Tag Archives: Montessori

The Importance of Creativity and Innovation in Schools

by Donna Milani Luther

8th Grade students tinkering at NuVu

8th Grade students tinkering at NuVu Studio

Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build the youth for our future.” This is the imperative for schools in this century.

There is a great deal of buzz in the world of education right now about creativity and innovation and why these skills should be incorporated more into K–8 school curricula to build for the future. We are preparing students of today for the jobs of tomorrow—jobs that don’t exist yet, in fields that will be created to meet the demands of an ever-changing world. And yet many schools are still using what Sir Ken Robinson describes as the “industrial age factory model” for education, which doesn’t meet the growing demand for creativity and innovation.

Interestingly, a number of schools are adopting a more Montessori-inspired classroom model to help meet this demand. The AltSchool in California, for example, founded by a former Google engineer, is described as “Montessori 2.0” with a strong focus on technology. Closer to home, a former MIT graduate, Saeed Arida, created NuVu “The Innovation School,” a full-time magnet innovation school in Cambridge. At NuVu, students learn in a hands-on environment with coaches who help guide the creative process, from inception to completion. NuVu’s pedagogy is based on the architectural studio model and geared around multi-disciplinary, collaborative design projects. Within each multidisciplinary Studio, students explore problems rigorously by focusing on one project for two weeks. A Studio Coach mentors students to develop their project through an iterative process over the course of the Studio. Students confront the small and large contexts within problems as they are exposed to complex, ‘messy’ situations. The NuVu Team continuously evaluates students through deskcrits and final reviews.

I am proud to say that our 8th grade students, for the second year in a row, have spent two weeks at NuVu. This spring, our students were assigned a project called  “Wheelchair Hacks” and asked to come up with creative modifications to wheelchairs. To see their clever creations, you can click here. Final projects included everything from a wheel-cleaning device to a height adjusting chair. It was exciting to see our students come up with clever modifications and explain how their process worked from beginning to end. They all hit road blocks but, like in real-life, figured out ways around them to get to their end goal.

AltSchool and Nuvu are just two examples of how education is coming around to the century old forward-thinking of Dr. Maria Montessori who took what had been in education and imagined what could be. Today at Inly, in the tradition of Montessori, we are imagining what can be in the world of education because we fundamentally believe in the power and potential of children. This is why we want to ensure our school environment fosters their capabilities, creativity, and innate desire to learn and explore.

As many of you already know, Inly is currently planning to build an innovation lab, reimagined library, and six new classroom spaces next year. The innovation lab will be known as the “DaVinci Studio” and will be a central location for our robotics, 3D printing, digital video creation, and tinkering projects. Along with these offerings, the DaVinci Studio will have an idea space, which will have whiteboards on the walls and surfaces for students to imagine, draw, and plan. I believe this space will allow our students to expand and grow in new and exciting ways.

Creativity and innovation should be at the core of a curriculum and instrumental to the way children learn. Paramount to the continued success of schools is ensuring that learning spaces mirror the collaborative work spaces of the real world and enable students to problem-solve, think differently, and challenge the status quo. The authors of The Third Teacher put it succinctly when they said we should “design learning environments and use design thinking to strategize cultural, pedagogical, and organizational change.”

At Inly, our new building project will enable us to accomplish both things that Roosevelt charged educators to do: ‘‘build a future for our youth and build youth for our future.”

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.

Unveiling Inly’s New Strategic Plan

InlyNextLogoThe theme of March at Inly School seems to be creativity and innovation. In early March, we were delighted to unveil our new Strategic Plan at the ribbon cutting ceremony of Antico Commons (the plan is available on our website or by clicking here). In front of a group of Inly families, faculty members, and friends, our three guest speakers spoke about the different components of the plan, “InlyNext.” The timing of the unveiling was fitting—since the Antico Commons is the newest learning space on campus and was designed with “InlyNext” in mind.

The Antico family (minus their eldest son, Tucker) at the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony of Antico Commons

The Antico family (minus their eldest son, Tucker) at the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony of Antico Commons

As many of you know, Montessori education is extraordinary for fostering creativity and innovation. It provides structure that leads to freedom, prompts open-ended thinking and questioning, and presents opportunities to explore the iterative process. I’m thrilled that the Antico Commons is going to help us blaze the trail as we move forward in fostering this kind of creative work at our school.

