Montessori philosophy is the foundation of Bucks County Montessori Charter School's education principle. The Montessori pedagogy and ideology is based on the philosophy of Dr. Maria Montessori, a physician in Italy at the turn of the Twentieth Century who believed that children learn best by doing. Just as Confucius professed, if you merely ‘Tell’ a learner, he will forget; and if you ‘Show’ a learner, he may remember; but only by ‘Involving’ a learner will true understanding be achieved. To that end, Bucks County Montessori Charter School focuses on addressing student understanding. This is achieved through the use of Montessori kinesthetic materials that make real connections to concepts. We incorporate cooperative learning settings that utilize a unified curriculum--where teachers act as facilitators, leading the learners toward independent discoveries. In addition, students work within an uninterrupted scheduling sequence that affords each the ability to advance at his/her own particular pace. Learning persists through the active pursuit of many integrated learning experiences: physical, social, emotional, kinesthetic, as well as cognitive. The learning environment provided at BCMCS facilitates such, thereby empowering the students to become responsible, confident and caring global citizens.
The goal of the school is to enable students to become young adults possessing strong, independent and analytical thinking skills, as well as an enduring love and passion for life-long learning. This concept is emphasized, reinforced and supported by a highly trained, committed Montessori staff that maintains high achievement levels on all Pennsylvania and other standardized assessments. BCMCS continues on its quest of becoming ‘a model Montessori school’ and true learning community, where learners explore, cooperate, collaborate, negotiate and understand within the Montessori ideology, with this past school year being no exception. The precedent 20010-11 school year was the eleventh successful year of operation.
The school has students ranging in grades K through 6th. The students were mainly from our host district, Pennsbury, as well as local surrounding districts: Bristol, Bensalem, Centennial, Council Rock, Morrisville and Neshaminy. All these districts comprise communities of Lower Bucks County.
BCMCS has maintained a maximum enrollment, with a sizable waiting list, since opening in 2000. In addition, BCMCS consistently meets School Performance Profile (SPP) goals set by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, as it has been a yearly recipient of the “Achievement Recognition” [awarded by the Pennsylvania Department of Education] for attaining SPP Standards since the program begin in 2012. Public confidence is affirmed through these and other achievements, as enrollment projections and early test data, both remain consistent with past practices.
Each year BCMCS conducts a lottery to select new students to the school, as there are continually more applicants than open spaces. In order to be considered for the kindergarten class, a child must be 5 years of age by September 1st. Children who are between the ages of 7 and 9 by September 1st are considered for our Lower Elementary program. Those children between the ages of 10 and 12 by September 1st are subsequently eligible for our Upper Elementary program. Upholding to our school’s philosophy, students are primarily selected from the wait list at the lowest possible grade level, so as to best formulate Montessori responsiveness.
Each member of the BCMCS community endorses its mission. The teachers, administrators, students, parents and the surrounding community continue as integral parts of its structure.
- Our Mission: The Mission of the Bucks County Montessori Charter School is to make available, to elementary age students within the Pennsbury School District and surrounding districts, an individualized educational experience consistent with Montessori principles. These principles are based on the philosophy and methodologies of Dr. Maria Montessori, who believed that children learned best by doing. At BCMCS, this goal is accomplished through active pursuit of many different, integrated learning experiences: physical, social emotional and cognitive. The nurturing and structured educational environment we provide facilitates intellectual, emotional and social growth, thereby empowering our students to become responsible, confident and caring global citizens. Our goal is to enable children to become young adults possessing strong independent and analytical thinking skills, as well as an enduring love and passion for learning.
We remain faithful to our mission by providing a quality Montessori program for all who attend BCMCS. Our program is centered on a continuum of developmental stages clearly observable in all our programs and activities.
- Our Vision: The vision of the founding coalition was that the Bucks County Montessori Charter School will be a model Montessori School, providing a superior learning environment for its students through implementation of an individualized Montessori curriculum. The BCMCS community is committed to this vision. The school functions as a learning community, where children are encouraged to reason, cooperate, collaborate, negotiate and understand. Our teachers, students, parents, board of trustees and surrounding community are collectively an integral part of the school's structure. x
· Shared Values: Montessori education integrates the interaction between a child and a learning environment that is conducive to developing a resilient mind-set that encourages the child "...to come to a true understanding of himself, his world around him, and the limits of his universe so as to achieve an integration of his most pure personality.” (Montessori, 1948) This wide-ranging declaration involves numerous components that embrace our school’s shared values, with the following listed principles intended to ensure the previous statement’s idea into fruition.
