Category Archives: Montessori Education

Inly’s Technology Philosophy

By Julie Kelly-Detwiler and Kelley Huxtable

B07A8074Our Parent Insight Event on Technology was missed due to snow days, but we wanted to share some of our thoughts on technology at Inly, as well as some often requested guidelines and resources for parents.

Technology at Inly at a Glance

At Inly, we use Montessori’s work to guide our introduction of technology into the classroom.  Montessori observed—and current brain study confirms—that three-dimensional, hands-on materials are the most effective tools to learning for young children. And so, from Toddler House to grade 2, we intentionally minimize the use of screen-based technologies. There is a great deal of current evidence showing that the process of physically crossing the midline of the body builds a child’s brain pathways and that much is lost in this development when children move too quickly to keyboarding, or work on tablets or smart phones. Our focus is to instill habits of mind that will encourage children’s natural capacity to problem solve. We focus on how children behave when they don’t know an answer.  Montessori works allow children the space and time to build this mental toolkit, which is the set of skills they need to attack and solve future problems. In addition, we emphasize computational thinking by exposing them to coding with cups, building circuits to create art, and incorporating STEM activities into their reading comprehension.

In third grade, our students take a year-long course on library and technology where they are formally introduced to skills in two key areas of technology: digital citizenship and digital literacy.  There is a great deal of direct instruction in research skills, accessing and assessing sources, and digital safety.  During third grade, each Inly student is given an Inly e-mail address and access to Google Apps, which they begin to use in preparation for their transition to UE.  We recommend that this be the first time students experience a level of independence with technology and, in this closed system, we are able to monitor every interaction so that we can use our students’ successes and missteps as learning opportunities within a protected domain.

In Upper Elementary, direct instruction in technology is continuous and ongoing, and is integrated into other areas of study. At this level, technology becomes a tool to create and share knowledge. Students have access to various devices for research, writing, and presentations. They create and share work using Google Apps, begin using interactive white-board technology in their teaching and learning, and engage in some curricular skills work online. Sixth year students complete a year-long capstone project that culminates in a presentation in which they use multiple technologies to demonstrate their learning.

By Middle School, students are quite comfortable using technology for academic and creative exploration and presentation. They have access to laptops in the classroom,  complete their Spanish work in an online audio/video language lab, and explore a variety of technology applications in committee work to create and problem-solve.   At this age, students are often exploring or using social media, and the social emotional lessons around digital citizenship, empathy, and social boundaries are real and frequent.

In addition to class work, students are searching out other ways to explore and learn with  technology on campus—from designing in 3D to running DIY robotics programs using micro-controllers and breadboards to learning to program with Lego EV3 Mindstorms.   The push toward innovation and creation is no doubt exciting and having students take the lead is an awesome experience that is not new to Inly. We are looking forward to continuing our journey into this new world of making and innovating with all our students, parents, and alums.

Inly is GOING PLACES—this year and beyond

DonnaBy Donna Milani Luther

We are delighted to welcome new and returning families to Inly and to start another school year together. Inly—and the children who fill its classrooms—are going places. Last spring, our Lower Elementary students sat with one of the authors of the book Going Places and wowed him with their creativity and self-awareness. It is our students who will fly above the rest as they think, problem-solve, and not spend too much time relishing in their victories. Believe it or not, this is the first time that every student at our school was born in this century. These are the children who will shape the next generation’s medical devices, smart technology, and other things we can’t begin to imagine—and they will do it with persistence, knowledge, the ability to understand and follow directions, and confidence in their abilities to take their ideas to new heights.

We take every Inly student’s education very seriously. Not only do we pride ourselves in staying ahead of the educational curve, we are committed to delivering a rigorous, exceptionally challenging education in a Montessori way. That means every child will feel known, be a valued member of our community, and feel appreciated for who they are, while we help them work to their potential.

The Montessori way is not a process that lends itself to A, B, Cs and Ds. It is more individual and more intentional.