In another creative endeavor in late March, our K–8 students participated in a Creativity Cans project in the Meehan Family Artsbarn. Seated in mixed groups on the floor, our students received what I like to refer to as the “same point of departure.” Each student was given their own personal Creativity Can and asked to design a creature with the contents found within. Over the course of an hour, the students designed their creatures. Some students knew what their creatures would look like right away, while others needed time to try a few different things before committing. It was an amazing process to witness. (To see a video of the event, click here.)

A collection of Creativity Can "creatures" designed by Inly students.

A collection of Creativity Can “creatures” designed by Inly students.

While every Creativity Can contained the same materials—glue, colorful popsicle sticks, string, craft paper, pipe cleaners, wheels, etc.—no two creatures ended up looking alike. As we move forward, the creatures will be used for Writer’s Workshop and other writing prompts for the spring term. These writing assignments will vary in sophistication based on level. The extra materials have also been used by Annemarie Whilton, our Art Teacher, to create collaborative creatures with the Children’s House Students. The Lower Elementary students are also working with Ellyn Einhorn, our school Naturalist and Science teacher, to create outdoor habitats for each creature around campus.

The Creativity Cans Project was generously funded by Faber-Castell and the inventors of The Creativity Cans. We were fortunate to have the CEO of Faber-Castell, Jamie Gallagher, visit Inly School this week to hear more about how we approached the Creativity Cans project. Jamie sat down with a small group of teachers and students to hear about our Creativity Cans project. He was deeply impressed and hopes to work with more schools in the future.

“More and more surveys are revealing that creativity scores are going down and the importance of creativity is going up,” Jamie explained, “That delta is very clear—and that’s what we’re trying to go after.”

Creativity and innovation are two growth mindsets that our students will need in this century to be successful. They will need to know how to adapt, how to iterate, how to brainstorm. They will need to understand that their ideas are important and valuable and unique—and therefore, could help solve future world problems that have yet to arise. Having a space for innovation and hosting activities that encourage creativity are two ways that Inly School continues to prepare our students to become global citizens with next-century skills.

In more creativity and innovation news, in the next two weeks, our Middle School students will be attending NuVu. To read more about this cool experience, please see: 8th Grade Students Get Crash Course in Solving Real-World Problems at NuVu.

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 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.

Inly Middle School Rowing Team Wins Boston Harbor Youth Rowing Championship

Not So Gently Down the Stream: Middle School Rowing Team Takes the Golden Oarlock

by Martha Hicks Leta, Inly parent

In the training session before four stalwart members of the Inly Middle School Rowing Team prepared to race in the Boston Harbor Youth Rowing Championship, Hull Lifesaving Museum Director and coach, Lory Newmyer, gave it to them straight: they would be rowing against teams of high school kids, some of whom had been practicing and racing together for years; the other teams were more physically mature, stronger, tougher and more experienced; and while there was little doubt that Inly would lose, the experience would build character and would be helpful for the upcoming Ice Breaker competition.

“We will be competing against crews that are stronger racers than we,” said Newmyer in an email to the rowers leading up to the event. “But, the whole point of this event is to learn how to line up for races with several other boats, how to handle a crowded race course (and possible collisions!), and, as always, how to have fun, win or lose.”

And so, on the morning of Saturday, November 9 on the docks of Boston’s historic Fort Point Channel, the Inly Team awaited the arrival of the other racers in typical Inly style. They weren’t worked up or nervous. The talk was of upcoming tests and how their high school visits were going, and how they wished the rest of the team could be with them. “I just want to have fun today,” said Charlie McDonald, and the others agreed.

