You’ll notice something very different about a growing number of classrooms in Detroit. There are no desks, all the work is hands-on and the kids are different ages. Often wearing slippers, the students move independently through the class and choose what to do next.
It’s a new, free Montessori program offered by the Detroit Public Schools Community District. Teachers – or “guides,” as they’re called here – “demonstrate the lessons and then the children take over,” says Nicola Turner, director of Detroit Public Montessori.
Launched in the fall, Montessori programs are now offered in three Detroit school buildings – Edison, Spain and Maybury – and currently serve 149 students in preschool through second grade. That number is expected to grow each year.
“The goal currently is to at least get it through fifth grade,” Turner says, “but my vision is to go all the way through high school.”
Montessori is a unique way of teaching students that emphasizes child-led learning in mixed-age classrooms. Many parents seek it out, but programs are often only available at expensive private schools.
“To offer this to children and their families for free is an amazing feat.”
Students benefit from hands-on learning, the freedom to repeat a lesson as many times as needed and an overall approach that’s “totally different from the traditional curriculum” while meeting the same state standards.
“We don’t do a lot of direct teaching – everything is hands-on and experiential. We learn through our senses. The children get to use nature as part of their learning platform,” Turner explains. “We follow the child.”
Most importantly, students are thriving. “It’s an amazing journey to watch these children,” she says. “They are much happier. They’re excited about learning.”
To learn more, call 313-605-8173.