Nurturing respect for self, others and the environment ... through academic excellence, global perspective, and environmental awareness
WELCOME TO WEM!
The Whole Earth Montessori School (WEM), established in 1986, is a Washington State approved Private School and an American Montessori Society (AMS) accredited Montessori School specializing in the instructional methodologies of Montessori education with the following goals in mind:
Developing respect for self through academic excellence: This begins at WEM with a prepared Montessori classroom that lends itself to student success; a clean, organized environment that includes an accredited staff and a full array of Montessori materials and learning activities in each classroom.
Global perspective by developing respect for others: WEM is fortunate to be centralized in an economically and culturally diverse community. Developing in each child a respect for others through an appreciation for the similarities, as well as the differences that exist among the people of the world occurs naturally in the classroom setting. This is enriched by both the Montessori curriculum and the parent volunteers who share aspects of their cultures with the students.
Respect for the environment through environmental awareness: Leading by example with the use of on-site Solar and Geo-Thermal systems, WEM offers students more than just a recycling program. The Whole Earth Montessori curriculum and campus offers students a hands-on experience and education from our 2.5 acre, natural environment. Activities range from stream-keeping, gardening and horticulture to studies in alternative energy.
THE MONTESSORI LEARNING ENVIRONMENT:
The learning environment is central to the philosophy of Dr. Maria Montessori. Acknowledging this, the Whole Earth strategy to advance the school’s mission is stated in the following manner:
“Believing children to be the most valuable natural resource on Earth and the best hope for the realization of our vision, we will offer a prepared environment in which each child can grow in his or her own time and way toward their greatest potential; mentally, emotionally, socially, creatively and spiritually.”
“It is the child who is the future of humanity. It is he who constructs the adult of the future. He possesses powers of concentration and spontaneous learning that the adult does not possess; for this alone, he deserves a tremendous amount of respect. He is smaller, but not inferior; he is one who is to be revered.” - Maria Montessori
“Man, the adult, since the onset of industrialization has in many parts of the world created an environment that is somewhat unnatural. It does not provide the optimum conditions for him to grow and flourish to his fullest potential. Rather it often seems to inhibit man’s natural development in many ways. If respect for the environment is not practiced, man may create an environment to which he can not adapt.” - Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori, being a scientist, realized that nothing can change the potential of an individual. But the environment in which that individual lives, can either enhance or inhibit its development. So she created for the children of the slums of Rome in 1907, an environment which she believed would allow each child to develop naturally from within; would enhance this process and make it possible for each child to develop in accordance with his or her own nature to his or her fullest potential.
A very specific sequence of units is presented each year in the Early Childhood Education (ECE) classroom that was developed specifically to nurture in students respect for self, others and the environment. This series of studies was designed and then implemented over the course of a year as part of the Founder’s Masters in Education for Curriculum and Instruction. This took place during the first full year of the school’s operation. This same skeletal outline has served to guide faculty every year, with student interest determining how long and/or how in-depth each teacher will stay with a particular unit of study. Not every teacher will be in the same place at the same time, as each will follow the interest of the children in her respective class. Materials remain on the shelf for the remainder of the year while faculty moves on to the next theme in the sequence.
In preparing the WEM learning environment, the words of Maria Montessori served as a guide.
“And so we discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being. It is not acquired by listening to words, but in virtue of experiences in which the child acts on his environment. The teacher’s task is not to talk, but to prepare and arrange a series of motives for cultural activity in a special environment made for the child.”
- Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind
“So the first thing his education demands is the provision of an environment in which he can develop the powers given him by nature. This does not mean just to amuse him and let him do as he likes. But it does mean that we have to adjust our minds to doing a work of collaboration with nature, to being obedient to one of her laws, the one which decrees that development come from environmental experience.”
- Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind
“The child can only develop fully by means of experience on his environment. We call such experience ‘work’.”
- Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind
In the Whole Earth learning environment, students feel comfortable, safe and are accepted for who they are. Each space is flooded with natural light. Large windows bring the natural beauty of the outside environment into the classrooms. Indoor plants offer beauty and fresh oxygen to the students. Soft, calming music is often heard in the background.
