Bacchus Marsh Montessori Preschool was established in 1999 by a group of local parents. With just eleven enrolments, the preschool quickly began to attract families who were interested in exploring options for their children’s early childhood education. The preschool’s beginnings were difficult, to say the least. The committee had secured a building and a teacher and enrolments to make a start but not sufficient enrolments to attract funding from the government. So the parent volunteers raised money to pay rent, make equipment, construct furniture and build a name for itself in the community. Gradually the program attracted more enrolments and the parent group, together with the Moorabool Shire Council, worked towards a plan to ensure the Montessori programs would prosper.In 2001, the preschool shifted to its current location at 176 Gisborne Road and with more buildings they were able to offer more programs for children from the ages of 18 months to 6 years.The Bacchus Marsh Montessori Preschool is a not for profit organization that is managed by Uniting Vic. Tas. Ltd. The program is expanding each year to meet the growing interest in Montessori. Enrolments for each program are accepted throughout the year and children are placed in classes as vacancies arise. The preschool continues to attract families from as far away as Lara, Point Cook, Hoppers Crossing, Blackwood, Sydenham and Melton. We invite any parents interested in finding out more about Montessori to come and visit the preschool and see the program in action.Parent and former president of the preschool, Carolyn Burns explains what draws families to the preschool.“Bacchus Marsh is a community that continues to attract young families. This preschool offers a variety of ways for people to meet, socialize and support one another. When you don’t have your own family in the area to support you, the next best is to build a network of friends. Here at Montessori, the children can start in an Early Learner Program at around 2 years of age. This program gives parents a chance to share their ideas about the importance of early childhood education. The child quickly establishes a routine and understanding of the Montessori Method and moves on to Toddler group and then, around 3 years of age, the child can start in the preschool. Personally, I’m always delighted to hear parents tell me how much Montessori education has meant to them and their children. I believe the teachers and assisting staff have so much to do with this centre’s success. They truly uphold the philosophy of Dr. Montessori and revere and respect the children. I also think we’re incredibly fortunate to have such a wonderful environment for the children.”
To provide the Montessori method of education in Bacchus Marsh.
To be accessible to all children from 18 months to 6 years of age.
To provide a preschool that is user-pays, entirely not for profit and within reach of the general public and to have the assistance of local and state government.
“The most important period of life is not the age of university studies but the first one, the period from birth to six years. For that is when man’s intelligence itself, his greatest implement, is being formed… At no other age has the child a greater need of intelligent help, and any obstacle that impedes his creative work will lessen the chance he has of perfection.” Dr. Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind.
“The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, The children are now working as if I did not exist”
Born in 1870, Maria Montessori was the first woman to be granted a medical degree from an Italian University. After graduation, Dr Montessori observed and worked with children in specialist institutions. Her work with these children produced extraordinary results, which lead her to study the developmental milestones in their lives.She was a brilliant woman and an astute observer. She soon determined that the problems existed not in the children, but in the adults, in their approaches and in the environments they provided.Maria Montessori’s life work began in 1907 with a group of pre-school children in Rome, when she opened her famous “Casa dei Bambini” or “Children’s House”. Montessori created a school environment in her Children’s House which she determined that, to be comfortable, young children need furnishings their own size and tools that fit their small hands. Through her observations and work with these children she discovered their astonishing, almost effortless ability to learn. This simple but profound truth formed the cornerstone of Dr. Montessori’s life-long pursuit of educational reform, and what is now known around the world, as the Montessori Method.Dr. Maria Montessori was nominated for the Nobel peace prize three times. Her research into young children and what they need to learn has affected the fundamental way early educators think about children.
Montessori believed that children learn language and other significant life skills, without conscious effort, from the environments where they spend their time. For that reason, she thought that environments for children need to be beautiful and orderly so that children can learn order from them. She believed children learn best through sensory experiences. She thought that the teacher has a responsibility to provide wonderful signs, textures, sounds, and smells for children. She also believed that part of sensory experience for children is having tools and utensils that fit their small hands and tables and chairs that match their small bodies.She thought children needed real tools (sharp knives, good scissors and cleaning tools) if they were to do the real work that interested them. She believed that children could learn to use tools safely and that giving them tools that didn’t really work undermined their competence.
Montessori stressed the need for children to be able to reach materials when they needed them, in order to help them become responsible for their own learning. Arranging classrooms with low, open shelves means children can see what is available and get what they want without assistance from the teacher and put it away when they are done.According to Montessori, knowing how to arrange an interesting, beautiful environment for children is as much a part of teaching as knowing how to select fine children’s books for the library.
