Montes­sori-style

Christ Church Day School cel­e­brates 60 years

Sunday Star - - FRONT PAGE - By KATIE WIL­LIS kwillis@star­dem.com Fol­low me on Twit­ter @kwillis_s­tar­dem.

— Christ Church Day School will cel­e­brate its 60th an­niver­sary with a cel­e­bra­tion from 4:30 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21, at the East­ern Shore Con­ser­va­tion Cen­ter, 114 S. Washington St., Eas­ton.

The fundrais­ing event will in­clude cater­ing and oys­ters by Blue Heron Cater­ing, and mu­sic by Mule Train. Tick­ets are $60 per per­son and $100 per cou­ple.

Money raised from the event will go to fund school sup­plies of Montes­sori equip­ment, mu­sic en­rich­ment for stu­dents, and play­ground up­grades and im­prove­ments. It also will fund staff en­rich­ment, which in­cludes mind­ful­ness work­shops for teach­ers to pass onto the chil­dren through cur­ricu­lum ini­tia­tives and on­line Montes­sori train­ing for teach­ers and the school’s new di­rec­tor, Su­san Tif­fany.

Tif­fany came on board in 2016, and with her, brought the Montes­sori-in­spired teach­ing method the school re­cently adopted. She was the founder and di­rec­tor, and a teacher, at Eas­ton Montes­sori School for 25 years, from 1987 to 2010; and also a found­ing board mem­ber of Montes­sori Schools in Mary­land.

“The Montes­sori sets (Christ Church Day School) apart,” Tif­fany said.

Ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Montes­sori So­ci­ety web­site, www.amhsq.org, “The Montes­sori Method of ed­u­ca­tion, de­vel­oped by Dr. Maria Montes­sori, is a child-cen­tered ed­u­ca­tional ap­proach based on sci­en­tific ob­ser­va­tions of chil­dren from birth to adult­hood.”

Some of the ben­e­fits listed on the web­site in­clude learn­ing or­der, co­or­di­na­tion, con­cen­tra­tion and in­de­pen­dence at an early age; learn­ing a child’s unique learn­ing meth­ods and valu­ing those qual­i­ties within the child; and chil­dren learn­ing to self-cor­rect or self-as­sess in the class­room set­ting and be­yond.

Christ Church Day School’s web­site, www.christchurch­day school.org, said this method of learn­ing helps the child tran­si­tion into more ab­stract learn­ing as they grow.

Christ Church Day School was es­tab­lished in 1957 as an Epis­co­pal preschool with sup­port from Christ Church Eas­ton. To­day, the school, a mis­sion of the church, serves preschool stu­dents ages 2 through 4.

Christ Church Eas­ton was founded in 1687, and the cur­rent build­ing, con­structed in 1840, was re­stored in 2015. Since the day school’s in­cep­tion in 1957, many Eas­ton na­tives have joined the CCDS com­mu­nity and many have re­turned with their own chil­dren, ea­ger to pass on the ex­pe­ri­ence.

Tif­fany said the church, its rec­tor, Fa­ther Bill Ortt, and a par­ent ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee sup­port the school, and have been in­stru­men­tal in its rein­ven­tion as a Montes­sori-in­spired preschool. She said the vestry gov­erns the school, while the ex­ec­u­tive ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee over­seas the school, and both have been valu­able in pro­vid­ing her with ad­vice when she needs it.

Tif­fany said she spent most of her first year with the school ob­serv­ing.

“The teach­ers are fan­tas­tic. They have in­cred­i­ble projects and they’re creative, and in­no­va­tive and fun,” Tif­fany said. “I thought ... it would be a great mar­riage with the Montes­sori equip­ment ... I think what they were do­ing was very well con­nected to Montes­sori, but no­body knew that.”

