For families looking for Catholic faith-based education grounded in Montessori learning methodology, St. Pius X Catholic School is a dream. The Towson school is the only Catholic School in the Greater Baltimore area that offers a Montessori program for students from PreK-3 through 5th grade. The school prides themselves on their ability to help children develop independence and a love of learning, while trusting them to care for materials and building strong relationships with peers — all grounded in the Catholic faith.
This fall, the school is actively in the planning phases of expanding their Montessori program to include middle school-aged students as well!
We sat down with Jen Ripley, St. Pius X’s Principal, to discuss how this planning is taking place, what the most important factors are in creating a program of this sort, and how they’re involving parents in the process.
Talking with Jen Ripley About St. Pius X’s New Middle School Montessori Program
Can you describe what the Adolescent Community looks like at St. Pius now, and what you’d like it to look like through the new program?
Currently, St. Pius X School has traditional 7th and 8th grade classes. These two groups are taught in a departmentalized fashion where they switch classes every 50 minutes or so to teachers who specialize in teaching one or two subjects. Through the new Adolescent Community, the students will be in a multi-age group (both 7th and 8th grade students mixed together) and will be working with one main teacher on a variety of academic topics. We will continue to use the Archdiocesan curriculum as our road map, but Montessori also “follows” the student, so students will have time built into their schedule for larger community-wide projects and entrepreneurship activities.
Why are Montessori programs (like the one you are developing) are so important for developing teens?
Adolescent Montessori programs address the needs of this age group specifically giving them a community in which to take part, real life experiences to engage them and provide them an environment that is comfortable, small in size, and conducive to giving each student a meaningful voice.
Can you share with us your main objectives for your new community?
When planning for next year, we wanted to be very focused on four main pillars. We believe that these main goals will help to build a successful program, and to prepare our students for life beyond middle school.
- We will provide opportunities to lead, teach, and collaborate through self advocating, and time management within the community.
- Our students will learn life skills to prepare for high school, such as public speaking, highschool placement and standardized tests, time management, resume and interview skills.
- We will focus on social justice in a global community. We’re currently working on green school status, and hope to work with our students on helping the environment, and assisting the elderly.
- We will encourage entrepreneurship through experiences with micro-economies, making, owning and selling for profit apprenticeships, creating in woodshop, and learning how to cook and plan a menu.
What will a typical day look like in the new program?
Each day would begin with a morning meeting, typically led by students; at the start of each week, students will be given a work-list of lessons and activities that need to be completed by the end of the week, but which they are free to schedule as they see fit. Their uninterrupted work period would be from 8:30 to approximately 11:30/12:00. The work period would be followed by community- time, and social engagement, as well as lunch. The afternoon would be filled with more lessons, goings out, specials, and other extracurricular activities.
Later this school year, we will be meeting with parents to explain our plan for moving forward with the Adolescent Community. We hope to invite all current 4th-7th grade parents to attend, as well as anyone from outside our school community that is looking for a non-traditional approach to education for their 12-14 year old student. We will discuss the pillars of our program and how the methods of Montessori at this age level are so critical to our students today.
For more information on St. Pius X School, visit their website or attend their open house on Thursday, October 17th. There is a morning and evening session. Please contact: 410-427-7453 to RSVP.
Editor’s Note: This article is part of our School Spotlight Series. Each week, we will spotlight one of our partner schools to give you a glimpse into what learning looks like on their campus. To learn more about Archdiocese of Baltimore Catholic Schools, visit their directory listing in our Independent School Directory. Want to become a school partner? Email us.