Montessori believed that children learn best by doing, and through repetition. She thought if they did things over and over this would make the experience their own, as well as to develop skills. She thought it was the teacher’s job to prepare the environment, provide appropriate materials, and then step back and allow the children the time and space to experiment. Open-ended scheduling, with large blocks of time for free work and play is part of Montessori’s legacy.Montessori believed that children should be able to do everything they are capable of. She believed it is the teacher’s responsibility to increase each child’s competence whenever possible.
Maria Montessori developed her teaching philosophy by studying the needs and behaviour of young children. She believed strongly that children should be allowed to develop in a non-competitive, caring and carefully planned environment, free from reward and punishment. She believed that children go through waves of learning and interest, and have periods of heightened sensitivity which enable them to concentrate and learn new skills easily. For example, the sensitive period for order occurs around 2.5 to 4 years of age. In recognition of this, great care is taken to provide a beautiful, orderly environment with each piece of equipment having its own specific place.The classroom activities are arranged so that children can easily choose their own activities, and can work alone or with other children.
How does it differ from mainstream preschool?
There are a number of differences between mainstream preschools and Montessori preschools.1. Multi -age ClassroomsThe multi-age class room allows children of different ages to experience a community where the different abilities, knowledge and experiences are shared between children in a supportive and caring environment. The older children gain confidence by imparting their experience and knowledge to the younger children.2. No toys Montessori classrooms do not have toys. The Montessori equipment is different to what you may see in mainstream preschools. Much of the equipment is specially designed and constructed to allow children to learn how to use it in a simple manner at first, but allowing them to learn increasingly complex uses for it as they become able. The equipment is also self correcting, which allows children to find the answer themselves. Many Montessori activities in the practical life area allow children to practice their fine motor skills, prior to learning to write or cut with scissors and encourage emerging independence in looking after their own needs and surroundings. 3. Teacher provides guidanceThe teacher is a guide, observing the child and assisting them only when needed. She spends time observing and quietly guiding children as they work. She will provide one-to-one guidance to introduce a new activity and assist the child until they have mastered it. This type of instruction is part of specialist Montessori teacher training. However, there are also similarities between Montessori and mainstream preschools. As well as specially designed Montessori activities the children also paint, draw, paste, construct using wood, do puzzles and enjoy books. As part of each session children can take part in songs, stories, presentations by staff or visitors, and outside play. Many Montessori principles have been accepted into mainstream teaching such as using furniture that is child size, respecting the individuality and differences between children, developing programs that are child centered and teaching children many practical life skills to encourage independence.
What do children actually do in the classroom?
Most sessions in the Montessori classroom allow the child time to choose their own activities and work on them for as long as they choose. There is a time for the group to come together towards the end of the session. The activities in the classroom are divided into 4 main areas:Practical life Practical Life is aimed at developing muscle co-ordination and concentration and encouraging independence in caring for themselves and their surroundings. Purposeful activities include sweeping, polishing (shoes and metal), sorting items into groups, sewing with needles and thread, washing clothes and dishes and preparing food.Sensorial Senses are the gateway to learning, therefore a Montessori classroom comprises of sensorial activities which are based on special sensorial materials. These materials help sharpen and train the senses for easier, simpler and more understandable learning. Materials include cylinder blocks for distinguishing dimensions, colour tablets for training the eye and developing aesthetic sense and touch tablets and boards for tactile sense. All the activities are linked to each other and are introduced from easy and real to more challenging and abstract.Academic Language Children work their language from the moment they enter a Montessori classroom. Games like the ‘sound game’ make the child realise that all the things have names and are made up of sounds. These sounds are represented through symbols called alphabet which are introduced three at a time with sandpaper letters. Cards and many other materials are prepared to enrich children’s vocabulary and advanced activities help them understand all the complicated world of English grammer. This makes the whole process of learning easier, faster and more rewarding for the child.MathematicsThe sensorial material also prepares the child’s mathematical mind which helps the children to easily understand the basic mathematical concepts like deep, shallow, long, short, less and more etc. The mathematical material then builds on these basic concepts helping the child understand more complicated functions like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. By the time the child is six years of age they might be able to calculate in thousands and millions.Cultural A wide variety of activities covering geography, botany, art, and culture. These include land formatin, puzzle maps, making flags, painting (water colour and acrylic), clay, sewing, weaving and musical bells.Many of these activities can be done by individuals or 2-3 children together. All activities are demonstrated individually to the child by the teacher when she feels they are ready to attempt it. Children also learn by watching older children work, and older children also act as guides when younger children are starting new activities.