Montes­sori equip­ment be­gan be­ing in­tro­duced to preschool class­rooms this past week. Tif­fany said there are sev­eral ma­jor ar­eas of fo­cus for Montes­sori-in­spired ed­u­ca­tion, in­clud­ing prac­ti­cal life, or fine tun­ing gross and fine mo­tor skills; and sen­sory, or a way for chil­dren to cat­e­go­rize their en­vi­ron­ment. She said there also are many math­e­mat­i­cal and ge­o­graph­i­cal com­po­nents to the Montes­sori-in­spired style, and many of the ac­tiv­i­ties en­cour­age an en­hanced vo­cab­u­lary and build con­fi­dence.

Prac­ti­cal life ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude in­di­vid­ual trays, set up left to right, based on how chil­dren even­tu­ally are taught to read, and top to bot­tom. The in­di­vid­ual trays are meant to teach stu­dents about bound­aries, Tif­fany said. She said most of the work or ac­tiv­i­ties take place on the floor.

Tif­fany said one of the ac­tiv­i­ties is spoon­ing, where chil­dren take tot-sized spoons and pick up beans or other small items and move them from one con­tainer, usu­ally a bowl, to an­other. Right now, Tif­fany said the stu­dents are us­ing small pump­kins or or­ange pom-poms dur­ing Oc­to­ber. The ac­tiv­ity also is de­signed to in­spire a pincher move­ment with chil­dren’s hands and fin­gers, sim­i­lar to the way they will hold a pen­cil even­tu­ally.

An­other ac­tiv­ity is pour­ing, where a child pours liq­uid, now or­ange for the fall sea­son, or lentils, also or­ange, from one pitcher to the next, or us­ing an eye drop­per to move the liq­uid from one con­tainer to the next.

“Most of the work, from be­gin­ning to end, is think­ing about what you’d like to do — go­ing to the cab­i­net, tak­ing it out, put­ting it on your place­mat, do­ing the work, put­ting it back, put­ting your place­mat away,” Tif­fany said.

Sen­sory ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude tak­ing cylin­ders and fit­ting them into the ap­pro­pri­ate hole, from big­gest to small­est. Tif­fany said the ac­tiv­ity is self-cor­rect­ing, be­cause stu­dents can see when a mis­take is made.

Vis­ual ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude match­ing color tablets or mix­ing color tablets to make se­condary col­ors. Sound boxes help chil­dren match sounds us­ing boxes with dif­fer­ent con­tents or cylin­ders with dif­fer­ent grains of sand, beans or beads. Smelling ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude match­ing dif­fer­ent smells.

Tif­fany said th­ese ac­tiv­i­ties en­cour­age stu­dents to be more aware of the world around them.

“In a Montes­sori class, there’s al­ways a hum ... it is never quiet,” Tif­fany said. “In a way, it’s a lit­tle mag­i­cal, be­cause you’re fine tun­ing and en­cour­ag­ing them to un­der­stand why lis­ten­ing is very im­por­tant.”

She said the teach­ers have been grad­u­ally work­ing on th­ese skills through class ac­tiv­i­ties since the be­gin­ning of the school year. Over time, the teach­ers will work oneon-one with stu­dents, in­tro­duc­ing the new Montes­sori items to each stu­dent through in­di­vid­ual lessons.

“Some kids are ob­servers — you’re just sort of ob­serv­ing their style. Those kids will sit next to you and watch. Oth­ers might be re­ally anx­ious to have a les­son. So you try to tread wa­ter a lit­tle bit by iden­ti­fy­ing some­one’s style,” Tif­fany said. “The kids in­spire one an­other, and they’re cu­ri­ous.”

She said chang­ing the color or style of the Montes­sori school sup­plies helps kids look for­ward to change, even though they will be work­ing on many of the same skills.

“One of the most im­por­tant things that hap­pens for the kids, is a mis­take is an op­por­tu­nity to learn,” Tif­fany said. “They just re­peat it, again and again and again, and they mas­ter it — and they feel re­ally won­der­ful.”

