• PROGRAM OVERVIEW

GOALS FOR CHILDREN

Our children learn how to learn. They learn to focus their attention on an interest, and in doing so make a commitment to learning about something. Through this active engagement they discover the joy in learning. We touch children’s imaginations and kindle in them a sense of the limitless possibilities in their world. We recognize the importance of each child’s early experiences in the formation of an emotionally healthy, responsible adult. We see our role as nurturing the immense potential within each child, and supporting each child in the task of inner development.

We believe that children’s intellectual growth is intertwined with their social and emotional development. Intellectual growth flourishes in a non-judgmental community where freedom for the individual is balanced with the needs of the group. In our classrooms children can choose to work independently or with classmates. As they develop more and more competencies, they quite naturally take on increased responsibility in the activities of the classroom.

We help children become…

Self-directed learners

Children have a natural love for learning. At WSMS, we focus on helping children learn how to learn, so they become intrinsically motivated to do so, and retain their zest for knowledge throughout their lives. Teachers are there to observe, to listen, and to assist when necessary, but we support the child to work independently and let his interests and talents guide him. In the words of Maria Montessori, “The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.’ ”

Flexible thinkers

We encourage children to think for themselves, and to question what they learn. We do not test them, or train them to regurgitate answers given by adults. We live by the attitude that many answers can be good, or “right.” When we provide them with learning experiences where the correct answer depends on the circumstances, children stretch their mental muscles and begin to become flexible in their thinking. We foster flexible thinking by asking children at the end of a lesson or project, “Is there another way to do this?” We remain open to different answers and different ways of thinking from children, and listen patiently as they explain their reasoning.

Creative problem solvers

Children are resourceful, and can come up with imaginative solutions that adults might not think of. Rather than try and mold the child to our adult way of thinking, we believe that he can arrive at informed decisions by using his own innate reasoning skills. We teach children not to fear mistakes, and do not ridicule or criticize children when they make mistakes. This approach helps to build children’s confidence when tackling problems—they see them as an opportunity to succeed, or to learn a new lesson if they do not succeed right away. We encourage children to work through their problems, rather than giving up, and foster collaboration between students as a way of solving the problem.

Kind citizens

Children who develop a social conscience, compassion for others, and a sense of responsibility towards others will change the world for the better. WSMS teachers model kindness and respect in the classroom, making it a safe environment to express emotion and take risks. Our focus on cooperative learning enables children to want to aid each other, through which they learn kindness. Children become more aware of the feelings of others as they act, and respect and empathy grows. We believe that children who make a positive difference in their world through service projects gain a sense of self-worth and responsibility, and that even very young children can initiate these projects.

Resilient individuals

Every child experiences disappointment and failure as he learns and grows, but the way he is helped to respond to these difficult times is key. A resilient child looks at mistakes and disappointments as opportunities to learn, rather than setbacks, and as a result, he approaches life with enthusiasm and confidence. We encourage children to trust their own powers of reasoning to work through difficult situations. In this way, children gain ownership over their problems, and are willing explore options and find solutions. We foster self-worth in children by offering them generous and frequent attention. Children learn to believe in themselves and bounce back more easily from disappointment.

  • Self-directed learners

  • Flexible thinkers

  • Creative problem solvers

  • Kind citizens

  • Resilient individuals

CURRICULUM

Our classrooms are filled with inviting, hands-on activities that are thoughtfully organized into different sections of the room based on the primary areas of our curriculum: language, math, sensorial development, practical life, and cultural awareness. We believe that learning is not neat and linear: it is a messy process. We expose children to a range of intellectual, physical and social activities, and we give them long blocks of uninterrupted time to work in these activities. In this way children take responsibility for their own learning. They learn to ask questions and to seek explanations and then to ask more questions. They learn to make decisions, to challenge themselves, and to strategize.

  • Language

  • Math

  • Sensorial

  • Practical Life

  • Cultural Awareness

Language

Our classrooms brim with oral and written language. In addition to the many one-on-one or group conversations throughout the day, children read aloud to each other: by interpreting pictures, recalling words from memory, sounding out words, or recognizing sight words. Our Dramatic Play area builds oral language skills by inspiring children to verbalize the scenarios, dreams, and stories of their imaginations. All of our students—even the youngest—write, beginning with invented writing and spelling, progressing to writing initial sounds and words they know, and then advancing to semi-phonetic spelling. Montessori materials such as sandpaper letters help students master literacy skills.