Ultimate Goal: To Promote Life-Long Learning: The intention of BCMCS goes beyond helping students obtain basic academic skills. Our school believes that students should acquire educational abilities in addition to attaining the aptitude to act independently, think analytically, resolve conflicts peacefully, and recognize their responsibility to others and to our world. Each student is given an opportunity to express strengths that allows “...the child the freedom to make use of his powers so that he will show himself capable of future success.” (Montessori, 1948)
Focus on a Student-Centered Curriculum: Montessori education believes that each child is an individual, who learns and grows at different rates and in different ways. Befitting the Montessori Method, BCMCS offers children the freedom to select, within a set choice plan, their own academic ‘works.’ It relates to the belief that children learn by doing and requires components of spontaneous investigation. Individualized “academic aims” are developed for each child founded by observations of the child’s previous skill ability. Each child is given prearranged lessons at his/her own developmentally appropriate level in all subject areas while employing uninterrupted work cycles intended to allow the child to complete tasks before moving on to the next. Our students learn that not everyone succeeds in a universal fashion. The pace at which a student completes a task is often irrelevant because the class is a heterogeneous mix of learning styles and age groups. Each child's individual needs are carefully calculated with daily expectations orchestrated by the teacher, as classroom demands are adjusted for children with learning differences. Students feel free to gravitate toward the activities with which they are most comfortable. Successive approximations to a larger goal can easily be built while encouraging a child to take the risks necessary for success.
Utilization of a Specialized Montessori Trained Staff: Since students in a Montessori classroom are actively engaged in a unique individualized Montessori curriculum, a specialized teacher is required to make certain that appropriate Montessori pedagogy and corresponding ideology are being followed. Our Montessori teachers are equipped to handle this unique responsibility, as BCMCS requires its teachers to obtain specific Montessori training from an accredited AMS/MACTE training program. Montessori teachers are trained to observe, through individualized interpretation, unique strengths in students as a basis for further achievements. BCMCS functions as a learning community with the entire staff committed to high achievement fostering children to have a love of learning. BCMCS teachers, administrators, students, parents, and the community are all integral parts of this structure.
Belief in Multi-Aged Class Settings: BCMCS arranges children in multi-age class groupings that correspond with the developmental plains of development (ages 6-9 and 9-12, with a standalone Kindergarten). In this design, younger students are stimulated by older role models, who in turn blossom with the responsibilities of leadership-- students not only learn with each other, but also from each other, as students are often willing to aid, support and assist one another.
Idea of a Prepared Learning Environment: Montessori saw the prepared environment as a key to reaching the full potential in children. With an abundance of opportunities available for students to pursue their interests, the path to competence is a broad one, accommodating different approaches. Our specifically designed Montessori classrooms provide children with an inherent feeling of ownership. Order is maintained with everyone's cooperation. Individual work spaces are often designated with the intention that each individual is responsible for its accessibility. BCMCS has carefully arranged each classroom setting to maintain supportive learning ‘opportunities,’ as each learning ‘environment’ is set up to facilitate student discussion and stimulate collaborative understanding.
Realization that Montessori materials create an understanding of abstract concepts:
Children learn best by doing, so BCMCS utilizes hands-on Montessori learning materials that are intended to encourage the child toward reasonable reflection, understanding and discovery. Materials are stimulating, inspiring and meant to ‘paint’ a concrete impression; each material is carefully designed to appeal to the learner at a certain level of development, as the greater part of learning comes from a child’s own discovery with the materials themselves. Because Montessori materials are set up to support the development of competence for students, it is easy for teachers to help them learn from their mistakes, as the materials have built in ‘controls of error,’ further designed to lead the learners to apply their reasoning power to their work.
Endorsement in Disciplining that Promotes Self-Discipline: Each classroom is seen as community where children are taught to respect others' needs. The development of a sense of ownership and responsibility for one's behavior is the ultimate goal at BCMCS. Children learn to reflect on their actions and foresee likely consequences of their behavior through group meetings and classroom discussions. Our Student Code of Conduct has detailed components that enable the children to develop independence toward problem solving. From peer mediation to teacher and parent arbitration techniques, it is always the intent to enable the children to develop mediation strategies on their own. Peace education is intertwined through the interactions between students, teachers, parents, administration and through the use of the materials within the environment.