Image courtesy of Peter Reynolds

In order to help our parents better understand what, when, how, and why their children are learning Montessori lessons, Inly is piloting the reporting feature of our online record keeping system, Montessori Compass. This tracking software helps teachers map out the Montessori curriculum for each student against the Common Core. The Montessori Compass reports will give you a snapshot into our curriculum and the ongoing work of your child in his or her classroom.

It is important to note that this new parent communication is still a work in progress. We will continue to work with the software designers to refine the look and feel and user experience. We are slated to launch this reporting feature in October. The reports are dynamic and will allow all who are interested to read more about the lessons, materials, and rationale behind the Montessori works your child is being introduced to in the classroom.

These reports will not capture the entirety of work that is happening in the curriculum and programming, nor are they meant to be evaluative documents. The intent is to make the Montessori materials, curriculum, scope, and sequence more transparent. You will still receive full progress reports on each individual child—along with conferences—in November, February, and May.

Navigating Montessori Compass will be new for all, so we will sponsor a series of information sessions to help you understand this new system. The session dates will be posted shortly. We will also talk about this at our Parents Group meetings, create a webinar for those that can’t come in during the day, and have some “drop-in” sessions for Q&A. We will ask for your feedback as we roll this out. Our goal is to continue to improve this new communication. Please stay tuned for follow-up news on our roll-out of Montessori Compass.

The Montessori Magic

IMG_3867by Julie Kelly-Detwiler

The summer months at Inly are filled with preparation.  We pull everything apart, put it all back together, enhance, improve, and beautify. We work on curriculum, programming, and the systems that support the work we do every day of the school year. It’s hard, meaningful, and imperative work that is crucial to building a strong, thriving learning community.

But it’s not the magic.

The magic at Inly, and in Montessori schools throughout the world, resides in the interaction between the teachers and the students—the relationships that are formed, and the respect that is given and received. There are Inly alumni who return year after year, all with the same message:

Inly feels like home.

It is place where they learned to be seen, to be heard, and how—not what—to learn.

It is a place where lifelong learners are born.

A recent article by the Montessori Madmen described Montessori teachers as “artists, alchemists, and advocates,” an apt description, and a great website to visit if you’ve not already done so.   So welcome families, welcome faculty, and as we begin this new year together…let the magic begin!

Read the article here.

The Misconceptions about Montessori and Competition

By Julie Kelly-Detwiler

This is me as a young girl, blowing bubble gum.

This is me as a young girl, blowing bubble gum.

As a Montessori educator, I field many questions about this unique educational approach, and contend with many misconceptions.  One that strikes a personal chord is the blanket statement that Montessorians don’t believe in competition, and thus, our children are not being trained to compete and win in the “real world.” I hear people equate the lack of external awards and class rankings inherent in Montessori education with the derivative “everyone gets a trophy” mentality that pervades our culture.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I love competition. Competition focuses me, motivates me, and thrills me—as it does many of us. But, here is where I was lucky: I grew up in the age of neighborhood backyard sports. There wasn’t an afternoon where I wasn’t engaged in a pick-up football, basketball or trampoline competition; who could ride their bike the fastest; who could climb the tree the highest. Sometimes I won, often I lost, but it was the game, the engagement, the community coming together that was the real prize. Our backyard games were multi-age. My younger brother was always included. When he was little, I looked out for him; as he got bigger, he looked out for me.

My high school tennis team.

My tennis team. I’m wearing the green sweater in the front row.

In high school, I played sports every season. We didn’t need to choose one sport because we could play them all.  My years were mapped by the sports seasons. Tennis, then basketball, then volleyball, then lacrosse, then tennis again. Most mornings, we had conditioning before school, and most afternoons, we had a practice or a game. And we had a full academic load to balance. No excuses. The priorities were clear: miss an assignment, miss a game. If you were benched, you were benched. No excuses, no parents intervened, no coaches wavered.