Teams from Cushing House, Green Academy, Charlestown High School, Inly and South Shore Youth Rowing

Teams from Cushing House, Green Academy, Charlestown High School, Inly School, and South Shore Youth Rowing

At the edge of the dock, several Whitehall Fours, rowing gigs that resemble smaller versions of ancient life-saving vessels, bobbed in the pewter waters that lay at the edge of Boston’s financial district. Here, America’s revolutionaries once tossed cases of precious tea in revolt against oppressive British rule. It was a lot to ponder, standing at the edge of the channel that shaped Boston’s watery history. And then rowers from Green Academy, South Shore Youth Rowing, Cushing House and Charlestown High School began filing onto the docks. They were older, bigger, and had that indefinable high school swagger.

As Inly crew members sized up the competition, another rower asked where their team was from. “Inly,” came the reply. And then, “Inly? Is that, like, a name or an acronym or something?” It’s too hard to explain, the kids seemed to decide. “It’s a Montessori school in Scituate.” The response was a dismissive, “Oh.”

Boat assignments were made and the rules for the round-robin style race announced. The Green Academy kids, three men and one woman, scrambled into a boat and shoved off for their warm up, clearly demonstrating their skills at the first dip of the oars. As they stroked through the water, like perfectly synchronized parts of a sleek machine, their strength and skill were evident. In their first heat they dusted off the competition—Cushing and one of the Charlestown teams—easily.

Then it was Inly’s turn. The crew piled into the white and blue trimmed “Mighty Cod” with Caroline Leta in the bow position, followed by John McNeil, Ali Faulkner and Charlie McDonald, with coxswain and Hull Rowing Club instructor, Bill Foley, calling commands. The race would consist of a sprint with three sharp turns around marker buoys and a straightaway sprint to the finish. The Inly team knew from Lory Newmyer’s coaching that they might collide, they might lose rhythm, they might go off course, but the instructions were, no matter what, to keep rowing and finish the race.

As the Inly crew pushed off the docks to warm up, the Firefly and Bowfin gigs loaded up with the Charlestown High women’s team, and South Shore Youth Rowing, respectively. Friends, relatives, officials and coaches stationed across from Boston’s sparkling skyline watched as the three vessels worked their way to the distant starting line where race officials, Maritime Program Director, Ed McCabe, and Home Waters Coordinator, Rafael Vieira, waited in a launch to call the start.

With the three racing gigs finally in position, an air horn blasted, signaling the start of the heat. Oars dug into the water, coxswains shouting orders, the racers were off.  South Shore got off the line first, gaining nearly a full length ahead of Inly as they approached the first buoy with the Charlestown women’s team struggling in third.  Inly held their steady second as they came into the first turn and then, somehow, amid the startled shouts of the spectators, Team Inly gained the inside, edging out the leading boat.

“They just took the lead!” a parent shouted. “That’s them in the white boat! They’re in the lead!”

Inly taking the first heat win

Inly taking the first heat win

Away from the first turn, Inly held steady, pulling toward the second marker with SSYR applying heat for the inside position for the second turn. There was a brief moment of panic and lost rhythm from the Mighty Cod as Ali Faulkner “caught a crab,” missing the water with her oar stroke and losing balance. “Keep rowing, Inly!” Newmyer hollered from the finish line. The Inly crew rallied and dug in, making way toward the third buoy.

Catching the crab

Catching the crab

Backs curved, legs and arms strained, the crew pulled and pulled, edging away, yard by yard, SSYR’s “Bowfin” in hot pursuit as the Charlestown team continued to struggle valiantly in the third place boat, “Firefly.”

“Oh, my God. They’re going to win!” Inly parent, Nancy McDonald, exclaimed as they sprinted for the finish. The parents and friends went nuts as the Inly team continued to gain distance from the second and third vessels. “Go INLY!! GO!!”

And go they did. The team came off the first heat breathing hard, but beaming from ear to ear with the very unexpected victory.  Teamwork felt good, they said. Winning with a team felt even better.

After all was said and done, Team Inly rounded out the day winning their first two heats and coming in at a respectable third in the final straightaway sprint, edged out by heavy-weights, Charlestown 2 and Green. Inly took the Lightweight category and, most unexpectedly, the big win of the day, beating out all the other teams for combined fastest time for all three races, with .33 and .38 leads over the second and third runners up, respectively.

