Ridgeline Montessori's educational program is based on the philosophy and methods developed 100 years ago by Dr. Maria Montessori. The basic principles of these theories are as follows:
Pedagogy and learning materials are the most compelling difference between Ridgeline Montessori and other schools. Although the basic academic content of the curriculum is the same, the following elements are key to a Montessori classroom:
prepared environment," designed to encourage self-directed learning. The classroom is arranged in learning areas, with clusters of student-sized tables and open areas for floor work. Shelves of materials pertaining to a particular area of study surround each learning area. The materials are arranged systematically and in developmental sequence. Students are free to move about the classroom choosing resources and working individually or in small groups as they pursue their work plan.
At Ridgeline Montessori, each classroom of 28 to 30 students has both a teacher and a trained assistant. Montessori teachers are rarely the center of attention in the classroom. Instead, the teacher is one source of information among many, and the focus during work times is on each student working at her own challenge level. The teachers prepare the environment, observe the children carefully to determine skill levels and readiness, offer appropriate activities, and facilitate the process of "learning how to learn." Montessori teachers also actively model appropriate, respectful behavior and positive conflict resolution. Class meetings are held weekly and decision making follows a consensus model.
Using the services of a Montessori consulting firm, we have correlated the Montessori Scope and Sequence with the Oregon Curriculum Goals to ensure full coverage of both curricula. The Montessori elementary curriculum strongly emphasizes math and language, then uses these tools to study other subjects, including anthropology, astronomy, biology, chemistry, economics, geography, geology, government, history, philosophy, physics, political science, and sociology. Art and music are part of the integrated Montessori prepared environment and are taught in some classrooms in their own right. Physical education is provided twice weekly. Technology is a tool that supports all other curriculum areas.
Whole-class instruction time is minimal; the school day is structured to allow students to spend long blocks of time on work that they choose within the framework of their contract. This schedule enables students to explore a topic or material thoroughly and to carry it through to completion.
Subjects are not taught in isolation; they are related thematically to each other. Students are taught to use reading, writing, and math as tools for the pursuit of knowledge and skills. This approach motivates students to master the basic skills and use them in understanding material in the content areas.
Students are grouped in multi-age clusters spanning two to three years in the elementary program. Multi-age classrooms serve to maximize curriculum options available to students, encourage cooperation and minimize competition, provide opportunities for indirect learning for younger students, foster self-confidence in students who serve as role models, and provide for long-term teacher–student relationships.
Elementary students work according to individual learning contracts (ILCs), which they develop with their teachers and update periodically to reflect progress and standardized test results. These contracts set forth how the student will complete the curriculum requirements. Students and teachers track work weekly to make sure they are fulfilling their ILCs. Individual students progress at their own rate and level of learning.
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