Competition, collaboration, and habits of mind

In some years in some sports, we were state champs. In other sports in other years, we were lucky to win a game. But always, it was the effort, the grit, the engagement, the idea of “leaving it all on the field” and “there is no ‘I’ in team” that was prized. I learned to win gratefully, and to lose gracefully. I learned that success and failure didn’t define me, but that the degree of effort and standard of excellence to which I aspired did. In short, what I learned through sports were habits of mind.  I haven’t competed in athletics since college, but those habits of mind still guide me today.

Now, as an educator at Inly, I see those same habits of mind developed through theatre; through participation in Model United Nations and science labs; through dance and visual arts; through scouts, camps, and youth groups. I have seen those same habits of mind developed in our classrooms as our students engage in and persist through personal challenges, relish in a job well done, or critically self reflect and set a new personal goal after a set back.

Maria Montessori on motivation and competition

It is clear to me that Maria Montessori was not against competition. As the first female physician in Italy, she was a woman of great drive and accomplishment. Rather, Montessori held a revolutionary idea that the adult’s role is to create a learning environment that entices children to explore and develop their potential through intrinsic motivation, and not one that uses the artificial construct of competition as motivation. She understood what behavioral scientists in the 21st century have come to know as well, that extrinsic rewards and punishments—such as grades, class ranking, and awards—are the worst kinds of motivators to sustained achievement and often work against the children they are meant to serve.

I would like to reclaim the concept of competition that I grew up with—a concept that I believe has a place in every Montessori school. I would like to remove the concept of competition from the idea of “organized.” I wish that our kids would explore spontaneous competition through play— without value judgments, identity attachment, or prizes.  I would seek to uncouple the concept of competition from the zero-sum game attitude our society has come to accept—that competition is about winners and losers—and would redirect our focus instead to the engagement rather than the outcome. I would welcome a broader understanding of competition that applies to all endeavors—not just sports—and that relies on personal discipline, true collaboration, goal setting, and critical self-assessment.

Competition and collaboration are not mutually exclusive. Not everyone wins at everything, but you can lose and still win from the experience. And ultimately, the greatest competitors are those who know how to sustain the engagement, even when no one is looking and no awards are involved.  I learned that in sports, but I now live that as a Montessorian.


How We Prepare Our Students for Life Beyond Inly

Donna Milani LutherBy Donna Milani Luther, Head of School

In my forty years of teaching, I have taught in a variety of schools and what I appreciate most about Inly (and why I landed so happily here 18 years ago) is that it is a thoughtful, intentional blend of what is developmentally appropriate for children and what prepares children for their future—regardless of what their futures hold.

We know that we are preparing our students for life beyond Inly—for high school and college where they will still encounter traditional measures of academic success, like tests and quizzes. We also know that trends in secondary and higher education are rapidly moving toward flipped classrooms, experiential learning, and more Inly methods of demonstration of mastery, like collaborative projects and presentations. As educators in an ever-changing world, we know that we are preparing our students for jobs that don’t yet exist. That’s why we talk so much about grit—we know our students must be flexible, resilient, and know how to problem solve if they want to stand a chance in their dynamic future.

Montessori “Plus”

As I mentioned in a previous R&N article, Evolving the Montessori Pyramid, at Inly we combine tried and true Montessori methods with other harmonious practices—particularly at the upper elementary level and beyond. I like to call this approach Montessori “plus.”

While Inly’s curriculum is rigorous and benchmarked with the Common Core the “plus” is that we also teach next century skills including communication, creativity, ingenuity, and critical thinking. Through all of these teachings, we try to build each student’s self confidence and love of learning.

Fostering Lifelong Responsibility

Another “plus” at Inly plays out in how we teach our students responsibility. Our students are expected to be on time, manage their schedules, finish homework assignments, take tests and quizzes, and complete research projects. They routinely set goals, keep and refine work plans, and critically reflect on their own progress.  Throughout all of these experiences, children ultimately learn how they best learn, and how to be responsible for their own learning, which is incredibly empowering and something we know they take with them in life.