At the end of the day, Inly’s team stood proudly for pictures with their Golden Oarlock medals hanging from their necks.  Charlie McDonald declared, “I can’t believe we actually won! This feels incredible. I never want to forget this.” They all agreed. Not bad at all for a bunch of eighth graders from a school none of the other racers had ever heard of. We think they might remember us now. Well done, Inly Rowing Team. Well done.

Team Inly, John McNeil, Charlie McDonald, Ali Faulkner, Caroline Leta, pose with their metals

Team Inly, John McNeil, Charlie McDonald, Ali Faulkner, Caroline Leta, pose with their metals

More on the Ocean Rowing Program at Inly Middle School:

Scituate’s Inly School to Compete in Icebreaker Rowing Tournament (Boston Globe South, Nov 2011)

Positive Discipline is Key Tool in Building Internally Motivated Children

By Julie Kelly-Detwiler, Assistant Head of School

positive discipline pyramid

Through her years of careful scientific observation, Maria Montessori created a system of educating children that was revolutionary at the time. At the heart of this new direction in education was her understanding that children want to learn, and that a happy, engaged child, is a well-behaved child. Montessori turned the standard approach to discipline on its head when she instructed that in order to respond to a child who was “misbehaving,” we first must look to the environment, then to the teacher, and only then to the child to understand the roots of the problem.

Say, for example, a child is having trouble settling into the morning work cycle or a home routine. One might consider first the environment: Is the environment distracting or not engaging enough? Is there some obstacle in the way of the child’s work? At home, it could be that the snack is just out of reach in the kitchen. At school, it could be that another student is using a material that the child wants to work with.

It is important to make as many observations as possible about the space around the child. Once all environmental observations have been made, one might next consider the teacher or parent: Do they feel prepared for the day? Are they stressed and is it obvious? Are they communicating choices clearly?

Finally, only after all of the above are exhausted would one would consider the child: Is the child upset? Did the child have a tough morning? Is there a learning or sensorial issue to consider? Does the child have needs that aren’t being met?

Montessori did not see children as blank slates to be molded, but rather, as spiritual embryos in need of careful nurturing to grow. If we start with the belief that the child wants to do good, and needs our support to do so, rather than the prevailing idea that the child wants to disrupt and it is our job to stop this, our role as disciplinarian changes dramatically. No longer do we seek to control and incentivize behavior through rewards and punishments, we now seek to partner with the child to support their strong urge to develop into their best selves. A prepared environment, and discipline, in the form of fair and firm boundaries, connection, and encouragement, is essential for this healthy growth to occur.

 The Positive Discipline Model

Alfred Adler, a contemporary of Montessori, held the same fundamental beliefs about discipline as Montessori. Together with Rudolph Dreikers, they created an approach to discipline, which is now referred to as “positive discipline.”

Adler and Dreikers identified the following five criteria for effective discipline:

  1. It helps children feel a sense of connection.

  2. (Belonging and significance)

  3. It is mutually respectful and encouraging.

  4. (Kind and firm at the same time.)

  5. It is effective long-term.

  6. (Considers what the child is thinking, feeling, learning, and deciding about himself and his world – and what to do in the future to survive or to thrive.)

  7. It teaches important social and life skills.

  8. (Respect, concern for others, problem solving, and cooperation as well as the skills to contribute to the home, school or larger community.)

  9. It invites children to discover how capable they are.

  10. (Encourages the constructive use of personal power and autonomy.)

 Practicing Positive Discipline at Inly

This past August, more than 20 Inly faculty members from all levels attended a two-day training on positive discipline. Recently, we chose the book Positive Discipline in the Classroom, for our fall faculty book group discussions, to help us more deeply embed and apply the many principles and strategies this approach has to offer.

Montessori and the positive discipline approach are perfectly complimentary. Jane Nelson, author of the positive discipline book series says, “It is always such a joy for me to work with Montessori teachers and parents because I don’t have to convince them of the importance of treating children with dignity and respect.

“As Maria Montessori said, ‘Discipline must come through liberty. We do not consider an individual disciplined only when he has been rendered as artificially silent as a mute and as immovable as a paralytic. He is an individual annihilated, not disciplined.’

