Powerful, emotional, and engaging are just some of the words that can sum up the MJDS Journey and Discovery evening. Not by coincidence, these words are the same often used to describe The Montessori Method itself. It was never clearer to me why MJDS is such a good fit for Jewish children than it was during this unique event. This experience demonstrated what MJDS is all about through the eyes of a child and took us to the child’s level to understand exactly how they see their world and classroom. The teachers of MJDS inspired passion, tears of joy and delight among the attending adults. There is no doubt that this delicate energy is amplified among our children, their students, every day in the classroom.
The Journey and Discovery allowed parents the opportunity to explore the entire continuum of the school, from Toddlers to grade 8. The Journey portion began with a silent visit to every part of the school beginning in the Toddlers’ room and ending in the Middle School rooms. Through quiet observation, parents took the time to gather multi-sensory information in every classroom, just as our children may have done on their first day at school. From the moment you walk through these doors, you know these are no ordinary classrooms. Instead of traditional desks, chalkboards and posters hanging from the wall, MJDS classrooms are filled with sensory rich detailed materials, a sense of harmony, order and sequence and most apparent, a child focus. Pictures are hung lower on the walls at the child’s eyes level (The pictures are hung higher as you advance to the older classes). The furniture is built specifically for each room and each development phase. Tiny little chairs for the toddlers and modern comfy leather couches for the Middle School reading area. Outdoor nature is represented in each room through plants, seashells, rocks, crystals and pet animals. There is no front of the class, every corner is as beautiful as the next and therefore no child can ever be left at the back of their classroom. MJDS classrooms are not the teacher’s rooms, these classroom clearly belong to the children.
After the silent journey, the discovery portion of the evening began. Back at the start, in the Toddlers’ room we began to be guided through the stations and materials. Some parents sitting crossed legged on the floor, others lying down on their bellies as we each dove into the learning materials through the eyes of our children. The teachers began to show us, guiding us just as they guide our children. We laughed with joy as we matched the proper screwdriver heads to match screws on a peg board, we blushed as we struggled working to open different types of locks and we shook our heads with wonder looking at the jobs board and seeing what tasks our children were assigned daily. The robust Math, Science, English, Geography, History, Judaic and Zionist curriculum is riddled with visual aids and materials that truly are self-directing. Nobody is kidding when they call Montessori Teachers, Educational Guides. The materials allow the children to teach themselves, catch their own mistakes and naturally do far more than simply regurgitate information to demonstrate learning. The flow of materials changing and advancing as the children move through the different development stages was stunning. The most intriguing example of this was the Trinomial Cube. Introduced in the primary levels as a simple puzzle, the cube is then used in upper elementary to demonstrate algebra. Finishing off in the Middle School rooms we were shown a wooden bench the Middle School students made for the Casa classroom. We flipped through notebooks of math, wide eyed at the advanced calculations. Skimming through the students’ personal reading areas we were baffled by the mature reading materials available such as The Economist and the Globe and Mail. A detailed discussion of students’ success in high school after MJDS followed, and the success stories were heartwarming.
And as if all that wasn’t enough, MJDS’s curriculum doesn’t end there. MJDS learning extends into ‘personal living’ education. For the youngest of children teeth brushing lessons, elementary students learn about proper table place settings and for the oldest, meal preparations, cooking, laundry, shopping, and budgeting. Yes, there are laundry machines and full kitchens at the school for the students to learn!
MJDS is the true definition of holistic learning for a Jewish child. As a child centered program students are treated as individuals and are allowed to progress at their own pace and level of understanding with gentle guidance from their teachers. The focus is on the process of learning and this is done through self-respect, self-discipline, respect for the environment, trust and peace. Here at MJDS, innate curiosity and wonder provide the motivation, learning is the reward.
This experience has been a wonderful reaffirmation of the community that we have chosen to be a part of.
An MJDS Parent