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Montessori pilot program at New Sarpy this year

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / August 14, 1998

LULING – The St. Charles Parish School System has had a reputation forwelcoming new ideas in the education of its students. That tradition willcontinue this year with the introduction of the Montessori pilot program at New Sarpy Elementary.

The pilot program, which has been approved for three years, will operate at New Sarpy as a School-within-a-School for children ages 6 to 9 years old. The initial class will have a maximum of 22 students. Children ages6-9 who live in St. Charles parish are eligible and students must be 6 bySept. 30, 1998.Dr. Maria Montessori, the first woman physician in Italy, started thisunique form of learning in the early 1900s. Through years of research,Montessori created specialized learning materials to assist children in their normal development and a learning environment that is self-directed and multilevel. Today the Montessori method is used is schools around theworld and in over 200 public schools in the United States.

The Montessori method of learning fosters a child’s natural love of learning while laying a solid foundation for future learning. It creates anenvironment where children are supported on reaching their full potential and promotes high self esteem, independence and cooperation. It enhancesproblem-solving, conceptual thinking, creativity and abstraction as well as developing good character traits and socialization skills.

The goal of Montessori is “fostering a life-long love of learning by stimulating a child’s natural curiosity and thirst for learning.” Eachchild’s lesson plan is individualized, with the teacher acting as a guide, facilitator and mentor. The vision of the program is that learning shouldbe learner focused rather than teacher focused and that the impetus to learn must come from within the child.

Montessori teaching believes that children should be encouraged and re- taught if necessary, not left behind because others are faster or because the lesson plan dictates moving forward. Conversely, children should bechallenged and stimulated, not required to wait until others catch up or until the lesson plan dictates moving forward.

The Montessori program in St. Charles Parish got its start when a group ofparents got together earlier this year and made a presentation before the St. Charles Parish School Board. This parental involvement is an importantcomponent of the Montessori method. Its philosophy promotes the “goldentriangle” concept to learning whereby the parent, teacher and child are united in an educational partnership. The pilot program will be operatedcooperatively by teachers, parents and the administration with parents taking a direct role in their children’s education.

Applicants must be from families whose education philosophy matches the Montessori philosophy. Parents must attend an orientation meeting andcomplete an application to be included in the application process. Alottery will be held to fill the available openings. Parents of enrolledstudents must attend three workshops prior to their child’s final acceptance into the Montessori school. The workshops, which are free tothe parents, allow the parents to learn the specifics of the Montessori philosophy and curriculum. Parents will be strongly encouraged tovolunteer and participate throughout the school year in support of the Montessori School.

The school system will provide the space for the program with the parents responsible for any materials above and beyond the cost that the district normally pays for a child.

St. Charles Parish School Superintendent Rodney Lafon said he sees theprogram taking off. He said the district is working to expand the programfor the 1999-2000 school year.

“I expect it to be extremely successful,” Lafon said. “I know the parentswill be there and involved in the program. It is something that meets theneeds of a diverse population.”