NSA explores Montessori preschool program

MARQUETTE – Following approval by its board of directors Wednesday, North Star Academy is hoping to offer a new Montessori preschool program in the fall, needing at least 15 students to be signed up by April 30 to go ahead with the plan.

“It’s a quality option and a quality program that will enhance North Star Academy,” North Star CEO and Superintendent Karen Anderson said. “And again, this is in response to parent and community input.”

The program would be open to students ages 3 years to 5 years old and would officially begin in September. The program would be tuition-based for students age 3 to 4, while age appropriate students would be considered kindergartners.

Anderson said a tuition level has not yet been set.

All three age groups would remain in the same classroom, a hallmark of Montessori education, which places a strong emphasis on peer-to-peer learning.

The Montessori method is named after Italian educator Maria Montessori, who opened the first Montessori school in 1907, according to the American Montessori Society. It is a child-centered educational approach that focuses on multi-age groupings that foster peer learning, uninterrupted blocks of work time and guided choice of work activity.

Typically, Montessori teachers – who must receive special training to be called such – do not lecture at the front of a classroom. Rather, they interact with students throughout the day as they take part in a number of different activities, either alone or in groups.

Montessori classrooms must also be set up a certain way, favoring group tables and floor seating instead of desks, and plenty of open storage for Montessori learning materials.

Classrooms are often open and spacious, allowing students to work on big projects in large areas while still separating the room into distinct learning spaces, such as language arts, math and culture.

Anderson said the Montessori classroom would be in the elementary wing of the academy.

“Montessori is quite a different philosophy,” Anderson said. “We would need a significant number of supplies and furnishings to be purchased for that classroom.”

Anderson said the Montessori program would begin with 3- to 5-year-olds and would expand each year as students move through elementary grades, offering modified Montessori classrooms for first-, second- and third-graders.

“At least through early elementary, we would be able to do this one year at a time to determine what would be the best,” Anderson said, adding the academy already has two employees who are certified Montessori instructors, one of whom formerly owned a Montessori school.

For inquiries about the program or to enroll a child, call North Star Academy at 226-0156.

For more information on the Montessori educational method, visit amshq.org.

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is jstark@miningjournal.net.