A Seed Was Planted: How Little Tree Montessori Grew By Teri Tipton, founding director and guide Like many Montessori founding directors before me, it all started with my own child. After a traumatic beginning of life (she was born a full three months early), she grew into an amazing baby and young child. She was such a live wire! She was interested in everything and, like a sponge, took in everything from her little world.
I, like most new parents, was fascinated by her development - - her nearly non- stop activity, her strong will, her concentrated efforts, her intelligence, her spirit. Wanting to know more about how children learn, I began to explore the field of child development. It was during that time that I discovered Montessori education. It was like fireworks for me. Maria Montessori's forty plus years of observations of children world-wide were my observations of my own child! She had even given a name to that extraordinary sponge-like ability to learn, describing it as the young child's "absorbent mind." Ah! What was so amazing about my child, it turns out, is what is so amazing about ALL children.
According to Montessori, children want to learn, - they have a spontaneous urge to learn - and they do so by absorbing from and acting upon their environment. In this way young children actually teach themselves! How else do they learn to crawl, walk, manipulate objects, or talk in the language of their culture?
Because children are learning all the timefrom their environment (even before birth), Montessori placed enormous emphasis on the environment and, in fact, considered it the most unique element of her method. That is why Montessori schools feature "prepared environments," classrooms that are specially designed to facilitate the child's remarkable ability for self-directed learning. This is in sharp contrast to education that consists mostly of direct teaching which, for young children, often impedes rather than helps their natural development. From that point on I was hooked on Montessori. What I discovered during Montessori training resonated with me to the point that I began to dream of a lovely little school in a beautiful woodland setting that would, as Montessori put it, "serve as an aid to life itself."
That dream became a reality in 1999. Today Little Tree has a strong, supportive parent community which has, in past years, made it possible to provide partial scholarships for several families. Parent volunteers also built our lovely little planter boxes, erected our fantastic climbing dome and made our classroom curtains. Other parent contributions and support include donations of beautiful flowers for the tables, home made play dough and occasional special presentations including a weekly circle about emotions (presented by former Little Tree parent, and Carpe Diem and Harbor School counselor, Peggy Rubens-Ellis). (www.creative-crossings.com) Other positive developments occurredin 2008 whenour play yard began to get renovated by the Department of Ecology after voluntary testing showed elevated levels of arsenic and lead as a result of the Asarco Smelter plume. As funding became available further work was done in 2012. More contaminated soil was removed, replaced, and covered with new sod, and our fun car track was put in. Finally, the work was completed in 2013 when sod that hadn't rooted (and was dug up by racoons - grrrr!) was replaced with grass seed and play chips. Our play yard is now lead and arsenic free. My daughter? She is has graduated from college and is a confidant and caring young adult. Remembering her Montessori days - the freedom, the independence, her favorite activities - she declares, "Little Tree kids are so lucky!"