New Discoveries Montessori Academy’s primary purpose is to improve pupil learning. This purpose will be achieved in the following ways:
New Discoveries Montessori Academy increases learning opportunities for students by providing another choice in elementary education in the Hutchinson Area. This choice is grounded in the Montessori philosophy and pedagogy. This is especially desirable for those students that attend the local Montessori preschool and would like to continue their educational studies in that model.
- Through the use of the Montessori materials, students will receive hands-on learning experiences where children touch, make discoveries, and deeply understand complex concepts. The materials allow concrete understanding of concepts helpful for understanding abstract principles, are self-teaching and self-correcting, have multiple levels of challenge and can be used at different developmental levels. New Discoveries Montessori Academy designs classrooms utilizing the direction of the Montessori “prepared environment”.
- We believe that the larger community is officially part of our classroom environment. Field trips, also called “Going Out”, are a vital part of children’s personal, social, and intellectual development. Small groups of children plan and go on supervised trips all around our greater community.
- With Audubon Center of the North Woods, our sponsor, there are many environmental applications for our students. They offer residential environmental education authorizer experiences to schools with a full array of adventure programming including a wildlife barn, maple syruping shack, ropes course, hiking explorations, and wall climbing. Students at New Discoveries Montessori Academy participate in these unique environmental experiences.
Innovative Teaching Methods
- One of the great strengths of the Montessori method is the integrated approach to learning. For example, math, reading, writing and other subjects are not learned in a compartmentalized method. Instead, children learn with an understanding of how subjects work together while, at the same time, they work on learning and improving many different skills at once. New Discoveries Montessori Academy utilizes this integrated approach to learning.
- Children enjoy considerable freedom of movement and choice in a Montessori setting. The environment is child-centered, not teacher-centered. They choose what to work on, who to work with, and where to work. Because they pick their work, they are committed to it. Of course, all freedoms are balanced with responsibilities that include demonstrating appropriate behavior, remaining productive and completing areas of necessary fundamental knowledge and skills.
- Long Learning Cycles – Montessori education reserves two extended uninterrupted time periods for the children to work freely on a task or project. The children absorb themselves in their studies. They complete their work, emerging fulfilled, refreshed, and satisfied with their accomplishment. The extended periods result in saved time due to fewer transitions while, even more importantly, they lead to deeper learning, more interest, and great satisfaction for the children.
- Multi-age grouping is based on a 2-3 year age span as opposed to the one-year of traditional education. In this setting children progress through the curriculum at their own pace in a classroom that spans three grades. Teachers and students get to know each other quite well by working together in a multi-age class for a three-year period. A teacher who has worked with a child during this time gains an intimate knowledge of the child. Multi-age groupings mean more small-group options relative to abilities and interests as well as maximizing the potential of each individual child in an environment that has a place for everyone, providing a profound sense of belonging.
- Using the natural environment and facilities of our Authorizer, Audubon Center of the North Woods, students participate in an overnight environmental experience. Audubon’s 535 acre site includes a variety of wetlands, forests and prairies. Staff uses the outdoors as a classroom and students are outside for the majority of classes. In addition to the great outdoors, Audubon features a variety of indoor areas including a wildlife classroom, wetlands cabin, science and international classrooms and a yurt. All of these features are utilized to enhance the outdoor learning experience. Students will also explore and understand their local environment, and be involved in environmental-focused service learning projects which will foster the idea of stewardship for their environment.
Effective Measurement of Learning Outcomes
- New Discoveries Montessori Academy conducts fall, winter and spring benchmarking assessments in the areas of reading and math using NWEA MAP, AIMSweb and Minnesota’s OLPA. The information acquired from these benchmark assessments will be used to determine the amount of measurable progress made by each child by the end of year. Summary information will be provided to the state and the parents. Families will also receive an individual report for their child. In addition, the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments are administered in the spring. These standardized tests will be one of the measures used to show student academic achievement.
- Teachers will keep detailed student records of each child’s lessons, projects, and progress. Authentic assessment tools such as observations, portfolios, performance assessments with rubrics, journaling, and parent conferences will be used to measure and report student progress.
- New Discoveries Montessori Academy is a participant in MDE’s Quality Compensation Program (QComp) for teachers. This provides staff development and teacher accountability relative to student achievement. Teachers meet weekly to evaluate test data, teaching methods and best practice. Teacher observations and peer mentoring are integral components of this program.
- New Discoveries Montessori Academy continues to clarify and improve consistency in our curriculum, and to align the Montessori competencies with the MN Academic Standards ensuring that we meet or exceed each standard – all in a manner that remains true to our Montessori educational vision.
- The alignment process is both “vertical” and “horizontal”: vertical because we ensure that teaching is consistent from one grade level to another; horizontal in that all teaching staff at a grade level are instructing consistently.
New Forms of Accountability for Schools
- Student, parent, and staff satisfaction surveys will indicate program satisfaction among its stakeholders. New Discoveries Montessori Academy will administer the survey annually in the fall and spring. Results are used by the Board and staff in our continuous improvement plan as well as our annual report to MDE.
- New Discoveries Montessori Academy is an Associate member of the American Montessori Society.
- At the end of each school year, staff evaluates the effectiveness of support program components such as field trips, specialists, and any special school-wide activities and programs. This evaluation provides a method for discussion among staff to initiate new programs and adjust current support programming.
Professional Opportunities for Staff
- In order for this school to be successful, teachers of Montessori programs must be thoroughly trained in Montessori theory and practice. Staff participate in Montessori training opportunities and New Discoveries Montessori Academy seeks ways to budget for and support staff Montessori certification.
- Staff is involved and has a voice in an annual staff/board retreat that will focus on the mission and vision of the school and the school’s strategic plan.
- Using the campus of our authorizer, Audubon Center of the North Woods, staff will participate in school environmental education experiences.
- Staff, with the assistance of administration, designs their own professional development plan. Strategies for improvement are outlined and evaluation will take place annually.
- New Discoveries Montessori Academy provides and encourages professional development opportunities for staff in an ongoing effort to be lifelong learners.