Programs


Conventional models of education treat students of all ages in remarkably similar ways. Students are largely provided information by the teacher, who stands and delivers the information to the whole group. Students may go off and have some group work with classmates, and there may be some field trips, but the goal remains content delivery. Montessori education has at its core a belief that there are different stages in child development. It recognizes that children do not always learn at the same pace, have different strengths and weaknesses, and possess unique interests. See each of the programs below to see how the curriculum is tailored to the planes of development. As an Independent School, Westmont Montessori School’s curriculum is regulated by the Ministry of Education under the Independent Schools Act. The Act ensures that instruction offered to students at Westmont in English, Language Arts, Mathematics, Social Studies and Science, and the mandatory second language in grade 5 and up meets the learning outcomes set out in the educational program guides. Westmont is able to enhance their students’ learning experiences by augmenting these outcomes with the unique curriculum they offer.

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At the heart of the Montessori philosophy is the belief that each person is a unique individual with strengths to contribute to society.


Montessori Philosophy

Dr. Montessori believed that children learned best by doing, not by passively accepting the ideas and pre-existing knowledge of others. The Montessori method requires the active personal pursuit of many different experiences: physical, social, emotional and cognitive. Dr. Montessori designed specialized instructional materials that the children could use to learn specific skills. A Montessori environment is carefully prepared so that the children can move independently from one area to another. Each room has a Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Mathematics, Cultural and Art area. Freedom, independence, social development and academic learning are all important facets of the Montessori method. Maria Montessori’s vision of world peace began with recognizing, and respecting the importance of, the small child’s contribution to the world.

More on Dr. Montessori
Nicky MacDonald, one of West Mont Montessori School’s teacher trainers, instructs new teachers on the Montessori Method. Below, Nicky provides a personal account of what a Montessori classroom is like:

After more than 14 years as a Montessori pre-school teacher, I am still constantly amazed and delighted by the never-ending diversity of children that I meet. It always feels like such a privilege to be able to spend my time getting to know these children, discovering their unique personalities and individual challenges. What is perhaps equally amazing is that I have yet to meet a child who, when treated with patience, love and respect, within the freedom of the prepared Montessori classroom, has not grown and blossomed as they have been able to learn and develop in their own particular way, moving towards the fulfilment of their potential within the supportive Montessori environment.

The first time I spent a morning in a Montessori classroom, I was struck by the sense of peace and calm that I experienced and by how independent the young children seemed. They moved around the room in control of their actions, choosing their own work, tidying up, offering help to their friends, preparing their own snack, changing their own clothes and carrying out all of this without the apparent direction of their teacher. For large parts of the morning, I was hardly aware of the teacher being in the room as she worked intently with one child or another, while all around her was a busy hum of activity as the other children moved from one independently chosen task to another.

I have found this feeling of calm, busy energy in each of the Montessori classes that I have worked in, and I have come to realize that it is the freedom that the child experiences that makes it this way: freedom of movement, freedom to choose their own activities, and freedom to engage in these activities for as long as they want, within the order of a well prepared and interesting environment. These conditions allow the child, no matter what their particular personality, challenges, or background, to find peace and happiness. It is from this place of well-being and contentment that their desire to learn develops naturally and spontaneously.

Montessori schools are often called the “Children’s House” because everything in them is designed to allow the child to become physically independent. The materials are child sized and the equipment is laid out in an orderly fashion on low shelves that are easily accessible for the children. The equipment is beautiful and well cared for, which encourages the children to take care of it too. Children are grouped together in their own mini society in mixed age groupings. The youngest learn from watching the older children, and the older ones benefit by helping those younger than they. The mixed age group allows the children to naturally develop socially, intellectually and emotionally.
In a Montessori school, children choose their activities independently and move freely from one activity to the next – always returning things to the shelf after they have used them. In an atmosphere of calm, children concentrate for surprisingly long periods of time, working individually, in a group or with a friend. The morning session lasts for a minimum of two and a half hours during which there is no particular timetable. Children are not only free to choose the activities they wish to work with, but are also free to work with them for as long as they wish. Groups can then arise spontaneously according to the interests of the children. Maria Montessori observed that this extended period of time was essential for the children to develop their ability to concentrate.
Maria Montessori based her system of education upon her careful observations of children. She saw that children “built themselves” based upon their interactions with what they found in their environment, and that it was by being able to work with real objects that they had freely chosen, and by being respected as individuals, that they could teach and develop themselves. Freedom within a structured environment enables a child to work at creating the person he/she will become. A Montessori classroom provides freedom whilst maintaining an environment that encourages a sense of order and self-discipline.

What Do Mixed Age Groups Bring to Montessori?



1. Interaction

The mixed age group environment creates an atmosphere where children learn to help and be helped by other children, because they interact consistently with children whose age and abilities are varied. Children gain an appreciation for their achievement and the accomplishments of others, and are naturally challenged by the achievements of others.