Importance of technology in the learning process: BCMCS recognized that computers and their technologies will be a vital part of each student's future educational setting, so it is our belief that technology and improved learning are inseparable. Therefore, it is the instructive goal to provide our students with a technological experience consistent with Montessori pedagogies and principles which support ‘learning’ by ‘doing.’ In the technology sector, computer equipment and related skill based programs relate to our core principles, presenting various opportunities for our students to participate in activities in agreement to applied experiences in the classroom. The technology lessons and activities at BCMCS foster the pursuit of abundant integrated learning, making our technology program's central purpose that of empowering students to locate information which they can apply toward knowledge, and comprehend that knowledge in technological manner--to then properly apply the information so as to analyze the information in order to synthesize and evaluate the learning and overall understanding.
- Academic Standards: Montessori education arose from detailed observations of children at different stages of their development. Its essence is to create an environment that allows children to exercise, to their fullest, those strengths and interests most prominent at each particular stage of life.
The Kindergarten and Elementary program at the Bucks County Montessori Charter School (BCMCS) is based on developmental 'highly individualized' needs common to 5-12 year old children. Our goal is to help each child become an independent, inquiring and confident learner—and by supporting the developmental characteristics of the academic level and unique personality of each child, we pursue in Dr. Maria Montessori's plea to "follow the child."
In the Montessori elementary classrooms, the children are given opportunities to learn to set their 'own' goals, budget their 'own' time, and appraise their 'own' results. They are "self-starters" who work because of an interest and enthusiasm rather than through external incentives and/or sanctions.
It is worth noting that while the division of 'schooling' into separate 'subjects' is a convenient way to document the manner in which we educate, it is not the way Montessori children experience it. As noted above, we emphasize the interconnectedness of the many matters we study. To take perhaps the simplest kind of example, a child's arithmetic problems will often deal with real questions arising in his own study from the history of geography, rather than some fairly irrelevant problem drawn from a text.
To this end, BCMCS encompasses a wealth of subject matter which far exceeds any of those noted in section 4.12 of 22 Pa. Code (relating to academic standards). However, documentation and verification of each subject can be defined in Montessori aims as follows:
(1) Reading, writing, grammar, speaking and listening skills flourish at BCMCS. Through activities and concepts related to each of these areas, work and interrelated learning is interwoven and thrives through all subjects areas.
Reading becomes the most important means to satisfy our students’ interests. Witnessing older children reading and writing spontaneously, the younger students in the classroom are highly motivated to perfect those language skills which require further work. With carefully structured presentations and appealing follow-up lessons, the teacher and child work together to accomplish such goals. This basic skill-building in reading is achieved individually or in small groups. In general, early language work in Montessori is something exciting, not merely a chore or an opportunity for failure. The teacher carefully selects a treasury of special books for the classroom. The school combined Junior Great Books/Making Meaning program serves as the formal group based programs, where the children learn to have highly focused readings and discussions. Reading aloud to the children is a daily practice.
Writing develops in connection with exploration, research, and experimentation, as children want to share what they have discovered. Narrative, informational and persuasive formal writing for all audiences are primarily developed in the Upper Elementary grades, with finished drafts that stipulate appropriate spelling and editing skills. Informal and Creative writing allows all children to acquire a valuable tool for self-expression.
Grammar is made accessible to young children with the aid of colorful materials which employ symbols familiar from earlier works. In etymology, [word study (synonyms, affixes, compound words, word families, etc.), analysis of sentence structure and of the parts of speech], the children find many activities to apply their vocabulary and their creativity with language. At the same time, they become more conscious of its structure. Discoveries in grammar, word study, and etymology naturally give rise to topical, individualized spelling lists. In addition, the student's spelling drill and dictation is assisted by their knowledge of the words' origins, meanings, and functions.
Once acquiring both the mechanics of language and a sense of its history, the students then experience poetry, prose, drama, dialogue, discussion, debate, and research, in true speaking and listening forums.
(2) Mathematics and Geometry Maria Montessori described the "mathematical mind" as a universal human attribute. The materials and methods of the Montessori classroom reinforce the child's tendency to count, compare, compute, and measure. The child begins, in Kindergarten, a progression from concrete experiences to abstraction. The concrete materials are appealing to children, ingeniously designed for revealing principles and concepts, and are made to be experienced and manipulated. Through both physical and mental activity with this material, each child acquires a profound basis for mathematics.
