Montessori education expanding

Thursday, April 5th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Tulsa's only school offering Montessori education will expand to offer its first middle school classes this fall. Undercroft Montessori School was founded in 1964 by some Tulsa parents interested in the teaching philosophy developed by Italian doctor Maria Montessori nearly a century ago.

KOTV's Glenda Silvey took a look at the Montessori method. The classroom is filled with preschoolers, free to choose what to work on, for how long. Their learning is guided by a teacher who plans the environment carefully around their interests and developmental level. It reflects Dr Maria Montessori's belief that children have a natural love of learning. Montessori teacher, Paddy Sandefur says, "Maria Montessori's belief is that they will choose to work, they will choose to be good if given that opportunity in the proper environment, and they do it." Sandefur says Montessori's main advantage is giving children ownership of their own education, allowing them to choose on any given day which subjects to study.

Core subjects are arranged sequentially, from concrete to abstract, which teachers providing one on one lessons when a child is ready to progress. The teacher's main role is to prepare the environment, but give students control and responsibility. "You just have to keep your eye on everything that's going on - you're giving lessons to those who need it - to those who are moving on to new material. You're checking everything one on one; there are no tests, there are no grades. Everything is demonstrated. They demonstrate mastery." Teacher, student and parents meet every six weeks to discuss progress. If students fall behind, there are consequences. Montessori also stresses conflict resolution, problem solving and public service.

Molly Berger's child loves it. "It's been fantastic. It's been the perfect school for my daughter. She's been able to do things when she's ready to do them." Sarah Patton says classmates are kind, and she's learning a lot. "You don't just have to sit in the desk all day long and memorize stuff. You get to work and actually experience it. They learn how to learn. We can't teach them everything. But we can teach them how to find the answer to everything." Montessori educators believe that any child, given that opportunity will flourish. The Undercroft Montessori School serves 150 students ages three through 12. Tuition runs about $5,000 per year.

For information about the school, including the new middle school classes this fall, call 622-2890.