Entering the Real World

Each step of the Inly journey builds upon itself, and each level brings exponential growth in our students. In our lower levels, students are mastering foundational academic skills, while they are encouraged to wonder and see themselves as part of a family, classroom, and school community. In Upper Elementary, our students expand and apply their academic skills in more challenging projects and explorations, which culminates in a sixth year intensive capstone project, and they begin to engage with their broader South Shore community through their weekly Service Learning curriculum. Once Inly students begin Middle School, the “plus” expands to include additional learning experiences that they are, by this time in their academic career, developmentally ready for. In Middle School, we give our students opportunities to go out into the real world through the Internship Program and our Montessori Model United Nations program. As a capstone experience for our 8th grade students this year, they will also participate in a two week immersion program through NuVu Studio, where they will solve real world problems using applied technology and design. Since Middle School aged children are fascinated with their roles in the larger society, all of these programs are important parts of their exploration of the world. Each of these programs offer authentic work experiences that lead our students to a greater sense of self and respect for others.

Life Beyond Inly

The most common observation I hear parents make of their children after they have graduated from Inly is that are passionate learners. They love the process of learning and take on new learning experiences with an enthusiasm that is unique from their peers. While those who graduate from Inly walk away with the more tangible academic measurements of success, this love of learning is actually the aspect of a student’s experience that is perhaps the most valuable. This sort of passion can be applied to any field of study and any career. It is invaluable. As Maria Montessori once said, “we discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being.” Our gift to our students as educators is not how many facts we have crammed into our student’s brains but rather how much passion for learning we were able to help them cultivate within themselves.

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.”
– Albert Einstein

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”
– Benjamin Franklin

“There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.”
– Jiddu Krishnamurti

Inly 6th Grade Student Seeks Help Exploring How the Brain Reacts to Music

Olivia_DAllessandroEach year, Inly School 6th grade students are asked to take on a Capstone Project, a major research project that culminates their years in Upper Elementary and prepares them for the rigors of Middle School. Students choose a topic of interest, then undergo several months of research, interviews, and preparation before they present their findings in a final presentation to their classmates, teachers, and family.

At the beginning of the year, Inly’s 6th grade students work with their advisor to brainstorm ideas and select a project that can sustain and occupy their focus throughout the year. Each week, students meet for direct instruction on elements of research, communication, expository writing, and long-term planning skills.

This year, Olivia D’Allessandro of Hingham, MA has chosen to focus her Capstone Project on how the human brain reacts to music. “My teachers asked me to come up with an ‘Essential Question’ for my Capstone Project,” D’Allessandro said, “and my question explores how the human brain reacts to music.” When asked what inspired her choice of topic, Olivia explained that she has always had a passion for music. She was in a band at Inly School, plays the guitar, piano, and also sings. D’Allessandro is also fascinated with the human brain—how it functions and its many complex parts.

“Olivia’s excitement about her Capstone project has been shared with the rest of our family,” said Jon D’Allessandro, Olivia’s father. “It’s been a frequent discussion at dinner, breakfast, and on the way to school—basically it’s been her passion.” Olivia’s mother, Robbi D’Allessandro, is grateful that Inly School has assignments like the Capstone Project to engage her children. “It’s one thing to have a driven student like Olivia,” she observes, “it’s quite another to put her in a setting where she can channel her innate abilities in a topic of her choice. The Capstone Project is just one of many projects that Inly School has developed to nurture eager minds like Olivia’s.”

“I have three subtopics to my Capstone Project,” D’Allessandro explains. “The first is the psychology behind how our brains process music, the second is why we like music, and the third is how music can actually make us smarter.” To further the depth of her project, Olivia is hoping to conduct interviews (either in person or via Skype) with experts in all related fields. “I’d like to interview everyone from musicians to neuropsychologists—basically anyone who may have some insight into this topic.”