“Would that everyone could visit a Montessori school where teachers ‘follow the child,’ and children are engaged in the love of learning. Montessori provides a light of sanity in the world of education.”

Further Resources

If you’d like to learn more about extending this approach into your home, you can read Positive Discipline by Jane Nelson, or visit www.positivediscipline.org.

The Montessori Approach to Discipline” via The Montessori Foundation

The Montessori Classroom: Not Just a Pretty Space

by Julie Kelly-Detwiler, Assistant Head of School

EditedThe Appeal of a Montessori Classroom
I always love giving tours to prospective Inly families and seeing Inly anew through their eyes. And, it is equally rewarding to hear the words of appreciation from our current Inly families who have returned to campus this fall. These moments remind me of my first visit to a Montessori school while living in Chile, where I, too, was struck by the beauty of the classrooms. I was pulled in immediately–as were my children–and our family spent two formative years as members of that Montessori community. It wasn’t until we found Inly School some years later that we were able to recapture those feelings of being enveloped and at home in a beautifully prepared learning space. It was comforting to be back in a Montessori environment. Even though we were halfway across the world, the materials were the same, the furniture was the right size for my children again, and there was a sense of order and calm in each room.

The Principles Behind the “Prepared Environment”
It wasn’t until I became a Montessori educator myself that I learned about the purposeful choices that each Montessori teacher makes as he or she sets up a classroom. Dr. Maria Montessori had a deep conviction that “the child should live in an environment of beauty,” and that “the things he sees are not just remembered; they form a part of his soul.” She instructed that classrooms be “scientifically planned and methodically formed,” and articulated principles that must be considered in each Montessori environment: structure and order, reality and nature, beauty and simplicity.

That is why you will see natural wood, natural lighting, well organized materials that follow a logical progression, uncluttered shelves with beautiful and inviting manipulatives, soothing colors, and comfortable furniture in a Montessori classroom. These types of environments are intended to calm students, to ground them in nature, and to entice them to explore. They are also arranged to maximize the child’s independence, concentration, and growing sense of responsibility.

The Benefits of the “Practical Life Curriculum”
From Toddler House to Middle School, students at Inly are taught to care for their environment. Children as young as 18 months are taught to treat the materials with respect, to take only one work out at a time, and to put work away when they are finished. In the early grades, each classroom has a “practical life” section where children learn how to care for themselves and for their environment. Children are taught how to do important everyday tasks such as buttoning, zipping, sweeping, pouring, flower arranging, sewing, and washing a table.

Through the practical life activities in the Montessori classroom, a child not only learns concentration, coordination, independence, and order, but also how to interact with others and gain an understanding and appreciation of the environment.  The child begins to build himself from within while learning to treat himself and others with respect and dignity. That is why you will see the teachers at each level take the time to engage students in daily jobs within their classrooms, and, as they grow, within their broader school community.

The Montessori Classroom is Designed to Teach
As you return to Inly this fall and visit the classrooms, I encourage you to take note of the essential components of a Montessori classroom. Notice the commonalities from room to room, space to space. The classrooms, outdoor playgrounds, Meehan Family Artsbarn and the rest of the campus were all purposefully designed with Montessori’s philosophies in mind. And while each space is unique, they are all intended to nurture joyful discovery, the growth of personal responsibility, and a deep connection to self and community.

Additional Reading
Montessori Classrooms from American Montessori Society
How Classroom Design Affects Student Learning from Fast Code Design

Exploring The Benefits of Montessori Early Education



“Knowledge can best be given where there is eagerness to learn, so this is the period when the seed of everything can be sown, the child’s mind being like a fertile field, ready to receive what will germinate into knowledge.”
Maria Montessori

I am often asked the question, “Why Montessori?” by prospective families curious about early education. Parents want to understand the difference between the Montessori experience and other early education programs like daycare and nurseries. The answer to this lies at the intersection of responsibility and independence.

