school spotlight: montessori at garrett heights elementary/middle school


School Spotlight: Garrett Heights Elementary School - (cool) progeny

Soft music pipes through the airy and open ‘children’s house’ classroom. Pre-K and kindergarten students are quietly completing work individually or in small groups. Some are creating patterns with blocks. Others are practicing addition. Some are reading BOB story books. All are working diligently at their own pace. 

School Spotlight: Garrett Heights Elementary School - (cool) progeny

School Spotlight: Garrett Heights Elementary School - (cool) progeny

Upstairs, small groups of first through third graders are taking virtual tours of other cultures, working with math manipulatives and checkerboards, or analyzing graphs in small tables around the classroom. Some students are curled up with a book on a large sectional couch in the center of the room. A teacher moves from group to group, student to student, answering questions and checking on their progress.

School Spotlight: Garrett Heights Elementary School - (cool) progeny

School Spotlight: Garrett Heights Elementary School - (cool) progeny

No, these aren’t scenes from a charter school. It’s just another Tuesday morning at Garrett Heights Elementary and Middle School, a zoned neighborhood school in Lauraville that’s transitioning into Baltimore City’s first public Montessori school. 

When Omotayo Abiodun accepted the role of principal at the school eight years ago, she knew there was a negative stigma attached to the school. It was a school that had served multiple purposes in the district and struggled to define an identity as a community school.

That had to change.

Transitioning to a Montessori curriculum is not only helping the school re-establish community roots, it’s energized the community around a common vision — from teachers, to parents, to district administration, to local businesses. Abiodun credits the support of Baltimore City School CEO Dr. Sonja Brookins Santelises and her predecessor Dr. Andres Alonso for helping to make this program a reality.

School Spotlight: Garrett Heights Elementary School - (cool) progeny

“They were looking to establish different types of schools in different neighborhoods,” said Abiodun. “We knew by talking to our community that Montessori would be a good fit here.”

Parents of babies and toddlers showed up to initial community meetings and supported the program. They wanted to ensure that Montessori education became a reality for Lauraville kids.

District endorsement, coupled with a dedicated teaching staff and strong community support, has made year one of the transition successful (albeit not without learning curves!). Currently, 28 students are in the Children’s House classroom and 27 children are in the 1-3 grades Montessori classroom. Next year, all 125 prekindergarten and kindergarten students will be enrolled in the Montessori program. Within the next 9 years, the entire school will be Montessori-based.

According to the American Montessori Society, the goal of Montessori education is to “foster a child’s natural inclination to learn. Montessori teachers guide rather than instruct, linking each student with activities that meet his interests, needs, and developmental level. The classroom is designed to allow movement and collaboration, as it also promotes concentration and a sense of order.”

School Spotlight: Garrett Heights Elementary School - (cool) progeny

For Abiodun, transitioning to a Montessori curriculum is about giving students choice, providing hands-on learning, and allowing children to work at their own level. She loves that the curriculum meets all modalities of learning.

School Spotlight: Garrett Heights Elementary School - (cool) progeny

“It’s personalized learning and the curriculum is already there,” said Abiodun. “It’s already aligned to common core and we’re investing in software to track and assess student progress.”

Currently, Garrett Heights is accepting students for the 2017-2018 Pre-K and Kindergarten Montessori program.  If you are interested in the enrollment process fplease contact Katy Kahl for additional information.

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LiveBaltimoreLogo2Live Baltimore is a nationally recognized, independent nonprofit organization committed to promoting the benefits of Baltimore City living. Each year, Live Baltimore provides thousands of individuals with information on the city’s 277 neighborhoods, rental living options, homebuying incentive programs, historic tax credits, and more. Its Way to Stay program was created in 2015 to provide information on Schools, Space, and Support to city families with children. MORE

 

 

 

Photos by Laura Black.

 

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heather

About the Author heather

Heather is editor-in-chief of (cool) progeny. When not scouting the best in everything kid and family, you'll probably find her running The Weisse Group or adventuring around town with her daughter (the Bug), her son (the Little Lion Man), her daughter BabyM, and husband Patrick. Can be won over with a good glass of wine or something homemade. Addicted to Pinterest. A two-cups-of-coffee-a-day kinda gal. Only pretends to know what she's doing with her SLR, even though she's got a fantastic lens on it.Thankful it does most of the work for her. Navigating the world of special needs parenting. Trying to pay it forward one day at a time. #littlelionchallenge

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