Inly’s Head of School, Donna Milani Luther, is a big supporter of the Capstone Project. “We want our students to be lifelong learners. This project not only allows our students to explore a particular topic but it also teaches our students how to learn and how to enjoy the process of learning. It’s really quite remarkable.” Tara Calianos, one of Inly’s Upper Elementary teachers, also feels that Capstone is an incredible opportunity for Inly students. “Throughout this whole process,” Tara said, “our students are going through critical self-reflection—asking themselves important questions about how they learn and where there are opportunities for growth. As a result, they leave 6th grade with a greater understanding of themselves.”

If you are a musician or a psychologist interested in being interviewed by Olivia, please email Upper Elementary teacher, Tara Calianos, at or call Inly School at  781-545-5544.

See the Inly Upper Elementary Curriculum page for more about academic curriculum and experiential learning in grades 4, 5 and 6.

Inly Faculty Members are Thought Leaders in Massachusetts Education

AnneMarie Whilton's Sketchbook Project

AnneMarie Whilton’s Sketchbook Project

By Donna Milani Luther, Head of School

As Inly’s Head of School, I am often asked what sets us apart from other schools. And while there are so many things that differentiate Inly—from our Montessori foundation, to our family-like atmosphere, to our culture of creativity, to our belief in the potential of each child—our faculty and staff is at the top of the list. Below are two recent examples of Inly faculty as leaders in Massachusetts education—both in Montessori and in Independent schools.

This year, our Middle School teachers, Paran Quigley and Tschol Slade, presented at both AISNE (Association of Independent Schools in New England) and MSM (Montessori Schools of Massachusetts) conferences. In their workshop, “Fostering a Growth Mindset through Critical Self-Reflection,” Paran and Tschol facilitated a discussion about what “growth mindset” for adolescents means. They also explored why fostering a growth mindset is critical to adolescent students (both as individual learners and as members of a broader learning community), and shared many tools that they developed at Inly to help build self-reflective habits of mind and resilience in students. Both workshops were extraordinarily well received and well-attended.

Annemarie Whilton's Sketchbook Project Drawing 2

Annemarie Whilton’s Sketchbook Project

Inly art teacher, Annemarie Whilton, is leaving her mark in the art world. She has joined The Sketchbook Project, a crowd-sourced, global art project and interactive, traveling exhibition of handmade books. The mission of this project, organized by the Brooklyn Art Library, is to allow anyone to be able to participate in art and to create a collection of work that represents the current state of artists worldwide. Annemarie is scheduled to be a part of the Northeast tour and she’s promised to keep us posted when The Sketchbook Project’s funky van comes to town!

In addition, Inly head librarian and literature specialist, Shelley Sommer, presented a workshop at the MSM conference called “Essential Books for the Montessori Classroom.” Shelley discussed how the Montessori classroom is a unique environment and the classroom library is an ideal space to reflect Montessori values. She explored which picture books promote peace, global awareness, and a generous spirit; the best read-alouds to inspire compassion and curiosity; and she taught participants how a well-chosen picture book can support curricular goals and inspire students. She also shared a collection of essential picture books that enrich any classroom.

As many of you know, the expectations of an Inly teacher are very high. They must be trained observers, keenly attuned to each child, and facilitators who encourage their students to find their own solutions, rather than tell them the answer. They also must strive every day to educate and challenge the whole child. As Maria Montessori once said, “the [Montessori] environment must be a living one, directed by a higher intelligence, arranged by an adult who is prepared for his mission.” Inly teachers are most definitely prepared for their mission and it is a joy to witness.

I’m thrilled that our faculty members are not only enriching the Inly community but the greater educational community as well. There is a great deal of intellectual curiosity that is fostered in an Inly classroom each day and it’s wonderful to share this passion with the rest of the world.