Early Education, Child Development and the Montessori Method

At Inly, the Montessori experience begins in Toddler House. At the core of Montessori philosophy is a deep respect for the child and a regard for him or her as a fully capable person. To support this, Inly’s Toddler House consists of a dedicated team of warm and nurturing teachers trained in early childhood development of toddlers and Montessori education. The classroom contains spacious, well designed areas where toddlers are free to explore with all their senses. In addition, everything is toddler-sized. Enticing work materials are displayed on low shelves within easy reach of curious hands. It always makes me smile to witness a toddler walk over to a shelf, select a work and bring it to a work space all on their own.

The Montessori Classroom: A Prepared Environment

In a Montessori classroom environment, activities are set up for children that nurture their intrinsic motivation. The “works” we provide for the children are accomplishable. A student can engage with each work until they have reached a place of mastery and then move on to the next work, which builds on the previous skill and is challenging and educational in a different way. The opportunity for mastery is different in a Montessori classroom. So often, in an ordinary classroom or daycare center, a child will be asked to abandon their work before they have finished. But rushing children and interrupting their work cycle results in an incomplete learning experience. In a Montessori classroom, a child is given more time and opportunity to master a work. Consequently, the student develops their ability to focus, hone fine and gross motor control, and problem-solve independently. Work is approached in a gentle and nurturing way that allows children to advance at their own pace.

Toddler House: Preparation for Preschool and Kindergarten

The Toddler House program prepares children for preschool work by exposing them to each area of Inly’s preschool and kindergarten curriculum in Children’s House. It also supports the physical, cognitive, social and emotional development of each child. The toddlers learn concentration, coordination, language skills, responsibility, and respect—all of which prepare them well for a successful transition into preschool in Children’s House.

Children’s House is the formal name for the Montessori preschool and kindergarten program for children age three years through six years old. It is carefully designed to respond to the evolving developmental needs and interests (See Preschool Child Development: The Preschool and Kindergarten Age Child ).

Those who are part of the Montessori tradition have long valued a child’s natural affinity for exploration and understand how that sparks their desire to learn. Very often, daycare centers are teacher-driven and teacher-focused. In a teacher-centric program, the education is geared toward what the teacher is most interested in versus what the students are interested in. A teacher will say, “Ok kids, we’re all going to do this now.” While there’s definitely value in doing things together, not every moment needs to be orchestrated this way.

Dr. Montessori revolutionized the practice of education by shifting the paradigm of a teacher-centered system to a learner-centered one. Her belief was that the goal of a school should be to cultivate a child’s natural desire to learn, not to simply fill the child with facts. She felt that the discipline in a classroom should be self-discipline, and that children need the opportunity to develop it.

Misconceptions About Montessori Education

One of the most common misconceptions about Montessori is that the student is allowed too much freedom and that they may take advantage of that freedom. The beauty of a Montessori classroom, however, is that the student has choices within a discreetly controlled environment. Just as a parent would most likely not allow their child to eat dessert for breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day, in a Montessori environment, a child is encouraged to try different things and is encouraged to do different works, all under the careful guidance of a trained teacher. In addition, the multi-age classrooms allow for children to take on the roles of mentor and mentee at various times, which further enhances their learning experiences.

Inly’s Montessori curriculum is designed at every developmental level to further independence and responsibility. “What am I responsible for?” and “How do I apply what I’ve learned?” are questions that our students ask themselves each and every day. In doing so, our students develop a strong sense of purpose that helps them look beyond themselves and to the greater community. At the same time, they also cultivate a strong sense of self and self-reliance. When we hear a child say, “I can do that myself,” we are delighted because that is our goal. We want our children to learn from the very beginning who they are and how they fit into the world.

At Inly, we have a vision for our students. Starting in Toddler and Children’s House Preschool and building all the way through Middle School, our students play an important role in their own education. They learn to initiate and complete work independent of constant teacher direction, accept responsibility for their actions within a community, take responsibility for themselves and for each other, and develop a sense of mastery and accomplishment as they learn. The Montessori model at Inly provides children with a strong foundation for learning that they take with them for the rest of their lives. It also helps empower them as individuals and prepare them for their roles as global citizens. In conclusion, perhaps the question is not “Why Montessori?” but rather, “Why not?”

Further Reading on the Benefits of Montessori Early Education:

Why Montessori for Toddlers?

