Students worldwide are achieving through the Montessori Method of education. It uses activities and materials to encourage each child to discover for him or herself, within a framework of order, and choose and complete tasks designed for success at each stage of his/her development.
It’s an approach that not only challenges the most gifted child, but encourages each child to meet their potential, according to Susan Burkhardt, Head of School at Charles Towne Montessori in Charleston.
New Local Program Coming
With that in mind, Charles Towne is expanding -- launching a middle school.
The Charles Towne Montessori Adolescent Program that will serve its first group of 7th graders in 2020 is currently under construction on the 3 acre campus where the school sits.
The expansion is intended to allow the school to better serve the elementary students all the way through Montessori’s second plane of development, and into the third. Based on three-year cycles, Montessori elementary students are not finished with their curriculum until they complete sixth grade. Currently, the school accommodates through grade six, but has often lost students who move to other schools after their fifth-grade year in order to secure a spot for middle school in highly sought after charter or magnet schools.
“We have traditionally lost a number of children after fifth grade because of the limited access for middle school options in Charleston,” Burkhardt says. “This helps us retain our students through sixth grade and offer them the middle schools option as well.”
Helming the adolescent program will be Elizabeth Seney, an AMI-accredited teacher who has come onboard from the renowned Hershey Montessori School in Ohio. She’s already on the scene working with the rising sixth graders and writing the curriculum.
“Ms. Seney is going to work with the students to determine the direction that the program will take based on interests, skills, and resources.” Burkhardt says.
Montessori schools have customized curricula based on community interaction and local resources, and students develop their own interests within the structure, and learn at their own pace. The development of a sense of accomplishment and achievement is critical.
“It fosters independence for children. It helps them to develop a lot of self-control and self-motivation,” Burkhardt says. “One of the things we focus on is for children to look to themselves for approval instead of looking elsewhere — to grades or stickers or awards. We want the children to be proud of their own accomplishments and confident in their ability to achieve, not based on what somebody else says to them or gives them.”
“Developing an internal motivation is something we’ll eventually need as adults; otherwise, we don’t get much done. This is something we’re starting to help a child develop starting at age 15 months.”
The Charles Towne middle school students will work on creating and selling products or services, an activity that will provide lessons in economics and earth science.
“It would be something that would be a marketable skill in a particular area,” Burkhardt says. “It depends on the students’ interests. Sometimes it is trial and error and they have to change their focus and come up with something different if it doesn’t make any money or it’s not successful for them. But, that’s all part of the process.”
Charles Towne Montessori School was established in downtown Charleston in 1972, and moved to its current three-acre campus West Ashley at 56 Leinbach Drive in the 1980s.
It’s the only program in South Carolina accredited by the Association Montessori Internationale, established in 1929 by Dr. Maria Montessori in order to maintain, propagate, and further her ideas and principles for the full development of the child.
Students with Montessori backgrounds or those home-schooled are expected to be particularly good fits for the adolescent program, Burkhardt says.
“What the middle school program will give them is a level of empowerment they won’t find in a traditional middle school; where that age it’s so difficult and so emotional and so full of turmoil and self doubt,” she says. “I think this will really give them a voice and it will give them some empowerment and some self knowledge that I think is hard to come by when you’re 13 or 14 years old.”
To inquire about the program email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit CharlesTowneMontessori.org or call 843-571-1140.