She said she thinks the great­est dif­fer­ence be­tween tra­di­tional ed­u­ca­tion and Montes­sori is stu­dents who re­ceive Montes­sori­in­spired ed­u­ca­tion are learn­ing in­stead of be­ing taught.

“I be­lieve that what you learn, you keep with you,” Tif­fany said.

She said be­ing taught some­thing may not be as eas­ily re­called by a stu­dent as learn­ing some­thing by do­ing that ac­tiv­ity may be.

The hard­est thing about Montes­sori-in­spired ed­u­ca­tion is not say­ing any­thing, and al­low­ing the chil­dren to dis­cover the process them­selves, Tif­fany said.

“To let them fig­ure it out — this sort of per­sonal vic­tory — is re­ally won­der­ful,” Tif­fany said.

Tif­fany said Montes­sori-in­spired learn­ing typ­i­cally is for ev­ery child be­cause Montes­sori teach­ers work to make sure they are sen­si­tive to the learn­ing style of each stu­dent.

In the fu­ture, Tif­fany said the preschool will move to mixed age class­rooms, in­stead of the chil­dren be­ing sep­a­rated by age.

One of the most unique as­pects of the learn­ing style, Tif­fany said, is the chil­dren are free to move around and make choices.

“The kids are free to learn that we make bad choices some­times. It’s not the end of the world,” Tif­fany said. “It’s self-reg­u­lat­ing. And there are some times you just need to throw the towel in and take them for a walk to look at pine cones or look at leaves. It is tak­ing our­selves out of the equa­tion of our plan is most im­por­tant ... and you start learn­ing the kids ... that’s the beauty of go­ing with their flow.”

Tif­fany said the school hopes to “be an in­cred­i­ble re­source for par­ents in Tal­bot County.”

“The re­al­ity is, kids are go­ing to make a dif­fer­ence in this crazy world,” Tif­fany said, “and this is their first com­mu­nity. Our re­spon­si­bil­ity to each other is to be kind. Rather than con­stantly say­ing, ‘No, you can’t do this,’ you ap­proach it pos­i­tively ... re­ally pulling from them the no­tion of self-reg­u­la­tion and what it means to be a re­spon­si­ble mem­ber of the com­mu­nity.”

For more in­for­ma­tion about the school, 111 S. Har­ri­son St., Eas­ton, visit www.christchurch­dayschool.org or call 410-8222677. To pur­chase tick­ets to the Oct. 21 oys­ter fundraiser, visit www.ccd­s_60thanniver­sary.eventbrite.com.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO

From left are Christ Church Day School stu­dents Clark McMullen, Julie Man­hood, Emilia Moore, Ash­ton “Bo” Wright, Brody Gund­lach, Jack Thomas and Morgan Liv­ingston with Pemmy No­bel, who founded the school.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO

Christ Church Day School alumni are pic­tured with their chil­dren, who also at­tend CCDS in Eas­ton. From left are Sta­cie Gomez with daugh­ter, Vanessa; Jon Ryan with his son, Sam; Kate Thomas with her son, Jack; and Jes­sica Paglia with her son, Pre­ston.

PHOTO BY KATIE WIL­LIS

From left, Vanessa Gomez, a stu­dent at Christ Church Day School in Eas­ton, learns one of the new Montes­sori spoon­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, which will be in­tro­duced to preschool class­rooms, from Su­san Tif­fany, CCDS di­rec­tor.

PHOTO BY KATIE WIL­LIS

Christ Church Day School Di­rec­tor Su­san Tif­fany, left, said it is not un­com­mon for Montes­sori stu­dents to be able to do com­pli­cated geog­ra­phy, which many may think is too com­plex for chil­dren ages 2 to 4. She said most Montes­sori stu­dents are able learn the seven con­ti­nents, then delve deeper to learn coun­tries, in­clud­ing all the coun­tries of Africa, and even all 50 United States.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO

Pemmy No­ble founded Christ Church Day School in 1957. The school is a mis­sion of Christ Church Eas­ton.

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