Montessori Preschool Opens at Springdale's Jones Center

April 3, 2014 | NW News

SPRINGDALE — Toddlers and young children are a more common sight at The Jones Center because of a new Montessori preschool.

The Ozark Kids Montessori Preschool began classes in January, said Christine Silano, executive director of Ozark Education, the nonprofit umbrella for the school for children 1 1/2 to 5 years old.

Fast Facts

Montessori Schools

• Maria Montessori created Montessori education in 1907 when she opened a school in Rome.

• There are 4,000 to 5,000 Montessori schools in the U.S.

• There are Montessori schools on every continent except Antarctica.

• Preschool is the most common level for Montessori education.

• Schools group students of different ages together.

• Schools have scheduled times where students get to work without being interrupted.

• Teachers act as observers and guides in the classroom.

• Learning is self directed, where children use tools and activities to teach themselves.

Source: American Montessori Society

One of the philosophies in Montessori education is for children of different ages to learn together in the same setting, Silano said. One classroom at the school has 1 1/2 to 2 year olds while another has 3 to 5 year olds. The younger children learn from those older, while the older children gain confidence by helping younger counterparts.

Alex Rodriguez, 4, grabbed rectangular blocks off a shelf Wednesday. He stacked them until they were above his head. When he couldn't reach the top of the tower, he got a chair to stand on.

Amy Chiodo, a teacher, stood to the side and watched Alex's progress. She explained the tower would probably fall, and Alex can only build the tower as high as he can reach.

"Here we believe in natural consequences," she said.

Moments later, Alex stacked another block on top of the tower, and half of it fell to the ground. Instead of getting frustrated or giving up, he found a different way to build the tower without it falling over.

While the school is structured with activities, the teaching is self-directed with the teachers stepping in to help the children as seldom as possible, Silano said. The approach helps children learn to solve problems on their own.

Teachers generally act as observers and guides in Montessori classrooms, said Marcy Krever, senior director of marketing and communications for the American Montessori Society. Teachers usually move around the room and don't have a teacher's desk.

"If you supply children with the right tools to investigate, they can be great teachers of themselves," she said.

The school at The Jones Center has two teachers and two assistants. One teacher is certified to teach Montessori classes and the other will earn certification by summer, Silano said.

Tuition is $609 per month for each child, and the school accepts Arkansas childcare assistance vouchers, Silano said. The Fayetteville Montessori School charges $865 per month for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 year old children and $790 per month for 2 1/2 to 5 year old children, said Mark Duncan, project specialist with the school.

There's no specification on which city or county the children must live in to attend the preschool at the center, because some families live locally while others commute for work, Silano said.

Theresa Saenz said the Montessori method helped her 4-year-old son learn to be more independent and responsible. The teachers taught her son if he makes a mess, he has to clean it up.

"I think he's going to be super prepared to enter kindergarten," Saenz said. "I think he's going to be the smartest kid in the class."

Saenz is also a guest service representative at the center and said it's convenient to take her son to work with her. She said he will wave to her when the children walk to the ice rink, gym or gymnastics room.

It's a benefit to the community to have the school at the center, because it adds to the services they provide to the community, said Ed Clifford, chief executive officer of the center. It's also beneficial to the school, because the center can help supply scholarships for parents who may not be able to afford tuition.

The school has 14 students between and can enroll up to 30, Silano said. If the school grows and needs more space, officials will look at other locations near downtown Springdale.

There are between 4,000 and 5,000 Montessori schools in the U.S., Krever said.

In Northwest Arkansas, there are at least five Montessori schools including the newest one. Among the other schools is Fayetteville Montessori School, ANH Montessori School in Roger

STAFF PHOTO JASON IVESTER Teacher Amy Chiodo helps Byrce Larson, 4, learn numbers on a clock Wednesday at the preschool at The Jones Center. 

STAFF PHOTO JASON IVESTER Teacher Amy Chiodo helps Byrce Larson, 4, learn numbers on a clock Wednesday at the preschool at The Jones Center.