Math

Our students work with the classic Montessori Math materials, which have a range of uses depending on the child’s level of development. By exploring these materials hands-on, children gain a concrete understanding of everything from number identification to addition and subtraction to multiplication and division.

Sensorial

Sensorial materials give children an opportunity to develop an understanding of their physical environment by using their senses. These concrete materials convey such qualities as color, shape, texture, and weight, and in working with them children come to grasp such concepts as one-to-one correspondence, ordering, and classification.

Practical Life

Practical Life materials are structured activities related to developing a sense of independence through caring for oneself (dressing, combing, etc.) and one’s environment (cleaning, washing, gardening, etc.). Control of movement (pouring, chopping, sweeping, etc.) and courtesy (greeting, helping, thanking, etc.) are also developed through these activities.

Cultural Awareness

Each classroom has activities devoted to Cultural Awareness and to broadening children’s understanding of the world around them. Concepts involving science, nature, geography, and social studies are explored through art, music, maps, magnets, electricity, anatomy, chemistry, and other units, as well as through trips to the park and walks in our neighborhood.

SPECIAL PROGRAMS

In addition to our everyday classroom work, WSMS offers the following special programs:

Physical Activity

Our students engage in physical activity every day. In addition to their weekly movement class, classes regularly spend time outdoors—in Riverside Park or Joan of Arc Park, or on our own rooftop play space—and in our indoor gym, which offers gymnasium mats for crawling and tumbling, bars from which to swing, and other sports equipment. Our rooftop play space features a wide assortment of Snug Play: colorful, rugged loose-play elements that children can use together or separately to create endless possibilities for active play and gross motor development. In our Twos classroom, Yoga cards are available as prompts for poses, with support provided by a classroom teacher, who is also a certified yoga instructor.

Music

Whether it is sung, played, or danced to, music streams through our curriculum. Our students learn to sing name games, geography songs, folk tunes in other languages, and nursery rhymes, many of them accompanied by small and large movement or percussive instrument play. The correlation between music education and physical/neurological development, social growth, and strengthening of critical thinking skills has been long established; to our students, making music is just plain fun.

Art

Art is a part of everyday life at WSMS. In addition to their semi-monthly visit from our art specialist, our students are encouraged to explore the many art materials available at all times in the classroom: tempera paints, watercolors, pencils, crayons, chalk, found materials from walks in the park. WSMS’s Art Program is led by Margot Mack, who visits classrooms with a variety of media. In keeping with Montessori practice, she offers presentations of how to use these media before she invites the children to begin. She helps her students discover the properties of various media, and she models techniques that the kids can use to achieve the effects they are envisioning in their mind’s eye. Margot’s organic approach to art encourages students’ spirit of exploration by making sure to engage multiple senses: children observe what happens when they swirl a paint-covered brush in clear water, the sensation of a paint brush over the back of their hand, and the feeling of natural clay between their toes.

Nature

When our Nature teacher visits the classroom, children immerse themselves in nature by exploring with their five senses, and looking at animals to examine how—similar to humans—they use their senses to find food, to be safe, and to find shelter. Our Nature teacher believes that that the experiences of young children with nature play a critical role in shaping lifelong attitudes, values, and patterns of behavior toward natural environments.

After Lunch Bunch

After Lunch Bunch is a daily program of language, math, and cultural activities for children who will have turned five by December 31 of the current school year.

Visiting Scholar Program

As part of our commitment to continually improve what we know and can provide our children, each year WSMS invites specialists in particular fields (visiting scholars) to share their knowledge and expertise with us over the course of the school year. These visiting scholars work with faculty and children to provide new insights and new opportunities for learning that are then incorporated into our curriculum.

Previous visiting scholars include specialists in the areas of social and emotional intelligence, music, positive discipline, early childhood development, and critical thinking skills development through the discussion of visual art.

  • Physical Activity

  • Music

  • Art

  • Nature

  • After Lunch Bunch

  • Visiting Scholar Program