School may be over for this year, but registration for a new Montessori preschool in Collegedale is already under way, and only a handful of spots are left. It will be the first preschool in Collegedale and the first Montessori school in that part of the county; there is only one other, in downtown Chattanooga.
"It's based on what a child's interest level is," organizer Julie Howe said of the academic-driven yet child-led methodology that dates back to the 1800s. "If a child feels they have control over their environment they're much more likely to enjoy learning ... much more likely to thrive in that environment. It teaches them independence, mastery of life skills, it teaches them lots of stuff."
The preschool which will open in a renovated classroom at A.W. Spalding Elementary in conjunction with the new school year will be set up in the same fashion as all Montessori schools, which are located all over the world and go through high school.
Classrooms feature different areas for different subjects. Students are allowed to go to whichever area they choose and work on an activity the teacher has already done with them one-on-one in order to gain individual mastery of that lesson. After mastery is achieved, a new lesson is explored with the teacher.
"The teacher's role goes from classroom instruction in a traditional format where you have a large group of kids listening to the instructor teach them what they think is important and what they want them to learn, to the teacher being an observer and giving them indidualized, one-on-one instruction but the child choosing where they want to spend time and how much time they want to spend in those areas," Howe said.
In addition to the traditional areas of math, language arts, sensorial, practical life and cultural, which includes science and geography, a Bible element is being designed for the new school by a doctorate professor in the School of Education and Psychology at Southern Adventist University. The rest of the curriculum is being developed in conjunction with the well-established Montessori school downtown that currently has a waiting list for new students.
"This is not about Seventh-day Adventist beliefs, it's not about religion; it's about biblical, historical stories and creating a personal relationship with God," Howe said, stressing that the school is seeking a variety of students to create a representation of the greater community at large.
A local donor who is putting up all the money for the school's startup requested "that it not just be filled with Adventists in the community," she said. "He really wants us marketing to the entire Ooltewah, Chattanooga area. Therefore you're teaching children how to get along with, how to work with and how to figure out their needs in their life with a wide variety of people from all walks life."
Those with 3- and 4-year-olds and children who will turn 5 after Aug. 15 may request further information and an enrollment form by calling 236-2765. Howe will then return calls within 48 hours and give parents any and all information they desire.
Parents can either enroll their children for the Montessori program from 8 a.m. to noon, or choose for their child to stay until 3 p.m. in order to participate in enrichment programs, including music, outdoor education provided by SAU, physical education, fine arts, technology, library and to gain any readiness skills that might be needed for entering kindergarten.
After-school care for enrolled students will also be offered on a daily or drop-in basis until 5:45 p.m.