For students at Creative Montessori Academy, a growing K-8 free public charter school in metro Detroit’s downriver community of Southgate, a typical day is filled with collaboration, mentorship, individualized learning and practical skill development designed to nurture the whole child.
Recognizing that children thrive when they can drive their own educational discovery, Creative Montessori teachers and staff empower children to do their best work each day, at a pace that is just right for the child.
“Our students work independently to get where they need to go academically,” says Lisa Loger, Assistant Headmaster at Creative Montessori Academy. “Walk into any classroom and you may have 30 students working on 30 different things. Montessori moves with the child, and that’s very different from a traditional school where students are all doing the same thing.”
To build a culture of respect through positive interactions, each Creative Montessori school year begins with a month or more of focus on social graces and interpersonal connections that set the tone for the year to follow. Each grade begins the day with a community meeting, just to share current stories, questions, good news and even frustrations. These connections are critical opportunities for students to prepare for their day’s learning experiences.
“We start with the emotional aspect first, then launch into academics that include concrete understanding and mastery of mathematics, English language, social studies, science and reading,” says Dr. Alan Carter, Headmaster at Creative Montessori Academy.
True to Montessori educational philosophy, the younger students work with blocks, beads and other manipulatives that help them learn the fundamentals of academic success. As they grow, they begin to explore abstract, higher order concepts through individual mastery, textbook and online study.
Throughout the day, students have plenty of opportunity to collaborate, work dynamically in teams and mentor each other, not only to develop and reinforce academic concepts, but to learn how to succeed in team engagements – important soft skills that future employers will seek.
In addition to academic mastery, all students pursue special enrichment through physical education, music, art, Spanish and technology. At Creative Montessori, students also get age-appropriate opportunities for recess to exercise their bodies, play and connect with classmates.
Unique to the Montessori education – and welcomed by parents with enthusiasm – is a focus on practical skill building. “At the end of each day, students clean up their classrooms. They vacuum and dust. They put work into folders and organize after the day. They answer the telephone. Each student has a job,” Carter says.
This emphasis on practical skills extends beyond the classroom. “Typically, we want homework to be the work of the home. This can be helping parents prepare dinner and cleaning up afterward. It might be helping a little brother or sister. It’s doing what they need to do to help the family get things done,” Carter explains. “It’s so important for our students to build character and learn how to live a practical life, how to answer phones, wash tables, the little simple things that kids only need a moment of instruction to grasp, but can mean so much to their sense of independence.”
Built into Creative Montessori Academy’s daily fabric is a value of lifelong learning. “We help our students become critical thinkers, so they can parse through all the fast-changing information available in our world today,” Carter says. “When our students go on to build their careers and families, they will pass along that high regard for lifelong learning. Now they have a family of lifelong learners. They are doing good work, and building understanding, and that leads to a peaceful world.”
The number of school staff whose own children attend Creative Montessori is a testament to the value of this unique educational experience. “People invest in the school by bringing their own children here. That says a lot,” Carter says, adding that all parents are invested and supportive, to create a strong culture of community. “It’s fun to be in a place that is child-focused in every way.”
In addition to kindergarten through eighth grade, free to all residents of Wayne County, Creative Montessori has a fee-based preschool program. With 816 students, and room for more, tucked away in the downriver community of Southgate, Carter says, “We are the biggest Montessori school you have never heard of.”
For more information on Creative Montessori Academy, visit creative-montessori.com.