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Letter to school board

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  • elvismara
    Greetings, I was asked to put a letter together for the school board as a Cowles parent by the Montessori Awareness and Growth Committee. It is on its way to
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 8, 2008
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      Greetings,

      I was asked to put a letter together for the school board as a Cowles
      parent by the Montessori Awareness and Growth Committee. It is on
      its way to the school board now. They asked me to post the letter to
      this group, so I'll just paste it in below.

      Des Moines Public Schools
      School Board Members
      January 2008

      Dear School Board Members,

      I would like to share with you how my children have benefitted from
      the Montessori experience at Cowles Elementary School. As you may
      know, Cowles parents are taking turns informing and educating you
      about the Eight Principles of Montessori according to University of
      Virginia Professor of Psychology Angeline Lillard in her book
      _Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius_.

      That Cowles parents are making this effort this year is especially
      appropriate as we are celebrating 100 years of Montessori education
      worldwide. Last March I joined my husband, a grades 4-6 teacher at
      Cowles, and two other Cowles staff at the American Montessori
      Society's annual meeting in New York. This was a special centennial
      celebration that featured a keynote address at Madison Square Garden
      by Dr. Maya Angelou, noted novelist and poet. My husband gave a
      joint presentation at the conference along with another Montessori
      teacher from Michigan. It was really exciting to share in the
      enthusiasm for the Montessori method with teachers and parents from
      many nations.

      I will discuss Lillard's principle number eight, "that order in the
      environment is beneficial to children." Lillard details the
      relationship between order in the classroom environment and order in
      the mind. Research has shown, and I have observed in my children,
      that the highly organized furniture and materials set-up in the
      Montessori classroom is wonderful for childrens' growth and
      development.

      I spent a couple of years (1999-2001) working for the Minneapolis
      Public Schools funded by an Annenberg grant called "Arts for Academic
      Achievement." The District partnered with a University of Minnesota
      research team to track the progress of our various programs.
      Routinely the research team stressed "sequencing" as highly important
      for the children. Montessori incorporated sequencing into her method
      a century ago. Many of the materials are introduced in the preschool
      classroom, and are revisited in later grades for further
      exploration. A chain of colored beads introduces counting, those
      chains are lined up to become a square illustrating multiplication,
      and the squares are later built into cubes. I am not alone among
      Cowles parents in wishing that math had been introduced to me this
      way when I was a child!

      I have been fortunate to visit Montessori classrooms in several
      states. I have two children. My 10 year old daughter has been in a
      Montessori classroom since the age of 4. She readily took to the
      preschool environment that was carefully laid out for her on shelves
      just her size, each "work" in its assigned place in the classroom.
      One of her favorite works at that time was the Hundred Board. This
      is simply like a puzzle with 100 squares in rows of tens, and the
      children, often in pairs, work on putting the numbers in order. Then
      they check their work with an answer key. At first it would take
      several hours for her at age 4 to put all 100 numbers in order. But
      after doing the Hundred Board several times, she was able to quickly
      put all the numbers in the right order. I observed that manipulating
      the physical materials helped her learn to count efficiently, and
      remember the numbers later when she didn't have the Hundred Board in
      front of her. The ordering of this work was simple but highly
      effective for learning. Of course it illustrated multiplication as
      well which she learned without even knowing she was learning it!

      We moved from Wisconsin to Iowa between my daughter's first and
      second grades and due to the familiarity of the materials and their
      order and layout she didn't miss a beat. She recognized many items
      in the classroom right away and began working immediately.

      My 5 year old son began Montessori before the age of one in a Parent-
      Infant class that we attended together. Materials were designed that
      helped with physical movement, like learning to walk with toddler
      sized railings across a flat "bridge," and a small set of steps
      where children would learn to negotiate going up and down stairs just
      their size.

      I love that in my son's multiage classroom where he is now a
      kindergartener, set up and clean up of the work area is stressed
      daily. The order learned by washing a table, carrying a work tray
      from its assigned place on a shelf to a table, returning the work
      materials to the tray when finished, returning the tray to the proper
      spot on the shelf, and pushing in the chair is invaluable. It gives
      the children such a sense of confidence and self-sufficiency.

      If you haven't already had the opportunity, I hope that you will take
      the time to visit our classrooms at Cowles. I would be happy to show
      you around the school. We are proud of our status as the only public
      Montessori school in Iowa; however, we would welcome the chance to be
      joined by another public Montessori program! Minneapolis has three
      public Montessori K-8 programs, St. Paul also has three, Milwaukee
      and Chicago have at least a half-dozen each. It would be great for
      more families to have access to this innovative educational method
      and for teachers to have more Montessori colleagues with whom to
      confer. Our school would also gain by employing a Montessori trained
      principal.

      Thank you so much for your time.

      Sincerely,

      Mara Egherman
      2925 Rutland Ave
      Des Moines IA 50311
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