Maria Montessori once said, “If teaching is to be effective with young children, it must assist them to advance on the way to independence.” But what if in the process of helping a child to become independent, you could nourish them spiritually and emotionally as well?
That is the approach that St. Pius X Catholic School is taking with their students.
As the only Catholic Montessori school in Maryland, St. Pius X School works closely with children from the ages of 3 through 14 to help children develop independence and a love of learning, while trusting them to care for materials and building strong relationships with peers.
“We focus on uplifting the child’s spirit by showing them all they can do. Our goal is to build their confidence and intrinsic motivation so that they fall in love with learning and trying new things,” shared Assistant Principal, Nicole Johnson. “My favorite moments are when my youngest students shout ‘Mrs. Johnson, I did it! I did it all by myself!’”
Creating independent learners can be a difficult but rewarding task. A lot of careful thought and planning goes on behind the scenes each morning, as Guides prepare the environment to be warm and enriching for their students.
Students enthusiastically walk through the doors at around 7:45, and are greeted by staff members and teachers as they arrive. Even the youngest students know to put their things away neatly and get ready for opening exercises such as the pledge and prayer. Then, the beauty of their independent work begins. Students receive individual or small group lessons in the classroom and the atrium, serve themselves snack when they are hungry, sit and talk with friends, pair up with peers to work together or choose to work alone.
“The biggest misconception about Montessori is that children are free to do what they want,” explained Ms. Johnson. “What many people don’t know is that before the school year begins, there is a lot of preparation done by the guide to set up an environment for which the child can be successful, gain independence, develop concentration and coordination of movement. Montessori classrooms are extremely organized and purposeful.”
Guides begin the school year, modeling how to use materials and ways to choose places to work around the room. The freedom comes when students aren’t given time limits or requests to share materials.
Best part for kids?
The guides understand that children need to move freely, and give them the freedom to move around the classroom, while being trusted that they respect others’ space and keep their volume at appropriate levels.
To help foster confidence and autonomy, students are given the freedom to work with friends or independently, and are trusted to work with real, breakable materials in the classroom, and are trusted to care for them in everyday use.
The team at St. Pius X believe that technology is important and has a place in the elementary programs as long as the work is purposeful. You may find students learning to type, researching a topic, or obtaining information for a going-out (a field trip planned by the elementary students) but you’ll never find students using technology- for technology’s sake.
The thing that makes St. Pius X stand out from other Montessori schools, is their approach to spirituality. They use the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, which was inspired by the educational principles of Dr. Maria Montessori and designed to enhance spiritual knowledge and awareness to help each child to build a meaningful relationship with God and their peers.
By reaching students academically, socially and spiritually, St. Pius X hope is to create lifelong, joyful learners and well-rounded contributors to society.