The Montessori Philosophy Behind Children’s House Preschool and Kindergarten

The Benefits of a Montessori Education at Inly School

Montessori Philosophy and Inly School Mission

Montessori Education and Nature: What’s the connection?


“When the child goes out, it is the world itself that offers itself to him. Let us take the child out to show him real things instead of making objects which represent ideas and closing them up in cupboards.”
– Dr. Maria Montessori

We hope that you will all able to join us for our April 3 Omran Speaker Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle. This presentation has led us all at Inly to reflect on the close match between Richard Louv’s message and our mission at Inly as Montessori educators.

Montessori Philosophy: Combining indoor and outdoor classrooms

The Outdoor Classroom, nearly one year old, is already an integral part of the Inly curriculum at all levels—from Toddler through Middle School. It’s easy to think of this addition to our campus as a progressive new idea, but it’s actually rooted in a 100-year-old philosophy. Dr. Montessori was an early proponent of experiential learning and considered the outdoor environment a natural extension of the classroom. The Montessori connection makes sense: Contact with nature affords opportunities for rich sensorial experiences, a vital element of Montessori learning. It also supports the whole child—body, mind and soul—and promotes respect for all living things.

Dr. Montessori’s vision for schools was always a combination of indoor and outdoor classrooms. This was a way to study the interconnectedness of all things, a way for children to be able to study math and science, nature and the universe.

Montessori had deep reverence for the natural world, and her cosmic education curriculum, which runs from Toddler through Middle School at Inly, stresses the importance of grounding children in an understanding of themselves as a part of the greater universe.  She believed that we best develop an understanding of self when we understand the interconnectedness of all things— that true respect for self grows together with deep respect for others and for nature.

The Outdoor Classroom at Inly School: Integrating science, language arts, music and more

Our Outdoor Classroom is used extensively at all levels for many subjects—for science, language arts, music, art, practical life. We have a low ropes course for our upper grades to engage in leadership and trust activities, and outdoor music elements to enhance listening and creativity. Students are currently constructing a “secret garden” of their own as they read The Secret Garden with our school librarian and literature teacher. Each level at Inly now has its own garden. Even the toddlers have a garden of their own.

Students in Kindergarten and Lower Elementary (grades 1—3) have classes with Ellyn, an experienced and inspired naturalist, and our Upper Elementary and Middle School programs each have a trained natural scientist to weave scientific exploration and habits of mind into the all aspects of the curriculum for grades 4–8.

Outdoor Service Learning

In addition, in Upper Elementary, students begin participating in a service learning curriculum that includes partnerships with The North and South Rivers Watershed Association and Holly Hill Farm, and Middle School students leave campus for immersion experiences with the Hull Lifesaving Museum, Ocean Classroom and Heifer International’s Overlook Farm.

Integrating nature into the Inly curriculum

“Sit spots” are a good specific example of how we integrate nature into the curriculum. In Upper Elementary (grades 4, 5 and 6) students choose a spot on campus to visit each week throughout the school year.  From this vantage point they repeatedly observe their surroundings and watch how things change with the seasons. They sit with a journal and have been taught how to observe and then how to record those observations through writing, sketching, poetry. In this way, they are developing an essential scientific habit of mind – observation, but they are also being invited to do something even more rare in this age—to be still and to be present.

In Middle School (grades 7 and 8), this training continues with formal labs and lab reports;  with involvement in The Green Committee, dedicated to student initiated and implemented activities on campus to enhance Inly’s authentic commitment to green initiatives; and with “solo time,” a common component of Montessori middle school programs that deepens the practice of stillness—which is so essential, but so difficult for teens, and for us all.

To learn more…

Watch a video of outdoor experiential learning and Montessori “sit spots” here:  A Typical Day in an Upper Elementary Science Class Means Going Outside to Learn

Read an excerpt from Richard Louv’s bestseller Last Child in the Woods here: http://richardlouv.com/books/last-child/excerpt/

Parting thoughts

“The land is where our roots are. The children must be taught to feel and live in harmony with the Earth.” – Dr. Maria Montessori

“The future will belong to the nature-smart—those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.” – Richard Louv