough to provide a dynamic social environment while one-to-one or small group lessons allow children to thrive academically. All primary classes have access to the adjoining gardens, nature trail, and labyrinth, allowing opportunities to care for the environment as well as exploration of the natural world. The Practical Life Curriculum for the primary class is designed to foster concentration, coordination, independence, self-control, and order. The primary curriculum is a multi-sensory approach to learning, and daily activities involve distinguishing shapes, colors, and items of varying dimensions.
Math in the primary curriculum begins with activities to teach sequence, symbol recognition, and quantity of numbers one through ten. Mathematical relationships are explored, such as the squaring and cubing of numbers and fractions, by manipulating concrete materials that are designed to isolate each concept and prepare the mind for abstract mathematical reasoning.
At the primary level, art, music, science, and geography are all integrated into the child’s day. Because world language is integrated into the area of cultural study, many languages are spoken and sung in the classroom and integrated in other natural ways. Spanish is included in the curriculum, emphasizing vocabulary, pronunciation, and a love of language. Additionally, a daily recess is included for students of all levels. Movement is basic to learning, and St. Andrews aspires to develop a spirit of sportsmanship and enjoyment of all physical activity. Maximum primary class size is twenty children with one teacher and one assistant.
The lower level elementary classes at St. Andrews, grades first through third, are designed to further develop and nurture the students’ love of learning. Elementary education begins with a series of story lessons about the origin of the earth, life, and the beginning of human accomplishments—including the development of language and number systems. Cultural study is emphasized and includes the study of the world’s religion, art, music, and food.
The story of the beginning of life introduces the study of botany, zoology, and ecology. An introduction to chemistry and physics prepares the students for the challenges of the middle school science curriculum. In mathematics, elementary students study whole numbers, decimals, fractions, percentages, integers, and rational numbers.
Students study powers of numbers, operations with exponents, square and cube roots, and powers of ten. The curriculum also includes study of graphs, probability and statistics, algebraic expressions, equations, and proportions. Lessons in history include the study of natural history, human history, and the study of civilization. Lessons in written expression include study of phrases, clauses, sentence analysis, and writing paragraphs. The elementary students also begin reading and writing in Spanish. Physical education is enjoyed three times a week in these grade levels, in addition to daily recess.
At St. Andrews Montessori School, teachers prepare the environment, plan activities, stimulate curiosity, and serve as facilitators and observers, but the children motivate themselves to learn.
“My desire is to instill a joy of learning and a sense of wonder in all the children who come into our peaceful environment,” said Karen Mangham, co-founder, current school directress, and lead lower-elementary teacher. #
501 Bass Road, Macon