Mixed Age

2. Learning from Each Other

Older children learn to be patient and tolerant, and serve as role models and teachers for the younger children. When an older child teaches a younger one, it reinforces previously learned concepts and is actually an aid in complete mastery of concepts. Younger children learn about courtesy, manners, and conflict resolution by watching the older children in the class.


Mixed Age

3. Work at Child’s Own Pace

Because teachers do not have to set the instruction pace by a whole group, each child is given the ability to learn at his or her own pace.


Mixed Age

4. Community

By staying in a classroom for a three year period, children develop a strong sense of community and stability, with 2/3 of a class returning every year. This community aids the development of students as role models for one another.


Mixed Age

5. Familiarity

Being in the same classroom year after year allows a teacher to truly learn each individual child’s learning abilities, style, and developmental level to better be able to set the learning agenda as well as build on strengths and work on weaknesses.


Mixed Age

Montessori methodology is designed to engage a child’s natural curiosity within an environment that is specially prepared to maximize learning opportunities.



Programs


80% of a child’s mental development takes place before the child is eight years old, quality education during this period is critical.  In particular for ages 3-5, in the Montessori tradition, the West-Mont Montessori Early Primary program:

  • Is for children aged three to five years and includes a Kindergarten program
  • Includes French as a second language instruction
  • Includes weekly music class taught by a certified music teacher
  • Offers choice of full day or morning-only classes for Early Primary and Kindergarten students
  • Is a prepared environment alive with a wealth of intriguing material
  • Encourages the child to move at his/her own pace through all areas of the room – Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Mathematics and Cultural
  • Supports each child as his/her natural development unfolds
  • Is developed to meet the specific and changing needs of the children within the room
  • Allows each child to grow with balance, health and joyfulness
West-Mont’s Lower Elementary Montessori Program consists of the mixed age group of Grades 1-3 , meeting and exceeding all the British Columbia required curriculum.  The Lower Elementary Montessori curriculum is a three year program which:

  • Inspires students to become independent learners who appreciate and understand their world
  • Expects students to become increasingly responsible for their own learning
  • Allows students to work at their own pace to practice and master goals, using an extensive selection of Montessori materials
  • Begins the move from concrete learning toward abstract understanding
    Integrates curriculum areas through the Montessori Great Stories
    Individual and small group presentations are given by teachers
  • Students choose their work in the same manner they learned in the Early Primary program
  • Individualized work plans allow students to set goals, make appropriate choices, and use their time wisely
  • Includes exploration days with activities such as cooking, sewing, drama, art and cultural experiences
  • Specialty instruction in  French and Music
    Field trips, on-site learning garden and other outdoor experiences
The Upper Elementary Montessori program builds upon the Lower Elementary, and similarly, is a three year program consisting of the mixed age group of Grades 4-6. During the three years, all the British Columbia required curriculum is covered, with extensive enrichment.  The Upper Elementary Montessori curriculum includes all of the Lower Elementary program elements plus:

  • Increased focus on abstract understanding versus concrete learning
  • Greater understanding of the inter-relatedness of all curriculum areas using Montessori’s Great Lessons
  • Individual and small group presentations are given by teachers
  • Students choose their work in the same manner they have in the Early Primary and Lower Elementary Programs
  • Individualized work plans allow students to set goals, make appropriate choices, and use their time wisely
  • Emphasizes the acquisition of community citizenship, virtues and leadership skills
  • Specialty instruction in  French and Art
  • A unique Marimba program in which students learn music appreciation, theory, and performance skills
  • Field trips, on-site learning garden and other outdoor experiences
Our Middle School consists of Grades 7-8. This program of studies is distinctly different to that found in conventional educational settings, but ideally suited to the needs of the adolescent and the world they will eventually be adults in.

  • Grade 7 and 8 students learn together in a mixed age class, and get a clear break from where they have come from in their schooling. They need their own unique space and a chance to have their own identity.
  • Students participate in 5 week cycles with a focus on overarching questions to be answered in the cycle. The BC curriculum is covered as a bare minimum, but the learning goes far beyond what is required at this age level.
  • At the end of each 5 week cycle there is an “out-week” where students relate what they have been working on in school with real world application. The students are intimately involved in the planning process.
  • Students operate a business which teaches valuable skills, with funds earned going towards the out-week costs.
  • The teacher guides the process and provides the safe environment for students to explore and learn in. The teacher gives guidelines on academic standards to be met and appropriate social behaviour, and feedback to students on how they are doing.
  • The students are involved in community work through the  “Service Learning” component of the program.

Montessori Factoids

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Montessori Schools World-wide

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First Montessori School Established in Canada

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Uninspired students in class

The balance of choice and structure both inspires and empowers students to develop self-responsibility.


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