During the elementary years, a sequence of lessons brings the child naturally and gradually to the point of understanding abstract mathematical operations. The structure of the decimal system, the operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, and other key concepts follow this same pattern. Once they have a firm understanding of the concepts, children move toward memorization, keeping track of their own progress and work both in work groupings and individually. By using the Montessori math materials, most children experience many concepts traditionally taught much later, including fractions, squared and cubed numbers and roots, as well as the exploration of other base sets.
The Montessori geometry materials offer children an open-ended field of exploration. These materials, and the lessons which accompany them, permit children to discover important principles and relationships. Students learn nomenclature for the types and parts of polygons, circles, angles, and lines. New knowledge is always applied to the environment (e.g., finding right triangles in the floor, walls, and furniture) and often extends to the creation of a piece of handwork as well. With the principles of geometric equivalence, children acquire knowledge which releases a whole field of creative work, preparing them for the study of area and volume.
(3)History: The history of life, both before and after the arrival of humankind, is inextricably linked to other subjects such as geology, geography, and biology. Thus it might be said that history is the framework for all fields of study in Montessori. Even in mathematics and language, we tell children stories of the great discoveries and inventions by which our predecessors built the powerful tools of language and numbers. Children love stories of the past, and in Montessori elementary we use stories to spark the children's interest in all areas.
Natural history materials, such as the elaborate ‘Timeline of Life,’ show children the dramatic and colorful spectacle of life forms and their development. Human history is presented from a perspective of the basic human needs (food, shelter, protection, transport, spiritual expression, etc.) and the variety of ways in which different peoples have been able to meet them. This framework guides their research and reveals both the unique attributes of different cultures and the universality of all. The further study of U.S. and Pa. history reveal many fascinating connections and interdependencies, not only among various peoples, but between people and the changing physical environment.
(4)Geography: We begin with theories on the origin of the Universe, in which principles of physical science are revealed, and then proceed to examine the forces which have acted over the ages to shape the world we inhabit. Children explore volcanism, the work of water, wind and air, and the basic physical properties of matter. We employ demonstrations, field activities, and experiments the children learn to perform on their own. The relationships of earth, sun, seasons, zones of climate, etc., are also studied along with economic and political geography.
A basic principles throughout the Montessori program is that, first and foremost, the "big picture" is given, and then answers to the fundamental why's and how's are explored—only afterword is work toward the more particular parts discovered.
(5)Biology : Children are fascinated by plants and animals. It is not unusual for our Kindergarten children to have learned the names of many of the flowers, trees, birds, and mammals that surround them in the world, as well as the parts of flowers and the very beginnings of biological classification.
In the elementary, the emphasis further relates to the understanding of plant and animal behavior and physiology. The basic needs of plants and animals (e.g. water, food, defense, reproduction) provide the framework for investigating the unique varieties from the point of view of adaptation, both in contemporary environments and throughout time. Children's observation and discussion of differences build up stores of experience with which they further their understanding of biological classification.
(6)World Languages: All of our students were afforded the opportunity of an indirect computerized foreign language program application via the Rosetta Stone web-based system. With such, learners have the ability to utilize its application during weekly 45 minute computer sessions, with the guide of a specialized teacher, as well as having the opportunity to work on the program at home. The array of language options are numerous, with most students enrolling in Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, French and German.
(7)Music, Art, Computer Technology and Physical Education: Music is as much a part of the classroom environment as pictures on the wall. Most settings have classical music playing in the background, enabling the children to discover the aspects that music brings.
The work with ear training with both the diatonic and chromatic scales begins in Kindergarten. In the elementary we build upon these experiences, taking children into the beginnings of reading and writing music. Formal instrumental lessons are also offered to Upper Elementary students who wish to enroll.
Rather than merely art projects, we also teach techniques and media for artistic expression. Children use colored pencils, clay, paints, collage and other media to illustrate their work.
Drama is a very noticeable part of our Montessori classroom. It is a special love of many children this age, and serves a number of purposes. Making an original play or one taken from a Great Book lesson or skit about something they have recently learned are ways in which children truly connect learned concepts as their own. Older students perform a large scale recital yearly that combines character performances, stage crew, concessions workers, etc. so as to encompass the entire process of theater.
Children are physically active throughout the day. Nonetheless, there is a need for the aerobic activity and skill development that physical education provides. Our emphasis is on skill-building, so as to develop consciousness and control of movement, enhance personal confidence, and teach the techniques and values of teamwork and cooperation.