Montessori education focuses on the whole child. It involves sound educational practices that build upon a child's knowledge with activities that are interesting and engaging. Children learn to approach learning creatively, observing their surroundings in ways that challenge what others may see as mundane and commonplace. The Dancing Moose Montessori classroom is filled with beautiful materials designed to teach concrete lessons that precede abstract conceptualization. The environment is conducive to freedom and spontaneity because ethics of peace, order, and respect are upheld in the classroom community.
The focus on the whole child is a focus on every aspect of the individual-cognitive and physical development, feelings, emotions, and relationships in and outside of school. A
prominent shortcoming of traditional educational programs is that they define the child narrowly-in terms of measurable objectives. They fail to emphasize that learning is more than quantifiable data; it is conceptualizations derived from a child's interacting with his or her environment.
Sound educational programs move beyond standardized objectives to customized learning that builds upon children's experiences. Sound educational programs support deep and meaningful lessons that build upon one another. These programs recognize that children learn differently and at different paces. They value what Howard Gardner termed multiple intelligences, including aptitudes in music, art, movement, as well as literacy, math, and science. Sound educational programs do not isolate subjects as though they are discreet units that are unrelated; rather, they combine the myriad of subjects that have thematic connections. These programs require small student-to-teacher ratios, which allow for individualized attention. Dancing Moose Montessori School (DMMS) was established to provide a sound education with all the ideals of individualized learning at the most critical period of a child's life-the preschool, Kindergarten, and primary grades.
The name Dancing Moose Montessori School is connected to the founders' philosophical beliefs about curriculum. It emphasizes the creative lens that might be applied to nature. A moose, indigenous to Utah, may be seen simply as a long-legged rather awkward animal. For others, though, this magnificent animal moving swiftly through the wooded mountains might indeed be perceived as a dancing moose. DMMS encourages the creative, free-flowing ideas that individuals bring to the curriculum. Creative expression is applied to every aspect of the DMMS curriculum.
Montessori materials are the central focus of the Dancing Moose curriculum. Children enjoy holding the beautiful pieces and manipulating them in ways that are logical and meaningful. Teachers are always present and available to demonstrate the names of the material and strategies to manipulate pieces to form logical connections, but they do not interrupt children as they work. Instead, teachers present materials, assist children in working with them, then observe and take notes on how children proceed. Most of the materials are self correcting, so if a child is not manipulating the materials toward logical sequencing and productive outcomes, the child is able to make adjustments. Nevertheless, when teachers observe that a child is having some difficulty, they designate another opportunity to work with the child and the materials. Each set of Montessori materials is designed to enhance children's ability to see logical and meaningful relationships that lead to abstract conceptualization. Activities combine subjects to emphasize that children do not experience life as discreet entities; rather, they learn that life is comprised of integrated skills and understandings.
The social aspect of a child's being is important for his or her basic satisfaction with the relationships that govern communities. As part of children's Montessori experience, they learn to listen, observe, and engage others cooperatively and respectfully, appreciating the value of their own skills and the skills of others. They learn to communicate effectively and to expect that others will listen to and value them-essential skills that facilitate order in their lives outside of school as well as in the classroom. Children enjoy participating in practical life activities that are fundamental to their day-to-day existence. They learn that an orderly environment eases tension and frees their minds to work creatively.
Movement is not reserved for the playground at DMMS. Children enjoy movement as integral to all curricular subjects. Children move freely around the classroom to select materials to work with, putting the materials back on the shelf when they are finished. They enjoy walking the Montessori circle as an activity that promotes relaxation and reflection. Children learn to get in touch with their own feelings and the feelings of others as they experience both independent and cooperative activities. DMMS's multi-purpose room is designated for big movement activities that require a large space, such as dance, yoga, karate, and gymnastics.
The key word for Montessori education at DMMS is active. Learning is an active process of discovery and connection of concepts that build upon one another. Children are always at the center of activity. There is no big chair in the front of the room where the teacher acts as a fountain of knowledge; rather, knowledge is everywhere, accessible to all as an exciting and challenging venture. At DMMS the term child-centered education is accurate and highly esteemed.
It is not surprising to see a circle drawn on the floor as a standard feature of a Montessori classroom. A circle is a continuous connection that leads back to its starting place. It is an appropriate representation of the Montessori method because learning in a Montessori classroom is never linear. The objective of learning is not to reach an end point. Instead, learning is a spiral process where knowledge enhances understanding; and each time an individual engages in a new beginning in his or her spiral progression, the beginning point is new and enriched. In other words, learning is a process of enhancing one's understanding, and the process changes the individual into a more discerning and more capable being. The process of acquiring knowledge and understanding always leaves the individual with a desire to know more and understand better.