CCA elementary pilots Montessori-inspired program

Students in Vicky Bowman’s second- and fourth-grade split class work at small tables, the floor or in other areas of the room to complete their assignments in a Montessori-inspired program. (Courtesy photos)

BIG RAPIDS — Students have taken control of their education at Crossroads Charter Academy’s elementary building as the school is piloting a Montessori-inspired program this year.

A Montessori program is a system of education which focuses on more independent, hands-on learning instead of the traditional classroom setting. For this program, students do not sit in rows of desks. Youths decide where to sit in different areas throughout the classroom, such as at low tables, on cushions and more, to work individually or with a few peers.

Students taking Montessori-inspired classes at CCA this year are taught their lessons in smaller group settings and after completing one assignment, are encouraged to move to another project or subject.

In Diana Kreh’s sixth-grade class, students are given a weekly plan worksheet full of the assignments they need to complete by Friday.

“I think this year is going very well,” Kreh said. “I think the students are learning responsibility and how to plan their own schedules. I’m impressed. The students are always learning. They are always excited. I don’t feel the lows I have noticed in traditional classrooms.”

A sixth-grader uses hands-on tools while learning about fractions in Diana Kreh’s Montessori-inspired classroom at Crossroads Charter Academy.

Kreh’s sixth-graders spend their days moving at their own pace and deciding what to work on in order to have all their assignments complete by the end of the week. If a student does not finish an assignment, they must spend more time focusing on that subject next week.

While most assignments can be completed in the classroom, students may bring home work to ensure they are caught up with the rest of their peers.

“My son was behind in math and he knew he had to bring it home,” said Superintendent and CCA Elementary Principal Christopher White, whose son was enrolled in the pilot program this year. “That was the first time in a while he did his homework without being asked. This program has already taught my son a lot of responsibility. He really enjoys it.”

More than 30 years ago, Kreh was trained to teach in a Montessori school and led a classroom in Maryland for seven years. After a recent trip to Black River Public Schools in Holland, Kreh and Vicky Bowman, second- and fourth-grade teacher, were excited to implement aspects of the Montessori-based school in their classrooms.

“It’s really a whole different philosophy than a traditional classroom,” Bowman said. “The students have more freedom of where they want to do their work. The students set their pace. They have the freedom to move around as they need. The students are really engaged in what they are doing.”

Bowman said her split room “just happened” to keep from overloading the second- and fourth-grade teachers. However, the split of 10 second-graders and 11 fourth-graders has been working well as the older students are excited to help their younger peers with the lessons.

“What’s nice about the multi-age class is the older students teaching what they know,” Bowman said. “The students are learning from each other.”

Only three grade levels currently have the Montessori-inspired classroom options for parents. However, White said he has received many positive comments about the program. His hope is to offer a Montessori-inspired class in more grade levels in the future.

“We want parents to make the choice,” he said. “This is bigger than just a couple classrooms. It is in response to how kids are learning. This is part of the overall shift we are doing for small group instruction.”

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Posted by Meghan Gunther-Haas

Meghan is the education reporter for the Pioneer and Herald Review. She can be reached at (231) 592-8382 or by email at mhaas@pioneergroup.com.

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