After her training in science and medicine, Dr. Maria Montessori developed her educational practices scientifically, through observation and experiment. She noticed that children of different ages had different needs and tendencies, and determined that therefore the methods and practices of education should change with the children. Since the child's body and mind are different in each age group, the specific educational methods differ as well. But any visitor will see some common, consistent features across the curriculum.
Museum District Campus
A Variety of Ages
Montessori schools have multi-age classrooms, generally encompassing a three-year age span. Older students teach younger students, both through modeling and through active assistance with lessons and work; both sides benefit, academically and socially. Young Children's Community and Primary classrooms (ages 0–6) generally involve much more one-on-one focus with the teacher, in keeping with the more individual explorations that characterize this time in their development. Young children are focused on themselves and how to gain physical independence. By the Elementary (6–12 years old), a group instinct has taken hold, and classroom activities actively encourage cooperative work. These children are focused on their peers and learning about the universe. During adolescence, in Middle School (ages 12–14) and High School (ages 14–18), the multi-age classrooms continue and collaborative learning is the norm. Students engage with each other in seminar format, on group projects, and in community problem-solving.
Freedom and Responsibility
Freedom of movement and free choice of activities are important features in any Montessori classroom: rather than sitting in even rows with everyone focused on a single activity, children engage in group work at tables and on floor mats on a variety of activities simultaneously, with the teacher observing or moving among them. Children are given the freedom to choose an activity, repeat it, make mistakes, try again, and gain mastery. As they grow, they are given more freedom to explore the learning environments. Freedom and responsibilty are always balanced. The adults in the classroom meet the children where they are developmentally and allow as much freedom as their skills and level of responsibility can handle. As they move through the Post Oak program, students in our High School who have taken ownership of their education have the freedom to engage with partner institutions in the Houston Museum District, Texas Medical Center, and beyond for internships—the culmination of Montessori’s philosophy of freedom and responsibility.
Learning How to Learn
The Montessori curriculum is both wide and deep, offering a wealth of knowledge in the detail desired by each individual, with a unified presentation of knowledge across the age groups and curriculum. A constant goal in the classroom is to provide activity and engagement for students to discover concepts while practicing skills. They are presented a concept, given a task to work with the concept, allowed to repeat and explore, and then asked to demonstrate knowledge. This happens at every level in the simplest context (learning how to button) and the more complex (understanding DNA). The result of this process is students learn how to learn and enjoy themselves while doing it. Post Oak students love to come to school because they love learning. They have a method for taking on a new challenge and do so confidently.