In each classroom a complete offering of Montessori materials is displayed in accordance with the developmental needs of the students within the multi-aged groupings of three to six, six to nine or nine to twelve year old students.
Over the years visitors to the school have most commonly used the word “peaceful” to describe the environment.
A student centered environment can be found in each of the Whole Earth classrooms. Teachers respect Dr. Montessori’s words to “follow the child.”
Allowing each child to grow in his or her own time and way requires that each child be respected as a individual whose internal guide, or home, will direct the pace of development; not the teacher. While the sequence of development is the same in all children, the pace varies. Thus, instruction is individualized.
Whole Earth students are at the center of the care of their learning environment. They water plants, dust shelves, clean up spills, help keep order on the shelves, wash their own snack dishes, recycle glass, aluminum cans and paper.
The outdoors is considered part of the learning environment. Here, Whole Earth students sweep the patio areas, water plants, plant and harvest food in the garden, pick up rocks on the playground, rake leaves, harvest fruit from the apple and pear trees, gather fallen branches which are used by the elementary students to build forts, take care not to harm plants or animals and generally help keep the playground areas looking beautiful.
In the ECE classroom, children literally absorb the environment by unconsciously using the power of what Montessori called the “Absorbent Mind.” A full array of Montessori materials are organized into the curriculum area of Practical Life, Sensorial, Math, Language and Cosmic Education. Materials in each curriculum areas and their sub-areas are sequenced on the shelves in an order that follows the natural developmental sequence that is common in all children. Being in their sensitive period for order and sequence, the children quite naturally come to understand that they will work their way through each sequence at a pace specific to their individual developmental pace.
Early childhood students are driven by their internal guide to seek out in the environment those things which will facilitate an internal stage of development. It is through interaction with the environment that the child constructs herself. With the introduction of each new material presented in sequence with respect for pre-requisites, students have a greater and greater repertoire of materials from which to choose. Because the materials are presented in sequence, it is easy for students to build upon their previous experiences. Drawn to the order, sequence and beauty of the materials, students for example, are free to choose from among those materials with which they have already had a lesson. Their choices are intrinsically motivated rather than by a teacher who hands them a clipboard with a list of activities to do.
Teachers in all classrooms work to help students develop independence, self-direction, the ability to choose and follow through taking responsibility for choices made. To honor the development of these characteristics in students, teachers do not give work lists, except in cases where such a list is necessary for the child to be successful. This is true at both the ECE level as well as the elementary levels.
THE MONTESSORI ELEMENTARY LEARNING ENVIRONMENT:
Intrinsic motivation on the part of students operates at the elementary level as well. While teachers do give assignments, students are for example free to choose which reptile, or which country they want to research. The form in which they present their findings to the class can be intrinsically motivated as well, with some choosing to write and read a report, while others may construct a diorama or act out a play.
Teachers at the elementary levels post assignments for various groups on a white board to serve as a guide for students. In this way, students are able to work toward success in time management, each working in a way that is in accordance with his or her particular learning style.
Some students will work vigorously to complete all assignments for the week and find they have free time toward the end of the week. Others will manage their time in a way that allows an intermingling of work that is assigned and work that is freely chosen. Students are in command of their academic endeavors. Work is of course to be completed within an allotted time frame. Some assignments are due the same day. For example, writing the new spelling list each Monday, others within a week, while in depth studies are allotted a longer period of time.
All written work completed by the elementary students is placed in a “finished work box” to be reviewed and recorded by the teachers. In some instances, teachers will review the work with the student to reinforce a lesson.
Time management is a valuable skill that will serve these students throughout their lives and more likely lead to careers in which they have the autonomy to manifest their talents and abilities to the fullest. They will not be restricted to waiting for someone to come and tell them exactly what to do . They will be in charge of their own destinies. Montessori calls for this within the first paragraphs of - (The Absorbent Mind).
The daily routine in all Whole Earth classrooms includes a time when all students and teachers gather together for a group time. The majority of time however is devoted to individual work or small group lessons.